Auburn couldn’t do it without every one.
JaTarvious Whitlow ran Auburn down to the 1-yard line before Joey Gatewood scored to make it a one-point game, and Seth Williams caught the game-winning touchdown as Auburn rallied to beat Oregon 27-21 on Saturday night in AT&T Stadium.
Freshman quarterback Bo Nix headlined for Auburn in the marquee matchup, squaring off with senior Oregon quarterback and Heisman Trophy candidate Justin Herbert. But it took all the Tigers to come back against one of college football’s most touted teams.
Big plays from big contributors — and big stops on the defensive side of the ball — helped set the stage for Nix’s instant-classic touchdown toss to Williams.
It was earlier in the fourth quarter when Whitlow broke loose for runs of 31, eight and seven yards to breathe life into the Tigers as they trailed 21-13 in the fourth. He limped off the field after the last, a dive for the pylon to the 1-yard line that saw him twisted up and crushed by Oregon defenders as Whitlow laid his body out to try to score.
That’s when Gatewood tagged in. Auburn coach Gus Malzahn promised the redshirt freshman quarterback who battled Nix for the starting job in the spring and fall would make a big impact on the field for Auburn this season.
Gatewood did that Saturday, leaping over the line from a run-first formation, using his 6-foot-5 frame and athletic ability to score on a play akin to Cam Newton’s old ‘Supercam’ scores.
Then, after two stops by the Tiger defense, Nix fired that game-winner.
Oregon still led by a point after Gatewood’s score. A false start on the two-point conversion attempt forced the Tigers to settle for kicking an extra point to make it a one-point game.
Herbert and Oregon’s offense ate up four minutes of clock on the other side after that, but Auburn’s defensive picked up a big fourth-down stop near midfield with 5:30 left.
Magic wasn’t in the cards the next drive. Auburn punted, but the stop flipped the field and put Oregon on its 18 . When the defense came up with another big stop and forced a punt, Auburn’s offense had a chance with the ball on its 40 with 2:14 left.
“We wouldn’t have been in that situation had not the defense played out of their minds in the second half,” Nix said. “After the first quarter, they gave up seven points and that’s a huge defensive stand for any team.
“We just really had all the momentum in the second half. They had that huge fourth-down stop and we started moving the ball. We got the ball back with two minutes left and finally it was our turn to make a play, and thankfully we did it.”
Time after time, the Tigers made those plays.
It wasn’t just Nix. It took the team.
“I love being with these guys,” Whitlow put it simple, on the celebration in Dallas.
Together, they won.