Auburn Defeats Wisconsin in The Music City Bowl, 28-14
December 31, 2003
Carnell "Cadillac" Williams and Ronnie Brown scored in the last four minutes, and each finished with two rushing touchdowns, leading Auburn to a 28-14 victory over Wisconsin on Wednesday in the Music City Bowl.
Jason Campbell added a season-high 67 yards on nine carries, and went 10-for-22 for 138 yards. The Tigers also had six sacks and forced two turnovers in winning their second straight game and second consecutive bowl game under coach Tommy Tuberville, who improved his postseason record at Auburn to 2-2.
Not bad for a team that lost its first two games after being ranked sixth in the preseason and survived an embarrassing attempt by the university president at replacing Tuberville.
"We showed our poise and our unity as a team," Brown said. "We went through a lot this season and had a lot to deal with. For us to be able to put our distractions behind us and come out and win the Iron Bowl and then come win our bowl game was real exciting for us."
Auburn (8-5) became the first Southeastern Conference team to win the Music City Bowl, ending an 0-5 run that included four losses to Big East schools and one to a Big Ten team.
"We wanted to come out and play hard especially for the coaching staff since they have been through so much the last few months," Campbell said.
The Badgers (7-6), trying to give coach Barry Alvarez his 100th victory at Wisconsin, dropped to 7-2 in bowls under Alvarez, primarily because they failed to stop Auburn's running game or protect quarterback Jim Sorgi, who was hit repeatedly.
"I wasn't worried about 100," Alvarez said. "When you're playing an SEC team, you're just trying to compete."
Auburn rolled up 197 yards on the ground and finished with 354 total yards. The Tigers, who had been ranked sixth nationally on defense, limited Wisconsin to its worst performance this season with 261 total yards.
"We were flying around today," Auburn linebacker Karlos Dansby said. "We were out there having fun. That was a great experience. That was how every game was supposed to be this year."
Wisconsin tied the game at 14 with 8:52 left when Sorgi found his favorite target, Lee Evans, on a 12-yard touchdown pass. Evans, an All-Big Ten receiver, reached over Auburn cornerback Carlos Rogers and pulled in the ball.
The Badgers forced Auburn to punt, but Will Herring intercepted a pass by Sorgi that was tipped away from Evans by Rogers. Alvarez wasn't happy that his Badgers allowed Campbell to find Jeris McIntyre for a 51-yard completion after backing Auburn up to its 15 on third-and-8. Three plays later, Brown scored on a 2-yard run with 3:30 left for a 21-14 lead.
Auburn, which came in with the nation's sixth-stingiest defense, sacked Sorgi for the fifth time on the next series and knocked the ball loose. The Tigers recovered at the Wisconsin 6, and Williams scored two plays later on his second 1-yard TD run.
This game featured an Atlantic Coast Conference officiating crew, led by referee Jack Childress, who worked the Florida-Florida State game last month in which the ACC commissioner admitted last week that the crew missed some calls. They missed a couple Wednesday.
On one play, Williams lost the ball near the goal line, and the replay clearly showing the fumble before his knee hit the ground. Wisconsin recovered, but officials ruled Williams was down. He scored three plays later on a 1-yard dive for a 14-6 lead with 1:32 left in the third.
"I did believe that's a fumble," Alvarez said. "When the ball comes out, and the player isn't down, that's a fumble."
Auburn tried to shake things up on offense from the outset, with Williams throwing his first pass of his career to McIntyre, a wobbly toss for a 19-year gain on the Tigers' first snap. The Tigers also used the option and even went to a five receiver formation.
But the Tigers couldn't get anything going until they went back to what they do best: running the ball. Brown did just that as he reeled off his longest of the season, a 29-yarder, and he later scored on a 1-yard run for a 7-3 lead.
Wisconsin had its chances early and had first-and-goal at the Auburn 9 in the second quarter. But the Tigers sacked Sorgi, and the Badgers were flagged for their second delay of the half before settling for a 20-yard field goal by Mike Allen and a 3-0 lead.