By Charles Goldberg
TUSCALOOSA, Ala. -- Auburn's Gus Malzahn said his players and coaches were hurting emotionally after losing to Alabama. Some were still hurting physically as well.
Auburn's banged-up offense couldn't find the rhythm without injured starting quarterback Sean White and fell 30-12 in the Iron Bowl on Saturday in Bryant-Denny Stadium.
"We really expect to play better than we did," Malzahn said.
Auburn started the season 1-2, but then won six straight. "Our guys really rebounded," Malzahn said. But Auburn but was slowed the final three weeks in losses to Georgia and Alabama with a rash of injuries. Auburn held out nine players just last week. Most came back for Alabama, but Auburn wore down in the second half.
The Tigers will take an 8-4 record into its bowl game.
"We got a little got banged up a couple of weeks ago. We had some of our key guys who weren't there or weren't 100 percent," Malzahn said. "We didn't do a very good job two weeks ago, and, obviously, we didn't do a very good job today. But we have a really young team. We have a lot of talented young guys. We're going to be really good in the future, so this is one of those growing years of ups and downs.
"We didn't get it done. I still really love our team."
White didn't take a snap, giving way to Jeremy Johnson and John Franklin III. And though White dressed out, he was to available to play in only an "emergency, emergency-type deal." Malzahn said he's not even sure White will be available for Auburn's bowl game. Running back Kamryn Pettway, who had rushed for 1,106 yards in eight games, had only 17 yards rushing as he came back from a leg injury that cost him the previous two games.
Receiver Marcus Davis is hurt and is out. Defensive back Josh Holsey didn't play because of an injury. Auburn played three reserves in the secondary at one point as players left with injuries but returned.
The injuries, Malzahn said, were just part of the game.
"That's no excuse. We've got to get it done," he said.
The Tigers ran only 20 plays in the first half, only 45 in the game. Malzahn said the problem wasn't any one player.
"We had a couple of opportunities. We didn't seize the moment," he said.
Auburn had only 31 yards of offense in the first half, yet trailed only 13-9.
"We felt pretty good," Malzahn said. "We felt like we played about as bad as you can play offensively and we still had a chance. We were still in the game and we had the ball coming out the second half. Our defense played outstanding."
Auburn, the SEC's top rushing team, finished with only 66 yards on the ground. The passing game was sporadic as well. Malzahn said White practice and tried to prepare himself to play.
"We just had to make the decision how healthy he was," Malzahn said. "We just didn't feel like he was healthy enough to play. Jeremy had a good week last week. He had a good week of practice. Our plan was to play Jeremy and to play John. We wanted to play John more. Toward the end of the game, we felt like we needed a spark, and John did a good job with that. He moved us down the field a couple of times."
Franklin was 2-of-4 passing for 85 yards and had three carries for 14 yards.
"Our plan was to play John more. We felt like he could give us a different dynamic," Malzahn said.
Running back Kerryon Johnson said he's OK with the future, but "I'm looking forward to right now. I want to win every game we play today, tomorrow last week, next week, bowl game. I don't look forward to the future. I look forward to what we're doing right now."
Charles Goldberg is a Senior Writer at AuburnTigers.com. Follow him on Twitter: Follow @AUGoldMine
'This was a tough one,' says Auburn's Gus Malzahn after Iron Bowl loss. Video pic.twitter.com/L1d1AQLUGs
-- Auburn Gold Mine (@AUGoldMine) November 27, 2016