ARLINGTON, Texas --- Joey Gatewood had plenty of reasons to smile.
There’d been promise by head coach Gus Malzahn that the redshirt freshman quarterback would make an impact for the Auburn football team this season.
Malzahn made good on that promise Saturday night.
Auburn’s redshirt freshman quarterback and the Tigers’ backup who battled Bo Nix for the starting job in the spring and fall came into the game and scored a clutch fourth-quarter touchdown for Auburn to make it a one-point game in the team’s comeback 27-21 victory over Oregon.
Gatewood leapt over the line for the touchdown on a first-and-goal play from the 1-yard line with 9:48 left.
That play helped set the stage for Auburn’s thrilling come-from-behind win.
“It’s big. It’s big for the university. It’s big for our program,” Gatewood said postgame.
“And, you know, it’s big to me,” he said. “It means a lot just helping this team in any type of way I can, just to contribute. When my opportunity comes, I’m here.”
Standing 6-foot-5, Gatewood used his frame and athleticism to lunge over the line, reaching over the goal line to score in a dive akin to Cam Newton’s fabled ‘Supercam’ plays from the 2010 season — from the year Auburn beat Oregon in the BCS National Championship Game, the first time these teams crossed fates.
Malzahn talks about those plays, Gatewood said.
“He always says, when we watch film, ‘I’m bringing this play out the archives,’” Gatewood laughed. “I think he’s referring to Cam because Cam ran it.
“I like the play, obviously. I like it.”
Malzahn said, back when he named Nix the starter for Saturday’s game, that Gatewood would still contribute to Auburn’s success this season.
He did in a big way in the fourth quarter against Oregon.
“We brought back a play we used to run in 2010 with Cam,” Malzahn said. “He looked pretty good going over the top with it.
“So, real proud of Joey. He’s available. We’ll see. I think he could have a role as the season goes. He’s got a lot of good things he can bring to the table, too.”
Will Hastings and Eli Stove return to center stage
Will Hastings and Eli Stove didn’t wait long to re-introduce themselves to the college football world.
The veteran receivers, both rehabilitated from knee surgery, caught key passes from quarterback Bo Nix during Auburn’s win over Oregon on Saturday.
Hastings caught a 38-yard pass on Auburn’s first scoring drive. Stove caught Nix’s first career touchdown pass, from 11 yards out in the third quarter.
The two are back starting again after both went through ACL surgery in the spring of 2018. The two played sparingly last season before seemingly returning to full form on Saturday.
Stove caught three passes for 18 yards. Hastings caught that big pass on Auburn’s second drive of the game, and drew a defensive pass interference call later in the game.
Tigers adjust to weather
Auburn had to get creative when travel troubles grounded the Tigers on their way to Dallas on Friday.
The team was stuck at the Montgomery airport for about six hours on Friday afternoon waiting for weather to clear in Texas, and ultimately had to cancel a Friday walkthrough at AT&T Stadium and adjust its schedule.
Auburn’s coaches and players went through walkthroughs and discussed gameplans Friday at the airport.
Auburn’s flight was supposed to leave at 1:45 p.m. Friday. The team bused to Montgomery to load up, but was grounded there.
The team eventually got in the air around 8 p.m.
The Tigers landed in Dallas at around 10:30 p.m. Friday night.
Auburn was meant to visit AT&T Stadium on Friday evening after their scheduled landing in the afternoon, but canceled and adjusted.