AUBURN, ALA., SEPT. 29 -- When Tennessee kicker Greg Burke's 34-yard field goal attempt with 15 seconds left in tonight's game sailed to the left of the uprights, it left the Volunteers with a sense of loss and Auburn with a small taste of victory.
Somewhere in between those reactions, the two Southeastern Conference teams tied, 26-26, in front of 85,214 at Jordan-Hare Stadium.
Auburn trailed by 15 in the opening seconds of the fourth quarter, before freshman quarterback Stan White rallied the Tigers with his passing.
White completed 30 of 58 passes for 338 yards and three touchdowns with all three in the second half. The final one allowed Auburn to tie the game. With 1 minute 56 seconds left, White passed into the end zone where wide receiver Greg Taylor stepped in front of free safety Dale Carter and stole the ball for an 11-yard touchdown. That cut Tennessee's lead to one point, but Auburn Coach Pat Dye decided not to go for the two-point conversion. A tie game meant each team would have a 1-0-1 league record and stay in contention for the SEC championship, a title both shared last year along with Alabama. Auburn got the tie when Jim Von Wyl's extra-point kick was good.
The game was far from over. With quarterback Andy Kelly leading the way, the Volunteers marched down the field and set up an opportunity for Burke to win the game with a field goal. Burke had already kicked field goals from 35 and 32 yards, but this one didn't hit the mark. It sailed to the left, taking Tennessee's last chance to win with it.
The final result left the Volunteers (3-0-2) and Tigers (2-0-1) with opposite reactions.
"This is hard to accept," Tennessee offensive tackle Antone Davis said. "We felt we had the game won. I know the record book will show a tie, but I consider this a loss."
The Tigers don't.
"It feels like a win after all we went through," Auburn running back James Joseph said. "We showed that we can come back against a great team."
Auburn fell behind by 19-3 at halftime.
The Tigers got going when White hit Taylor in the left corner of the end zone for a 34-yard touchdown with 5:35 left in the third quarter. Auburn's two-point attempt failed when White's pass fell incomplete.
The Volunteers then moved 45 yards on nine plays, until Auburn appeared to stop the drive. Burke's 48-yard field goal attempt was blocked by Auburn defensive tackle Mike Campbell, but Tennessee got a second chance and 15 yards when cornerback Corey Barlow slid into Burke and was flagged for roughing the kicker. Tennessee took quick advantage of its second chance when fullback Greg Amsler took an option pitch from Kelly and ran seven yards for a touchdown. Five seconds into the fourth quarter, Tennessee led, 26-9, and appeared to have all the momentum.
Auburn produced a 25-yard field goal by Von Wyl, chipping Tennessee's lead to 26-12.
White, a redshirt freshman playing in his third college game, then passed the Tigers down the field against a heavy Tennessee rush and pulled the Tigers within seven points when he passed to wide receiver Dale Overton for a 13-yard touchdown. With 8:25 left, Auburn found itself trailing by 26-19.
"We never felt like we were out of it," said White. "We knew we had a chance."
White passed the Tigers down the field to Tennessee's 11, where Auburn seemed to stall with three straight incompletions. On fourth down, White dropped back under heavy pressure, but found Taylor cutting in under Carter for the touchdown.
Dye decided immediately to go for the tie. "Our players played too hard to come away with a loss," he said.
Tennessee already had one tie this season, when it rallied for a 31-31 score with Colorado in its opener.
"This tie is more disappointing," Volunteers defensive tackle Mark Moore said, "because this is in our conference. I just can't believe it. This one hurts."