...with no place to go. 2005 Sugar Bowl.
(Tommy Tuberville's Greatest Games!)
War Eagle, everybody! Time now for another in the series of Tommy Tuberville's greatest games! At the conclusion of the 2004 season, Auburn had gone undefeated, rung up a 12-0 record and were SEC Champions. Despite dispatching four top 15 teams during the season (a feat unmatched by any other BCS bowl team from 2004!), Auburn had been denied the chance to play in the Orange Bowl for the national title. Instead, the Tigers were headed to the Sugar Bowl in New Orleans.
Auburn's opponent in the 2005 Sugar Bowl was the Virginia Tech Hokies, the 9th ranked ACC Champion. While Tech did have two losses, this was a team NO ONE wanted to play, at the end of the season. Frank Beamer's Tech squad had opened their season in the BCA Classic, in Landover Maryland, against the defending national champion Southern California Trojans, and should have won that game. It took some ridiculous officiating to derail the Hokies, and give the Trojans the victory. Early in the ACC slate, Tech lost a close one to North Carolina State. From there, in their first full season in the ACC, Tech had run the table, including a 16-10 win over the Miami Hurricanes in the inaugural ACC Championship game. The Hokies won with defense, a tenacious, fast, Bud Foster-coached unit featuring all-star linebacker Darrell Tapp, and lockdown corner Jimmy Williams. On offense, Tech had survived early season turmoil. Star quarterback Marcus Vick had been suspended for the season. With a host of freshman skill players, quarterback Byron Randall emerged from the pack, and led the team to 8 straight wins. Tech ran a complicated, shifty, multiple offense, which was a headache for defensive coordinators to figure out. If there was any weakness on the Hokie team, it was a lack of a consistent running game.
For Auburn, the game was like a post-New Year's weekend hangover. The 2005 Sugar Bowl was played on Monday night, January 3rd. It was a difficult time for the Tigers. They were still stinging from the BCS snub, and were playing a dangerous football team. Most teams in Auburn's situation, playing in a lesser bowl, seem to suffer letdowns. In addition, it was an unseasonably warm and sticky night in New Orleans. The notoriously flaky Superdome air-conditioning system was little help, and inside the dome, it was downright hot.
Game recap, after the jump!
As had happened many times during the 2004 season, Auburn won the toss, and deferred to the second half. Phillip Yost boomed it deep, for one of his many patented touchbacks. Byron Randall dropped to throw on Tech's first play, and was quickly flushed out. He appeared to be headed for big yardage, but Travis Williams got a hand on an ankle, and Randall went down after a 7 yard gain. A handoff to Mike Imoh was shut down by Derrick Graves and Kevin Sears, and Tech faced 3rd and 1. Randall fired on a quick out to freshman Eddie Royal, for 4 yards and a first down. An incomplete pass, then a 4 yard draw to Imoh brought up 3rd and 6 at the Tech 37. Randall took the shotgun snap, and was again flushed from the pocket quickly. Quentin Groves ran him down from behind, and held it to a 2 yard gain. In came Vinny Burns, to punt it away. After a 43 yard boot, and an 8 yard return by Carnell Williams, Auburn took over at the Tiger 26.
On first down, Auburn went with a conventional I-formation set. Campbell dropped back on first down, and lobbed one over the middle to Cooper Wallace on the seam route. Wallace banged down to the Tech 39, a 35 yard gain. Auburn then lifted Wallace, and went with 3 wide receivers, and split backs behind Campbell. Campbell took the snap, and dealt it off on a draw play, to fullback Ronnie Brown, who galloped through a gaping hole, all the way down to the Hokie 8 yard line! Having been burned twice, Bud Foster's defense dug in. A pitch play to Carnell Williams was stopped for a yard loss by Jimmy Williams on the corner. An inside give to Ronnie Brown got 3, and it was 3rd and goal from the 6. Tech brought the blitz, and forced Jason Campbell to throw it away out of the back of the end zone. John Vaughn came in, and nailed a 23 yard field goal. With 8:44 left in the 1st quarter, Auburn had the lead, 3-0.
