A Bitter End to a Remarkable Season
USA TODAY Sports
The season ends with a whimper. The team didn’t want to be there, and neither did the fans—even the ones that showed up to the game. It was pretty apparent from the minute I entered the gates which side was more grateful to be in the building that day.
And frankly, I can’t blame Auburn fans. This was a season that could have and should have ended, at the very least, in Pasadena. But it didn’t, and instead Auburn fans had to witness the nightmare of New Year’s Day 2018—the worst day of football outcomes in my lifetime, rivaled only by December 2, 2017.
Gus Malzahn was out-coached on Monday. There’s no way around it. Auburn took giant steps backward with nearly a month of preparation. For the past few weeks, all I’ve heard from the players is how physical the practices have been and how the coaching staff was treating the Peach Bowl as if it was the playoff. But what we got on Monday was a big, fat egg.
At one point in the game, UCF quarterback McKenzie Milton was 3/15 through the air, and it was still enough to hold a lead. Jarrett Stidham was forced to throw the ball 43 times because the offensive line could generate no running lanes for Kerryon Johnson. It’s inexcusable and incredibly concerning if this is what Auburn fans should expect from Coach Malzahn for the next seven years. I understand the athletic department wanted stability moving forward, but at what cost?
What I want is this program that has a greater sense of confidence—from the fans, the players and the coaching staff. Enough of Auburn being an underdog. Enough of the silly “Cinderella Story” narrative. No matter what occurs next Monday in Atlanta, Auburn beat the national champion by double digits this season.
It’s time for reality to match expectations, championship-level expectations that you should have with a coach making $7 million a year. This is a program that has won a national championship and appeared in another in the last seven years. It’s the 13th winningest program in college football history. And it’s a program that has handed Alabama more losses under Nick Saban than any other school.
Auburn is a true college football powerhouse. Let’s start to act like it.