Looking back: Auburn's four previous trips to the SEC Championship game

rblack@ledger-enquirer.comDecember 6, 2013 

Editor's note: Saturday marks Auburn's fifth appearance in the SEC Championship game. On that note, beat writer Ryan Black looks back at the school's four previous trips to Atlanta for the league title tilt.

1997

Tennessee 30, Auburn 29

Date: Dec. 6, 1997

Key stat: 6; number of turnovers for Tennessee (four fumbles, two interceptions)

Key player: Tennessee quarterback Peyton Manning tossed two interceptions, but overcame that (and four lost fumbles) by completing 25 of his 43 attempts for 373 yards and four touchdowns, landing him the game’s most valuable player award.

The game was decided when: Manning hit Marcus Nash on a 73-yard scoring strike early in the fourth quarter, which gave the Volunteers the final touchdown of the contest. Tennessee got on the board first via a 40-yard touchdown pass from Manning to Peerless Price before Auburn scored 20 unanswered points. From there, the Tigers extended their lead to 27-17 before the Volunteers rallied.

2000

Florida 28, Auburn 6

Date: Dec. 2, 2000

Key stat: 47; Tiger running back Rudi Johnson, the SEC Player of the Year, had just 47 rushing yards on 17 carries

Key player: True freshman signal-caller Rex Grossman picked Auburn’s defense apart, tossing four touchdowns while completing 65.4 percent (17-for-26) of his passes.

The game was decided when: Grossman connected with fellow freshman Jabar Gaffney in the end zone on a 27-yard touchdown in the second quarter, upping the Gators’ advantage to 21-0. While Auburn moved the ball against Florida’s defense — finishing with 328 total yards — it couldn’t find a way into the end zone, managing just a pair of field goals by Damon Duval.

2004

Auburn 38, Tennessee 28

Date: Dec. 4, 2004

Key stat: 431; Auburn’s Jason Campbell set an SEC Championship record by accounting for 431 total yards (374 passing, 57 rushing).

Key player: As noted above, Campbell ran and threw with equal success against the Volunteers’ defense. The 374 passing yards marked the first time the senior signal-caller had thrown for more than 300 yards in a single game.

The game was decided when: Campbell hooked up with Ben Obomanu on a 43-yard score with 6:56 to play. That gave the Tigers a two-possession lead at 38-28, which helped Tommy Tuberville’s squad move to 12-0 and capture the school’s first conference title in 15 years.

2010

Auburn 56, South Carolina 17

Date: Dec. 4, 2010

Key stat: 56; The Tigers’ 56 points set an SEC Championship game record, bettering the 45 Florida scored in the 1996 title tilt against Alabama.

Key player: Cam Newton — who else? The eventual Heisman Trophy was at the peak of his powers, passing for a career-high 335 yards (and four touchdowns) and adding two more scores on the ground to spearhead the Tigers’ rout.

The game was decided when: Darvin Adams caught Newton’s tipped 54-yard Hail Mary pass in the end zone as time expired in the first half. That pushed Auburn’s lead to 28-14. The Tigers scored three more touchdowns before the Gamecocks got on the board again. By then, the game was all but over, as the top-ranked Tigers clinched their spot in the BCS Championship game versus No. 2 Oregon.

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