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Tigers Finish 2nd in the SEC (Grading Auburn’s 28–7 Loss to Georgia and Thoughts on Keeping Gus at Auburn)

By on December 3rd, 2017 in Football, News 30 Comments »
SEC Title Grades

The Auburn freight train got knocked off the tracks
(John Bazemore, AP Photo.)

     War Eagle, everybody. It’s time now for the Acid Reign Report on Auburn’s 28–7 loss to Georgia in the SEC Championship Game. It has been a challenging year for the Tigers, but I’d have to judge it a fun one, overall. The pressure has been on, with “hot seat” being the prevailing topic of conversation the past couple of seasons. After an exceptionally horrific loss in Baton Rouge in October, Auburn went on a tear. An undefeated romp through Amen Corner in November ensued, and Auburn knocked off Number One-ranked Georgia AND Alabama in the span of two weeks. National title dreams danced before Tiger eyes. It all came crashing off the tracks in Atlanta in the SEC Title Game.

     This will be a little bit of a departure from my usual post-game grading style. It was a disappointing loss, to be sure. But I can’t bring myself to ding various players for “points off here for…” stuff after the effort these young men showed this season. Instead, I’ll try to point out the positives from this game.

     First off, kudos to Georgia. I opined prior to this game that Auburn won big in the trenches in the last matchup, and there was no reason that would not continue in this game. Georgia did not stand pat. The Georgia coaches changed strategy on both sides of the ball to minimize damage done by key Auburn standouts. Then, Auburn was missing its running game for this one, make no mistake. With a one-dimensional attack against a good Georgia defense, it was an uphill battle all the way.

     Before this game, I gave a nod of approval to Georgia offensive coordinator Jim Chaney. He showed his stuff, in this game. Auburn has been killing offenses in the middle of the line. Georgia did a good job of getting the game out on the perimeter on the toss sweep. This is the most signature, basic play in the old pro-I offense, but sometimes it gets overlooked in the modern, fancy, read-based offensive era. Georgia has a pair of runners and a tight end and fullback that will all will likely be playing football on Sunday for years to come. Auburn slowed the toss down for maybe 3 quarters, but paid a price. Pressure on freshman Georgia quarterback Jake Fromm was less, and he made some good plays as a result.

     On offense, Kerryon Johnson looked done for the season late in the Iron Bowl. Somehow, KJ started this game and got some carries. Honestly, I wish the team had let him heal. He was a shell of his midseason self, and it was a big risk to his future health to play him. KJ gave his all, as usual. In the bigger picture, Auburn’s running plan was a shell game, mainly trying to beat UGA with speed sweeps and QB keepers. It didn’t take Kirby and Georgia long to figure out that Auburn was no threat running up the middle.

     With the running game stalled, Auburn looked to the passing game. The mesh/crossing pattern plays that beat Alabama were gone. Georgia had one or two linebackers dropping into those lanes, and there was nowhere to throw the ball into those spaces without risking a turnover. Georgia was also able to avoid being outnumbered on the quick screens to the sideline. The Bulldog plan was to keep those contained and make the tackle. Sure, Auburn completed probably a dozen of those passes, but most catches were put down on the ground with less than 5 yards gained. I was reminded of Tommy Tuberville’s defensive philosophy on those. “We’ll let you throw it 5 yards to the sideline. But we are going to make the tackle. You won’t be able to complete enough of those to move it down the field and score.”

     Special teams have had issues this season for Auburn, and this week’s gaffe was a high snap and a subsequently blocked field goal attempt. I couldn’t find much fault, otherwise. Aiden Marshall is getting better and better each week punting the football. Daniel Carlson continues to be a weapon on kickoffs as well as extra points and field goals. We can’t blame a 21-point loss on one blocked field goal.

Meandering musings after the jump!

     On the defensive line, Auburn had uncharacteristic struggles. To neutralize the best edge pass rusher in the SEC, Georgia ran right at Auburn end Jeff Holland and sent lots of blockers his way. Holland finished with 2 total tackles on the night, none for loss, no hurries, and no sacks. Also, with the flow of most run and pass plays to the sideline, this took Aurburn inside men Russell, Brown and Williams out of the game as well.

     I have to credit the Auburn linebackers for keeping Auburn in the ball game as long as they did. They were stuck trying to chase down NFL-level Georgia backs on the boundary and for the most part kept things in check. Auburn sorely missed having senior Tré Williams in the game in the second half. Williams has been superb the past two seasons at getting the Tiger front seven aligned.

