It wasn't only that the linebacker scored a touchdown to give Auburn a 21-0 lead, it was the manner in which he delivered the six points that made the play really stand out.
After Demetruce McNeal knocked the football away from quarterback Andrew Manley, who was scrambling on a pass attempt, Bates fielded the ball on a hop, spun away from a New Mexico player and headed towards the end zone.
At the Aggie 25-yard line, Bates took care of the final defender (running back Germi Morrison) with a once-in-lifetime stiff arm that left Morrison on the ground and Bates free to score. The only poor decision on the play by Bates was diving into the end zone that resulted in a 15-yard unsportsmanlike penalty.
The stiff arm and touchdown electrified the crowd and--as Chizik pointed out--players and coaches.
The fumble play was the longest such return for a score in Auburn the Auburn record book that dates back to 1969 for that category. The previous longest was 60 yards by Ed Graham at Florida State in 1984. The longest ever at Auburn is believed to be a 91-yard return by Gusty Yearout in 1966 against Florida team led by Heisman Trophy winner Steve Spurrier.
It was Bates' first career touchdown and the first defensive touchdown by Auburn this season, which had scored eight defensive touchdowns previously during the Chizik Era.
"Coach (VanGorder) called a great play," Bates said. "Demetruce McNeal made a great play on the quarterback and forced the ball out. I was able to get the ball and let my ability take over and get to the end zone with great blocks from my teammates."
Bates said it reminded him of his high school days as a running back when he made a many big plays on offense. Since coming to Auburn and starting at safety as a freshman and then at linebacker the past three seasons, he has been a strong presence with 308 career tackles, 12th all-time for the Tigers.
Bates noted that Auburn needed a big day by the defense that has struggled during a 2-7 season.
"This is a game we've been waiting to have, a game like this is something to build off of for next week, especially with Georgia and the running backs they have and how they run the ball," Bates points out.
"It was a big building opportunity and we finally came together today as a defense. We finally got the feeling back of how to win. Hopefully, next week we will have the same tenacity, same effort and same attitude to go out there and make some plays we made today."
In other news and notes:
*Quarterback Jonathan Wallace became the 15th player this season to start his first game for Auburn. Wallace succeeded Kiehl Frazier and Clint Moseley as the starter at quarterback and became the first true freshman to start at QB for Auburn since Kodi Burns in 2007 vs. New Mexico State.
Others making their first starts for Auburn this year are: Angelo Blackson, defensive tackle; Trent Fisher, safety; Joshua Hosley, cornerback; Jonathan Jones, cornerback; Cassanova McKinzy, linebacker; Kiehl Frazier, quarterback; Jay Prosch, fullback; Tunde Fariyike, center; Greg Robinson, offensive tackle; Avery Young, offensive tackle; Patrick Miller, offensive tackle; Tre Mason, running back; Jaylon Denson, wide receiver; and C.J. Uzomah, tight end. In addition to Wallace, true freshman with starts are Holsey, Jones, McKinzy, Young and Miller.
*Wallace had a slow start with a fumble on the exchange with Tre Mason on Auburn's first play from scrimmage. Mason recovered at the Auburn nine-yard line for a loss of five yards. The Tigers were three-and-out their first two possessions with minus five yards in total offense. The Tigers picked it up with 479 yards total offense to 305 for the Aggies.
*The 2012 season is the ninth since 1969 that Auburn has had two quarterbacks make their first career start in the same year (Wallace, Frazier). The previous seasons: 1972, 1977, 1980, 1984, 1998, 2001, 2005, 2011. The last time Auburn started three quarterbacks in a season was 1999: Gabe Gross (one game); Ben Leard (six games); Jeff Klein (four games).
*Mason's second-quarter touchdown run was his fifth scoring run in the last four games. It was Mason's sixth TD of the season, most on the team. He recorded his second 100-yard game of the season, netting a career-high 152 yards. His first came with 106 yards against Clemson.
*Onterio McCalebb and Mason each passed the 100-yard rushing mark Saturday. The last time Auburn had two 100-yard rushers in the same game was versus LSU in 2010 (Cam Newton and Michael Dyer). McCalebb's 113-yard rushing day on only eight carries came a week after he had a career-low one rush in Auburn's loss to Texas A&M.
*McCalebb now has 2,469 yards rushing to rank ninth among Auburn's career leaders, passing Stacy Danley (1987-90, 2,427 yards). McCalebb now has 22 career rushing touchdowns (10th best all-time passing Cam Newton) and 27 touchdowns overall. McCalebb is fifth among Auburn's career all-purpose yardage leaders with 4,243 yards.
*Auburn's defense was outstanding on third down conversions with the Aggies going 2-13. The Tigers were 5-2 on third down conversions
*Jay Prosch played a major role in Auburn's 80-yard scoring drive to open the second half. He recovered McCalebb's fumble on the kickoff to retain possession for the Tigers. The junior transfer fullback scored his first collegiate touchdown on a one-yard run to cap the drive. Despite being named an All-American at fullback for Illinois, Prosch didn't score in his two years with the Big 10 school. His last touchdown was his senior season of high school at UMS Wright in Mobile.
*With 117 career receptions to date Emory Blake is now sixth in Auburn career receptions, passing Rod Smith (114 from 2004-08) and Darvin Adams (115 from 2008-10). In fifth place is Frank Sanders (121 from 1991-94). Blake is ninth in career receiving yardage with 1,842 yards, passing lawyer Tillman (1,808 yards from 1985-88).
*Blake is fifth on the Auburn career touchdown receptions list with 16 scores, including a 27-yard TD against Texas A&M. Third place in TD receptions overall is a tie with 17 Darvin Adams 2008-10 and Karsten Bailey 1995-98.