In the Southeastern Conference, where most games are decided in the fourth quarter, a handful of plays can be the difference in a great season and an average one.
Phillip Marshall, Senior Editor, AuburnUndercover.com
The spectacular plays that helped Auburn get to an 11-0 record will long be remembered. But there were others, plays that won’t be part of Auburn lore but that helped a team go from good to great.
Here are five of them:
Facing third down at the Mississippi State 12 with the score tied 7-7 in the second quarter, quarterback Cam Newton hit Darvin Adams with a touchdown pass. But had tailback Mario Fannin not taken on a blitzing linebacker one-on-one and stopped him dead in his tracks, Newton probably would not have gotten the pass off. That touchdown was the difference in a 17-14 Auburn victory.
Clemson running back Andre Ellington seemed headed for a game-ending touchdown in overtime, but safety Zac Etheridge escaped a block, got off his knees and made the tackle that kept the game going. Clemson missed a field goal try and Auburn went on to win 27-24 in overtime.
South Carolina receiver Alshon Jeffrey had his hands on the ball in the end zone in the final seconds, so close to giving the Gamecocks a chance to send the game into overtime. But safety Zac Etheridge hit him hard, knocking the ball loose, and Demond Washington, sprinting toward across the end zone, made a diving interception. Auburn ran out the clock and won 35-27.
Auburn’s 19-play drive to the game-winning field goal at Kentucky almost didn’t get started. The Tigers faced third-and-6 at their own 11 when Newton threw to tightly covered Darvin Adams for 9 yards and a first down. Auburn went on to win 37-34 on Wes Byrum’s field goal as time expired.
After an unsuccessful fourth-down pass, LSU took over at its own 40 in the fourth quarter with the score tied 17-17. On third-and-6, defensive tackle Nick Fairley sacked quarterback Jordan Jefferson for a 6-yard loss. Four plays later, Onterio McCalebb ran 70 yards for the winning touchdown and Auburn won 24-17.
Without those plays, Auburn might be where it is today - three wins from a national championship.