     The secondary become more and more shorthanded as the game progressed. Top cornerback Carlton Davis could not go in the second half, and Tray Matthews seemed limited. Matthews is a great redemption story. As a Georgia Bulldog he was one of the defensive backs involved in Auburn’s famous 2013 “Miracle in Jordan Hare!” play that went for a 73-yard game-winning touchdown. Matthews transferred to Auburn and has been quite a leader for the Tigers over the past 3 years. I feel like Matthews has turned his life around and will be very successful at whatever he does, going forward.

     It has been a rough year on special teams, this year. However, on SEC title day, this unit mostly came through, except for the aforementioned blocked field goal.

     Auburn’s offensive line faced a good Georgia front that had a renewed focus on effort. In my opinion, Auburn’s offensive line held their own. Georgia made it a point to have more guys in the box than the line could block. Auburn has made hay this season on running the ball despite a numbers disadvantage, but that was not happening this day, given running back injuries.

     One of the most frustrating things about the past three seasons has been running back attrition. Auburn has gone though SO many guys. The coaching staff has done a great job getting talent into this position. And so many have gone down. Peyton Barber left early for the NFL. Roc Thomas transferred to Jax State. Jovon Robinson was booted from the team. Kamryn Pettway has spent parts of two years hurt. Kerryon Johnson has been in and out of the starting lineup. Kam Martin has been hurt and limited. Auburn has had some great backs during the Malzhan era. Keeping them healthy and eligible has been a problem.

     I can’t really blame the receivers at all for the result in the SEC Title game. This time, they weren’t able to make a play because the ball largely did not get to them. Still, I have to take my hats off to this group. They were the keystone cops early in the season, with tons of dropped balls. Those dried up in November, and this became a unit no one wanted to face. Auburn has a ton of talent coming back here, and the future is bright.

     A lot was put on quarterback Jarrett Stidham in this game. He was asked not only to continue to blister a good Georgia defense, but he was also asked to win the game solely with his arm, and scrambling ability. It is important to remember that Stidham is only in his first full year as a starter. I don’t think even Cam Newton or Pat Sullivan could have won this game with the running back situation.

     I was very, very worried in the aftermath of this game. We knew Arkansas was coming on a poaching run, and reportedly it offered coach Malzhan over 7 million dollars a year to jump to Arkansas. I was VERY worried about what the Auburn administration would do (or not do) with lame-duck athletic director Jay Jacobs on his way out. We’ve been mighty frustrated, mad-as-hell and concerned about a real lack of transparency out of the administration this year.

     I will make no secret of the fact that there are a lot of things I find irritating about how Gus Malzahn deals with the press and dispenses information. We Auburn fans have been spoiled by past Auburn coaches like Pat Dye, Terry Bowden and Tommy Tuberville. Those guys would spit out one-liners like no one’s business. There was seldom any doubt about where they stood on this issue or that one, and they gave tons of feedback on what was happening with the program. Gus ain’t that guy!

     Expectations are high at Auburn. That’s a fact. When expectations aren’t met, Auburn folks do not meekly accept it. For better or worse, Auburn folks will complain loudly and often. There is a tradition taught to all Auburn folks that one can work oneself out of all issues. That’s the answer, don’t accept mediocrity, and work through all issues. Coach Malzahn has run afoul of that philosophy a few times, and we certainly have seen a ton of calls for his head here in this space.

     My take was that this is a very bad time to be looking for a new head coach in the SEC. Florida had to break the bank to get Dan Mullen, a guy whose SEC record is currently 32 wins and 40 losses. Texas A&M had to pony up $75 million over ten years to get Jimbo Fisher, who wasn’t even top dog in the ACC in recent years. Tennessee thus far has no takers, having been turned down by a dozen coaches. Think about that. Tennessee. A school with a stadium that holds over 100,000 rabid fans and has a ton of alumni with deep pockets can’t find a coach willing to take the job.

     For better or worse, head coach Gus Malzahn coordinated the best offense in Auburn history in 2010 and was part of a national title. As a head coach, he has won the SEC West twice in 5 years. Texas A&M, LSU, Arky, MSU, and Ole Miss have not. Lack of communication aside, Malzhan’s teams win consistently. We’ll never be happy with his post-game pressers, but we have had tons of joy on the playing field. Malzahn has put together a string of top ten recruiting classes during his tenure and looks to have another one lined up. Kudos to the Auburn admins for keeping him away from Arkansas, and back at Auburn for years to come. Us peanut-gallery types will gripe and complain every time Auburn loses a game over future seasons, but I hope everyone understands that we could do far, far worse.

In this space, I’d like to thank coach Malzahn for the joy he’s brought to our Auburn hearts, and we are glad to have him back. It had to have been a difficult decision for him and his family.

