ATLANTA, GA - DECEMBER 31: Head coach Gene Chizik of the Auburn Tigers prepares to get dunked after their 43-24 win over the Virginia Cavaliers during the 2011 Chick Fil-A Bowl at Georgia Dome on December 31, 2011 in Atlanta, Georgia. (Photo by Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images)
The stats that mattered in Auburn's 43-24 win over Virginia in last night's Chick-fil-A Bowl, from the Tigers' surge, to multiple quarterbacks, to the Onterio McCalebb-Perry Jones duel.
10.9: Per-play average for Auburn over a four-drive span that won the game for the Tigers. They averaged just 2.8 yards per play over their first four drives and 3.2 over their final four, but in the middle they were spectacular. They gained 317 yards in 29 plays, most of it due to two familiar players: Onterio McCalebb and Emory Blake. McCalebb is not built to grind out 20-30 carries like the suspended Michael Dyer, but during this four-drive span, he rushed five times for 71 yards, caught two passes for 53 yards, and scored two touchdowns. Blake, meanwhile, caught three passes for 90 yards. The Tigers got solid contributions from freshman quarterback Kiehl Frazier in this span, and Tre Mason ripped off a 22-yard touchdown, but two of last year's major national title contributors came through to send Auburn off to 2012 in style.
This run also showed us that while Auburn wasn't actually very good in 2011, they were still masters of timing, momentum, and occasional trickery. Virginia took a 14-7 lead two minutes into the second quarter, and honestly, it looked like they were about to seize control of the game. Their defense was dominating the Tigers, and they had just marched 73 yards in 10 plays. But Auburn counter-punched like, well, a defending national champion. The Tigers got a cutback run by McCalebb, a surprise onside kick, and a statue-of-liberty-esque end around, and then they stuffed a Virginia fake field goal. Seventeen minutes after looking dead in the water, Auburn was up 18.
9.0: Value, in equivalent points, of Virginia's two turnovers, a first-quarter fumble and a late interception. Neither helped Auburn put points on the board -- the Tigers missed a field goal following the first quarter and simply ran out the clock after the pick -- but they still did significant damage to the Hoos' cause.
7.3: Average gain on Michael Rocco's 42 pass attempts. The Virginia quarterback completed 26 of 41 passes for 312 yards, two touchdowns and the late pick and was sacked once for seven yards. Those are perfectly decent totals, but quite a few quarterbacks put up better than "decent" numbers against Auburn in 2011, and with the Tigers' mid-game surge, he needed to make more plays than he did. Once Auburn caught fire, Virginia simply couldn't keep up. They got perhaps the Tigers' best game of the season, and they showed that while has worked wonders in Charlottesville in two seasons, they aren't quite where they need to be in the "upside" category.
This was further enunciated in the battle of dual-threats. Virginia's run-catch master, Perry Jones, rushed for 32 yards in eight carries and caught seven of 11 passes for 90 yards. Over the course of 19 intended touches (targets plus rushes), he gained 122 yards, an average of 6.4. McCalebb, meanwhile, rushed 10 times for 109 yards and caught two of three passes for 53 yards and a touchdown. Average per intended touch: 12.5
3: Quarterbacks who took snaps for Auburn. The unsettled quarterback situation following Cam Newton's departure was basically the narrative of the Tigers' 2011 season, and while nothing really got settled last night, Auburn at least figured out how to move the ball ... with two of three, at least. For the game, Barrett Trotter completed 11 of 18 passes for 175 yards and a touchdown (9.7 per pass attempt) and rushed five times for 32 yards. Clint Moseley completed just one of four passes for six yards and was sacked once for seven yards (-0.3 per attempt). Frazier, meanwhile, attempted no passes but rushed 16 times for 55 yards and two short touchdowns. Trotter was clearly the most well-rounded, but Frazier showed solid "run the Newton offense" potential. Moseley? Not his best outing.