By Charles Goldberg
NEW ORLEANS – Sean White looked the x-ray and knew he was in trouble. Another injury, for sure, and this time a broken forearm coming weeks after he had overcome a troublesome shoulder.
He didn't want to believe it, but there it was, in black and white.
"I was, 'You've got be kidding me.' I could see it even before they told me," said the Auburn quarterback, whose Sugar Bowl and season ended too soon Monday night. Oklahoma beat Auburn 35-19 after White led the Tigers to a quick score, but he suffered the broken forearm trying to run it from in close.
"It's part of the game, and I'm going to bounce back," White said.
White was 2-of-2 passing in the first drive, an impressive 14-play march that resulted in a 7-0 lead. But he broke his forearm on play 13. He finished hitting four of his 10 passes.
He had not thrown a pass, and hadn't even played, in the previous two games as he tried to nurse a bad shoulder back to health. He and coach Gus Malzahn said White did. But another injury ended his night, though the tough-minded White tried to play on.
"I thought it was just a bruise, banged up a little bit," White said.
But his passes were missing, and a short one to Kerryon Johnson told the story.
"I really knew when a couple of my throws weren't going where I wanted them, especially on a little swing pass to Kerryon. It went straight into the ground," White said. "I knew something wasn't right. I went to the coaches and the trainers. I had told them before, but then 'something really isn't right.' They checked it out, x-rayed it and figured out I broke the forearm."
"Obviously," Malzahn said, "it's a big blow. We were excited that he was back." White was back, then wasn't. Then backup John Franklin III was hit on the arm and eventually lost the feel for the football. Auburn called on Jeremy Johnson to finish up.
White, who led the Southeastern Conference in passing efficiency before the injuries slowed him, finished the season hitting 133 of 208 passes for 1,679 yards. Auburn won six straight games in the middle of the season when he and the Tigers were at their best. But even White had to fight through a shoulder injury in that stretch when he suffered an injury in the eighth game of the year. He reinjured the shoulder against Georgia in the 11th game, and, like Monday, kept trying to play.
"I was just trying to be out there for my teammates. I just love playing with them so much," White said. "I wanted to be out there for them. If I could play, I wanted to play, but, unfortunately, I wasn't able to."
Auburn had been careful, holding him out against Alabama A&M, then Alabama.
"I finally felt I was 100 percent again from my shoulder injury and I was ready," White said. "The first drive went so well. We drove right now the field. We got up 7-0.
"It's just a real bummer. There's no other word I have for it."
Auburn's Sean White says he suffered broken arm on first series, but tried to keep playing. 'Just trying to be out there for my teammates.' pic.twitter.com/edubKgrKdT
— Auburn Gold Mine (@AUGoldMine) January 3, 2017
White, as usual, tried until the x-ray and the medical staff told him to sit down.
"The adrenalin was going. I felt it, but I thought it was just a bruise because I could still throw 10 yards. I didn't think I broke it. 'It's hurting, but I think I'm good. I don't think it's anything bad. It's just a little banged up.' But as the game went on, I saw my throws weren't really going where I wanted them to."
That summed up Auburn's year, too. The Tigers were good, played in one of the New Year's Six bowls, but injuries were not kind.
"It's been real tough. There's been some good high points, obviously, but I feel like 'what could have been,'" White said. "I'm going to have to do whatever I can in the offseason to not only fix this, but to stay healthy for next year. Whatever it takes. I feel like some freak things happened that I couldn't really control, but, at the same time, I need to take the weight room serious, stretching serious and do whatever it takes."
Charles Goldberg is a Senior Writer at AuburnTigers.com. Follow him on Twitter: Follow @AUGoldMine