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Saturday, October 9, 2010

Final: Auburn 37, Kentucky 34

Another nail-biter. Another fantastic finish. Another tight deadline. Here's how tomorrow's story starts:
LEXINGTON, Ky. — After Wes Byrum's most famous field goal, the Auburn kicker broke out the Gator chomp, gleefully mimicking Florida's signature clap as he ran down the field in Gainesville as a freshman three years ago.

After making a 24-yarder to lift the No. 8 Tigers to a crazy 37-34 win against Kentucky on Saturday night, the senior had a more subdued reaction.

Byrum's first walk-off winner in three years helped Auburn (6-0, 3-0 SEC) survive its fourth nail-biter, finally putting away a scrappy Kentucky team that trailed by 17 points on two occasions.

"We are finding interesting ways to end the games, but we are 6-0 and that is all that matters," Auburn head coach Gene Chizik said. “I am so proud of our football team finding different ways to win the game at the end."

Byrum lined up for a 24-yarder, not much more than an extra point, with three seconds on the clock and drilled it dead center. Auburn players poured onto the field for a somewhat restrained celebration, considering the situation.

"I actually thought the offense was going to punch it in there and score, and it was going to be the end of it,” Byrum said. "The defensive guys came up to me and I told them I was going to knock this through for them because they had been fighting the whole game."
Let's get to the bullet points to recap the rest:
  • Some more on Byrum's game-winner. It was his fifth game-winning field goal (2007 Florida, 2007 Arkansas, 2010 Northwestern in the Outback Bowl and 2010 Clemson). It also put him first in school history in field goals made with 51, one more than his predecessor John Vaughn. "It's just a really cool thing," Byrum said. "It's humbling to be up there with the names of the people that are with me."
  • Byrum hit the game-winner, but it wouldn't have been possible without QB Cam Newton, who accounted for 408 yards (210 passing, 198 rushing). He had four touchdown runs, all in the first half, tying Phil Gargis' single-game quarterback record for rushing touchdowns set against Florida State in 1976.
  • But when Auburn's offense bogged down in the second half, that's when Newton was most impressive. On the methodical, game-winning 19-play, 86-yard, 7-minute, 22-second drive (look at those numbers again and let them sink in), Newton put the team on his shoulders. He ran 10 times for 48 yards, helping the Tigers convert three crucial first downs (one with a pass to Darvin Adams — a clutch play deep in Auburn's own territory — and two by running to the markers). Newton last third-down conversion run, a 4-yard gain when the Tigers needed two, put the ball at the Kentucky 11. "He's a competitor," Chizik said. "When the game's on the line, he wants the ball in his hands."
  • How good is Newton? He's accounted for 21 touchdowns this season (12 passing, nine rushing), which already puts him eighth on the Tigers' single-season record list. He's rushed for over 100 yards in three games. Auburn quarterbacks had done that only six times in school history entering this season.
  • The Tigers have to feel very fortunate they came away with this one. They fumbled four times and didn't lose possession once. Two of those came on the final drive. Demond Washington nearly lost a handle on it faking a handoff to Terrell Zachery. Auburn recovered at its 7. Zachery later lost the handle at the end of an end around, watching as it took a fortuitous bounce out of bounds, a fraction of a second before a Kentucky player pounced on it.
  • Still, that final drive was impressive. In terms of plays, it was the second longest in school history, one shy of a 2008 drive against West Virginia that ended in a field goal.
  • Offensive leaders:
  • Adams: Five catches for 101 yards
  • Mike Dyer: 9 carries, 56 yards (1 fumble)
  • Mario Fannin: 8 carries, 50 yards
  • Defensively, not a great showing in the second half. Even though Derrick Locke was out with a shoulder stinger, the Wildcats had great success. QB Mike Hartline went 23-for-28 for 220 yards. thriving in a dink-and-dunk game. Auburn's secondary didn't do a great job of covering the underneath routes, which is obviously a great concern with Arkansas' Ryan Mallett coming to town next week.
  • Kentucky athlete Randall Cobb was phenomenal as well, giving the Tigers fits with his mobility, just like last season. He finished with 47 rushing yards and 68 receiving yards. He accounted for four touchdowns (two rushing, one receiving and one passing on his only attempt). Auburn is probably thankful it won't have to face him again. "This guy's the best football player I've ever been around," Kentucky coach Joker Phillips said.
  • Auburn gave up 336 yards, which doesn't sound like that many. But the Tigers allowed Kentucky to score points on five of its final six drives (three touchdowns, two field goals). The only saving grace was that the defense somehow came up with a third-down stop deep in its own territory midway through the fourth quarter, holding Kentucky to a game-tying field goal and giving the offense a chance to win it. "It is obviously not where we want to be defensively," Chizik said. "But at the end of the day, I think the defense stepped up and made some plays when they to."
  • Key stats for Auburn's defense: 1 sack, 0 quarterback hurries. I know Kentucky likes to throw the ball quick, but that's not going to cut it. No wonder Hartline only had five incompletions.
  • Defensive leaders:
  • S Zac Etheridge: 11 tackles, .5 sack
  • LB Daren Bates: 8 tackles, 1 FF
  • CB T'Sharvan Bell: 6 tackles
  • DE Antoine Carter: 4 tackles, .5 sack
  • LB Craig Stevens: 4 tackles, .5 sack, 1 FR
  • Auburn burned the redshirt on punter Steven Clark, who took over for Ryan Shoemaker. The Tigers' punting has been lackluster this year (11th in the SEC in net punting entering the night), but Clark's punts went for 32 and 36 yards. I can't imagine the competition there is over. Clark is the 15th true freshman to play this year, by the way.
  • Kentucky might be 0-3 in the SEC, but this was a pretty good team. It'll knock off someone it shouldn't before the season is over. Too many weapons. "My hear aches those guys because I asked those guys to play and leave everything on the field, lay with heart, play with emotions," Phillips said. "And they did it."
  • Last quote goes to Newton, who didn't sound totally satisfied with how the team played: "The defense leans on the offense and offense leans on the defense. And we were just trying to get them a breath of fresh air, to let them get their legs back under them (at the end). Because we knew we were putting them in some hectic situations and that cannot be done, going three and out consecutively. We just can't do that, especially on the road. Or period."


