With starting kicker Stefan Demos hurt, Northwestern lined up for an apparent field goal in overtime that would tie the game, but instead faked it with a version of the "fumblerooskie". Not fooled, cornerback Neiko Thorpe stayed at home and knocked the Wildcat runner out of bounds at the two-yard line to secure the victory and the eighth win for Auburn.
Thorpe's stop came on the 115th offensive play of the game for Northwestern. What makes his play even more amazing is that it was also Thorpe's 115th play of the game. He never came out of the game and neither did fellow defensive back Daren Bates and linebackers Josh Bynes and Craig Stevens.
With a lack of depth that has plagued the defense all season, the Tigers were used to playing big minutes in games, but Friday's contest took that to another level. Fortunately for Auburn they had a little knowledge on their side thanks to a special guest that spoke to the team the night before the game.
David Goggins is a former Navy SEAL and now is a world class ultra-marathon runner that raises money for the Special Operations Warrior Foundation, which gives full college grants to children of Special Ops personnel killed in the line of fire. Once a 280 pound man, Goggins now runs events such as the Badwater, a 135-mile race from the floor of Death Valley to Whitney Portal. Bynes said that the talk the team got from Goggins was the difference at the end of the game for the defense.
"I didn't even think about getting tired," Bynes said. "We had a speaker last night named David Goggans. He was telling everybody about having 40 percent left. Everybody was just saying ‘40 percent, 40 percent, we've got 40 percent left'. Even when we were tired we still had 40 percent left to push. That was the focus in the fourth quarter. Everybody was saying it on defense."
Josh Bynes makes one of his 10 tackles against Northwestern.
Stevens agreed saying that the team rallied around Goggins' message late in the contest with the game on the line.
"The moral to his speech was just to continue to fight no matter what happens, no matter the pain you're facing or anything," Stevens said. "I feel like a lot of the players lived by that. Through all of the adversity we would come back together and still stop them. We kept fighting. We focused on the play and came out with the win."
Allowing a school-record 532 yards passing, only one opponent in Auburn history has been within 100 yards of that total, the Tigers kept fighting until the very end despite rushing the passer 78 times. Those 78 attempts are only five short of the FBS record set by Drew Brees in 1998, but it didn't matter in the end to Auburn's defense.
"I can't even describe the game," Stevens said. "I think at halftime we had like 54 plays under our belt. Just going through that you get to the point where you can't even get any more tired than you already are. You just fight through whatever is happening and focus in after that. Overall it was a very tiring game, but I'm proud of my teammates for fighting through all the adversity."
In the end Auburn made the plays it had to make the get the victory. Turns out Goggins was right because 40 percent was just enough for the Tigers who showed the heart and courage that coach Gene Chizik was hoping to see out of his first team as he looks to take the program back to the top
"There are no words to describe how the end of the game was," Bynes said. "I celebrated three times. It doesn't make any sense. The first time I ran 90 yards to celebrate with my mom and dad. I'm already tired because I've already ran 100 yards to the other end zone…finally Neiko knocked the receiver out of bounds when they tried the trick play. We won the game finally. It was a great stand defensively. We did a great job. I love every one of them."