Fear and (of) Losing in Baton Rouge
One of the hardest things about contributing to TET is wondering if my sentiments echo those of our readers. Other than the odd fan email or cyber stalker, it can be tough to determine. Only a small percentage of you actually comment and rarely does anyone go too far out on a limb or in-depth. Blogs are one thing but social media is a Tiger of a different color. Facebook was ringing out resoundingly Saturday night from Auburn fans after the game and the message was clear: Auburn didn’t quit, and although you can’t cop to a moral victory these days, fans were proud how the team played their hearts out. For myself, I saw a little bit more.
It’s strange. I don’t think that we see quite the candor on a blog where one can hide somewhat behind the anonymity of the internet than you do on an individually wrapped Facebook or Twitter page. Few were interested in blaming the elements, singling out individual players, or accusing us of shooting ourselves in the foot. One friend lamented that had that been Gene Chizik’s team, they would have lost 49-7. Now that’s pretty harsh. Overall it was encouraging to see how this team handled adversity and left heads held high even in defeat from the venue where we hadn’t tasted victory since Tuberville’s first year. Yea, that long ago.
Any freshman pysch major could tell you that you have to face your fears, and a Louisiana Saturday night in Death Valley is the equivalent for Auburn, considering our recent history in that stadium and with that team. We had lost the last five out of six games to the Bayou Bengals, the worst streak ever against them. As a possible omen, LSU celebrated the 25th anniversary of The Earthquake Game and former QB Tommy Hodson was on hand to commemorate. It’s a shame Auburn hasn’t contributed more to nicknaming these games lately. The Quit Game two years ago doesn’t count.
If the skies were going to be a monsoon all night, Auburn knew it couldn’t get behind and try to throw in that weather. They and LSU were both going to try and run the ball no matter what the forecast, that was a given. Both teams were anxious about their QB play. Unfortunately, neither the pass nor the rush worked for us in the first half. We hadn’t barely a hundred yards of offense by the break and were down three scores. Given this team’s track record the last two years against our major conference rivals, it wouldn’t be hard to expect them to just quit. The LSU fans certainly thought so, as they left in droves, victory virtually assured.
But something else opened up in the second half besides the rain clouds–Auburn’s resolve. While they hadn’t shown up in the first half, they would in the second. The offense finished with 437 yards. They kept attacking–frantically. Nick Marshall stepped up in a big way and hit Sammy Coates for some monster gains. Trey Mason kept chugging away. The defense made adjustments and held better. Malzahn rolled the dice on 4th down five times. Auburn held the time of possession advantage for the first time in forever against a major opponent, and–get this–we reeled off 85 offensive plays. That’s exactly what Malzahn’s offense needs to thrive and to win in this conference. LSU was out of gas late in that game. Our offense was wearing them out. If there had only been a little more time on the clock and if only we had caught one more break or two. If only.
We talked last week about how the last drive in the State game gave this team their confidence. That was nothing compared to how far this team came of age in the second half in Baton Rouge Saturday night. If they didn’t prove it to the fans–the fair-weather and the diehards alike–no worries, they definitely proved it to the coaches and themselves.
Things might be a little different on the Plains these next two weeks. A little swagger might have returned to campus, a lot more confidence may have returned deep inside each player’s heart. Far-fetched coming off a two-touchdown loss, you say? I don’t think so. Never have I seen so much built on top of a losing conference game. Maybe it’s taken the depths of the SEC cellar to see it, but the lesson is clear. Auburn is finding it’s groove once again. I’m not big on predictions, but I think we’re going to take down one of the big three left on our schedule–aTm, Georgia, Alabama. Mark it down.