Auburn’s Onterio McCalebb had a season-high 109 rushing yards and was 3 yards shy of a season best in receiving yards with 53 to lead Auburn to a 43-24 win over Virginia in the Chick-fil-A Bowl at the Georgia Dome.
McCalebb scored twice in the first half, the first on a 3-yard end-around run on a third-and-goal play, then on a 25-yard pass to put the Tigers in front 28-14 late in the second quarter.
He came up just shy of having three touchdowns at the half, as he came inches short when reaching for the pylon on a second-quarter run, leaving the final yard for Kiehl Frazier.
McCalebb gained 96 of his rushing yards and all his receiving yards in the first half. It was a stunning start for a tailback who hadn’t gotten more than 15 carries in a game this season behind bruising back Michael Dyer. But with Dyer suspended for Saturday’s game, McCalebb stepped into the feature back role and made the most of it.
Meanwhile, there was plenty of other offense to go around for both teams.
Virginia quarterback Michael Rocco was 26-of-41 for 312 yards, with one interception and two touchdowns to keep Virginia hanging around into the fourth quarter. A season-high 90 of those yards went to tailback Perry Jones, who has been a versatile threat all season but rarely to that extent, while receiver Kris Burd had a team-high 103 receiving yards.
Matching him on Auburn’s side was Emory Blake, whose junior season has been marred by a high ankle sprain that greatly limited his effectiveness. But Blake had one of his best games of the season Saturday, catching six passes and tying a season high with 108 yards.
The Tigers did nearly all of this without starting quarterback Clint Moseley, who was injured in the first quarter after completing one of four passes, and he did not return. Barrett Trotter and Frazier roughly split the snaps in his place.
It wasn’t all offense, though, particularly for Auburn, whose special teams came up with a number of big plays.
The Tigers blocked two punts — the first leading to a touchdown and the second resulting in a safety and subsequent field goal — and recovered an onside kick that also set up a touchdown drive.
In addition, the Auburn defense forced a fumble that nearly led to more points, but kicker Cody Parkey missed a 44-yard field goal.
Before the game former, North Carolina and Virginia Tech coach Bill Dooley and former Clemson and New York Giants player Terry Kinard were inducted into the Chick-fil-A Bowl Hall of Fame.
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