By Charles Goldberg
NEW ORLEANS — Gus Malzahn said Monday's 35-19 Sugar Bowl loss to Oklahoma was tough for his seniors and disappointing for the fans, and not even a fast start could change that.
The Sugar Bowl eventually turned into a bad break for Auburn, especially after quarterback Sean White suffered a broken forearm while leading the Tigers to a quick touchdown on the first series of the game. Auburn didn't score another touchdown until the last play of the game.
"I've got a locker room full of disappointed players," Malzahn said.
Auburn was something of a surprise Sugar Bowl participant. "I think," Malzahn said, "we were picked last or next to last in the SEC."
Auburn didn't finish there. The Tigers tied for the second-best regular-season record in the league, and finished with a 9-5 record. Three of Auburn's losses: To No. 1 Alabama, No. 2 Clemson and to Top 10 Oklahoma, which won its 10th straight game in the Sugar Bowl.
"We played a very tough schedule. We had some tough injuries," Malzahn said. "I guess probably the best way (to describe the season) is we overcame a lot of obstacles to get here. We are disappointed we didn't win.
"We're losing some great leadership, but we have got a bunch of talented young guys."
The game story
Auburn won six consecutive games in the middle of the season.
"We had ups and downs," said running back Kerryon Johnson. "We started 1-2, made it to the Sugar Bowl. Obviously, it didn't turn out the way we wanted it to. But I tell you that no one on our team is a quitter, which I don't think you can say about a ton of teams."
Auburn was hoping White would provide an offensive spark after suffering a second shoulder injury against Georgia and missing the last two regular-season games. He lasted 13 plays before suffering a broken arm Monday night.
White tried to play after breaking his arm, but finally gave way to the injury. Backup quarterback John Franklin III suffered an arm injury in the second quarter and lost his feeling for the football before giving way to Jeremy Johnson. Rudy Ford, Auburn's leading tackler in the two previous seasons, didn't dress out because of an ankle injury. Senior wide receiver Marcus Davis didn't play because of a shoulder injury.
Malzahn called White's injury "a big blow."
"We were excited that he was back. But John, we felt like he could be efficient running the offense. And then he had his arm issue. Overall, it was a tough night at the quarterback position."
It didn't start that way, not when Auburn went 75 yards on 14 plays for a 7-0 lead.
"Looking at the game, the first half, I thought at times we played well," Malzahn said. "What stands out to me, we had a couple of uncharacteristic penalties."
Auburn, even with the injuries, trailed only 14-13 at halftime.
"I really think the key to the game was the third quarter," Malzahn said. "That's when they distanced themselves from us. Their offense had a couple big drives. But, overall, it's a very tough loss. I'm proud of our seniors. We have got a bunch of guys back. We've got a bunch of young guys that will learn from this experience."
Charles Goldberg is a Senior Writer at AuburnTigers.com. Follow him on Twitter: Follow @AUGoldMine