ARLINGTON, TEXAS --- Maybe it’s just like he dreamed.
Bo Nix looked up, rolling right on fourth-and-3, with the game on the line and ball in his hands.
Nix kept his cool, he tucked and ran, and he dove for the first down — Auburn’s second-generation star making the big play just as he might’ve dreamed playing in his backyard with his dad.
He fired a completion, then another, and then that dream came true: Nix hit Seth Williams for the game-winning touchdown pass with nine seconds left and No. 16 Auburn came back to beat No. 11 Oregon 27-21 on Saturday in AT&T Stadium in Texas.
“It was just a huge moment for Auburn,” Nix said after the celebration, describing the indescribable. “And I was grateful and glad to be a part of it.
“It was a huge win.”
Nix hit Williams after Auburn got the ball back with 2:14 left in the game, down 21-20. Nix picked up that fourth-and-3 conversion near midfield to keep the game-winning drive alive, and after completions to Spencer Nigh and a shorter one to Williams, Auburn marched into field-goal range.
With seconds left, Nix went for it all, firing from the right hash to Williams at the 1-yard line to his left for the game-winning, 26-yard touchdown.
Williams caught it at the one and spun into the end zone.
“Oh, he caught it at the two, and he dives in! Touchdown Auburn!” — That was the radio call when Nix’s father Patrick Nix hit Frank Sanders for a legendary touchdown play in the 1993 Iron Bowl.
Was this his Nix-to-Sanders moment?
“I think that was my first Bo-to-Seth moment,” he said.
Yes, he made his own legendary play, in his first game as Auburn’s quarterback, and Gus Malzahn’s team is 1-0 after winning a thriller in the weekend’s marquee matchup.
The Tigers jumped for joy on the glistening stadium turf after the win went final. Fans in orange and blue reached for the building’s towering roof-top, and the Tigers roared past waving flags into the locker room, elated.
Auburn came back from 15 points down in the third quarter to win.
Auburn trailed 21-6 in the third after Oregon scored and seemingly sucked the life out of Auburn on the Dallas Cowboys’ field with the college football world watching.
But the Tigers clawed back, using JaTarvious Whitlow’s strong running, Joey Gatewood’s fourth-quarter, punch-in touchdown, and powerful defensive stops that set up Nix-to-Williams.
Nix finished 13-of-31 with 177 yards, two touchdowns and two interceptions. The throw, though, everyone on the Plains will be talking about was his last.
He tossed his first touchdown in the third quarter, firing an 11-yard score to Eli Stove when things looked bleak for Auburn. That score cut Oregon’s lead to 21-13.
In the fourth, Whitlow helped push Auburn to the 1-yard line, where Gatewood punched in his big score to make it 21-20.
Then there was Nix, unwavering in the moment, flashing his superstar talent to go with his share of rookie mistakes, matching poise with sharp improvisation.
He scrambled right, tucked the ball, and cleared the first-down marker by just inches on that diving fourth-and-3 play near midfield.
Then, in the big moment, ABC’s national TV cameras caught Patrick Nix celebrating in the stands, grinning as the ball was in the air before it was even caught, feeling magic in the game’s final moments.
Maybe he knew it was magic because he’s been a part of magic before. Patrick Nix made his Auburn debut in the 1993 Iron Bowl, coming in for the injured Stan White when facing a fourth-and-15 play. He connected with Sanders for an iconic Auburn play, and helped charge the Tigers comeback over the Tide to finish a perfect season.
The younger Nix showed he has the same kind of magic in his fingertips.
“He’s got some gunslinger in him,” Malzahn said of Nix. “There’s no doubt. I think that’s a good thing.
“There’s a lot of things that we can look at film and coach off of and all that. But he looked really comfortable with the game on the line.”
Whitlow finished with 110 yards on 24 carries.
“It’s an amazing feeling, man,” Whitlow said after the win. “For us to fight back like we did —We had a slow start the first half, and then come out in the second half and just give everything we’ve got and come out with the victory?
“There ain’t no better feeling than that.”