Ugly Auburn scrapes by again
DALLAS -- Auburn took advantage of Nebraska mistakes, got two short touchdowns from Carl Stewart on his only touches of the game, and beat the No. 22 Cornhuskers, 17-14, in the Cotton Bowl yesterday despite only 178 total yards.
"That was typical Auburn, win and win ugly," said Auburn coach Tommy Tuberville, whose Tigers beat two teams playing in the Bowl Championship Series. "That's how this team has done it all year. They scrap and claw."
Even without any superstar players, No. 10 Auburn (11-2) made its seventh straight bowl game -- and third in a row in January. Its 33-5 record the past three seasons is bettered only by Southern California and Texas, the past two national champions.
"These guys have overcome a lot of things. It's hard to imagine what we've done," said Tuberville, 71-29 after coaching his 100th Auburn game.
The Tigers can even wonder what might have been had they not lost to Georgia and Arkansas. Auburn beat LSU, which meets Notre Dame in the Sugar Bowl tomorrow night, and No. 2 Florida, which plays Ohio State next week in the BCS title game. The Gators' only loss was at Auburn in mid-October.
"Whatever it takes to win, that's what we do," defensive end Quentin Groves said.
John Vaughn's 42-yard field goal midway through the third quarter accounted for the only points after halftime. And it was enough to make Auburn the fourth straight Southeastern Conference team to win the Cotton Bowl.
Nebraska (9-5) opened with a dominating 15-play, 80-yard drive capped by Zac Taylor's 13-yard touchdown pass to Nate Swift. The Cornhuskers had four third-down conversions on that drive, and only one more the rest of the game. They had only 63 total yards after halftime.
Early in the second quarter with the score tied 7-7, the Cornhuskers tried a fake punt on fourth-and-1 from their own 29. They instead fumbled on an attempted reverse and lost 15 yards, setting up Auburn's second touchdown.
Nebraska still had a chance for a 10-win season with 5:24 left when Stewart Bradley sacked Brandon Cox, stripped the ball, and recovered at the Auburn 42.
The Cornhuskers got to the 30, but Taylor was under heavy pressure on fourth down when he threw the ball well over the head of his intended receiver.
Coach Bill Callahan said the Cornhuskers went for the first down because they were out of Jordan Congdon's range to try to kick a tying field goal. The sophomore kicker's career long is 41 yards.
"Everybody was on the same page, and that's a decision that we live with," Callahan said.