Auburn almost became an embarrassment for the SEC on Saturday afternoon. Utah State wasn’t supposed to hint at bringing a huge upset to the defending national champion.
Utah State may have gone 4-8 in 2010, but that isn’t the team that was on the field down in Alabama this weekend. The Aggies actually took a late 38-28 lead over Auburn and just needed to play some tight defense to close out the game. With just over three minutes left on the clock, it seemed like the Western Athletic Conference was about to take the college football world by surprise.
With just two minutes left on the clock, Auburn quarterback Barrett Trotter connected with Philip Lutzenkirchen for a 15-yard touchdown. That brought the game to within a field goal and gave Auburn the chance to tie the game and force overtime. That wasn’t in the plans though, as the Tigers went for much more than that.
Trailing 38-35, the Tigers went for an onside kick that was recovered on the Auburn 44-yard line. Moving quickly, Trotter was able to get the Tigers past midfield and into striking distance of the end zone in about a minute. Rather than go for the tie, Auburn went for the win, and on a Michael Dyer rushing touchdown, took a 42-38 lead that would hold up to the end.
This was certainly the type of win that could spark this Auburn team to a great year in 2011. Even after losing Cam Newton to the NFL Draft, there is a lot of talent still left in Auburn. The team was ranked No. 23 in the preseason polls, but could move up with a few wins against key opponents coming up on the regular season schedule. This opening weekend scare could turn into a teaching tool instead, and could be a springboard game for Trotter.
In his first game as the Auburn starting quarterback, Trotter went for 261 passing yards on just 17-of-23 from the field. He threw for three touchdowns (and no interceptions) and showed a good mastery of the game clock when everything was on the line. Tougher games in the Auburn schedule are coming though, beginning on September 10 when the school hosts Mississippi State on the SEC Network. Upcoming games against Clemson, South Carolina, Arkansas, Florida, LSU, and Alabama will give the team every shot to spring up the national rankings.