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The 2011 Chick-Fil-A Bowl featured nearly every single play in the history of college football. The Auburn Tigers brought out the bag of tricks with an onside kick, a fake onside kick, a pair of blocked punts, a safety, not one but two Statue of Liberty plays and various end arounds and fake plays.
In the end it was Auburn who was able to overcome the loss of starting running back Michael Dyer, their defensive coordinator and offensive coordinator Gus Malzhan juggling two jobs at once to win 43-24. The Auburn offense started off slow in the first quarter but then ratcheted it up in the second and third quarters by outscoring the Virginia Cavaliers 33-17 during that stretch.
The player of the game for Auburn was running back Onterio McCalebb who rushed the ball only 10 times but ended up rushing for 109 yards and scored one touchdown. McCalebb also added 53 receiving yards and receiving touchdown as well in tonight's victory.
The bright spot for Virginia was quarterback Michael Rocco who passed for 312 yards and scored two touchdowns. Both of those touchdown passes went to Kris Burd who caught six passes for 103 yards on the night.
The second half continued the same way that the first half as the Auburn Tigers drove down the field on a nine-play 80-yard drive to go up 35-17 on a 22-yard run by Tre Mason. Auburn sprinted down the 80 yards in a mere 3:51 and looked like the fast paced Auburn offense that everyone is accustomed to under offensive coordinator Gus Malzhan.
Virginia who has been struggling to move the ball in the second quarter was able to methodically drive down the field to match Auburn's touchdown on a Kevin Parks touchdown from one yard out, but Virginia still trails 35-24. The drive was quite different from Auburn's running attack on their touchdown drive as Virginia passed their way down the field on the Auburn defense.
The Auburn Tigers offense has done a complete turn around from the first quarter and has scored the last 21 points and now lead 28-14 over the Virginia Cavaliers late in the first half. Running back Onterio McCalebb has filled in nicely for the suspended Michael Dyer and on the last drive it was McCalebb who scored on a 25-yard touchdown pass from Barrett Trotter. On that drive McCalebb accounted for 59 total yards on that drive and put up Auburn up 28-14.
With just under a minute left in the half, Virginia drove down the field 63 yards to kick a 24-yard field goal to make the score 28-17 at the half.
Auburn is unloading their entire playbook in this game as they have down an onside kick, various play fakes and a Statue of Liberty play; that is just in the first half.
The player behind the Auburn offense resurgence is McCalebb who has 149 total yards with 96 rushing and 53 receiving and has a pair of touchdowns.
The Auburn Tigers attempted and recovered a surprise onside kick and was able to keep the momentum going after scoring the tying touchdown. Auburn then took to the air on a 50-yard pass from Barrett Trotter to Emory Blake to have the Virginia Cavaliers reeling. The deep pass put Auburn on the doorstep of another touchdown at Virginia's 5-yard line.
Auburn then proceeded to run the ball three times by three different backs before it was Kiehl Frazier who was able to punch the ball in from one yard out to put Auburn up 21-14. It is clear that Auburn offense is struggling and missing their star running back Michael Dyer who is suspended for this game. It also does not help that offensive coordinator Gus Malzhan has one foot out the door as he will be the head coach of Arkansas State after this game.
After a short lull in their offensive production, the Virginia Cavaliers were able to mount their second touchdown drive of the game. Virginia took over the ball at their own 27-yard line when the Auburn Tigers missed a 44-yard field goal. The drive was aided by two straight personal foul calls against Auburn which moved Virginia 30 yards down the field.
Outside of the two personal foul penalties the drive was dominated by the running game which counted for 34 yards by Perry Jones, Kevin Parks and Max Millen. However, the touchdown was scored on a 6-yard touchdown pass from Michael Rocco to Kris Burd.
However, Auburn responded when their offense woke up when running back Onterio McCalebb broke off a run for 60 yards on a free play when Virginia was offsides. To reward McCalebb for his long run they called the Statue of Liberty play for the tying touchdown from three yards out.
