Those kind of plays can also have a big impact on the confidence of the players who made them. After you do something like that to help win a football game, people look at you differently, they talk to you differently and it gives the players involved a major boost to their confidence.
The bowl game was full of big plays by Auburn freshmen. One of the most exciting was a 62-yard return by Quan Bray, who also had several good plays as a receiver.
Bray looked like the player I had been expecting to see all season. I believe his performance at the Georgia Dome will give him a confidence boost heading into his sophomore season.
One of the second half touchdowns was scored by another freshman, Tre Mason, who took advantage of his opportunity for extended playing time. He looked just like I thought he would look with more chances to run the football. I see a bright future for him as an Auburn running back.
Tre Mason carried the ball nine times vs. Virginia.
The most impressive part of the season for the 2011 Auburn team was the special teams play and the bowl game was no exception. Those units were loaded with freshmen and other young players, which is a good sign for the coming seasons. They were fun to watch.
My hat is off to special teams coach Jay Boulware and all of the guys on the special teams. They were as good in their bowl appearance as Virginia Tech was bad with its special teams play, which cost the Hokies a chance to win their Sugar Bowl game against Michigan.
(If you have a question or a subject you would like me to write about in future columns, you can email it to PatDye@autigers.com.)
Editor's Note: This is part of a series of columns that College Football Hall of Fame member Pat Dye is writing for AUTigers.com about the game he played and coached. An All-American player at Georgia and one of the top head coaches in SEC history at Auburn, he also served as a head coach at East Carolina and Wyoming. Dye participates in the Legends Poll, a Top 25 rating of the best teams in college football as determined by a panel of all-star former head coaches. Dye writes three columns for AUTigers.com--The Dye-Log, the Dye-Gest and Pat's Picks.