19-Play Clutch Drive Keeps Tigers Unbeaten

The Auburn football Tigers overcame defensive lapses and penalties to stay unbeaten with a brilliant performance by quarterback Cam Newton and a clutch drive by the offense.

Lexington, Ky.--Despite a dominating first half performance by the Auburn offense and an All-American type of performance by Cameron Newton, it took the second longest scoring drive in Auburn football history to stay unbeaten on Saturday night as the Tigers outlasted Kentucky 37-34.

Senior Wes Byrum calmly nailed a 24-yard field goal as time expired to complete the scoring march that began on the Auburn seven and ended on the Kentucky seven 19 plays later.

Auburn improved to 6-0 overall and 3-0 in the SEC with the victory while Kentucky dropped to 3-3 overall and 0-3 in the SEC.

"It was something an offensive lineman dreams of," center Ryan Pugh said of Auburn's game-winning drive. "You just keep running and running the ball and throw it a couple of times and get a first down when you need it."

Pugh said he couldn't watch the last kick, but fellow senior Zac Etheridge did and said he had no doubts. "I have seen Wes make so many of those I knew he was going to make it," Etheridge said, "Wes is a clutch player and that is something we work on every day in practice."

Byrum, who set a school record for career field goals on the final play with his 51st as a four-year starter at Auburn, said, "Whenever it gets close at the end I always go over to the guys, Josh (snapper Josh Harris) and Neil (holder Neil Caudle) and tell them this is probably going to come down to us so start getting your mind right now.

"I probably told them with eight or nine minutes left," he said. "After they kicked off for us, I knew the offense was going to drive down and eat up the clock. It was unbelievable. They made it easy for me."

Wes Byrum (18) watches the winning field goal.

Kentucky had tied the game at 34-34 with a long drive of its own with 7:31 left when Craig McIntosh made a 35-yard field goal to cap a 14-play possession in which the Wildcats moved 53 yards.

Auburn got the football at its own seven when Demond Washington fumbled the kickoff return as he was trying to hand it to Terrell Zachery on a reverse. Auburn got the ball back in what looked to be a big hole with the UK crowd sensing the possibility of an upset.

Newton started the drive with a four-yard keeper and then threw a bomb to Kodi Burns that was incomplete near midfield. Facing third and six, Newton looked for a guy he calls a "clutch" receiver, Darvin Adams, and hit the junior wide receiver for nine yards on a sideline route.

After that the Tigers were on the march.

The final drive featured 12 runs by Newton, who carried the football on the final seven plays before the kick, including a kneel-down play at the UK seven to position the ball in the middle of the field for Byrum.

For the night Newton ran the football 28 times for 198 yards and four touchdowns. He threw 21 passes and completed 13 for 210 yards with one interception.

"Cameron is an unbelievable competitor," said Pugh, who said the junior quarterback was the right man for the job when it was do-or-die time with the football at the Auburn seven-yard line.

Auburn's final drive and kick was enough to trump a strong performance by Kentucky QB Mike Hartline, who hit 23-28 passes for 220 yards and one TD. Randall Cobb, UK's do-it-all star, threw a TD pass and rushed for two more as he gained 47 yards on 11 carries.

"We said at halftime this was going to come down to the end," Auburn coach Gene Chizik said. "We are finding different ways to win every week and I can't be more proud of our football team."

Darvin Adams makes a catch for the Tigers.

Auburn out-gained Kentucky 521-336 yards, but the Wildcats took advantage of AU's shaky kickoffs/coverage to get good field position much of the night before a crowd of 70,776 at Commonwealth Stadium. The Wildcats also benefitted greatly from eight penalties for 87 yards against the Tigers, many which came at critical times in the game. More than a couple were suspect calls, including a pair of personal fouls on Zac Etheridge.

Kentucky won the opening toss, took the ball and quickly scored after Cobb returned a short, low kickoff to the Auburn 49. The Wildcats decided to use the excellent field position to run straight at the Auburn defense and had no problem marching into the end zone with just one pass.

Cobb, on first and goal running out of the wildcat formation, found a hole and scored on a short run at right guard to put the Wildcats up 7-0 less than three minutes into the action.

Auburn answered immediately with a touchdown drive that covered 78 yards in nine plays. Newton completed both of his passes on the drive, but the Tigers did most of their damage on the ground.

Newton carried the ball four times for 38 yards on the drive and scored on a read option. He faked a handoff to Onterio McCalebb and kept the ball at right end. The big quarterback was untouched on his way to the end zone as the Tigers tied the game at 7-7 with 6:44 left in the opening quarter.

Cody Parkey got a chance to kickoff after the touchdown and sent the ball to the goal allowing the Tigers to cover the kick with no problem. Parkey handled all of the kickoffs the rest of the night while fewllow freshman Steven Clark did the punting, a first for Clark who had not played. After a three-and-out for the Wildcats, Auburn took over at its 20 after the punt and put together another strong guy.

This time the drive took eight plays as the Tigers used their fast-paced attack to cover the distance to the end zone in three minutes and 17 seconds.

With the Tigers in a spread formation, including left tackle Lee Ziemba who was flanked out wide right, Newton ran eight yards up the middle for the touchdown on a draw play.

Possession number three for the Tigers wasn't too shabby, either.

It took the Tigers just six plays to move 80 yards to push their lead to 21-7. Newton again finished the drive, this time on a five-yard run and he was untouched running over right guard.

On the next possession Tigers came up with the first turnover of the game when Locke was stripped by linebacker Daren Bates and linebacker Craig Stevens came up with the football at the Auburn 48.

The Tigers quickly moved into UK territory, but had their only non-touchdown pass of the half. When Philip Lutzenkirchen couldn't hold on to a pass at the five-yard line Auburn settled for a 38-yard field goal by Byrum to make the score 24-7 with 7:12 left in the first half.

Kentucky, with the help of a pair of questionable personal foul calls on Zac Etheridge, scored its second touchdown with 4:52 left in the half. Cobb, running the wildcat, ran to the left, pulled up and threw a pass to tight end Jordan Aumiller was uncovered on the six-yard TD play.

However, Auburn matched that by moving 80 yards in six plays. Newton set up the TD with a scramble and then scored

Although the Wildcats had just 1:06 and two timeouts left, they had no trouble moving into Tiger territory and Craig McIntosh kicked a 29-yard field goal as time expired on the seventh play of a drive that covered 55 yards leaving Auburn ahead 31-17 at intermission.

At the half the Tigers totaled 334 yards with 215 coming on the ground. Newton personally gained 132 of the yards on 13 carries and scored all four of his team's touchdowns.

UK quarterback Mike Hartline was sharp, too. He hit 14-15 passes in the first half for 131 yards, but did not have a touchdown for his team that gained 181 yards before intermission.

The Tigers got the second half kickoff and had their first non-productive offensive series when Newton was intercepted on a deep pass he underthrew to Emory Blake. UK took over at its 38 and moved to the Auburn 39 where the Wildcats punted the football into the end zone on fourth down and nine.

However, Auburn failed to move the ball on its first three possessions of the half and UK scored on possession two and three to tie the game at 31-31 with 4:03 left in the second quarter.

Cobb's 16-yard run capped a 48-yard drive to cut the gap to 31-24 with 8:18 left in the third quarter. His one-yard run following a spectacular scramble tied the game with 4:03 left in the quarter.

Auburn responded with its first points of the second half, a 19-yard field goal by Byrum with 14:17 to play before the Wildcats matched that to set up Auburn's dramatic drive to victory.

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