30 Comments

  1. friedca friedca says:

    After LSU I said if Gus beats UGA and Bama Gus deserves to stay. He did and I’m glad he’s back. We have the chance to beat a third undefeated team in the Peach bowl. I don’t want to see any hangovers from the SEC game I want to win and win big. Hopefully the team is already prepping hard. Tough lose but we’re still in a great bowl. War Eagle!

  2. meathead530 says:

    Pretty sloppy game. I wish Gus could lead teams to win big away-from-home games. But that first fumble changed everything.

    The Iron Bowl victory still feels good though. Suddenly to the elephant nation it’s not a big deal. But we all know deep down inside it’ll bug them for the next year.

    Hope Auburn shakes this loss off (easier said than done). I’d like to see the tigers beat a 3rd undefeated team. Looking forward to reading some pre-bowl analysis here on TET.

  3. CapnVegetto says:

    I said it in the game thread, and I’ll say it again. This loss isn’t on Gus. Georgia was humiliated last time, wanted retribution, lined up and beat our ass. Game was well coached, team was prepared, Georgia was just better that day. And not to make excuses, but our team was really beat up.

    As much as I hate losing, this is the kind of losing I can deal with. Auburn lined up, did their best, and was just beat. No bad playcalling, no conservative offense handing possessions and points to the other team, no wimpy “bend but don’t break” BS defense. You tip your hat to the other guys, go back, work hard, and get ‘em next time.

    Well done, Gus. Sometimes you just get beat. It’s all good, and welcome back next year!

  4. uglyjoe says:

    Folks, I am going to be Debbie Downer this morning. However, I’d like to get this off my chest. I think the new contract with Gus was a monumental mistake. I actually find myself admiring FSU and the way they handled the Jimbo situation. Here are my backup thoughts:

    When chizik was hired as coach, he brought in Gus as offensive coordinator. Gus earned his money the first year, taking Chris Todd and turning him into a pretty good quarterback. The second year, they were able to land Cam Newton, a once-in-a-lifetime player. However, without Cam Newton, instead of a national championship, we would have had a hard time beating Kentucky. After the national championship game, Gus had opportunities to go to both North Carolina and Vanderbilt as head coach. He turned them down, and the third year of chizik’s regime begin to become very average. Gus took a job at Arkansas State the following year for a reduction in pay.

    A year later, we brought Gus back to the plains as our new head coach. Again, in the first year I believe he earned his money, and between salaries and bonuses he made his money. From halfway through year two until the end of year four, Auburn was average-at-best. Until halfway through year 5, even with the talent that we have, we were still average.

    I will certainly not argue that this team gelled at midseason and finished the regular season on a high note. However, while I realize we were missing our star running back for the championship game, we got blown out.

    All of that being said, I do not see where we have a 7 million dollar a year coach. I believe that if we stall out of the gate next year, by mid-season many of us will be yelling for his head. If that were to happen, yesterday’s actions cost Auburn another 10 or 15 million dollars.

    I realize that it would be no time to be looking for a head coach in the SEC.
    However, if Gus left, we could have promoted Kevin Steele to head coach and probably have kept our entire defense intact. Some of that additional money we are paying him could have gone for a new offensive coordinator, if that was to be the case.

    Sorry for the rant, but I feel better now.

    • AubieCE AubieCE says:

      Glad you feel better getting that out.

      • Acid Reign Acid Reign says:

        …..My take, Gus had the brakes put on his offense by Chizik, in 2011. We graduated 4 seniors off the national champion offensive line, lost 3 of the top 4 receivers, and a heisman quarterback. We had issues, particularly at left tackle against the pass rush. Then Chizik made the crazy decision to give Clint Moseley his first ever quarterback start in Baton Rouge against number one ranked LSU. Wow, was that game ugly for Auburn!

        …..This year, we didn’t have just one running back take us out of contention in the title game. We lost Roc Thomas and Jovon Robinson to attrition before this year. They would have been seniors. This was supposed to be a big year for Kamryn Pettway, but he was hurt for most of it, including the title game. Kam Martin played in the title game this year, but he was knocked out of it with an ankle problem. No, I don’t think Kerryon Johnson was anywhere near 100 percent, but he wasn’t the reason Auburn lost the game. Auburn has had a hard time keeping running backs healthy and on the field, the past few years.

