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A spirit that is not afraid

Joey Gatewood stays patient, delivers when number is called in win over Oregon

<p>Joey Gatewood (1) leaps for a touchdown during Auburn vs. Oregon on Aug. 31, 2019, in Arlington, Texas.</p>

Joey Gatewood (1) leaps for a touchdown during Auburn vs. Oregon on Aug. 31, 2019, in Arlington, Texas.

ARLINGTON, Texas — Joey Gatewood saw the play coming. It was months in the works.

In the offseason Gus Malzahn told reporters that, with him taking over play-calling again for Auburn's offense, he occasionally would study film from the 2010 or 2013 seasons in an attempt to reanalyze and recapture some of his best sellers from the playbook.

The offense got around to Cam Newton film eventually — more specifically, his red-zone prowess. Malzahn made sure to nudge redshirt freshman quarterback Joey Gatewood, whose 6-foot-5, 240-pound frame closely resembles the Tigers' Heisman winner.

Gatewood watched Newton soar over the top of defenses — the SuperCam, some called it — and was told by Malzahn that his time would come to replicate it: I'm bringing this play out of the archives.

When Auburn needed Gatewood most, Malzahn made good on his promise. On first-and-goal inside the 1-yard line, Gatewood took the snap from a heavy set and leaped, extending both arms to push the nose of the ball into the end-zone. The score brought the No. 16 Tigers within a point during their 15-point second-half comeback in a 27-21 win over No. 11 Oregon on Saturday.

After Malzahn and teammates said in the offseason that Gatewood would surely have an involved role in the offense, the touchdown was Gatewood's only snap of the night. He said he wasn't restless on the sidelines, though. Malzahn went over to him multiple times during the game and told him to stay ready.

"[Malzahn] emphasizes it. Knowing how it goes and how anything could happen, I'm prepared," Gatewood said. "I come prepared every day.

"... It meant a lot to me, because I know it meant a lot to my teammates and I know it meant a lot to this university. So it meant a lot to me."

True freshman Bo Nix, who threw a game-winning touchdown with nine seconds left, was named the starter by Malzahn on Aug. 20. It was, at first, admittedly difficult for Gatewood to get over losing the quarterback battle, but he quickly adopted and embraced his new role.

"I know I'm going to have my opportunity to help this team, and whatever time that comes, I'm here," Gatewood said. "I'm here for them 100 percent behind this team and Bo. I support Bo a lot."

Hypothetically, Gatewood's playing time could increase significantly over the next two weeks as Auburn faces two Group of 5 foes in Tulane and Kent State at home. The Tigers' next big test comes Week 4 at Texas A&M.

For now, Gatewood is just happy his score helped Auburn complete the comeback in Week 1's top matchup.

"It's big," Gatewood said. "It's big for the University, it's big for our program and it's big to me. It means a lot just helping this team in any way I can, just contribute, and when my opportunity comes, I'm here."

Nathan King | Sports Editor

Nathan King, senior in journalism with a minor in business, is The Plainsman's sports editor.

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