The Auburn Tigers were not looking sharp during the first quarter, but the Auburn defense forced the Virginia Cavaliers to punt. On the ensuing punt Auburn's freshman wide receiver Garrett Harper blocked the kick and recovered the ball at the Virginia's 15-yard line.
On the following play Auburn running back Onterio McCalebb ran the ball 12 yards to the 3-yard line and then Kiehl Frazier punched in the touchdown from three yards out. The play was reviewed, but the touchdown was allowed to stand.
Prior to the blocked punt and then the touchdown Virginia seemed to be in control with Auburn playing flat, but now Auburn seems to have found some momentum and are back in this game with that touchdown which tied the game at seven points apiece.
The Virginia Cavaliers made it on the scoreboard first when quarterback Michael Rocco connected with wide receiver Kris Burd on a 27-yard touchdown pass to go up 7-0 over the Auburn Tigers. Virginia has looked like the better team and it probably has to do with being the more stable team. Auburn is without starting running back Michael Dyer and head coach Gene Chizik is doubling as defensive coordinator since Ted Roof who previously held the position took the same job at Central Florida.
The drive prior to Virginia's score saw the offense move fairly easy down the field by converting on two third downs before they had to punt the ball away.
On the scoring drive Virginia was able to make it into the endzone on only five plays. Running back Kevin Parks had a run of 23 yards to set up the 27-yard touchdown pass from Rocco to Burd to give Virginia the early lead.
The Auburn Tigers are taking on the Virginia Cavaliers down two coaches as their offensive coordinator Gus Malzahn is now the Arkansas State head coach and defensive coordinator Ted Roof going to Central Florida for the same position. Auburn is also down their best offensive player in running back Michael Dyer who is suspended for the game for violating team rules. In Dyer's place will be freshman Tre Mason who will be the feature back for the first time this year. Mason was used as a speed back and has lined up in the wildcat position at times as well.
Virginia's situation is more stable with no players suspended and no coaches are on their way to other jobs. In fact Virginia head coach Mike London just received a two-year contract extension and a raise.
Game date, time: 7:30 p.m. ET, Saturday, Dec. 31
In his second season at Charlottesville, Virginia football coach Mike London was named the ACC Coach of the Year while helping turn around a historically underachieving program.
Now, with his name likely to begin floating around the rumor rill, London has given indications that he wants to put down roots, pledging $225,000 towards a new indoor practice facility as well as $50,000 to the school's general scholarship fund.
London, a 51-year old native of Hampton Roads, played at Richmond College before beginning a coaching career spent almost entirely in the Virginia area.
He won the 2008 FCS championship at Richmond before taking over the Cavaliers in 2010. After a 4-8 transition year, he has the program pointed upwards with an 8-4 record and a berth in the Chick-Fil-A Bowl, its first post-season game since 2007.
And while he may have opportunities at higher-profile programs, he could be extremely successful at Virginia, a dormant program in a basketball-crazy conference.
Frank Beamer turned Virginia Tech, a land-grant school forever in the shadow of a research institution founded by Thomas Jefferson, into a national power with recruits from the mid-Atlantic region.
Despite being without their top running back and a staff in a massive amount of transition, Vegas is moving the line for the 2011 Chick-Fil-A Bowl between Auburn and Virginia to the Tigers' side.
Auburn is now listed as a favorite by as much as three points, after opening as a one point favorite. While Virginia has faced virtually no off-field distractions between ending their regular season and starting bowl prep, the Tigers have been hit with the departure of two coordinators - defensive coordinator Ted Roof left Auburn for UCF, while offensive coordinator Gus Malzahn has taken the head coaching job at Arkansas State, but will coach the Tigers against the Cavaliers.
Meanwhile, Auburn's most consistent offensive weapon is suspended for the bowl game. Sophomore Michael Dyer had 1242 yards rushing and 10 touchdowns this season, and will be replaced by either Onterio McCalebb and/or Tre Mason.
Despite a 8-4 season, the Cavs have been unpredictable against the spread, going 5-6 (with one push) in the regular season.
Freshman speed back Tre Mason has been relegated to situational duty this season for the Auburn Tigers, toiling behind start running back Michael Dyer and backup Onterio McCalebb. But with Dyer suspended for the Chick-Fil-A Bowl against Virginia on New Year's Eve, Mason has the chance to breakout as the next superstar of the Tiger backfield.
The Columbus (Ga.) Ledger-Enquirer, Anniston (Ala.) Star and Opelika Auburn News all have profiles on Mason, who will likely take the bulk of Dyer's carries against the Cavaliers. In the regular season Mason saw most of his time as the speed back in the Tigers' Wildcat formation (97 total yards on 17 carries). Running backs coach Curtis Luper cited Mason's development in strength and conditioning - the speed back has added 10 pounds since arriving on campus - as a benefit to his ability to suddenly handle the carries of the bruising starter Dyer.
In addition to Mason's increased role and McCalebb, Luper also hinted at a "mystery" third option:
"It’s a big surprise," Luper said. "There’s a couple versatile guys on our football team that can help us out. We do have a No. 3 and it’s someone we've moved around a little bit. It’ll be exciting to see him get out on the field."
Virginia and Auburn may have to scratch and claw to make the 2011 Chick-fil-A Bowl entertaining. Would the return of a middling wide receiver help with that? Charlottesville broadcaster Damon Dillman says that Virginia wide receiver Matt Snyder might play in the Chick-fil-A Bowl, according to Virginia coach Mike London.
Snyder, a senior, has 50 catches for 616 yards and no touchdowns in three years at Virginia, and has been out since getting injured in an early October game against Idaho. (Virginia won that game by a single point.) But despite his lack of production, Snyder could be an important boost to Virginia's offense: he stands 6'5", and that's the sort of height that can make even a marginally talented receiver potent near the goal line.
Snyder had four catches in four of his five games in 2011.
The SEC still seems to reign supreme by the odds makers, as the latest college football odds (courtesy of Bovada) list the Auburn Tigers as favorites (-1.5) over the Virginia Cavaliers in the 2011 Chick-fil-a Bowl in Atlanta on December 31st.
Reports have surfaced late Tuesday night that Auburn offensive coordinator Gus Malzahn had accepted an offer to become the next head coach of Arkansas State University, taking over the reigns of Hugh Freeze. Those reports were confirmed, and it looks like Malzahn will stay on with the Tigers staff to get one final victory for War Eagle in their upcoming bowl game on New Years Eve.
Usually, when coaches begin to bolt for other positions with new teams it can leave a team in disarray for their postseason showdown. It remains to see if Gene Chizik can keep his offensive unit on task versus an emerging defensive unit in Virginia.
Auburn offensive coordinator Gus Malzahn will be named as the new head coach at Arkansas State according to a report by AStateNation.com.
We have confirmed that the contract has been signed and that Gus Malzahn is the new Head Coach at Arkansas State— AStateNation (@AStateNation) December 14, 2011
Malzahn is an Arkansas native and spent 14 years coaching high school football in the state. He had been rumored as a candidate for the job for some time although there were doubts as to whether or not he would actually agree to take it. Malzahn is expected to be introduced at a press conference by Arkansas State on Wednesday.
There is at least one report saying that Malzahn will remain at Auburn long enough to call plays at the Chik-fil-A Bowl on New Year's Eve in Auburn's matchup against Virginia.
For programs looking to move up in the college football hierarchy, few things are more important than selling out your allotment of bowl tickets.
Schools with reputations that "travel well" are often picked ahead of ones with smaller and poorer fan bases by bowl committees trying to turn a profit, regardless of the actual on-field caliber of the teams. There's no better example than the 2011 Sugar Bowl, which picked Michigan and Virginia Tech over higher-ranked Kansas State mainly because both fan bases have traveling reputations (though reputations can be misleading).
