"Coach (Tony) Franklin tells the quarterbacks there are no bad snaps and we are responsible for catching all of them," a smiling Burns said late Monday night, noting that he had played some shortstop growing up in Fort Smith, Ark. "It was just a great feeling to win this game for Brandon and all of the other seniors and it was a great way for me to finish an up and down year for me."
Brandon, as in fifth-year senior QB Brandon Cox, was the freshman's tag team partner throughout the game as the Tigers put up a season-high total offense figure of 423 yards.
Cox completed 25-39 passes for 211 yards. Burns was just 1-4 passing, but completed a touchdown and rushed for a team-high 69 yards, including the final seven yards for the winning touchdown in overtime.
"That play was quarterback power," Burns said. "I got some good blocks and had plenty of room to run. Coach Franklin is a smart guy and he called a good game. He called the right play there at the right time."
Franklin, who put in his new spread offense in bowl practice, said he was proud of the work ethic the offense displayed. "They went out there with a great attitude in practice and worked hard to learn what we wanted to do," he said. "I am happy we were able to win the game and send the seniors out with another win."
For the fifth-year seniors like tight end Cole Bennett, it was a school-record 50th victory over five years. "That is a good accomplishment," Bennett said outside the jubilant Auburn locker room.
"We put our faith in the coaches that they were going to put us in the best situation to win this game and that is what happened," Bennett added. "It worked out for the best."
Mario Fannin, who played a key role in the Auburn victory, said the team's goal was to win the bowl game for the seniors. "I feel great that we came out of this with a victory for them," Fannin said. "Considering all of the players who have come through Auburn throughout the years, that is quite an accomplishment."
Defensive coordinator Will Muschamp said he was proud of how his group played, holding Clemson to 293 total yards. "That was a good offensive team we played tonight," he said. "They were at the top of almost every offensive category in the ACC."
Pat Sims, who was named the game's defensive MVP, played with a hip flexor injury he suffered in pre-game warmup to go with a toe injury he already head. "That guy is tremendous competitor and I couldn't be prouder of him," defensive line coach Don Dunn said. "What a game he played. I am so proud of Pat."
Pat Sims won praise from the Auburn coaches for his play vs. Clemson.
Auburn started strongly, winning the toss, deferring the option and forcing a three-and-out on Clemson's first possession.
Auburn took over at its own 23 after an illegal block negated a good return by Robert Dunn and immediately went to work using its new offense with Cox opening the game in the shotgun. The first play in the new system was a nine-yard pass to tight end Cole Bennett.
Auburn held the football for 11 plays before settling for a 36-yard field goal by Wes Byrum.
Both offenses followed with three-and-out possessions before Clemson moved the ball into Auburn territory on its third try. Mark Buchholtz tried to tie the game with a 45-yard field goal, but the football sailed wide right.
Clemson struck quickly for the only other points of the opening half on its fourth possession.
Speedy tailback C.J. Spiller gained five yards on the first play and then broke away from Quentin Groves and Josh Thompson, bounced outside to the left sideline and used his speed to go the distance--a Clemson bowl record long play of 83 yards. It was also the longest run in Chick-fil-A Bowl history.
Using the "Globe of Death" play on the kickoff return for the second time this year (previously done vs. LSU), Pat Lee took a handoff from Tristan Davis and returned the football to the AU 43. However, the Tigers couldn't take advantage of the good field position.
On third and three at the Clemson 28, Ben Tate slipped when running up the middle and Tuberville ordered a field goal on fourth and two. Byrum's 44-yard try sailed wide right.
Clemson then returned the favor on the next possession by missing a field goal as Buchholz was wide right from 53 yards out.
A miscue in the kicking game by Clemson gave Auburn a good opportunity late in the second quarter on a 20-yard punt that set AU up at the Clemson 38. However, two incomplete screen passes by Cox and a run for minus one yard by Lester forced a decision to punt or kick a long field goal. Tuberville picked a punt and neither team threatened to score the rest of the first half.
At halftime Auburn had 147 yards on 39 plays. AU had 99 yards on 17 plays after one quarter of action.
It didn't take Auburn long to heat up on offense after the break. With Cox and Burns share time at QB, Auburn marched 78 yards on 10 plays on the opening possession of the third quarter. On third and eight at the 22, Burns rolled right and threw just his second pass of the game. He found Mario Fannin isolated on linebacker Josh Miller and the speedy Tiger back easily beat the coverage. Byrum's kick put AU ahead 10-7 with 11:33 on the clock.
Mario Fannin scores on the touchdown pass from Kodi Burns.
Auburn moved the ball well on its next possession, but came away empty on a fourth down and 2 1/2 to go play at the Clemson 32. Cox couldn't find a receiver and threw incomplete with 7:52 left in the third period. Auburn's defense then forced a three-and-out, but a terrific punt that bounced out of bounds at the Auburn four put AU in bad field position.
Auburn came up less than a yard short trying to get a first down and that set up the ACC team for a tying field goal with a short field to work with late in the third quarter.
On the final play of the third period, on third and goal at the two, Pat Sims tackled Clemson QB Cullen Harper for a two-yard loss. Clemson settled for a 22-yard field goal to tie the contest at 10-10 with 14:58 left in the game.
The first turnover of the game was costly for Auburn. Brandon Cox's pass to Bennett was deflected into the hands of cornerback Crezdon Butler, giving CU great field position at the Auburn 32.
Seven plays later, on fourth and inches, James Davis powered in for the touchdown at left guard with 11:24 left to put Clemson up 17-10.
Auburn's new offense rose to the occasion with the pressure on as the Tigers answered the CU touchdown with one of their own.
The key play of the drive was a seven-yard QB draw by Cox that caught the Clemson defense off guard. On first and goal inside the one, Burns gave the handoff to Ben Tate who scored with no problem to tie the game at 17-17 with 8:27 left in the game.
The defenses kept both teams off the scoreboard until overtime. Auburn won the toss and put Clemson on offense first. The ACC team had to settle for a 25-yard field goal, opening the door for an Auburn win.
To do that the Tigers had to put their quarterback under center for the first time in the game as Cox converted a fourth and inches with an old-fashioned sneak for a first down at the 14 after hitting Rod Smith for 12 yards to the 16.
On the next play Tate ran for three at left end. Brad Lester ran for four and on third and three at the seven Burns picked up the short snap from Jason Bosley and scooted in for a touchdown at right tackle for a 23-20 win.