SteveFC said...

Good information, Andy. Thanks.

Anonymous said...

Thanks Andy! Great info as always

Anonymous said...

SEC officiating continues to be terrible...KY holding on just about every pass play, yet no calls...and AU "caught" of a bunch of major distance penalties....not just here however. On critical play in the Bama-USC game the Bama back about tore the shirt off USC receiver who made a one-handed catch ....official was five yards behind the play and never reached for his flag. The game is getting too fast for the old men who are trying to keep up with it.

AUsome04 said...

Great info AB. I think Kentucky had only given up 2 sacks coming into the game, so I'll take an additional one. It seems like AC and someone had a sack on Cobb once also. In hindsight that stand to hold them to a FG after that big 4th down conversion was huge. The team loss focus last night after getting up big but atoned for it. Bottomline: we have got to change our passing defense ENTIRELY this week. Only rushing four (when the other seven can't cover anyway) is not going to work this week. But I suspect this one will come down to us stopping Arkansas' run. WDE guys (& gals).

AUsome04 said...

Excellent points as well Nancy. I remember the late hit by Fairley being one and definitely a couple of PI's were questionable. (I thought it was last year's Kentucky game refs again) Kentucky's entire second drive was sponsored by penalties. Can't worry about the refs though. Our team just needs to play with a little more discipline. Thank goodness I don't remember many O`line penalities.

Tar Heel Tiger said...

i was amazed how often the KY OL facemasked Fairley, almost bending his head off, and not a single call. That was inexcusable, not to mention dangerous.

AUsome mom said...

And don't forget the personal fouls against Etheridge when the player was CLEARLY IN BOUNDS!! OMG! The refs gave KY two of it's touchdowns because of "fake" penalties on our Tigers. I agree with the defensive play this coming up week against Arky. We MUST get better in our secondary or we're in BIG trouble!! It's GREAT to be and Auburn Fan!!!