  5. neonbets says:

    *I think Raquan Smith was the best football player I saw for the entire season.
    *UglyJoe’s comment above is outstanding. Gus didn’t deserve to get fired–but he sure didn’t deserve a hefty pay-raise, either.
    *That sated, the administration was in a bind. Sure, FSU did the right thing by letting Jimbo go– but FSU also finished 6-6. If Auburn finished 6-6, it too would have become ‘very principled’ in refusing to play the contract escalation game.
    Despite the misfires these past few seasons, the program is in good shape. Gus does deserve credit for bringing in good coordinators, and doing an excellent job of bringing in top-shelf talent. And, while he doesn’t deserve a raise, I’ve seen worse moves in this era of college-coaching-contractual-insanity.

  6. easyedwin easyedwin says:

    I for one am disheartened a bit. I only saw us losing to LSU before the season started. I thought Stidham would be more up to speed in the Clempson game. That was not the case. After the LSU loss I thought CGM did not understand the importance of winning that game and that he lacked the killer instinct needed to win the west. I was wrong. We finished well. The only problem is that we peaked in the iron bowl and thought it was the national championship. We must realize that winning the iron bowl is simply another step to a championship season. That other coach across our state knows this; lives this. Winning the iron bowl is not the be all, end all in our season. The sooner our staff and players understand it, the better of our chances are of getting in the play – offs.

    CFP. How are conference championships valued? The answer is, not much. If winning and getting left out continue [;and it has for two consecutive years] then what is the purpose of having conference championship games. Big 10 and Pac 12 champions are ignored and 2 teams from the same conference get in? Poppycock I say. Eliminate the championship games and go to a straight 8 team play – off.

    CGM. If a coach does not want to be at Auburn, then let him go. There were 3 years left on his contract. He said he wanted to be at Auburn in 2018, but obviously money was his issue. We need a strong AD to get us over the issues in the softball and basketball programs. Someone who has the intestinal fortitude to point out the contract and years on the contract. We need an AD that is objective, fair, knowledgeable, honest and is a hard working fool for Auburn University. Let us NOT settle for anything less.

  7. Rebel Yell says:

    Let’s face it! UGA already had a terrific psychological advantage, having been blown out 3 weeks earlier, then they get a week off (they played GT) while we were playing AL! How’s that fair! Then we lose our stud tailback, then our QB goes totally squirrely on us in the 4th Qtr (did he get kicked in the head, scrambling after KJ’s fumble – his passing was total erratic after the fumble). We were doomed to lose this one from the start, and the early fumble was the beginning of the end!
    We need to reschedule UGA to early (2nd game?) in the season. We cannot continue to play all our toughest games at the end of the season!

    • dyingculture dyingculture says:

      I think Georgia got to play two tune-up games (Kentucky and GT), while we had to play the Iron Bowl. We put everything we had into the Iron Bowl, because it’s not like there would be any championship to play for if we don’t win the Iron Bowl first. Meanwhile, Georgia got to tune up, rest, and study tape for 3 weeks to prepare for their championship. Not to mention that we had our players getting banged up, while they got to rest for 3 weeks before playing their home game at Atlanta.

  8. AUTiger57 says:

    I want to begin by wishing all my Auburn Family Happy Holidays!! And thanks to our entire TET staff for their hard work and dedication to what they do. Always great stuff across the board. We had a great season in 2017!! Wished it could have ended differently in SEC Championship game. Really have to second guess playing KJ with known injury??? After 1st win over Ga, I didn’t want to face them a 2nd time. Kinda had a bad feeling beforehand. Ga came well prepared and psyched out to play to a much higher level of intensity. Congrats to Ga players, fans, and coaches for the win. Have very mixed feelings about Gus staying at Auburn. My concern is the inconsistent playing that has been a staple of the Malzahn tenure. Was very difficult understanding how we went from 40-17 win to a 28-7 loss. I personally have problems there. As I’ve stated on TET many times over, I was never in favor of the Malzahn hire to start with, but it is what it is. And I bleed orange and blue until my time on earth is over. Always have and always will!!!! I’m okay with Gus staying, just can’t accept that he’s worth 7million a year. I’ve really caught Hell from all the Bama and Ga fans since Sat night!! Hasn’t stopped yet. Just maybe Gus will learn to make proper adjustments when the big games really matter. Go tigers!! Let’s regroup and rip UCF apart. War Eagle!!!

    • dyingculture dyingculture says:

      One thing about Malzahn is he does know how to recruit. Almost all of the key players will be back next year, and the entire coaching staff as well. This team is a serious threat to go undefeated next year. It was important to keep Malzhan because among other things, if he goes then the entire coaching staff probably has to go too.

      The new reality of the market is that coaching salaries has suddenly jumped. 7 million is the new 5 million. When Mullins gets hired for more than 6 and Fisher gets a 75 million, 10 year contract, Malzahn’s boost in pay is simply reflecting the new reality.

