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A Dizzying Day in Tampa: Auburn 38, Northwestern 35 (OT)

Join our SEC Bowl Weekend Open Thread, already in progress.

The quick recap: 1,044 yards of offense, 53 first downs, 164 penalty yards, nine turnovers, 111 pass attempts, three blocked or missed kicks and one potentially stupid call.

I say "potentially" because we don't know Northwestern's backup kicker as well as Pat Fitzgerald does, so the Wildcats' best chance at a win might have been the fake field goal that Auburn anticipated so well that it never had a chance. Even if it was a bad decision, though, Northwestern was simply repaying the Tigers for a series of blunders that very nearly cost Auburn the first bowl win of the Gene Chizik Era.

Those mistakes didn't begin with the roughing the kicker call on a missed field goal by Northwestern in overtime. Auburn led 21-7 at halftime; Northwestern tied it. The Tigers then took a 35-21 lead with seven and a half minutes left in the fourth quarter; the Wildcats scored twice to even things.

And the defense was hardly impressive. Aside from the five interceptions -- and, yes, I realize how ridiculous it is to say that -- Northwestern QB Mike Kafka was 47-of-73 for 532 yards and 4 TDs. Of course, the interceptions count, but a secondary has to be able to do more than that to win consistently.

That said, a win is a win and in this case a resounding answer to those (like your humble correspondent) who had questioned whether Auburn had any business being in this game. It also completes a nice turnaround for Gene Chizik's first season on the Plains and sets a high standard for the encore. The Tigers will have to commit far fewer mistakes than they made Friday to meet it.