SHREVEPORT, La. (Dec 31, 1996 - 21:30 EST) -- Auburn quarterback
Dameyune Craig was shocked, yet not surprised by what he saw in the
fourth quarter of the Independence Bowl. Craig had 440 of his
school-record 447 yards by the end of the third quarter, when the Tigers
(8-4) led No. 24 Army by 25 points and had scored on six of nine
possessions. But the Cadets then scored 22 fourth-quarter points, and
missed a chance to send the game into overtime only after J. Parker
missed a 27-yard field goal with 29 seconds left.
"We came out and pretty much controlled the game, but they are the
military, and they never gave up," Craig said after Auburn's 32-29
victory. "You have to feel proud to have a group like this defending
your country." Craig threw for two touchdowns and ran for one as Auburn
avoided its first three-game losing streak since 1981. He was 24-of-40
for an Independence Bowl-record 372 yards, and also ran for 75 yards.
The failed Army comeback provided an eerie reminder for the Tigers, who
lost their last two regular season games late. Georgia scored on the
last play of regulation and then beat Auburn 56-49 in four overtimes,
and Alabama scored in the final minute to win 24-23. "In a year where it
seems like you have been snakebit, you just start to think that bad
things may happen," Auburn coach Terry Bowden said. "A win like this
does not make up for some of the close losses, but it makes for a lot
more positive offseason."
It looked as if Army was content to send the game to overtime when,
facing third down from the 10, Parker came on to try a field goal with
33 seconds left. He had made 17 straight from inside 30 yards. "We were
not thinking about taking a second shot at the end zone," Army coach Bob
Sutton said. "We would have been happy going into overtime. That is why
we didn't throw one more time."
Ronnie McAda, the Army quarterback who didn't thrown an interception all
season, threw a 30-yard TD pass to Rod Richardson with 1:27 left in the
game. Bobby Williams, who also ran for two touchdowns, scored the
2-point conversion to get the Cadets within three points. Army had
failed on an earlier onside kick, but Matt Rogers recovered the second
to set up Parker's late field goal attempt.
Auburn scored on four of its first six possessions to build a 20-7
halftime lead. The Tigers fumbled inside the Army 5 on both of their
other first-half possessions in a game sponsored by Poulan Weed Eater.
After finally being forced to punt the first time it had the ball in the
second half, Auburn scored two more touchdowns that proved decisive. On
a fourth-and-6 from the Army 33 midway through the third quarter, Craig
went back to pass. Army linebacker Ben Kotwica blitzed hard from the
outside, but Craig sidestepped him and ran untouched around the left end
for a touchdown.
"Seeing the Auburn offense was like seeing a flash. They were all over
the field," Kotwica said. Auburn had 533 yards against an Army defense
that was ranked among the nation's top 10, allowing just 256 yards per
game. That was more than the 507 Syracuse, the only ranked team Army
faced, had in a 42-17 victory.
Rusty Williams ran for an 18-yard TD on the next Auburn possession to
make it 32-7. That capped a four-play drive ignited by Craig's 49-yard
pass to Robert Baker. Army responded by going 80 yards, Demetrius Perry
scoring on a 12-yard run with 12:44 left. The Cadets got another chance
when Tom Mullins intercepted Craig's pass and raced 66 yards to the
Auburn 17. Four plays later, Bobby Williams scored on a 1-yard run to
make it 32-21.
The victory gave coach Bowden his 100th career coaching victory - 36
coming in four years at Auburn.
Craig set the tone for the game with a 48-yard pass to Tyrone Goodson
and a 14-yard run on the first two plays. But the Tigers, who drove to
the 1, had to settle for Jaret Holmes' 39-yard field goal after two
plays lost 13 yards and Craig threw an incomplete pass. On Auburn's
second drive, Craig completed four passes for 77 yards, including a
30-yard touchdown pass to Goodson for a 10-0 lead. Craig later found
Willie Gosha, who had a bowl-record 10 catches, for a 7-yard TD that
extended Auburn's lead to 17-0 with 12:17 left in the first half. Holmes
kicked a 49-yard field goal with 3:15 left, ending a 15-play drive that
covered 44 yards.
Army finally got on the board when Bobby Williams scored on a 3-yard run
with 1:15 left in the first half.
AU- FG Holmes 31
AU- Goodson 30 pass from Craig (Holmes kick)
AU- Gosha 7 pass from Craig (Holmes kick)
AU- FG Holmes 49
Army- B. Williams 3 run (J. Parker kick)
AU- Craig 33 run (pass failed)
AU- R.Williams 18 run (pass failed)
Army- Perry 12 run (Parker kick)
Army- B.Williams 2 run (Parker kick)
Army- Richardson 30 pass from McAda (Williams run)
Army- B.Williams 12-82, Perry 19-81, McAda 12-44, Brizic 8-29, Hewitt
AU- Craig 13-75, R.Williams 12-72
Army, McAda 10-16-148
AU- Craig 24-40-372
Army- B.Williams 3-74, Richardson 2-59, Thomas 2-14
AU- Gosha 10-132, Baker 5-104, Bailey 4-39, Goodson 2-78, Cooper 2-15