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January 1, 2007

Notes: Irons falls short of talk, still wins

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MORE: No second-guessing for Callahan | Game story
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DALLAS In the days leading up to the Cotton Bowl, Auburn tailback Kenny Irons irked Nebraska defensive players by boasting about the Tigers' running game.

At least Nebraska, which fell 17-14 on Monday, won that argument.

The Cornhuskers limited Auburn to just 67 rushing yards on 35 attempts for an average of 1.9 yards per carry.

Irons was held to 72 yards on 24 carries.

"Obviously, our goal coming into the game was stopping the run and making (Auburn quarterback Brandon) Cox beat us with his arm," Nebraska linebacker Stewart Bradley said. "I thought we did a great job of that. Actually, most of the game we did it."

Added defensive end Adam Carriker : "They're a running team. They like to run the ball. They've got a big line. We were going to try to make them throw the ball a little bit, and for the most part we were pretty successful."

Most Valuable Players

Auburn receiver Courtney Taylor was named the Cotton Bowl's offensive most valuable player, while Tigers linebacker Will Herring was selected the defensive MVP.

Taylor had six catches for 70 yards, which might have seemed like a pedestrian output - except that accounted for more than 60 percent of Auburn's 111 passing yards.

Herring posted seven tackles, including two for losses.

Taylor-made record

Taylor's six catches raised his career total to 153, which set an Auburn record.

Taylor broke the previous record of 150 career receptions held by Karsten Bailey (1995-98).

"The opportunity to even break any kind of record is an honor," Taylor said. "I thank God for everything and I thank this man to my right (quarterback Brandon Cox) for getting the ball to me. I told him he's going to be driving an Escalade, but that's against the NCAA rules so he's going to have to wait awhile with that."

Taylor also got a catch that didn't count. An official threw a penalty flag that went inside his face mask.

"I think that was my best catch of the day," he said. "But you've got to thank the referee. He did a great job of throwing it, too."

Out of range

Nebraska coach Bill Callahan said a potentially game-tying 47-yard field goal was out of kicker Jordan Congdon's range, but would not reveal what he felt would have been an acceptable distance.

Instead, Nebraska went for the first down on fourth-and-11. Zac Taylor's pass went incomplete.

"I just keep that between me and the team, and I'm just telling you that it was out of range and that's what we decided as a staff," Callahan said. "He knew exactly what the cutoff was and the staff knew. Everybody was on the same page, and that's a decision that we live with."

Auburn coach Tommy Tuberville said he understood Callahan's decision not to attempt the 47-yard field goal.

"I don't think the kid (Congdon) had kicked a 40-yard field goal (this season)," Tuberville said. "That was his longest all year, and if I'm not mistaken that would have been pretty much over 45 or 50 yards into the wind. Wind was blowing out there a little bit harder than what you would think if you weren't down there. We had trouble kicking into that direction also."

Congdon's longest field goal this season was from 38 yards.

Good, but not good enough

Nebraska defensive end Jay Moore said he felt the Cornhuskers defense proved superior to the Auburn offense.

"I just felt like they couldn't do anything," Moore said. "They got 17 points, but two (scores) came when they got the ball at the 10-yard line. So really, they got three points on us. We played one of our best games, really."

Auburn's two touchdowns came after turnovers that put the Tigers at the Nebraska 9- and 14-yard lines.

After further review

Tuberville was annoyed that a controversial play in which receiver Lee Guess was ruled out of bounds on a possible touchdown pass was not reviewed by replay officials.

"The replay's got to be used a lot better than that," Tuberville said. "Everybody in the stadium saw that and surely the (replay official) has got 10 screens around him and can see it.

"But we have to train our guys better. There's been some problems this year with instant replay and guys in the booth. You don't have to be a rocket scientist to be a replay guy. All you've got to do is look at the screen."


Nebraska converted its first three third-down situations, but finished 5-for-14. Auburn was four of 12 on third down. Patrick Lee started at right cornerback for Auburn in place of Jonathan Wilhite. Tuberville is 6-3 in nine all-time bowl appearances as a head coach, and 4-3 at Auburn. It was also his 100th game as Auburn coach. His record is 71-29 in that span. Auburn's senior class has 41 victories over the last four seasons. Nebraska was making its fourth appearance in the Cotton Bowl and the first since 1980 when the Cornhuskers lost to Houston, also by a 17-14 score. Nebraska I-back Marlon Lucky rushed for 88 yards, which was his highest output since getting 156 against Troy on Sept. 23. Lucky also caught a career-high six passes against Nebraska. Cornhuskers defensive end Adam Carriker recorded a sack to extend his career total to 20, the sixth most in Nebraska history. He also finished with 41 tackles for losses, the fifth most all-time for the Cornhuskers. Linebacker Stewart Bradley recorded his team-leading fourth fumble recovery of the season.

For more coverage of Auburn, visit AuburnSports.com; for more on Nebraska, visit HuskersIllustrated.com.

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