ATLANTA – Onterio McCalebb was motivated by speculation that the suspension of star running back Mike Dyer could take the punch out of Auburn’s running game.
He had an answer.
McCalebb scored two touchdowns and Auburn overcame the loss of quarterback Clint Moseley to set a season scoring high and beat Virginia 43-24 in the Chick-fil-A Bowl on Saturday night.
“It feels very awesome,” McCalebb said.
“A lot of people have been saying we couldn’t do it. I just let them talk,” he said.
McCalebb, who had 109 yards rushing, scored on a 3-yard run and 25-yard catch while starting for Dyer, who was suspended for an undisclosed rules violation. Tre Mason added 64 yards rushing, including a 22-yard scoring run.
Auburn also had to regroup after Moseley left with an ankle injury in the first quarter.
Barrett Trotter passed for 175 yards and a touchdown while sharing time with Kiehl Frazier, who ran for two touchdowns.
The offensive outburst came in Auburn’s last game with offensive coordinator Gus Malzahn, who has been hired as the Arkansas State coach.
“This was a breakout game for next season,” said Auburn receiver Quan Bray. “What you saw here is the future of Auburn football.”
Auburn (8-5) ran for 273 yards.
“I knew that we needed to run the ball well today as a team, and we knew we had to do that to get the win,” McCalebb said.
The Tigers also had big plays on special teams, blocking two punts and recovering an onside kick.
“We couldn’t afford to give up the field position like we did and hang in with them,” said Virginia coach Mike London.
Kris Burd caught two touchdown passes for Virginia (8-5), which held out two top defensive players, cornerback Chase Minnifield and linebacker Steve Greer, with knee injuries.
Greer was in uniform but didn’t play.
Michael Rocco completed 26 of 41 passes for 312 yards with two touchdowns and an interception for the Cavaliers.