Hero To Goat To Hero In A Day

Auburn, Ala.--There can be a fine line between being the hero and goat. Quarterback <b>Daniel Cobb</b> crossed it several times, but when the final whistle blew it was his perfectly executed TD pass play to <b>Deandre Green</b> that proved to be the winner on Saturday.

That overtime touchdown pass, followed up by an interception two plays later by linebacker Dontarrious Thomas, enabled the Tigers to escape with a 48-41 victory over Louisiana Tech.

Deandre Green's winning touchdown catch in overtime.

The overtime was set up by a wild Tech comeback that saw the visitors try to spoil Auburn's homecoming by rallying from a 41-27 deficit late in the game with a pair of quick touchdowns. However, before that could happen, the Bulldogs had to dodge a bullet.

Surprisingly, on the final play of regulation, Damon Duval missed what for him was almost a chip shot of a field goal. His 37-yarder hooked just left of the upright to set up an overtime and stun the sun-drenched Jordan-Hare Stadium crowd that had sat on its hands much of the afternoon.

With their Tigers' 11-game winning streak in peril after leading 31-13 at halftime, the crowd woke up and so did the Tigers to improve their record to 6-1 while the visitors from the Western Athletic Conference dropped to 3-3.

"We were fortunate we got out with the win," said defensive coordinator John Lovett, whose pupils were burned for 533 yards on a day that the Tigers racked up 554 yards.

However, four Cobb interceptions, including an ill-advised throw that set up the tying touchdown, almost negated his positives that included 381 passing yards and a school-record five TDs, with four coming in the first half and the final one in overtime.

"I gave Louisiana Tech a lot of chances to stay in the game," said Cobb. "I have to get those eliminated before next week at Arkansas. It is a tough place to play."

A press box pundit described Cobb's day as one worthy of SEC Offensive Player of the Week and perhaps Western Athletic Conference Defensive Player of the Week as the senior threw into coverage way too many times for Tommy Tuberville's liking. The head coach said that he will have to re-evaluate the quarterback position, but offensive coordinator Noel Mazzone was less disappointed and said that he is sure that the senior is still the man to lead the Tiger offense.

One of the interceptions was the fault of receiver Marcel Willis, who dropped a beautifully thrown ball, however, Cobb threw two others that should have been picked off by the Bulldogs but escaped when the picks were muffed.

Tech coach Jack Bicknell, Jr., said he was proud of his Bulldogs. "We never quit and never stopped fighting. It is frustrating to have the opportunity to win and I am getting tired of coming in and playing teams tough but not being able to pull it out in the end."

Bicknell said he considered going for two when his team tied the game with 58 seconds left on a 23-yard pass from Luke McCown to Delwyn Daigre after moving 41 yards in three plays after Cobb's fourth interception. However, he chose to play for overtime, but that almost backfired when the Tigers drove from their own 20 to the Tech 20 to set the stage for what would have been a fourth straight week the Tigers won in the fourth quarter on a Duval field goal.

"I thought it was over once they got the ball down to our end," Bicknell admitted. "I know Duval is a great kicker and I watched him in pregame. He was nailing them all."

Tech won the overtime toss and picked defense first, which is normally the smart strategy. The Tigers got the ball at the 25 and scored in five plays. A big play was a third down and nine call when Cobb found tight end Lorenzo Diamond for 14 yards.

Freshman Carnell Williams, who rushed for 78 yards on 16 carries, fought for five yards on the next play setting up second and goal at the five. AU called a play designed to draw the defense offside and then throw a fade route to Deandre Green whether the defense jumped offsides or not. The defense did jump offsides and Cobb had a free play. He lofted a perfect pass over the coverage and Green jumped high to pull in the TD pass.

Two plays later with the crowd finally roaring, "DT" Thomas wrapped up the game with the defensive play of the day as he got Auburn's fifth interception of the contest.

Thomas said that he was impressed with the Bulldogs' offense. "We saw on film how they had scored a lot of points on everybody," he said. "They have a great team and I am not embarrassed by the game."

Cornerback Roderick Hood, who also had an interception, was less impressed with his team's victory. "Even though they have a good offense, we did not play a good game. We didn't play good as a team. It is disappointing. We didn't tackle well and we didn't do a good job of executing and communicating on defense like we did last week against Florida."

The action started early and never quit with the Tigers taking a 31-13 lead at halftime with Cobb matching the school record with four touchdown passes. Silas Daniels, Lorenzo Diamond, Green and Tim Carter each scored on a first half reception.

Tech scored first, kicking a 34-yard Josh Scobee field goal with 10:55 left in the first quarter. Auburn managed its first points on the final play of the first quarter as freshman Silas Daniels made a one-hand catch on a 16-yard pass. Hood's interception set up the TD drive.

Auburn had a one-play drive to jump on top 14-3 on a 22-yard screen pass to Diamond at the 14:32 mark of the second quarter. That play was set up by an interception from defensive tackle DeMarco McNeil. "Hey, I have the best hands on the team," the 295-pound sophomore joked after the game. "That was no accident."

Tech quickly responded with McCown hitting Daigre from six-yards out for the score at the 12:44 mark of the second quarter.

The Tigers then put together one of their best drives of the season, moving 87 yards on 12 plays. Cobb threw a 32-yard TD pass to Green for the score. Big Deandre flattened a defensive back who got in his way at the five-yard line. That put the Tigers on top 21-10.

Carter scored on a 59-yard pass and run with 1:37 left in the half and Duval added a 48-yard field goal with three seconds left in the second quarter to put the Tigers ahead 31-13 at halftime. Scobee kicked a 26-yard field goal at the 2:31 mark of the second quarter.

Tech drove 80 yards to start the second half and cut the lead to 31-20. AU stretched the margin to two TDs with a 37-yard Duval field goal.

The next score came with10:16 left in the fourth quarter on a 27-yard run by Joe Smith on a drive that Tech burned the Tigers on with big running plays up the middle. "We didn't tackle very well in the second half," Lovett said.

Nursing a nervous seven-point lead, the Tigers added some breathing room with 5:12 to play. Williams had a two-play running drive, racing for 33 yards on the first play following an interception by Stanford Simmons and then 11 yards up the middle for a TD with 5:12 left. However, the 41 points were not enough.

Tech responded with a seven-play scoring drive that went 71 yards in 2:33. A 12-yard pass to D.J. Curry cut the lead to 41-34.

Auburn just needed one or two first downs to run out the clock, but disaster struck before that could happen. After Williams gained four on first down, fullback Ronnie Brown gained two up the middle. On third and four, an illegal procedure penalty backed the Tigers up and on the next play, Cobb scrambled and should have run. However, Jason Olford picked off his pass and the Bulldogs were in business at the Tiger 41 after an illegal block penalty on the return.

Three plays, 29 seconds and a PAT later, the game was tied at 41-41 with 58 seconds left on the scoreboard.

Cobb rallied the Tigers after a 33-yard Williams kickoff return from the goal line. He hit Jeris McIntyre on passes over the middle of 20 and 13 yards to move the Tigers into Duval's field goal range. A 10-yard run and a four-yard run by Williams set the stage for a potential game winner, but the Tigers had to wait until overtime to win their 12th straight game at Jordan-Hare stadium.

The Tigers will hit the road next Saturday for a contest test at Arkansas. That game will be televised regionally by Jefferson-Pilot at 11:30 a.m. from Fayetteville.


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