Yost kicked the next kickoff short of the end zone, and Eddie Royal made him pay! Royal streaked around the corner with good blocking, and was off to the races. The last man, Carlos Rogers, shoved Royal out of bounds up around midfield. With good field position, Virginia Tech responded with their worst offense of the night. A holding penalty immediately backed them up. A draw to Imoh got 5 yards back, then Randall tried a short screen to Imoh. Kevin Sears read it, and belted Imoh down for a loss of 8. On 3rd and 23, Randall tried a go-route to the slot receiver, into a two-deep zone. The pass was a liner, which Junior Rosegreen stepped in front of, and Rosegreen picked it off, racing out of bounds down at the Tech 30!
With the first turnover of the game, Auburn looked to cash in. A draw to Williams got nothing, then Cooper Wallace false started. A screen to Carnell Williams lost another yard, and it was 3rd and 16. Campbell dropped back, moved well in the pocket to buy time, then rifled a strike down the middle, to Courtney Taylor, who was knocked down hard, but held on for a 23 yard gain and a first down at the Tech 13. A quarterback draw by Campbell picked up nothing, then a Campbell pass sailed out of the endzone under duress. Tech was called for grabbing Cooper Wallace's jersey, though, and Auburn had another first down, at the 6! Carnell Williams got 2, then Ronnie Brown took it down close to the goal line. On 3rd and inches, Auburn tried a power play to Brown, but Tech blew it up in the backfield. Vincent Fuller and Jimmy Williams were there, to stop Brown for a loss of a yard. From there, Auburn wasted two timeouts, trying to draw Tech offsides, then to get the field goal unit out on the field. John Vaughn did hit the 19 yard field goal, and with 1:10 left in the first quarter, Auburn led 6-0.
Yost again failed to reach the end zone with the kickoff, and it appeared that Eddie Royal might break another one. Tony Bell broke through, though, and took Royal down at the 29. From there, Randall and Co. were quickly facing long yardage. An incomplete pass and a short Cedrick Humes run brought up 3rd and 8. Randall set up the screen, and Humes got 10 and a first down. Tech then tried the QB draw out of the shotgun, and Wayne Dickens stopped Randall for a 2 yard gain. That ended the first quarter, with Auburn leading 6-0. Randall then fired to the sideline, where David Clowney took it in for another first down. From the Auburn 47, the Tiger defense shut 'em down. Humes was mowed down in the backfield by Doug Langenfield, then Randall faced heavy pressure on the next two throws, firing incomplete, then dumping well short of the first down. In came Burns, who knuckled a short one, that Carnell Williams came up and fair caught at the Auburn 18.
Auburn, at this point, was trying to settle into their running game, with a few screens mixed in. Tech was having none of it. The screen had to be thrown away, as Williams was well covered. A 4 yard Williams run brought up 3rd and 6. Tech's corners played lock-down, and Jason Campbell was chased down and sacked for a big loss back at the 9. Tech was looking for great field position, but it didn't happen. Kody Bliss came in, and BOOMED a 52-yard howitzer that nearly hit the video screen. Deep snapper Pete Compton broke down on Mike Imoh, who lost 5 yards on the return, AND Jimmy Williams was flagged for the illegal block!
Virginia Tech started at their own 24, and put together a good drive. Randall got one first down on the scramble, then hit Josh Hyman for 16 more. Then to Clowney for 13, then back to Hyman for 31 yards down to the Auburn 2 yard line. From first and goal, a handoff to Imoh got nothing, stuffed by Ratliff and Graves. On second down, Tech tried to catch Auburn napping with a bootleg, crossing route to the tight end, but Auburn had it covered to perfection. On 3rd and goal, Randall tried to take off on the QB draw. Will Herring HAMMERED Randall short of the goal line, with possibly the most violent collision of the game! Tech lined up to go for it, and Auburn called their last timeout of the half. From a heavy set, Randall play-faked, then tossed it to an open fullback, and Allen dropped it, backpedaling awkwardly. Somehow, Auburn had held!
Backed up on their own 1, Auburn engineered a drive. Campbell snuck forward for two, then Campbell made a nice throw over the zone to Courtney Taylor on the wide side, out of bounds at the 19. Tech nailed Carnell Williams for a loss, and a dump-off to Taylor picked up only 4. On 3rd and 7, Campbell stepped up and hit Anthony Mix for 15 and another first down. Then, Campbell sailed a badly underthrown ball into the two-deep zone, but Courtney Taylor was the only one who could get to it, coming back to make a diving, 37-yard grab! That set the Tigers up at the Tech 26. Ronnie Brown battered for 6, then Campbell got 7 on the quarterback draw, and another first down at the Tech 13. Troy Reddick false-started, which pretty much killed the drive against the stout Hokie defense. Carnell Williams got a nice run down to the 7 on second down, but a 3rd down pass was thrown away, as again, the Hokies had really gotten in Jason Campbell's face. In came John Vaughn, who hit a 24 yard field goal with 1:50 left in the half. Auburn now led, 9-0.
Phillip Yost's kickoff made the endzone, for a touchback. On second down, Randall connected with Eddie Royal, who shaked, baked, and weaved for 23 yards and a first down out to the 43. Then Randall took off on a 21 yard scramble that Junior Rosegreen managed to stop at the Auburn 36. From there, 3 incomplete passes and a false start doomed the Hokie drive. Burns punted to the 18, and Jason Campbell took a knee, to run out the clock. At the half, Auburn led, 9-0!
A 9-0 lead felt anything but secure. Tech was having offensive success, both with the arm and the legs of Byron Randall. If not for a dropped ball and a bad throw into coverage, Tech would be ahead. On offense, Auburn had not been able to get anything going consistently. Campbell had made several nice throws, but it was into difficult coverage situations. Tech was staying locked down on Auburn receivers, and aside from an early draw to Brown, the Auburn running and screen games weren't working. To keep the ball moving, Auburn was going to have to rely on the arm of Jason Campbell.
Auburn opened the second half on the return. As the ball was booted, 5 Auburn players pulled together into a huddle where the ball came down. Then, 5 players burst out in different directions, all pretending to have the ball. Carlos Rogers was the one with the ball, and Tech read it well, tripping him up at the 22 yard line. Ronnie Brown started the drive well, bowling over defenders and battering for an 11 yard gain. Then, Carnell Williams lost a yard on the toss. Then, a screen to Williams was buried for a 5 yard loss by Jimmy Williams. The Hokies definitely had watched the film on the Georgia game. Auburn was facing 3rd and 16, and Tech came hard after Campbell, who was flushed out. Campbell escaped, and seemingly had lots of open field in front of him, but he held up short of the line of scrimmage. Campbell loaded it up deep, finding Anthony Mix way downfield on a crossing route. Mix picked up 53 yards, and was slammed down WAY out of bounds at the Tech 13. It was one of the most blatant no-calls of the year. From the 13, Ronnie Brown hammered for 3. Then Jason Campbell stutter-stepped through the middle for 5. On 3rd and 2, Auburn went with the I-formation. Tech brought the house. Campbell pulled up, and fired on the slant to Devin Aromashodu, who beat tight press coverage by Jimmy Williams. Aromashodu caught it deep in the endzone, for the Auburn touchdown! John Vaughn's extra point made it 16-0, with 10:39 left in the 3rd quarter. Tech was in trouble, and needed to answer!
A roughing the kicker penalty on the PAT allowed Yost to kick from the 50, and he parked it in the stands. Virginia knocked out 1 first down on a throw to Eddie Royal, but a false start handicapped the next series. On 3rd and 5 from the Tech 36, Byron Randall was sacked for a loss of 11, by Tommy Jackson! In came Vinny Burns, to punt it away. The kick was shanked, and went out at the Auburn 44.
With a chance to drive for the knockout punch, Jason Campbell was sacked on first down. A short Williams run followed, then on 3rd and 12, Campbell couldn't get it to Aromashodu. The Tigers were 3 and out for the first time in the game. This time, it was Kody Bliss with the short kick, only 38 yards, downed at the Tech 20. Then it was Tech's turn to go 3 and out. A short Imoh run, and a couple of short passes brought up 4th and 2. Burns got off a nice punt, and Auburn was flagged for the illegal block, which set the Tigers up at the 21. Ronnie Brown was buried for a loss, then Jason Campbell tried to stuff one into coverage on the out route. Jimmy Williams jumped the route, and picked it off, at the Auburn 32.
With 2:44 left in the 3rd quarter, the Hokies had a chance to get back in the game. Randall hit Josh Hyman for 12 and a first down. A handoff to Humes lost a yard when he ran into Bret Eddins, but a 2nd and 11 shotgun handoff to Humes worked for 8. On 3rd and 3, Humes got 2 to the 11. On 4th and 1, Tech handed it to Humes again, and just got the first down at the 10. That ended the third quarter, with Auburn leading 16-0. From the 10, a first down pass was incomplete. Then, Byron Randall tried to take off on the QB draw again. Carlos Rogers read it, flew up, and knocked Randall a flip at the 6 yard line! Randall looked shaken up on 3rd down, and missed Josh Morgan on the pass. In came Pace for the field goal, and he MISSED it, left of the upright! Auburn still led, 16-0!
The Tech defense came back out, and for a while, it looked like the air had been let out of them. 3 straight Ronnie Brown runs picked up one first down, then two Williams runs had Auburn in a 3rd and 7. Campbell rifled one to Courtney Taylor on the sideline, at the stake, and Auburn had a new set of downs. 3 Carnell Williams runs battered for another first down, and it looked like the Tech defense was wilting. Williams battered for 10 more, squirming, fighting, not going down, looking for more. At the Tech 28, the ball came out. Tech recovered, at the 28, with 8:38 left in the game.
Tech opened this drive in the shotgun, throwing immediately for Josh Morgan for 17. Auburn was subbing in the secondary, with a 16-0 lead, and the Hokies picked on young Zach Gilbert. Gilbert picked up a pass interference penalty, to give the Hokies a 1st and 10 at the Tiger 29. Auburn forced 2 incomplete throws, then on 3rd and 10, Randall found Josh Morgan, who juked Gilbert and Will Herring out of their shoes. Morgan went 29 yards for the touchdown, and Tech was on the board. Randall tried to hit Morgan on the 2 point throw, but it was no good. With 6:58 left in the game, Auburn still led, 16-6.
Tech attempted an onsides kick, but Auburn handled the sky kick easily at the 44. 3 straight Carnell Williams runs brought up 4th and 1, and Kody Bliss came in. Bliss whacked a TOWERING 45 yard punt, that was downed at the Tech 2 yard line! Randall got the Hokies out of the hole quickly, with a 20 yard strike to James Mazzetta, but several plays later, it was a different story. On 2nd and 5 from the 38, Randall dumped one into traffic over the middle, and Derrick Graves intercepted for Auburn! The Tigers had it, with 3:32 left, at the Tech 39!
3 straight handoffs to Ronnie Brown netted only 2 yards, but had forced the Hokies to burn all of their timeouts. Auburn punted it back to the Hokies, and this one was a touchback. On first down, Randall pump-faked short, then went deep on a corner route to slot receiver Josh Morgan. Will Herring had bitten on the pump, and Morgan was wide open. Randall hit Morgan in stride around midfield, and Morgan was gone. The play went 80 yards, for the Hokie touchdown. Pace kicked in the PAT, and with 2:01 left in the game, the Hokies had cut the Auburn lead to 16-13.
The Hokies tried rolling an onside kick at the Tigers, but it was handled by Cooper Wallace on a hard hit. From there, the Tigers went from the Victory formation. Campbell took the snap, everyone relaxed, and Campbell dropped back, and back. Finally, Tech chased him, and Campbell went to the ground. The play had wasted over ten seconds, and it took even longer for the officials to spot the ball. Tech coach Frank Beamer was howling on the sideline, but there was no help for it. Tech was out of timeouts. Campbell repeated his antics twice more, and Tech could only watch as the last two minutes of the clock ran out.
In the end, the Tigers had done it! They defeated the Virginia Tech Hokies, 16-13. It was a game with no title, but the Tigers had come to play anyway, and completed a perfect, 13-0 season. Auburn finished second in the nation, in the final AP poll.
Tommy Tuberville had completed a dramatic turnaround. From 6-5 a year before, and nearly losing his job, to a perfect season, in just 13 months. The Tigers were on top, but there were some HUGE, glaring holes that were going to need to be filled for the 2005 season. Auburn's entire All-SEC backfield would have to be replaced, as would both cornerbacks and one safety.
The Virginia Tech Hokies have continued to play well in the ACC in years since 2004. Tech has won at least 10 games, every year since. Tech has 3 Coastal Division titles in the past 4 years, and an additional ACC title. In 2009, the Hokies will be one of the favorites to win the conference title, again.