AUBURN, Ala. - Chris Todd completed 21-of-31 passes for 248 yards in his first start and gave No. 9 Auburn's passing game a needed lift in a 27-13 win over Southern Miss on Saturday.
The junior college transfer might have ended the Tigers' quarterback question by completing an array of short and mid-range passes and effectively running the new spread offense.
He also led a late scoring drive for Auburn (2-0) after Southern Miss (1-1) surged back with a pair of touchdowns against a defense that had pitched a shutout for the first 102 minutes of the season. This time it was the running backs who struggled at times, with three of them losing fumbles a week after Todd and Kodi Burns had a hard time completing passes.
The final 4:59 was eventful, if nothing else. Auburn's Jerraud Powers and [/db]Zac Etheridge[/db] had interceptions and the Tigers recovered a last-play fumble and had a fourth-down stop.
Ben Tate ran for 71 yards and a touchdown and caught three passes for 51 yards for the Tigers. Injury-plagued reserve Tristan Davis had a 13-yard scoring run in his first carry since late in the 2005 season.
Burns, last week's starting quarterback, didn't play in the first half and was 0-for-3 with an interception for the Tigers. He did run for a 1-yard touchdown after being listed as questionable with a cut on his left leg.
Todd passed for 59 yards to set up that score.
Austin Davis threw a pair of scoring passes in the final 18 minutes to lead the Golden Eagles back from a 24-0 deficit. He converted a fourth-and-long pass on both drives.
His 17-yard strike to Shawn Nelson capped a 90-yard march and made it 24-13 with 11:48 remaining - the two-point attempt had failed after the first score - and prompted chants of ``USM'' from the small contingent of fans hoping an upset was in the making.
Todd then led a drive that milked the clock and set up Wes Byrum's second field goal, adding to a career-best 52-yarder in the first half.
After racking up 51 points and a school-record 633 yards in an opening win over Louisiana-Lafayette, the Golden Eagles managed just 305 yards. Damion Fletcher, who gained 220 yards a week earlier, was limited to 29 yards on 13 carries but added six catches for 57 more.
Freshman Austin Davis completed 33-of-50 passes for 268 yards, most of that coming in the second half.
Todd showed some ability to improvise after completing an underhanded a pass to Tate for a 26-yard gain while falling forward.
The Tigers' first three possessions ended in Southern Miss territory with fumbles by Lester and Tate and a punt. Robert Dunn's punt returns of 32 and 47 yards set up a touchdown and field goal in the half.