Comeback Kid Leads Tigers Past Virginia

Auburn's offense was clicking with backup quarterback Barrett Trotter leading the way as the Tigers cruised past Virginia.

Atlanta, Ga.--Like a Vegas high-roller playing on house money, Gus Malzahn was wheeling and dealing on his last night as Auburn's offensive coordinator no matter who played quarterback for the Tigers.

The result was a 43-24 Auburn football victory over Virginia on Saturday night in the Chick-fil-A Bowl as the Tigers finished the season 8-5.

"We wanted to be more aggressive," a beaming Malzahn said. "We looked like our old offense tonight. It was a lot of fun."

The 43 points were a season-high for the Tigers and the most ever by the Tigers in a bowl game. The previous high was 39 two seasons ago in a victory over Northwestern in the Outback Bowl.

"I am very happy for Barrett Trotter," Malzahn said of the junior quarterback who had been on the shelf since being benched at halftime of the Florida game.

"He is just a class young man who played his tail off," Malzahn said. "He was a lot of fun to watch tonight."

Gus Malzahn celebrates during his final Auburn game. He is taking over as head coach at Arkansas State.

Trotter was called into action when starter Clint Moseley injured his ankle early in the game and was sidelined the rest of the way. Trotter had spent part of his time running the scout team in preparation for the bowl game and had taken a minimal amount of reps with the first and second offense.

"We gave him a few more reps this week, but he hadn't had many before we got here so hat's off to him," Malzahn said. "He is a true champion."

Trotter completed 11-18 passes for 175 yards with one touchdown and rushed for 32 yards on five carries. He had four passes dropped that would have seriously padded his yardage total.

Asked how he could play so well after getting minimal preparation time with the first offense, Trotter said, "I don't know. All I can say is the Lord blessed me. Earlier this week I was taking reps with the scout team.

"In bowl practice, really, I got about one day's worth of actual reps just because they are trying to get young guys in and I don't know why," he added. "Just being able to go back out there and get back in rhythm felt good. I was glad to send the seniors out with a win."

Trotter said he felt confident knowing the game plan because he had been on top of that in the quarterback meetings. The junior said that he could have played better, but added, "At the end of the day we played well as an offense."

Onterio McCalebb rushed for 109 yards and one touchdown and caught two passes for 53 yards and a score.

McCalebb busts loose for yardage vs. the Cavaliers.

Emory Blake, back close to full speed from his ankle injury, caught six passes for 108 yards for the Tigers, who finished the game with 454 yards with 273 on the ground and 284 through the air. Virginia passed for 312 yards and rushed for 123.

Freshman quarterback Kiehl Frazier rushed 16 times for 55 yards for the Tigers while freshman tailback Tre Mason rushed for 64 yards on nine carries filling in for suspended Michael Dyer.

"I couldn't be more proud of a young guy than I am of Barrett Trotter in so many ways off the field, the way that he handled everything in the middle of the season and what a fitting end to his season," Auburn head coach Gene Chizik said. "He finished it the way he started it."

Trotter led the Tigers to a comeback victory over Utah State in the opener, but had not played since game seven.

Virginia won the toss and took the football. The Cavaliers got the scoring started by driving 64 yards on nine plays on their second possession as quarterback Michael Rocco hit wide receiver Kris Burd on a post route from 27 yards out for the touchdown.

Auburn matched the score thanks to a big play by the special teams. Freshman walk-on Garrett Harper's punt block gave the Tigers great field position at the UVA 15 as the Tigers put a big rush up the middle. "The coaches told me before the game that we would have a chance to block a punt and it could be me," he said.

McCalebb ran for 12 yards on the next play and Kiehl Frazier scored on a keeper from three yards out to tie the game with 4:02 left in the first quarter.

Virginia responded with a 73-yard, 10-play drive that was aided by personal foul calls on Corey Lemonier and Jonathon Mincy. On third and goal at the six, Rocco found Burd open in the end zone to make the score 14-7.

That lead didn't last long as Auburn raced 85 yards on just six plays to tie the game on a three-yard run featuring a version of the statue of liberty play with Trotter handing the ball to McCalebb, who scored at right end. The big play on the possession was a 60-yard run by McCalebb who cut back on a sweep at right end and raced into the open at left end for big yardage.

