Sept. 21, 2013
BATON ROUGE, La. - In the context of one game against LSU at Tiger Stadium on a rainy Saturday night, it didn't mean a lot that Auburn gave as good as it got and even better for the last three quarters.
In that context, it didn't mean a lot that, after falling behind 21-0, Auburn outscored, outhit and outplayed the nation's No. 6 team and had designs on winning until the very end. What mattered on Saturday night was that LSU beat Auburn 35-21.
But, going forward, for this Auburn football team and this Auburn football program, what happened Saturday night was immensely important.
Three times last season Auburn fell behind by 21 points. The results were a 63-21 loss to Texas A&M, a 38-0 loss to Georgia and a 49-0 loss to Alabama.
It wasn't going to be that way Saturday night. these players wouldn't have it.
You can wonder why they didn't play better in the first quarter. You can wonder why there were so many mistakes. You can wonder a lot of things. But no one who watched Saturday night's game can question these Tigers' will or their belief in themselves, their teammates and their coaches.
When it was time to give up, they fought harder. When it seemed hopeless, they held on to hope. No, they didn't win. But they were convinced they could have and even should have. They'll replay it in their minds over and over. What if there had not been a dropped snap in punt formation? What if there had not been a lost fumble when they had made a first down on fourth-and-two? What if they'd adjusted their defense a little quicker after LSU running back Jeremy Hill ran and ran and ran in the first quarter.
What if replay officials had not overturned a call that looked too close to overturn after Auburn recovered an onsides kick in the fourth quarter? What if a false start penalty had not stymied a late drive inside the LSU 5?
Yes, they were disappointed. But their confidence wasn't shaken. They came here believing they were going to win. And they left believing that they didn't win because, at times, they didn't play well enough but not because they weren't good enough.
For all the misfires that ultimately proved costly, a lot of good things happened on Saturday night. In his first road game, quarterback Nick Marshall rebounded from a rough first half to pass for 224 yards. He and Sammie Coates became a long-distance connection. Coates caught four passes for 139 yards.
Tre Mason showed again that he is an elite running back, rushing 26 times for 132 yards and two touchdowns.
After defensive coordinator Ellis Johnson adjusted the defensive front, LSU's inside running game got little done. Running back Jeremy Hill had just 32 of his 184 yards in the second half. Sophomore linebacker Cassanova McKinzy had perhaps the best game of his career, making eight tackles with 1 ½ sacks and 2 ½ tackles for loss.
Auburn's offense ran 85 plays, 48 in the second half. Auburn had an eye-popping 333 yards in the second half and finished with 437. At the end, it was LSU's defense that was gassed and holding on for dear life.
A loss is a loss. The Tigers wanted to be 4-0 going into their open date, but they are 3-1. But they'll go forward with hope and with the belief that happy days are coming again.
Phillip Marshall is a Senior Writer for AuburnTigers.com. Follow Marshall on Twitter: