PAUL FINEBAUM INVITATIONAL: No. 3 Auburn (2010) 27, No. 11 Missouri (2007) 24
Auburn survives scare, overcomes Mizzou in overtime
By Joey Fairbanks (@fairbeezy)
The dejection was evident from the second William Franklin reached the sideline. He had played a brilliant game all afternoon, but the one play he could not make gave Auburn a golden opportunity to escape.
When Wes Byrum’s 43-yard field goal hooked inside the upright, the Tigers playing at home did just that, relieving a very nervous crowd in Jordan-Hare Stadium with a 27-24 overtime victory.
“I feel so bad for Will,” said Mizzou quarterback Chase Daniel. “He made a great catch, but just lost the ball. I don’t fault him – I would have tried to do the same thing. Anyone on this team will do anything to win a game.”
While the sorrow fell over the visiting Tigers, the Auburn contingent charged the field. Quarterback Cam Newton grabbed Byrum and threw him up over his shoulder, carrying him across the field.
“That guy is my hero right now,” Newton said of Byrum. “He’s super clutch man, anytime he gets presented with a pressure field goal, he always takes it to the bank.”
The ending was all too appropriate for such a see-saw battle. The teams played to 7-7 and 14-14 ties in the first half; Mizzou would score, and Auburn would answer.
Newton threw two touchdowns on the day, while also led Auburn in rushing with 106 yards on 24 carries.
“That dude is a tank,” Byrum said. “He’s a lot like Lebron James – he figures out what the team needs, and does his best to be the answer for that. If we needed him to play D-end and rush the passer, he could probably do that too.”
Missouri came in hot after upsetting Georgia in their first tournament game, and kept their roll going when Tony Temple scored from 21 yards out on the opening possession.
“We had the defense opened up a bit, because they recognized what a threat Chase is in the passing game,” said Missouri coach Gary Pinkel. “We were able to keep them off balance early, but they’ve got a quarterback over there that doesn’t have a quitting bone in his body. I can respect that, because I don’t have one either.”
Newton drove his team down the field on their first possession, answering by connecting with DeAngelo Benton on a 29-yard scoring pass.
“I just found an open slot in the defense and settled down,” said Benton. “His pass was on the money, and we were back in the game.”
They traded scores again in the second quarter: a two-yard run by Jimmy Jackson to give Mizzou the lead, then a pass from Newton to Philip Lutzenkirchen to draw even again.
Newton’s pass to tie the game should have looked familiar to Mizzou – it was the same play-action pass that Auburn used so many times near the goal line. Newton faked the handoff to Michael Dyer, rolled right, then threw to an open Lutzenkirchen who ran a drag route to the wide open corner on the far sideline.
“That play is so simple, but it always catches the defense off guard,” said Auburn coach Gene Chizik. “The run action draws everyone to that side of the field, and Phil sneaks across the field and he’s wide open.”
The Plainsmen finally went ahead on a four-yard Onterio McCalebb run late in the third quarter. The teams traded field goals in the late third and early fourth quarters.
In the final ten minutes, Missouri missed two opportunities to wrap this game up. Wolfert missed two 50+ yard field goal attempts that sandwiched a 13-yard touchdown catch by Martin Rucker, Daniel’s only scoring pass of the evening. The second Wolfert kick had the leg, but fluttered wide left as time expired with the score tied.
“That kick looked good,” said Pinkel, “but it was a little wobbly and veered off at the last second.”
Then, on their first possession in overtime, Franklin lost the ball close to the goal line, handing the ball and a chance for Auburn to send out the kicker who Newton has so much faith in.
Byrum delivered, and now Auburn will await the winner of No. 2 Alabama (2009) vs. No. 10 Arkansas (2010).
“That would be huge – the Iron Bowl to send one team to the finals of this tournament,” said Chizik with a small amount of wonder in his voice. “As much as I look forward to the next game, my team needs to soak in this feeling. Wins like this are nerve racking, but hopefully we learned something and we can be at our peak when a chance to advance to the title game is on the line.”