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.
Shawn Nelson had 12 catches for 118 yards and two touchdowns and freshman DeAndre Brown gained 88 yards on eight receptions.
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.