For the University of Virginia, the 2011 Chick-Fil-A Bowl in Atlanta against Auburn is the biggest national stage for the football program since a 9-win Cavalier team lost in the 2007 Gator Bowl to Texas Tech.
That's why school officials and head coach Mike London have been pounding the drums to get their fan base to Atlanta in a few weeks:
Virginia Cavaliers" class="user-profile-link js-action-profile-avatar" data-user-id="44257374" style="border-style: initial; border-color: initial; cursor: pointer; color: #0084b4 !important; padding: 0px; margin: 0px;" />VirginiaSports Virginia CavaliersUVa's ticket total for Chick-fil-A Bowl tops 13k Saturday morning. Tickets still available. Details here: tinyurl.com/86cbxsfRetweeted by wahoovoice
Virginia, an elite academic school in the basketball-crazy ACC, doesn't have much of a football tradition.
If they can't sell out the Chick-Fil-A Bowl, they could be jumped by ACC schools that put more of a focus on football in next year's bowl selection process.
According to a report by AuburnSports.com, sophomore running back Michael Dyer has been suspended for the Chick-fil-A Bowl against Virginia. There is no word as of yet for why Dyer was suspended.
Dyer was second in the SEC in rushing yards this season finishing behind only Alabama's Trent Richardson. In two seasons with the Tigers he has rushed for 2,335 yards which places him at No. 10 on Auburn's career list. He broke Bo Jackson's freshman record with 1,093 yards last season. Dyer was an All-SEC selection by the SEC coaches and the Associated Press for his performance during the 2011 season.
Dyer's suspension would open the door for Onterio McCalebb to likely start against Virginia on New Year's Eve. The 5-foot-10 junior finished second on the team in rushing yards with 532 and averaged 5.2 yards per carry.
With Auburn defensive coordinator Ted Roof going to UCF, Auburn head coach Gene Chizik said he will take over as defensive coordinator for the Tigers in the Chick-Fil-A-Bowl:
FootballAU Auburn Football
Chizik got his start as a defensive coordinator, winning the Frank Broyles Award for best assistant coach in the nation in 2004 at Auburn, when he coordinated the defense on Tommy Tuberville's 13-0 squad.
He was the defensive coordinator and assistant head coach at Texas in 2005, when the Longhorns went 13-0 and won the national championship in an epic game against USC.
The Tigers defense, which gave up 29.3 points a game, 79th in the nation, hasn't lived up to the standards of his past squads this season, and the game against Virginia will be a chance to right their ship headed into the 2012 season.
In the press conference, Chizik also revealed that he had a short-list of contingency options on hand in case of Roof's departure.
This time a year ago the Auburn Tigers were on cloud nine, as their birth into the 2011 BCS national championship against the Oregon Ducks would lead them onto a wild ride that saw Cameron Jerrell Newton finish the journey that he started at the beginning of the season. A wild ride that saw Nick Fairley become one of the most feared defenders in America. A wild ride that saw freshman sensation Michael Dyer pull off one of the more miraculous runs in college football history.
Auburn's 22-19 national championship win propelled their program into the next stratosphere, and along with it comes higher expectations and a bulls-eye from everyone in the country. Those expectations and bulls-eye, along with the major voids on both sides of the ball called for a fall back to reality. A 7-5 record isn't the worst thing in the world for an extremely young team, and head coach Gene Chizik realizes that a win in a respected bowl game like the
Peach Bowl Chick-Fil-A Bowl can give his team the confidence to shine brightly in 2012 and beyond.
Of course, the Tigers will still technically wear the crown of "defending champs" until January 9th, and for Mike London's bunch out of Charlottesville a big time win for his Virginia Cavaliers over the crown holders would be a huge hurdle for a team that wants to be on the rise. The Fighting Wahoo's were one of the biggest surprises in the country, finishing at 8-4 and achieving their first bowl bid since 2007. (This is their first appearance in the
Peach Bowl Chick-fil-A Bowl since 1998)
This game will be about who can impose their will on the other team. While Auburn figures out their quarterback conundrum, their running game has been nothing short of stellar. Michael Dyer continues to perform at a high level and Onterrio McCalebb is always a threat to break a long one. Virginia will lean on the defensive prowess of Chase Minnifield and Matt Conrath to slow down Auburn's fast break offense. Both players were first-team All-ACC selections and will look to have futures past their playing careers at UVA.
