Related - Campbell Earns MVP Honors In Bowl Win
Jason Campbell was supposed to be a supporting actor but he assumed a leading role in Wednesday's Music City Bowl.
Campbell picked up two key first downs with his legs on a third-quarter touchdown drive, then delivered two momentum-shifting throws late in the fourth quarter, spurring Auburn (8-5 overall) to a 28-14 victory over Wisconsin (7-6).
The Tigers rushed for 197 yards and four touchdowns, including two scores in less than two minutes late in the game. Campbell rushed for 67 yards and threw for 138, earning the Music City Bowl Most Valuable Player award.
Wisconsin tied the game with less than nine minutes to play when Jim Sorgi connected with Lee Evans on a 12-yard corner fade route. Sorgi then hit sophomore receiver Owen Daniels in the back of the end zone for a two-point conversion, knotting the game at 14-14.
Auburn had gone three-and-out on two consecutive drives and faced a third-and-eight from its own 15 with less than five minutes remaining. Campbell, though, delivered a perfect strike deep down the left sideline to senior receiver Jeris McIntyre, who evaded Wisconsin safety Jim Leonhard and broke down field, picking up 51 yards before safety Robert Brooks caught up with him at the Wisconsin 34.
"We were blitzing…(Campbell) stepped in the pocket away from the blitz and threw it in a perfect spot," Wisconsin linebacker Jeff Mack said. "Jimmy doesn't miss too many plays but it was a perfect spot—that is the only way you can beat Jimmy."
"We ran the play earlier in the game," McIntyre said. "We knew it was open for a big play. Jason had a lot of pressure in his face but stepped up and made a good throw."
On the next play, Campbell found junior receiver Silas Daniels over the middle for 27 yards, setting up first-and-goal at the seven yard line.
"That is what you look for in a quarterback is to make plays and win games and that is exactly what he did," Wisconsin coach Barry Alvarez said.
Tailback Ronnie Brown did the rest with a five-yard run preceding a two-yard touchdown scamper for his second score of the game to make it 21-14.
Following the go-ahead score, the Tigers defense put the game away, sacking Sorgi and forcing a fumble on just the second play of the Badgers' drive. Auburn linebacker Karlos Dansby and defensive end Reggie Torbor combined for the sack, Sorgi's fifth in the game. Dansby jarred the ball loose and nose guard T.J. Jackson recovered it at the Wisconsin six, setting up Carnell Williams' second touchdown run of the game, from one yard out. Sorgi injured his left arm on the play and did not return.
Late in the third quarter a controversial sequence helped Auburn pull ahead 14-6. The Tigers appeared to fumble twice in the latter stages of a 16-play, 80-yard drive, but each time the ball carrier was ruled down by contact prior to the fumble.
On a first-and-goal from the seven Williams shot up the middle but fumbled at the three-yard line after being hit by linebacker Jeff Mack. On the next play, Campbell ran left on an option and was stood up by defensive linemen Anttaj Hawthorne and Joe Thomas and Leonhard. As Campbell hit the ground the ball skirted into the air but it appeared to be coming free before the Tiger quarterback was taken down.
"I believe he did fumble if my eyes are correct," Alvarez said. "I can see the replay (on the Jumbotron), the ball comes out and the guy isn't down. I think that usually is a fumble.
Had either play been ruled a fumble, the Badgers would have obtained possession. Instead, Williams ran for four yards to the one and on fourth down lunged over the pile to give the Tigers a 14-6 advantage.
The drive took more than eight minutes and featured 49 yards rushing from Campbell, including a 30-yard jaunt to the Badgers' 30. Campbell set up another first down two plays later, gaining six to set up Williams fourth-and-one pickup a play later. Facing third-and-eight from the 18, Campbell picked up 11 on a designed quarterback draw.
Wisconsin's defense tightened on the next two Auburn drives, forcing consecutive three-and-outs. The Badgers' offense, which struggled to find a rhythm throughout the contest, finally kicked into gear early in the fourth quarter when Sorgi completed a 14-yard pass to Lee Evans to inch into Auburn territory. A 19-yard completion to Jonathan Orr set up Sorgi's touchdown toss to Evans to tie the contest.
"We came back and answered, we tied the game, we had the momentum," Alvarez said. "They made plays and answered when they had to."
After the second Auburn three-and-out, Anthony Davis picked up 11 and three on consecutive runs, but a second-and-seven throw from midfield was intercepted by Auburn safety Will Herring at the 13. The pass, a deep post intended for Evans, was batted in the air by Evans and Auburn corner Carlos Rogers, who was locked on Evans after being beaten on the earlier touchdown catch. Herring came over from the middle of the field to make a play on the ball.
"Carlos made a good play on his man and deflected the ball up in the air," Herring said. "I was just in the right place when I went up to get it."
Three plays later, Campbell's clutch throws gave the Tigers all the momentum they would need.