How ironic that Saturday afternoon started by honoring a group of men who 40 years ago, accomplished more with less than any team in Auburn history. In a span of three hours, Auburn went from Amazin to plain tragic.
With a week off to rest and prepare for arguably the worst team in the SEC, Auburn was expected to embark on the road to redemption. It was a fresh opportunity to run the table in October and get itself back into the bowl discussion.
Fast forward 48 hours and now all the talk surrounds whether the 2010 National Coach of the Year should be given another season to right the ship. Not since a dreary day in New York back in 1929 have we seen fortunes drop so fast.
It’s impossible to put into words the systematic failure of this program over the past two years. Perhaps these numbers from Stat Tiger over at AuFamily.com sum it up best:
- Auburn has scored a total of 15 offensive touchdowns during their last 10 conference games and 5 of those came against Ole Miss last season.
- Auburn’s opponent has averaged more yards on first down plays (than AU) in 17 of the last 22 games, which includes 10 of the last 11 games.
- In only two of Auburn’s last 16 games, have they registered more tackles for loss than their opponent. Their opponent has consistently won the line of scrimmage.
- During the 28 conference games under Gene Chizik, Auburn has recorded more tackles for loss than their opponent only 5 times.
- In 9 of their last 16 games, Auburn has been shutout during the 4th quarter.
- During the past two seasons, Auburn has been outscored in the second quarter, 146 to 67 and 100 to 54 during the 4th quarter.
Auburn is on the cusp of hitting numbers not seen in East Alabama since the 1950’s. Only four other Auburn teams have started the year 1-4; and none of them went on to win more than four games in those seasons.
How can a program sink so fast?
It’s a question being asked in every corner of the state today. There are no easy answers. Simply crediting Cam Newton and Nick Fairley for 2010 is neither fair nor accurate. This staff deserves to be judged for their entire tenure at Auburn.
Gene Chizik deserves credit for 2010 more than anyone else. He also deserves the blame for 2012, which brings us back to now.
While the words “Auburn Defense” and “great” will never be used in the same sentence, Brian VanGorder’s unit is not the reason Auburn sits at the bottom of the SEC.
Chizik’s choice of Scott Loeffler as offensive coordinator may end up being his Waterloo.
It was a bold risk. Loeffler brought a reputation of developing quarterbacks, including Tom Brady and Tim Tebow. What he lacked was significant coaching experience at the highest level.
Six weeks in, Loeffler has proven to be a failure at getting any quarterback ready and his management skills are now being called into question. To say he’s likely one-and-done at Auburn is an understatement.
The bigger question about Chizik’s future remains.
Speaking to David Housel in this week’s Auburn Football Illustrated column, former Auburn great and member of the 1972 Amazin’s team, Terry Henley, talked about Coach Jordan and their desire to be more than most thought they could be a year after Pat Sullivan and Terry Beasley departed.
“Looking back at the roster, reading over those names brings back laughter and chills,” said Henley.
“Stepping into the huddle in Jackson, Mississippi, on a hot September night with seven players that had never been in an SEC game and a quarterback with his jersey on backwards, it was truly amazing that Coach Jordan could get us all there by game time.
“But one thing about it, when that ball was snapped we were going to knock the hell out of somebody.”
Such a simple concept. But these days, it seems so hard to do.
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