The Louisiana-Monroe Warhawks nearly did the unthinkable again, but the Auburn Tigers narrowly escaped the upset on Saturday, pulling off a thrilling 31-28 win in overtime.
This game marks the Warhawks' second consecutive overtime thriller with an SEC opponent, having beaten the then-No. 8 Arkansas Razorbacks 34-31 at a neutral site.
Absolutely sensational once again in a loss was Warhawks quarterback Kolton Browning, who threw for 237 yards and three touchdowns while not turning the ball over. The junior dual-threat also used his legs against a seemingly confused Auburn defense, running for 58 yards and a touchdown as well.
Louisiana-Monroe went into the fourth quarter down 28-14 as the talented Tigers offense seemed on the verge of pulling away. Nevertheless, the team came roaring back, as two clutch touchdown passes from Browning sent the game to overtime.
In the extra period, a full comeback proved futile, as the Louisiana-Monroe offense stalled and kicker Justin Manton missed a 37-yard field goal.
On the subsequent drive, Auburn kicker Cody Parkey drained a 35-yarder to put the game away and give the Tigers a necessary victory.
For Auburn, this win is a massive relief. Having lost its first two games to the Clemson Tigers and Mississippi State Bulldogs, the Tigers were close to starting the season 0-3. With LSU and Arkansas on deck, an 0-5 start to 2012 was likely, barring an upset.
Considering the program just won the national championship in 2010, a loss could have set head coach Gene Chizik's hot seat ablaze. The Tigers disappointed with an 8-5 record in 2011, and his once-vaunted offense has looked anemic in the time since Cam Newton's departure.
Can Louisiana-Monroe recover from this loss?
While the running game scampered for 255 yards, Auburn quarterback Kiehl Frazier continued to struggle. The sophomore completed just 10-of-18 passes for 130 yards with a touchdown and an interception.
Despite the loss, this is yet another huge moment for Louisiana-Monroe head coach Todd Barry. These two thrillers have put his team on the national stage, and all eyes will be on his Warhawks when they face off against Baylor next week.
With a strong-willed quarterback and a confident offense, look for Louisiana-Monroe to keep making noise as a favorite in the Sun Belt Conference.