You had to know Oregon would regret its two trips inside Auburn’s 10-yard line that ended in no points, because you knew Auburn was going to rally.
Auburn rallied, and now the Ducks are flying home with an absolutely devastating loss, both for themselves and their entire conference.
Behind an inspired defensive effort and a clutch performance from their true freshman quarterback, No. 16 Auburn scored 21 straight to rally past No. 11 Oregon, 27-21 in Dallas.
Making his first career start, Bo Nix overcame two early interceptions to save Auburn’s comeback effort, first with a 3-and-one-inch scramble on a 4th-and-3, and then a game-winning 26-yard touchdown pass to Seth Williams with nine seconds left in the game.
But, before it could fall apart on Oregon, first it had to come together.
The Ducks (0-1) accepted the ball to open the game and promptly moved 74 yards in 11 plays to take an immediate 7-0 lead. The Ducks initially scored on a 3rd-and-goal Justin Herbert keeper, but replay ruled his knee down at the 1. No matter, Mario Cristobal kept his offense on the field and pounded the ball in through CJ Verdell.
The Ducks forced a three-and-out on Auburn’s first chance, then drove right back to Auburn’s doorstep. That’s where, if this game turns in the second half, Oregon will carry regret with the back to Eugene: a third-down drop in the back of the end zone by Bryan Addison, and then a missed 20-yard field goal by Camden Lewis.
Auburn (1-0) rode the chance to swing momentum for the first time, using a 38-yard completion from Nix to Will Hastings and then a 19-yard Nix run to set up a 40-yard Anders Carlson field goal, pulling the Tigers within 7-3 at the 3:17 mark of the first quarter.
Oregon immediately answered, needing only three plays to move 75 yards and push their lead to 14-3 with 2:11 left in the first.
The Ducks once again moved in position to take complete control of the game when Jevon Holland returned a punt 81 yards to the Auburn 9, but Oregon then gave it right back with another red zone disaster. This one was a fumbled exchange by Herbert, scooped up by Big Kat Bryant and returned 83 yards to Oregon’s 3.
Auburn again did not fully capitalize on this mistake, settling for a 25-yard Carlson field goal.
A third critical mistake set up Auburn’s third scoring chance, this one a 53-yard punt that was returned 41 yards by Auburn’s Christian Tutt, who was given an extra 15 when Oregon punter Blake Maimone roughed him. Given the ball at Oregon’s 26, Auburn again failed to cash in. This time, Carlson was wide right from 42 yards with eight seconds left before the break.
After forcing a three-and-out to open the second half, Oregon moved 53 yards in nine snaps to score on Darrian Felix‘s 6-yard run.
Auburn pulled back within eight thanks to two big plays by Eli Stove, a 36-yard run and an 11-yard touchdown grab on consecutive snaps and, after teetering on blowout territory for much of the first half, the Tigers were within one when backup quarterback Joey Gatewood soared over the top for a 1-yard score at the 9:48 mark of the fourth quarter.
Oregon’s next chance covered 33 yards and killed nearly half the remaining clock, but Verdell’s 4th-and-1 run, successful on the opening drive of the game, was stuffed at Auburn’s 41.
Now faced with their first deficit of the game, Oregon’s defense forced a three-and-out; however, the Ducks’ offense could not mount anything, so Auburn again took over with a chance to take the lead at its own 40 with 2:05 to play. That possession immediately found itself in a do-or-die 4th-and-3, which Nix converted by the nose of the football on a scramble, keeping Auburn’s chances alive.
Nix, who threw for 177 yards and rushed for 42, then ended the game with the already-legendary toss to Williams to complete the rally.
For Oregon, though, this is simply a catastrophic loss for themselves and a Pac-12 conference that desperately needed a marquee non-conference win. Mario Cristobal and company were close to exorcising demons of both its 2010 BCS National Championship loss to Auburn and two previous losses inside AT&T Stadium, one the 2015 CFP National Championship, but now goes to bed with those demons even larger than before.