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December 31, 2007
Auburn needs overtime to get by Clemson
MORE: Box score | Rivals.com Bowl Central
ATLANTA - The last play of Auburn's 2007 season should give the Tigers good reason to look forward to the start of 2008.
Freshman quarterback Kodi Burns, receiving an expanded role in Auburn's new spread offense, scored on a 7-yard run in overtime to give the Tigers a 23-20 victory over Clemson in the Chick-fil-A Bowl on Monday night.
Just like that, Auburn may have found its next starting quarterback.
``He'll go in as No. 1,'' Auburn coach Tommy Tuberville said. ``He's earned that. He's a gamer. You look at him on the sideline and he looks like a third- or fourth-year player.''
After Mark Buchholz kicked a 25-yard field goal on Clemson's opening possession of overtime, Burns scored on a spinning run on a third-and-3 play.
Burns said the winning run may have been his most challenging, right from the snap from center Jason Bosley.
``It was real low,'' Burns said. ``Bos was perfect all night. That was the only low one.''
Burns remembered advice from new offensive coordinator Tony Franklin, who instituted the new offense in bowl practice after he was hired Dec. 12.
``Like Coach Franklin said, there's never a bad snap, so you have to keep driving and make the play,'' Burns said. ``It kind of bounced at the same time I got it.
``You know, when I picked it up, I'm not so sure if that didn't throw the defense off a little bit. They didn't know what was going on. It was a low snap so I kind of disappeared.''
Burns said blocks from his line and tailback Brad Lester cleared his path to the end zone.
``The difference in the game was Kodi coming in and keeping them off-balance,'' Tuberville said.
Cox ran for a first down on a fourth-and-1 play from the 16 to keep Auburn's overtime possession alive.
Auburn (9-4) gained 423 yards on 90 plays - a winning performance in the debut of the new scheme.
``It was tough,'' Burns said of picking up the new offense after the regular season. ``It was a whole new philosophy of coaching the quarterback position, but we worked hard.''
Clemson's defense looked tired in the fourth quarter after keeping pace with the no-huddle attack. The pace was even tiring for Tuberville.
``I can't remember the last time we had 90 snaps in a game,'' Tuberville said. ``I got tired of watching it. I know they got tired of playing.''
While Auburn prospered with its two-quarterback attack, Clemson (9-4) struggled with junior quarterback Cullen Harper, who was only 14-for-33 passing for 104 yards. Clemson was held to 12 first downs and 293 yards.
Harper had arthroscopic surgery on his passing shoulder after the regular season. He tried to stay loose by throwing behind the Clemson bench between possessions, but Clemson coach Tommy Bowden said he didn't think the surgery was a factor in the poor passing numbers.
``I really don't think it was,'' Bowden said. ``It was such a minor surgery and he was back so quickly. I don't think there was any carry-over from that.
``I just think he didn't play well and Auburn had something to do with that but there were some things we did to self-destruct, too.''
No. 22 Auburn denied No. 15 Clemson its first 10-win season since 1990.
Clemson linebacker Cortney Vincent said the loss was ``heartbreaking.''
``We played until the end and I'm proud of our team,'' said Vincent, who didn't start but came in the game on the second series. His status had been in question following a DUI arrest on Dec. 9.
Spiller's long run was the only offensive highlight of the first half for Clemson.
On a second-down play from the Clemson 17 early in the second quarter, Spiller appeared to be stopped at the line by Auburn's Josh Thompson and Quentin Groves. But Spiller bounced out to his left, turned the corner and suddenly had open field down the Clemson sideline. Spiller stayed a step ahead of Auburn cornerback Jonathan Wilhite as he watched on the Georgia Dome video board.
``I was looking at the guy close behind me and sped up to get the touchdown,'' Spiller said. ``It was a great feeling.''
The 83-yard run was the longest in a bowl game in Clemson history, the longest in any Chick-fil-A Bowl game and the longest for Clemson in any game since an 89-yard run by Derrick Witherspoon against Maryland on Oct. 30, 1993.
Auburn opened the second half with a 10-play, 78-yard touchdown drive. On third and 7 from the Auburn 22, Burns scrambled to his right before passing to Fannin, who ran past Clemson linebacker Josh Miller for the touchdown and a 10-7 lead.
A 20-yard run by Spiller helped set up a 22-yard field goal by Buchholz on the first play of the fourth quarter for a 10-10 tie.
The tie held until the only turnover of the game.
Clemson took advantage. Harper passed to Aaron Kelly for 27 yards to the 4. Davis scored on a fourth-down plunge from the 1 to give Clemson a 17-10 lead.
Auburn answered with a 70-yard touchdown drive. A 15-yard run by Burns to the 1 set up a touchdown run by Ben Tate on the next play for a 17-17 tie.
MORE: Rivals.com Bowl Central