But the Tigers, seemingly on the brink of overtime at Jordan-Hare Stadium, dug deep and did something they hadn't done all day: Stop Bulldogs quarterback Chris Relf on the goal line.
Auburn's Ryan Smith, one of the least touted young players on a Tigers' roster that's loaded with youth, made the stop to preserve an improbable 41-34 victory.
Dating to the 2010 Outback Bowl, Auburn, the defending national champion, has won 17 consecutive games, the longest streak in the BCS.
Somehow, they've won each of the 17 in different fashion.
"I think that we are still trying to figure out really as a whole what the identity of our team is, and I think that as the season unfolds you figure it out game by game," coach Gene Chizik said.
"I think these two certainly took it down to a place where we know that they will fight. They are a young team. They want to be good. Are we a great football team right now? No. Not even close.
"But the identity of the team is starting to form week by week because they will fight."
More importantly, Auburn shed the identity it formed in an embarrassing season-opening victory against Utah State, when it was thoroughly whipped on the offensive and defensive lines of scrimmage, and needed a miraculous onside kick to stay in the game.
The Tigers used their trademark power running game behind Mike Dyer, who rushed for 150 yards and two touchdowns, and an efficient passing game spearheaded by Barrett Trotter, who completed 16-of-23 passes for 146 yards and two touchdowns, to stay ahead of the Bulldogs through most of the game.
Even when both facets of the high-octane offense aren't clicking on all cylinders, the Tigers have somehow found a way to win. Saturday was only the latest chapter.
"Today's game was: 'Don't let nobody drown you,'" junior linebacker Daren Bates told the Opelika-Auburn News. "Just fight like somebody's trying to drown you. Everybody just kept fighting, and we pulled it out."
MONDAY NOTES: The victories in Auburn's 17-game winning streak haven't been against the lightweights of college football. The Tigers' 41-34 victory over No. 16 Mississippi State marked their seventh straight win against a team ranked in the Associated Press Top 25.
* Auburn won Saturday despite committing an uncharacteristic seven penalties for 85 yards. The bulk of the yards came on four 15-yard personal foul calls in the first half, a number of which drew the ire of coach Gene Chizik. "I'm not going to talk about the officiating point," Chizik said in an Opelika-Auburn News article. "I'm going to talk that I'm very disappointed in our guys, and we're going to get that corrected."
* The vaunted defenses of the SEC haven't had much success against the Tigers lately. Auburn has scored 40 or more points in five of its last 10 SEC games, and 30 or more in seven of the 10.
KEEP AN EYE ON: RT A.J. Greene -- A senior who missed most of 2010 because of a broken ankle and initially lost the battle to start on the offensive line, Greene was back in the rotation Saturday. The move was made after a lackluster performance by the offensive line in the opener against Utah State. Greene replaced redshirt freshman Chad Slade, who slid to the left to play right guard. Slade replaced John Sullen, who had struggled.
LOOKING GOOD: The running game, after the worst performance in Gus Malzahn's three-year tenure as Auburn's offensive coordinator, was back to its old form Saturday. The Tigers dominated the line of scrimmage, which allowed sophomore Mike Dyer to run for 150 yards and two touchdowns. Speedster Onterio McCalebb added 68 yards to help the Tigers finish with 235. Barrett Trotter can make plays happen with his feet, but he approaches the game with a pass-first mentality.
STILL NEEDS WORK: Though it came up big at the end of the game with a crucial goal-line stand, Auburn's run defense allowed a staggering 333 rushing yards in Saturday's win. Running back Vick Bullard and quarterback Chris Relf both cracked the century mark in rushing and the Bulldogs averaged more than five yards per carry against a Tigers' defense that will certainly be the weak spot of this team. Auburn's defensive line has shown that it can generate great pressure at times, but more often than not it is getting absolutely whipped at the line of scrimmage. It's a problem that won't be fixed overnight.
QUOTE TO NOTE: "He creates opportunities for everyone in this offense, not just one player. We can do anything on offense and he allows us to do it. We just try to make the most out of every situation." -- RB Michael Dyer, on Auburn offensive coordinator Gus Malzahn.
Closer look at Auburn
CUTigers.com Top Stories
TUESDAY DABO PC AND INTERVIEWSCUTigers was at the Clemson West Zone on Tuesday for Dabo Swinney's weekly press conference and interviews with Brent Venables, Christian Wilkins, Jadar Johnson and Kendall Joesph.
Updated Scout 300 Trend Meter For 2017The updated Scout 300 Trend Meter for the 2017 class takes a look at which schools are trending for each uncommitted member in the Scout 300.
Scout Football5:40 AM
RECRUITING RADARIn our weekly Recruiting Radar, CUTigers Recruiting Analyst Gary McDaniel updates you on the latest news and intel on the Clemson recruiting front!
CUTigers.comYesterday at 3:20 PM
MONDAY WEST ZONE INTERVIEWSWatch Deshaun Watson, Wayne Gallman and Tony Elliott discuss the upcoming showdown with Florida State!
CUTigers.comYesterday at 2:56 PM