This should shape up at one of the more compelling bowl games this season, but the big question of course is...who will win? One guarantee I can make, it'll be the team wearing blue and orange.
Auburn has come back to earth after their BCS National Championship last season, while Virginia has exploded in Mike London's rookie season as head coach. The Chick-Fil-A Bowl will feature a Tiger team looking for an identity post-Cam and a Wahoo team that surprised the ACC but didn't quite reach the levels of the conference elite (a 34-0 loss to rival Virginia Tech confirms that).
Game date, time: 7:30 pm ET, Saturday, December 31
Location: Georgia Dome, Atlanta, GA
TV channel: ESPN
2010 winner and loser: FSU 26 - South Carolina 17
2011 Virginia Highlights: Mike London's inaugural season started with little fanfare - at 2-2, the Wahoos lost to eventual C-USA Champion Southern Miss and dropped their first conference game to North Carolina. But the Cavs would draw national attention during a 6-1 run through the meat of their schedule, and entered their season finale against Virginia Tech with a chance to play the in the conference title for the first time in school history before the Hokies would win in a 34-0 blowout.
2011 Auburn Highlights: The defending BCS National Champions were expected to be basement dwellers this season, and nearly were right out of the gate: The Tigers avoided a devastating first-week scare against Utah State and handled themselves well in the SEC, despite losing Cam Newton and Nick Fairley. Their most notable win of the season was a three point upset of would-be SEC East Champion South Carolina, but eventually the expected "reloading phase" came to be a reality, in blowout losses to LSU, Georgia and Alabama.
What To Watch For: Virginia's rushing defense against Auburn's running game. The absence of Newton was certainly felt (AU is below 100th nationally in passing and total offense), but the Tigers can run the ball. Michael Dyer is averaging 103 yards a game and has scored 10 touchdowns this season. Virginia's defense has quietly become one of the ACC's best, and are allowing only 128 yards rushing a game. Both teams will want to manage the clock above all else.
The Sugar Bowl went ahead and cleared up the Chick-fil-A Bowl's one big conundrum: how to avoid a rematch or two recent repeat teams. By taking the frequently Atlantan Virginia Tech Hokies in a surprise move, the Sugar left the Chick-fil-A with the choice of the Virginia Cavaliers to pair with the Auburn Tigers, a team that pretty much plays in the Georgia Dome every chance it gets.
Virginia and Auburn represent two of the most exciting young teams in the country," said Gary Stokan, Chick-fil-A Bowl president and CEO. "With these two teams, we have two top-tier coaching staffs, incredible fan bases and great history and tradition. We're expecting an unmatched atmosphere and a real battle in Atlanta for the Chick-fil-A Bowl.
The game is set for New Year's Eve in Atlanta. UVa and Auburn haven't played in more than a dozen years, with only a split pair of meetings in their history.
CBS Sports college football writer Bryan Fischer is reporting that Auburn and Virginia will match up in this year's Chick-fil-A Bowl in Atlanta on December 31 at the Georgia Dome.
Virginia's inclusion in the game was reportedly made possible by Virginia Tech being selected to play in the Sugar Bowl. That bumped the Cavaliers up to represent the ACC in the Chick-fil-A Bowl and to take on the Tigers.
Virginia finished with an 8-4 record this season but missed out on a trip to the ACC Championship game after it lost to Virginia Tech 38-0 in its regular season finale. The Cavaliers knocked off both Georgia Tech and Florida State during the regular season.
Auburn finished 7-5 this season and a distant fourth in the SEC's western division. The Tigers lost four of its last seven games including losses to Georgia and Alabama down the stretch.
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