With a vocal Jordan-Hare Stadium crowd urging on the Tigers, Auburn rallied from a 17-3 halftime deficit with Jason Campbell standing in for starting QB Daniel Cobb who suffered a first half ankle injury that kept him from running. Cobb is expected to retain his starting job, but Campbell played well enough to keep the pressure on the senior starter.
The defense took its play to another level after intermission and didn't allow the Orangemen a first down in the third quarter as Auburn rallied with three second half touchdowns to take a 24-17 lead.
However, that wouldn't be enough as the Orangemen sent the game to the first overtime by driving 80 yards on 12 plays to tie the contest with 23 seconds left.
"Coach (Tommy) Tuberville told us at halftime that we were going to have to go 15 rounds," said cornerback Horace Willis, who added that the coaching staff also added a few choice words that aren't normally used in polite company."
Willis said he had never been involved in a game like the one at Jordan-Hare Stadium that lasted until midnight before the Cadillac sent the visitors home a loser with a brilliant eight-yard run on third and four in the third overtime. That run gave him his first 200-yard rushing game in college and he finished with 202 yards on 40 carries.
He also scored the Tigers' other touchdown in overtime on a six-yard run in the second overtime on a play on which he was temporarily knocked unconscious before regrouping to finish his heroic performance.
Carnell Williams finds some running room vs. Syracuse.
"Carnell is something else," said fullback Brandon Johnson, who put Auburn ahead in the fourth quarter with a 34-yard TD pass reception from Campbell. "He fits every play and all you have to do is get on somebody and he will make a move on someone and get around them."
On the decisive triple overtime touchdown burst, Cadillac ran up the middle, juked the defense and jumped outside and beat the defense to the corner of the end zone at left end. "I had two guys inside so I baited them inside and gave them a little jab," Williams said. "The whole time I felt like I could beat them to the corner. I can accelerated outside and did what I had to."
The victory improved Auburn's record to 4-1 overall as the Tigers prepare for a much needed week off. Syracuse, a two-touchdown underdog, almost pulled off the upset before falling to 1-3.
A pair of returns were converted into 10 quick points for the visitors to start the action. A collision in the backfield between Cobb and Cadillac produced a fumble that was picked up and returned 48 yards to the Auburn 17. The Orangemen couldn't make a first down, but they took a 3-0 lead on a 27-yard field by Collin Barber on SU's first possession of the game.
Auburn's second possession ended with even more trouble. Jamel Riddle fumbled Damon Duval's punt, but regained his composure and raced down the right sideline. The only Tiger with a chance to catch him, Duval, slipped and he trotted into the end zone from 85 yards. That put the Orangemen up 10-0 with 9:23 left in the opening quarter.
Turnovers, which were Auburn's friends in game four, bit the Tigers hard in the Syracuse game. A deflected pass by Reggie Torbor that was batted high into the air was picked off by linebacker Derrick Graves, who returned it 10 yards to the SU 23 with 3:54 left in the first quarter. However, the Tigers gave the ball back three plays later when Jameel Dumas intercepted a Cobb pass at the five.
The second quarter wasn't any better for the home team. Jason Campbell was called in to start the period to try to rally the offense. The Tigers picked up three first downs before stalling and punting. Syracuse responded with two first downs before punting the ball back to the Tigers, who put Cobb back at QB. However, before the Tigers scored they were down 17-0 when tailback Walter Reyes raced 68 yards on a sweep around right end with 3:27 left in the half.
Auburn managed to get on the scoreboard with a Duval 34-yard field goal that was set up by a short pass from Cobb to Marcel Willis, who was uncovered and raced 75 yards before being caught at the SU 11. However, the Tigers couldn't move even though Syracuse left the door open when Cobb overthrew an uncovered Willis in the end zone on third down.
Auburn opened the third quarter with a strong defensive series and a turnover on the third play as cornerback Carlos Rogers picked off a deflected pass at the SU 31. With Campbell at QB, the Tigers moved in for a TD in eight plays with the quarterback scoring from inches out on a third and goal sneak with 10:33 on the clock. Campbell converted a key third down with a five-yard QB draw that set the Tigers up first and goal at the seven.
Campbell tied the game at 17-17 overall on a seven-yard bootleg pass to freshman tight end Cooper Wallace with 12:08 left in the fourth quarter.
The Tigers appeared to have Syracuse on the ropes when Brandon Johnson caught a 34-yard TD pass from Campbell to put the Tigers on with 7:10 left to make the score 24-17 Auburn. However, Syracuse chewed up all by 23 seconds of the clock before sending the game into overtime.
The first OT saw the Orangemen botch their chance to score with a 32-yard field goal try never was made because of a bad snap. Auburn set up Duval to kick the game winner from the middle of the field on third down, but his 27-yarder was blocked sending the game into overtime two.
Auburn got the ball first in the second OT and Williams scored from six yards out on first and goal with a run around left end and Duval's PAT made the score 31-24. However, Syracuse sent the game into a third OT by punching the ball in four plays later on a two-yard run up the middle by Walter Reyes, who rushed for 111 yards on 19 carries.
Syracuse got the ball first in the third overtime and had to settle for a 44-yard field goal after nice defense stops by Junior Rosegreen, Mayo Sowell and an incomplete pass on third down. Four plays later, on third and four at the Syracuse eight, Williams scored to end the game.
The Tigers will be off next Saturday before returning to action vs. the visiting Arkansas Razorbacks.
Play of the Game: Caddy's game-ender was a classic Carnell Williams run.
Star of the Game: Carnell Williams, in a landslide.
Stat of the Night: Auburn racked up 502 total yards to just 321 for the Orangemen and almost found a way to lose the game. <
Quote of the Game: Sophomore cornerback Carlos Rogers, who intercepted two passes, said he was relieved at being the last member of the secondary to get an interception and joked that there were linemen who had more picks than he did.
Joe Shelnutt displays Spirit, the eagle that made the pre-game War Eagle flight.