The missed chances came early, the big plays too late.
No. 9 Virginia Tech squandered two gimme scoring opportunities, including a chip-shot field goal, in the loss to Auburn.
The Hokies (10-3) wound up outgaining Auburn 375-299, including a 299-189 advantage in the air. But most of that came when they were playing catchup. If they could have gotten their offense in gear earlier, they would have given Auburn a heck of a game.
Virginia Tech had eight plays inside the 10-yard line through the first 58 minutes, but came away empty-handed every time. The miscues included an interception, a shanked 23-yard field goal attempt, and a dropped pass in the end zone.
Despite giving up two touchdown passes in the final minutes, Auburn could still lay claim as the nation's No. 1 team in scoring defense.
MANNING AWARD: The Sugar Bowl has come up with a novel idea for a college football award: wait until after the bowl games. The first Manning Award will be given to the nation's top quarterback on Wednesday. It's named after New Orleans' first family of football, Archie Manning and sons Eli and Peyton.
Auburn's Jason Campbell was among the 10 finalists, and Archie Manning said he voted for Virginia Tech's Bryan Randall, but he didn't make the list.
The other finalists: Miami's Brock Berlin, Georgia's David Greene, Florida's Chris Leak, Louisville's Stefan LeFors, Southern California's Matt Leinart, Purdue's Kyle Orton, California's Aaron Rodgers, Utah's Alex Smith and Oklahoma's Jason White.
_ TIMES WIRES