By JOHN ZENOR
AUBURN, Ala. (AP) — No. 10 Auburn has been quite the drama magnet under coach Gus Malzahn.
The Tigers’ thrilling finish against Oregon in the season opener added just another entry to a Malzahn era when Auburn often has left things to the last minute.
This time freshman quarterback Bo Nix lifted then-No. 16 Auburn to a 27-21 win over the No. 11 Ducks in Arlington, Texas, on a 26-yard touchdown pass to Seth Williams with 9 seconds left. Earlier in the drive, Nix had eked out a fourth-down conversion with a run and converted a third-and-10 to Williams.
It capped an uneven performance by the Tigers. Auburn, which hosts Tulane on Saturday, had to dig itself from a 15-point hole and characteristically didn’t do things the easy way.
“I like it when we go out there and execute at a high level, but to win a game like that, a lot of times it’s how you win,” Malzahn said Tuesday. “With a freshman quarterback and a team that was down 16 or whatever we were down in the third quarter and find a way to come back and win — you can take that the rest of the season in every scenario.
“Every time you are down, every time you face adversity. That may be the biggest plus of anything moving forward just from team dynamics and trusting each other, trusting coaches, coaches trusting players, just everything that goes with that.”
He speaks from a certain amount of experience.
It would be hard, if not downright impossible, to top those improbable finishes against Alabama and Georgia in 2013.
But there’s been no shortage of drama for the Tigers in recent seasons, some wins and some losses.
Here’s a look at some of Auburn’s down-to-the-wire wins under Malzahn:
— The 2013 Iron Bowl supplied one of the most famous plays in college football history: the Kick Six. Chris Davis returned a missed field goal 109 yards for a touchdown and a 34-28 victory over two-time defending national champion Alabama. The second straight wild finish helped propel the Tigers on their way to a Southeastern Conference championship and national title shot.
— That accomplished the unlikely feat of topping the play that beat Georgia two weeks earlier. On fourth-and-18, Auburn quarterback Nick Marshall, a former Georgia defensive back, heaved a desperation throw downfield. The ball deflected off a Georgia defender and into Ricardo Louis’ hands for a 73-yard touchdown and a 43-38 victory.
— Auburn scored twice in the final 5:14 for a 28-24 victory over Texas A&M last season. Williams again delivered the game-winner with an 11-yard touchdown catch from Jarrett Stidham, and Noah Igbinoghene had a big interception.
— The Tigers upset then-No. 1 Georgia and then-No. 1 Alabama over the final three weeks of the 2017 season to clinch an SEC Western Division title.
— Auburn survived for a 27-23 victory over LSU in 2017 when officials ruled time had already expired before Danny Etling took the snap and threw an apparent last-play touchdown pass. All of Auburn’s points came on Daniel Carlson field goals. LSU fired coach Les Miles the following day.
— The 2010 national championship team, when Malzahn was offensive coordinator, stormed back from a 24-point deficit to beat Alabama 28-27 behind Heisman Trophy winner Cam Newton. The comeback against Oregon, now ranked 16th, was the biggest for Auburn since that game.
Now the Tigers have to try to build on that.
“Very stressful watching it, but just, you know, being able to rely on each other and our team going through adversity early in the season, that shows a lot of character,” defensive tackle Derrick Brown said. “And hopefully no matter what the situation is on the back end of the season, we’ll continue to just be able to fight for one another.”