Sept. 17, 2011
By JOHN ZENOR,AP Sports Writer
AUBURN, Ala. (AP) -- Auburn found a rallying point of sorts in last year's game with Clemson.
It's the one where No. 21 Auburn first flashed the ability to overcome double-digit deficits that became a trademark of the national championship team. Down 17-0 and getting thoroughly dominated, Cam Newton and Co. rallied to win in overtime.
Auburn (2-0) has made similar double-digit comebacks four times since that game, which showed the players they could.
"That was one of the big turnaround games for us," said quarterback Barrett Trotter, then Newton's backup. "Coaches kind of put their foot down and players really stepped up after that and even during that game and refused to lose. I think that attitude has definitely been on the team since then."
It was on display two weeks ago when Auburn needed a two-minute, two-touchdown whirlwind to pull out a win over Utah State. And last weekend when a goal line stand at the end helped beat No. 25 Mississippi State.
It makes for an interesting matchup since both Tigers teams seem to be better finishers than starters. Clemson hasn't led at halftime in its first two games, trailing Troy and tied 21-all against Wofford before winning both.
Auburn has certainly shown a knack for coming from behind, a trait that has helped keep a 17-game winning streak going. The deficits included 21-7 to Georgia, 20-7 to South Carolina and even 24-0 at Alabama last season.
And it started with Clemson.
"After that game we knew that we could go out there and even if we do get down, we can come back and win games," Auburn defensive end Nosa Eguae said. "And we did."
The Southeastern Conference version of the Tigers scored three touchdowns in the third quarter of last season's game with Clemson. Then, a missed field goal in overtime after a penalty wiped out what appeared to be a tying kick by Clemson's Chandler Catanzaro -- and a dropped pass in the end zone on the previous play -- helped Auburn preserve a 27-24 win.
It was the first time Auburn had come from at least 17 points down to win since a triple-overtime victory over Syracuse on Sept. 28, 2002.
For Clemson, last year's loss to Auburn touched off a three-game losing streak en route to a 6-7 season. Right tackle Landon Walker said the game marked a different sort of turnaround for Clemson.
"There's always one game in a season that can either lift you or take you down and I think that's the game that, the way it ended, it wasn't really good for our attitudes," Walker said.
Auburn coach Gene Chizik said pulling out such games still helps his players when they're faced with similar circumstances.
"It's really hard to close some of those games out if you've never done it," Chizik said, "but we've repeatedly done it."
Last year's meeting was the second straight Auburn-Clemson game to be decided in overtime. Auburn also won 23-20 in the 2007 Chick-fil-A Bowl on Kodi Burns' touchdown run.
The coaches used last year's meeting to coax Auburn players into getting more physical.
"That game really opened our eyes to what playing physical football and what it looks like, needed to be," Chizik said. "Although we came out of that game with a win, I thought we learned more on what we didn't do, and we didn't play a very physical game."
Trotter said he watched some of that game on film Sunday, "and it was amazing how bad we played the first half." He's hoping Auburn doesn't find itself in the same position this time.
"They pretty much manhandled us on offense that first half," he said. "We've got to come out and really be a lot more ready to play than we were last year."
Newton completed only seven passes, but they went for 203 yards and included a 78-yard touchdown pass to Terrell Zachery.
"It was such a physical game. They whipped us," Auburn offensive coordinator Gus Malzahn said. "We made some big plays. We didn't earn much."