Sept. 16, 2013
I believed and wrote in August that Auburn’s season could be divided into three four-game segments – nonconference games, tossup SEC games and SEC games in which the Tigers would be substantial underdogs. Nothing has happened to change my mind.
To have a good season, I said they needed to win the nonconference games, win at least three of the tossup games and compete like crazy in the others. To have a better than good season, they needed to win all the tossup games and find a way to win at least one of the games in which they would be substantial underdogs.
Three games into the season, Gus Malzahn’s first Auburn team is right on schedule.
The Tigers have won the only two nonconference games – over Washington State and Arkansas State – that might reasonably have been expected to be dangerous. And with last Saturday’s 24-20 win over Mississippi State, they are 1-0 in the tossup games.
Now comes one of the underdog games. On Saturday, Auburn goes to play No. 6 LSU at Tiger Stadium, where no Auburn team has won since 1999. But it goes with renewed confidence and energy, more than has been seen in these parts since early in the 2011 season.
You don’t want to have to win games the way Auburn won against Mississippi State, but once it has happened, there is no better way to do it.
The Tigers didn’t play a great game against Mississippi State. Far from it. They didn’t run the ball as well as they need to run it. Until after they fell behind on the first drive of the third quarter, they didn’t play defense like they need to play it. But with the game on the line, rookie quarterback Nick Marshall played like a veteran and the players around him followed his lead. The 88-yard drive to the winning touchdown was near-perfect execution of two-minute offense. Marshall hit 6-of-8 passes, and the two that weren’t complete should have been caught. He scrambled for an 11-yard gain on third-and-10. And it all ended with a great call, a great throw and a great catch by C.J. Uzomah.
With that throw and catch, this Auburn team continued ridding itself of the demons of 2012, when a team with good players became a team that couldn’t compete. Saturday offers another opportunity to take another big step in that cleansing process.
No, this Auburn team has not suddenly become an overwhelming force. LSU is a two-touchdown favorite, and rightly so. A loss – even a lopsided one – wouldn’t be the end of the world. But a win? That would send the message to the college football world that Auburn’s drop into the world of SEC also-rans was an aberration. And just like that, Auburn would be a contender in the West.
Watching the bizarre finish to the Wisconsin’s game at Arizona State late last Saturday brought back memories of something that happened to Auburn 17 years ago.
Auburn led Georgia 28-21 and sacked quarterback Mike Bobo as the clock moved inside 10 seconds. The game was over, or so it seemed. When Bobo went down, he let go of the ball. Auburn’s Charles Dorsey picked it up and ran the other way. The officials stopped the clock to retrieve the ball. As a result, Georgia was able to get off one more play and Bobo threw a touchdown pass to tie the game. Georgia won 56-49 in four overtimes.
At Arizona State, with Wisconsin in easy field goal range in a two-point game, Pac-12 officials didn’t stop the clock, though Arizona State players were lying on the ball after the whistle had blown. Time ran out before Wisconsin could spike the ball and Arizona State won a game it probably had no business winning just like Georgia did on that night at Jordan-Hare Stadium. …
Last Saturday’s games showed again that this is not your father’s SEC. Auburn gave up 415 yards to Mississippi State. Six SEC teams gave up more, including four that gave up 568 yards or more. Those numbers are courtesy of our own Charles Goldberg. …
I’ve offered my share of criticism of how Texas A&M quarterback Johnny Manziel has conducted himself off the field, but my goodness, that young man can play football. If you don’t like watching him play, you don’t like the game. …
Until next time …
Phillip Marshall is a Senior Writer for AuburnTigers.com. Follow Marshall on Twitter: