Auburn Wins Outback Bowl With Thrilling OT Victory Over Northwestern 38-35

AUBURNTIGERSDOTCOM
AUBURNTIGERSDOTCOM

AUBURNTIGERSDOTCOM

Jan. 1, 2010

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TAMPA - Neiko Thorpe tackled Zeke Markshausen on a fumblerooskie at the Auburn 2 on fourth and goal from the 5 yard line to preserve Auburn's instant classic 38-35 Outback Bowl overtime victory over Northwestern in Raymond James Stadium on New Year*s Day after Wes Byrum's 21-yard field goal gave the Tigers the lead.

Craig Stevens' sack of Wildcat quarterback Mike Kafka in overtime on first down from the Auburn 15 for a 14-yard loss to the 29 nearly led to the Tiger victory. However, a roughing the kicker penalty on the Tigers on a Stefan Demos 37-yard field goal attempt that hit the right upright and missed three plays later allowed the drive to continue.

"My feeling of that started way before the roughing the kicker," said Auburn head coach Gene Chizik. "That's a credit to Northwestern. They just kept coming back and fighting back. Everything we did, there was an answer for. We had the football game basically under control for a win, and we turned the ball over which is absolutely uncharacteristic of our running back position.

"When you win games it isn't necessarily if you win, it is how you win. The circumstances were very unusual, but we found a way to win it, and I'm very proud of it."

Demos, who was hurt on the play, was replaced by backup placekicker Steve Flaherty for Northwestern's fake 22-yard field goal attempt that led to Thorpe's tackle of Markshausen.

Auburn's defense picked off five Northwestern passes, one of them a 100-yard Walt McFadden interception return for a touchdown, and Ben Tate rushed for two fourth quarter touchdowns.

It was the longest interception return for a touchdown in both Auburn and Outback Bowl history. McFadden and T'Sharvan Bell recorded two interceptions each and Neiko Thorpe had one before a crowd of 49,383.

After Northwestern (8-5) scored two straight touchdowns in the final 2:42 of the third quarter to tie it at 21, Auburn (8-5) answered with two Ben Tate fourth quarter touchdowns in the first eight minutes to take command at 35-21.

"I haven't had the time to see as many bowl games up to this point this year, but it will be hard pressed to find one better than this one as far as getting your money's worth," said Chizik. "They (Auburn) fought all the way down to the end through the overtimes, through all the blunders that we made, but they kept playing and kept fighting. It wasn't always pretty, wasn't always exactly the way we liked it, but we got our eighth win."

Bell's second interception of the game gave the Tigers the ball back at the Auburn 40. Darvin Adams, the Outback Bowl MVP who had an Outback Bowl record tying 12 receptions for a career-high 142 yards, may have had his biggest on a third and 6 reception for 16 yards down to the Northwestern 28.

"I just appreciate the coaches giving me a chance to make all those catches," said Adams, who broke the Auburn single season receptions record with 59. "Chris and the offensive line really gave me that chance today, and I am appreciative of that. It is very important, especially with sending the seniors out on the right foot and getting ready for next year."

Todd then threw a 23 yard pass to Burns on Auburn's next play down to the 5 that set up Tate;s touchdown run to put Auburn back in front at 28-21 with 10:10 left in the game.

Auburn took a 35-21 lead on the Tigers' next possession after Tate's 7-yard touchdown run with 7:32 left. It was his 24th touchdown run of his career tying him with Brent Fullwood and James Brooks for sixth all-time at Auburn.

Northwestern closed to 35-27 on a 2-yard Kafka touchdown run with 3:20 remaining and the PAT was blocked by Jake Ricks. With Auburn trying to run out the clock, Brad Phillips forced a Tate fumble at the Northwestern 31 with 3:11 to play.

The Wildcats then drove 69 yards in seven plays in 1:22 to score on a 18-yard touchdown pass from Kafka to Sidney Stewart with 1:15 to play. Northwestern tied it on a Kafka pass to Brendan Mitchell for a two-point conversion.

Auburn's Demond Washington returned the ensuing kickoff to midfield before he fumbled, giving the ball back to the Wildcats with 1:03 to play. The Wildcats then drove down to the Auburn 26 where Demos missed a game-winning 44-yard field goal as time expired.

Auburn jumped out to a 14-0 lead after running only five plays in 1:35. McFadden picked off the first of his two passes on the third play of the game at the Northwestern 31. The Tigers scored five plays later on a Kodi Burns 1-yard touchdown run that was set up by a 24-yard rush by Ben Tate.

It was Burns' first touchdown run since having three against Mississippi State on Sept. 12 and all five of his rushing touchdowns this season have come from one yard out.

Northwestern then drove 70 yards in 16 plays before Mike Kafka threw the third down and goal pass from the Auburn 6 that was returned 100 yards for a touchdown by McFadden. McFadden now has two of the four longest interception returns in Auburn history as his 93-yard return for a score vs. Tennessee Tech in 2007 ranks fourth in school history.

The Wildcats cut the lead in half with a 39-yard touchdown pass from Kafka to Andrew Brewer on their next possession.

Auburn took a 21-7 lead on a 46-yard Chris Todd pass to Quindarius Carr with 8:54 to go in the half. With 1:47 left, Northwestern drove the ball 90 yards in seven plays from its own 6-yard line before Kafka threw his third interception of the first half that was picked off by T'Sharvan Bell in the Auburn end zone with 29 seconds remaining.

Northwestern closed to within 21-14 on a 35-yard touchdown pass on another Kafka to Brewer hookup with 2:42 remaining in the third quarter. After holding the Tigers to a three and out, the Wildcats tied it at 21 on their next play from scrimmage on a 66-yard Kafka pass to Drake Dunsmore. Washington had Dunsmore wrapped up at the Wildcat 32 before he sprung loose and then McFadden nearly brought him down at the 10.

Kafka broke former Purdue All-American and current New Orleans Saint Drew Brees' Outback Bowl passing record of 378 yards on that 66 yard touchdown to give him 379 yards on 28-of-44 passes, three touchdowns and four interceptions after only three quarters.

The 73 combined points by both teams set an Outback Bowl record. Kafka finished the game with five Outback Bowl records with 78 attempts, 47 completions for 532 yards to go along with 98 plays and five interceptions. Northwestern outgained Auburn 625 to 425 and ran 115 plays to the Tigers' 72. The game lasted four hours and five minutes.

Chris Todd completed 20-of-35 passes for 235 yards and a touchdown for the Tigers.

CSS will replay the Outback Bowl today (Jan. 1) at 8 pm Central and on Jan. 3 at 4 pm Central.