AUBURN, Ala. (AP) - Mike Dyer bulled through the line for a game-saving touchdown with 30 seconds left and defending national champion Auburn escaped with a 42-38 win over Utah State on Saturday.
The 23rd-ranked Tigers (1-0) scored twice in the final 2:07, just when it seemed like the Aggies (0-1) were poised for a stunning victory.
First-time starter Barrett Trotter hit Philip Lutzenkirchen for a 15-yard touchdown to start a Cam Newton-like comeback. Then wide receiver Emory Blake collected the onside kick to set up the game-winning drive. Trotter completed three passes and Onterio McCalebb had runs of 10 and 14 yards to push the ball near the goal line.
BCS title game MVP Dyer did the rest, ducking his head and powering through the Utah State defenders.
Poised freshman quarterback Chuckie Keeton couldn't muster a threat in the final seconds for the Aggies, who also tested Oklahoma in last year's opener.
Utah State twice led by double digits against a team clearly feeling the effects of the departures of numerous starters from last year's national champions, including defensive tackle Nick Fairley and Newton, who repeatedly led the Tigers out of big holes during their 14-0 run last season.
Only that 24-point deficit against Alabama might have been a more improbable comeback than this one from 10 points down in the final 3:38. The Tigers came in as three-touchdown favorites, but also as a question mark with 19 new starters. They managed to avoid an embarrassing opening loss against a team that has now lost 44 straight road games against Top 25 teams.
Trotter completed a solid, if otherwise unremarkable starting debut with a huge finale. He was 11 of 14 for 170 yards and two touchdowns.
Trotter marched the Tigers downfield quickly before hitting an open Lutzenkirchen to keep them alive. He followed a 13-yard completion to Travante Stallworth with a 9-yarder to McCalebb and a 7-yarder to Lutzenkirchen, one of Newton's favorite red zone targets last season.
Then, Blake came up with another big play with his midair scoop after catching a 56-yard touchdown pass in the first quarter. Auburn still wound up trailing 21-7 in the second quarter but one of the many youngsters the Tigers are relying on came up big.
Freshman Tre Mason returned a kick 97 yards to close the gap. Dyer added an 11-yard touchdown to tie it midway through the third quarter.
Josh Thompson added a 34-yard field goal and the Tigers didn't take the lead until Trotter's 39-yard touchdown to Stallworth late in the third quarter, making it 28-24.
It didn't last. Keeton faked a handoff, went left and got the nose of the ball across the goal line for a 31-28 lead with 11:20 left.
Robert Turbin then scored a 1-yard touchdown run with 3:38 left to push the lead back to 10 after Utah State coach Gary Andersen rolled the dice in a big way.
Facing fourth down deep in Auburn territory, the Aggies successfully faked a field goal, completing a pass by holder Stanley Morrison, before Turbin capped the 14-play drive.
Keeton completed 15 of 21 passes for 155 yards and ran for 24 in his debut after beating out junior college transfer Adam Kennedy. Andersen didn't announce a starter before the game.