Dallas, Texas - In a classic defensive struggle, No. 10 Auburn managed the only points of the second half on a 42-yard John Vaughn field goal in the third quarter to defeat No. 22 Nebraska, 17-14, in the 2007 AT&T Cotton Bowl Classic on New Year's Day.
Nebraska, the 2006 Big 12 North Division champions, closed the season with a 9-5 overall record, while Auburn finished its season with an 11-2 mark in front of 66,777 fans and a national television audience on FOX.
The Huskers fell to the Tigers despite surrendering just 178 total yards, with both Auburn touchdowns coming in the first half on drives of less than 15 yards following NU turnovers. Nebraska generated 230 yards of total offense, including 126 yards passing and 104 yards on the ground.
Nebraska was in position to tie or win the game late in the fourth quarter, after senior linebacker Stewart Bradley recovered an Auburn fumble at the Tiger 42 with 5:24 remaining in the game. The Huskers drove to the Auburn 27, before losing yardage on consecutive plays to set up a decision on fourth down-and-11 at the AU 30. NU elected to go for it, but Zac Taylor's pass intended for Frantz Hardy was incomplete. NU's field goal attempt would have been from 47 yards out and the longest Husker field goal this season was 40 yards.
Sophomore I-back Marlon Lucky led the NU offense with 88 yards rushing on 25 carries, while adding a team-leading six receptions for 67 yards to account for 155 of NU's 230 yards. Brandon Jackson added seven carries for 38 yards and a score to help the Huskers, while Taylor finished the day by completing 14-of-26 passes for 126 yards and one touchdown. He also threw one interception.
Bradley led the NU defense on the day with a team-high seven tackles, including a sack and his fourth-quarter fumble recovery. Senior defensive Jay Moore added six tackles including one of NU's five sacks and eight tackles for loss. Corey McKeon, Andre Jones and Ola Dagunduro all added five tackles and a TFL in a stout defensive effort by the Blackshirts against an Auburn club that entered the game averaging 332.8 yards per game in total offense.
Running back Kenny Irons led the Auburn attack with 72 yards on 23 carries, while quarterback Brandon Cox completed 10-of-21 passes for 111 yards and one touchdown. Carl Stewart contributed both of Auburn's touchdowns on his only touches of the day.
Nebraska struck first, taking the game's opening drive 80 yards for a score, capped by Taylor's 13-yard touchdown pass to Nate Swift. Lucky carried the load for the Huskers on the drive, carrying nine times for 28 yards, while adding two receptions for 37 yards to account for 65 yards on NU's initial march. The 15-play drive chewed up 7:23 on the clock.
The Blackshirts then held Auburn to just one first down before senior defensive end Adam Carriker ended the Tiger drive with a nine-yard sack to force a punt.
The Husker offense took over and Lucky quickly earned the Huskers another first down with 13 yards on two carries, before another short run and a four-yard completion to fullback Dane Todd set up a third down-and-three at the Auburn 42. Nebraska ran a quick-hitting pass to the right side intended for Swift that was deflected into the air and intercepted by Auburn's Karibi Dede, who returned it 52 yards to the NU 9.
Auburn cashed in on the Husker turnover two plays later with a nine-yard pass from Cox to Carl Stewart to tie the game at the end of the first quarter.
The Tigers maintained momentum early in the second quarter after a fake punt by Nebraska on fourth-and-one at its own 29 was fumbled on a pitch from Todd to Andrew Shanle and recovered by the Tigers' Tristan Davis at the NU 14.
Stewart again found the end zone with a one-yard scoring run on Auburn's third play to give the Tigers a 14-7 lead.
But Nebraska quickly responded on offense, marching 72 yards in seven plays in 3:22 capped by Jackson's 20-yard touchdown run to send the two teams to the locker room tied at the half.
Although the score was tied at 14 at the half, Nebraska dominated the statistics. The Huskers amassed 157 yards of total offense in the opening half, including 66 yards rushing and 91 yards passing, while maintaining possession for 19:03. The Huskers produced 12 first downs, while surrendering just three to the Tigers. Auburn had just 25 yards rushing and just 21 yards passing for 46 total yards in the first half.
Vaughn provided the only highlight for either team in the second half with his game-winning 42-yard field goal with 6:20 left in the third quarter. The kick came on fourth-and-20 after the Blackshirts turned the Tigers away after driving to the NU 15. The field goal capped Auburn's only sustained scoring drive of the day, a 10-play, 55-yard march.
Nebraska will return to action with its annual Spring Game at Memorial Stadium on Saturday, April 14. The Huskers will kick off the 2007 season by playing host to Nevada on Saturday, Sept. 1, at Memorial Stadium. The WolfPack suffered a 21-20 defeat at the hands of Miami in the MPC Computers Bowl on New Year's Eve in Boise, Idaho.
Final Score (Auburn 17, Nebraska 14)
First Quarter (NU 7, AU 7)
NU - Nate Swift 13 pass from Zac Taylor (Jordan Congdon kick), 7:37, NU 7-0
AU -Carl Stewart 9 pass from Brandon Cox (John Vaughn kick), 0:56, 7-7
Second Quarter (NU 14, AU 14)
AU - Stewart 1 run (Vaughn kick), 12:22, AU 14-7
NU - Brandon Jackson 20 run (Congdon kick), 9:00, 14-14
Third Quarter (AU 17, NU 14)
AU - Vaughn 42 field goal, 6:20, AU 17-14
Fourth Quarter (AU 17, NU 14)