After spending an off-season basking in the afterglow of a national championship, Auburn had to eventually return to the football field in 2011 and discover life without Cam Newton, Nick Fairley and plenty of others from that talented 2010 squad. They also had to do it welcoming a scrappy Utah State team with some serious offensive talent.
What followed was a wild shootout that showed the Tigers still had a little magic left in them.
Both teams opened with 3 & outs before the Utah State Aggies struck first on a quick 3 play drive that ended with a 43 yard TD run by Kerwynn Williams. Auburn responded with their own 3 play TD drive ending on a 56 yard touchdown pass to Emory Blake. But then things began to get dicey. The Aggies scored again and again with no Auburn response. Midway through the 2nd quarter, the Tigers found themselves down by 14. Auburn needed someone to make a play.
Enter true freshman Tre Mason.
This kick return gave Auburn fans a glimpse at what kind of talent the Tigers had in Mason. No dancing around, just a run right up the gut where Mason somehow dodges would be tacklers at full speed with just the slightest of body movements and all of a sudden he’s in the open field and the Aggies can’t catch him. I’m not sure I’ve seen a player better at shifting his body to avoid hits and keep plowing his way downfield than Tre Mason. It was a heck of a way for Mason to introduce himself to the Auburn family.
But there were so many more fireworks remaining in this game. The Tigers would spend the whole afternoon playing catchup and it was looking like they never would. With only 2:07 left in the game and the Tigers trailing by four, Auburn needed to pull off one of the most difficult plays in college football, the onside kick.
Auburn drove 56 yards on 8 plays and scored with 30 seconds left to escape a near catastrophe. There would be some catastrophes that season but for at least a little longer Auburn fans could delight in the nation’s longest win streak at the time.
97 days till kickoff! War Eagle!