Auburn kept the momentum going when Cody Parkey perfectly executed an onside kick. As soon as it traveled 11 yards the kicker recovered the football at the Auburn 41.

"There is no question (it was the momentum changer)," Chizik said. "We knew we were going to do that. We told the players all week that we were going to do that. We knew we were going to get it and we are pretty much undefeated when it comes to that kick. It's hard to stop if you execute it right"

Two plays later Trotter threw a 50-yard bomb to Blake putting the Tigers at the Virginia five. Mason ran for one yard, McCalebb then ran for three yards to the goal line and the offensive front had a big push as Frazier ran into the end zone untouched on third down from the shotgun formation. That put the Tigers up 21-14 with 8:44 left in the half.

Virginia came back with a strong drive, moving from its 20 to the Auburn 15-yard line where the Cavaliers faced a fourth down and sixth. A fake field goal run at right end didn't fool Chris Davis, who made the tackle at the 12-yard line.

From there the Tigers moved 88 yards in nine plays with Trotter and Frazier splitting duties at quarterback and Malzahn reaching deep into his play books with misdirection fakes and reverses.

The touchdown came with 59 seconds left when a misdirection fake set up a screen pass to McCalebb, who was uncovered on his way to the end zone from 25 yards out.

Auburn's lead was trimmed to 28-17 as Robert Randolph made a 24-yard field goal as time expired.

At intermission the Tigers had run 32 plays for 274 yards while the Cavaliers had kept the football for 47 plays while gaining 295 yards.

Auburn outscored the Cavaliers 15-7 in the second half as the defense made adjustments. "We made some changes based on what they were doing that helped us in the second half," cornerbacks coach Phillip Lolley said. "We also were more physical in the second half."

Auburn increased its lead to 35-17 by taking the third quarter kickoff and driving 80 yards on nine plays. Mason's 22-yard run up the middle scored the touchdown.

Virginia answered with its only second half points driving 79 yards on 10 plays.

Auburn added a safety on its second punt block, the first time two blocks in the same game since 2003 vs. ULM. Freshman Angelo Blackson blocked the punt try out of the back of the end zone with 1:57 left in the third quarter.

After a 62-yard return of the free kick by Quan Bray, Auburn stretched the lead to 40-24 on a career-long 45-yard field goal by Cody Parkey. "That return was my best play of the season," Bray said from the celebrating Auburn locker room.

Parkey added an insurance field goal from 37 yards out with 8:09 left to make the final score 43-24. Auburn ran out the clock rather than score again after driving to the Virginia goal line.

Chick-fil-A Bowl Notes:

*Auburn improved to 22-13-2 in bowl games and has won five consecutive bowls, a school record.

*Gene Chizik is 3-0 as a head coach in bowl games and 9-0 in bowl games as a coach.

*Heisman Trophy winner Bo Jackson delivered the game ball to midfield for the opening coin toss. The two-time All-American running back has been a regular at Auburn games this season.

*Onterio McCalebb said he plans to talk to his family before deciding whether to return for his senior season. Tight end Philip Lutzenkirchen said he is going to get information on his draft potential before deciding whether or not he will return.

MVPs: McCalebb won the bowl MVP award for offense and cornerback Chris Davis was honored on defense.

First-Timers: In the first half the Tigers used 27 players who had previously not seen action in a bowl game. The group includes: Trovon Reed, Quan Bray, Jonathon Mincy, Kiehl Frazier, LaDarius Owens, Brandon Fulse, Erique Florence, Barrett Trotter, Tre Mason, Justin Garrett, Robenson Therezie, Steven Clark, Jermaine Whitehead, Cody Parkey, Reese Dismukes, Chad Slade, Tunde Fariyike, Clint Moseley, A.J. Greene, C.J. Uzomah, Travante Stallworth, Garrett Harper, Jaylon Denson, Gabe Wright, Joel Bonomolo and Angelo Blackson.

*Auburn's 28 first half points are a school record for a bowl game.

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