Auburn freshman Stan White went into Saturday's fog-shrouded Peach Bowl looking for redemption for the way he and his teammates had played during the closing month of the regular season when they lost three of their last four games.
He got it as he ran for his second touchdown of the game on a quarterback keeper with 39 seconds remaining to give the Tigers a 27-23 victory over the Indiana Hoosiers.White, who threw for 351 yards and a passing TD in addition to his two rushing scores, rallied the Tigers back from a 23-20 deficit. He faked to a running back on a fourth-and-goal at the Indiana 1-foot line, then dashed left to surprise the Hoosiers defense.
"I think it was a good confidence builder for the whole team," White said. "No one wants to go out losing four of their last five. We look at this as the beginning of next season."
The Hoosiers, 9-point underdogs, had battled back from a 20-10 deficit in the final quarter. Sophomore quarterback Trent Green, who also scored on a 3-yard run in the first quarter, scored on runs of 2 and 11 yards to put Indiana ahead 23-20 with 2:27 left to play.
Auburn marched 72 yards after the ensuing kickoff, all but five on the passing of White, who had one stretch of five straight completions in the drive.
"We were confident we could pull it out," White said. "We had two minutes and three time-outs left and felt we were in a good position."
With a first down at the Indiana 5 with 1:04 remaining, the Tigers had an incomplete pass and two runs totaling 42/3 yards before White scored.
"I was confident our defense could hold them," Indiana safety Mike Dumas said in review of the winning drive. "We had them stopped (third-and-10 at the Auburn 28) and then just had a mental breakdown. They got a big play (a 28-yard completion) and just broke our back."
White had a big first half, completing 14 of 17 passes for 191 yards before missing on his last five just before halftime. He scored on a 6-yard run to cap an 80-yard game-opening drive and threw an 11-yard TD pass to Alex Smith early in the second quarter while helping the Tigers build a 17-10 first-half lead.
The 8-3-1 Tigers appeared set to blow the Hoosiers out of Atlanta Stadium with the 80-yard march after the opening kickoff. After taking a 7-0 lead on White's scamper around the right side, Auburn bogged down.
But the Hoosiers, after losing 16 yards on their first possession, drove 73 yards on their second with Green scoring the first of his three touchdowns from 3 yards out as the first quarter ended.
Auburn regained the lead, 14-7, three minutes into the second quarter when White connected with Smith. He set up the play with a 48-yard throw to Herbert Casey.
Indiana closed within 14-10 six minutes later on a 42-yard Scott Bonnell field goal but missed another scoring opportunity after recovering a fumble at the Auburn 24 on the ensuing kickoff.
Bonnell was wide on a 39-yard field goal attempt and the Tigers quickly moved 61 yards before Jim Von Wyl kicked a 26-yard field goal for a 17-10 lead with 1:23 left in the first half.
The Tigers took over on the Indiana 24 with 18 seconds remaining in the first half after a blocked punt but White's three passes were all off target and Von Wyl was short on a 41-yard field goal try just before the half ended.
"We really thought the game would be close," said Auburn Coach Pat Dye. "Indiana is a team that makes few mistakes. It was a big win for us because when expectations are high (for a better season than the Tigers had) and you fall short, it doesn't make things any easier."
After a scoreless third quarter, Auburn, which set a Peach Bowl record with a dozen penalties, got on the board 3 1-2 minutes into the final period with Von Wyl's 43-yard kick.
Indiana struck back with a 64 yard drive, mainly on Green's passing, and cut the margin to 20-16 when Green scored from 2 yards out with 6:32 left.
A fumble recovery at the Auburn 29 had Indiana on the move again. Two runs by Vaugan Dunbar moved the ball to the Auburn 11 and two plays later Green faked to Dunbar and swept right to score for the third time and give the Hoosiers their only lead of the afternoon.
"We felt we could beat them and showed we could play with them," said Indiana Coach Bill Mallory. "Their offense came alive today. White had shown the potential, but put it together today. They were able to be productive with their passing."