Don’t Be Fooled—This Game Mattered
Coaches from both sidelines made it clear that Saturday’s result wouldn’t define a season. That message was lost on the 70,000 in attendance for Auburn’s 21–16 win over Washington. When Auburn made the final stop on Jake Browning and the Washington Huskies deep in the fourth quarter, the noise level inside Mercedes-Benz Stadium was in late-season form.
It mattered for a Washington team that has now lost to Alabama, Penn St. and Auburn on the biggest of stages. It means another season of the Pac-12 being questioned about its strength and worthiness. For Auburn, it erases a strange streak of season opening blunders against ranked opponents dating back to 1957.
What Saturday doesn’t answer is where this Auburn team is heading. Like the old saying goes, nothing is more irrelevant than the first quarter score. The pages in this book have hardly been turned, but if you wear orange and blue tinted lens in your sunglasses, there’s a lot to smile about going forward.
We learned that Jarrett Stidham can put this team on his back while the offensive line grows up. Their youthfulness showed up at too many inopportune times, but thinking back to Clemson a year ago, these new guys are a lot better at this point than last year’s group. Think about that for a second.
When is the last time you saw a redshirt freshman show the determination of JaTarvious Whitlow facing a third and seven from the Washington 10-yard line with the game on the line? “I had to go on and just run with everything I had in me,” said Whitlow. “I couldn’t go down. I had to get to the end zone.”
The combination of Kam Martin and Whitlow should be just fine.
Is it time to go ahead and put Kevin Steele up there with the best defensive coordinators ever to coach at Auburn? Saturday was no masterpiece; at times, it was downright ugly, but the talent and domination was on clear display.
The one visual takeaway from Saturday was the domination in the trenches. Washington quarterback Jake Browning was running for his life on most downs. He’ll see guys with names like Big Kat and Smoke chasing him in his dreams for days to come.
Unlike early last year, this Auburn team played with confidence. Having sat home and watched two teams it beat play for a national championship, this year’s group played with a chip on its shoulder. The stage wasn’t too big.
There’s a lot to clean up this week. There always is following a week-one game. If you are Auburn, you have to like where you sit today. Imagine this team with an improved offensive line. That’s what we should get in the coming weeks.
Like a good book, chapter one has us hooked. I can’t wait to see what happens next.