      • WDE says:

        Exactly….we, as fans, personally don’t have to like the $7M/yr figure that is the new norm. Additionally us fans can believe FSU did the right thing BUT as the old adage goes – that is the price in tea in china these days. And unless we want our program to become a stepping stone – we’re going to have to open our wallet and be competitive from a salary perspective.

        Whether we like it or not, at the end of the day, college football is a $100M/yr business – and this is simply business. Just as schools fire coaches to protect their bottom line – coaches use competing offers to protect their family’s bottom line. And I suspect everyone of us would do the exact same in our personal lives just as our employers would. Albeit at a figures 2% of $7M/yr. 😉

  9. friedca friedca says:

    Something I didn’t realize until this morning, in 2017 alone we have played all 4 playoff teams. Won two, lost two (one close, one blowout). That is incredible. The caliber of opponent we have played is staggering. No one else is playing this level of competition. I agree with others, we have to do something about the UGA/Bama schedule. They can’t both be home/away and they can’t be within 2 weeks of one another. I figure the only way to get UGA to agree to change this is to go back to back away games.

  10. sullivan013 sullivan013 says:

    Lots of comments have addressed both Coach Malzahn’s salary and the expectations/achievement of this team. I just have a few notes.

    Coaching salaries are on the rise across the board. Teams and programs have an excess of cash and will pay through the nose to get a target. That Auburn successfully defended against a hostile steal is a mark for consistency in a sea of changes for the SEC. Only four coaching staffs in the league have recruited their senior players.

    Want success in the future? The way to ensure it is coaching consistency. One only has to look at the Tennessee debacle to see what happens when your program changes coaches often and fails to let any of them establish any semblance of stability.

    You can point to Kirby Smart and Georgia all you want, so long as you understand that Mark Richt recruited those star players, coached them their first couple of years and had that program on the verge of their current success before he was let go.

    • WDE says:

      Well said……and keep in mind Richt was let go after a 10 win season.

      UGA’s only losses that year were to Alabama, Tennessee, and Florida. And the losses to Tennessee and Florida came after Chubb blew out his knee at Neyland Stadium on the first play from scrimmage.

  11. WDE says:

    “I will make no secret of the fact that there are a lot of things I find irritating about how Gus Malzahn deals with the press and dispenses information. We Auburn fans have been spoiled by past Auburn coaches like Pat Dye, Terry Bowden and Tommy Tuberville. Those guys would spit out one-liners like no one’s business. There was seldom any doubt about where they stood on this issue or that one, and they gave tons of feedback on what was happening with the program. Gus ain’t that guy!”

    To Gus’ and any other coach’s defense in today’s game, social media didn’t exist in Dye and Bowden’s tenure and was still in its infancy in Tubberville’s. Additionally, IMO due to click bait, there has been a consistent moral decay in the mainstream media over the past 15+ years. Couple these two factors together and unfortunately I do not blame coaches for their dry press conferences. Do I like it? No! But to quote Nick Saban, “today’s writers create news rather report it.” And when your beat writers are out to create news rather than report – the result is a vanilla presser.

    Case in point – look no further than James Crepea continuously trying to stir up the Arkansas rumors through Friday’s official press SEC Championship press conference in Atlanta.

    Media rant over. 😉

  12. WarSamEagle WarSamEagle says:

    Good read Acid, I agree with both your game analysis and thoughts on keeping coach Malzahn. But …

    My thoughts on the game is while Ga. got the win (and deserved it) …. I was terribly pissed at their unnecessary DIRTY play and the Ref's doing Nothing about it !!!

  13. Tigerstripe Tigerstripe says:

    – Developing a head coach seems to be part of us developing a top notch football program rather than the head coach developing the program. Gus needs to get a better “process” or “system” in place to develop these players. His true genius is recruiting. Now that he pulling down even more moolah, the expectations just got even higher. If he’s past the LSU type debacle and learned his lesson there, he’ll be good enough.
    – We don’t make good enough adjustments at halftime.
    – What’s up with FSU actually stating that they’re looking for a “minority head coach”?!
    – I don’t buy the statements that UGA beat us only because they were somehow more motivated and embarrassed by the first loss. No, they made adjustments and played healthier.
    – I love KJ and he deserves a trip to NYC but after the first series, he should’ve been pulled. We have other quality RBs that would’ve given us a better chance.
    – I hate bama… I just knew they were going to get into the playoffs somehow. GAH!!!
    – Where was the up-tempo Saturday??? How do you blow a team out and two weeks later allow them to blow you out? Is the margin of error that slim? I get it, we were tired and injured but come on!

  14. JRoweMDN says:

    Gus may or may not have turned the corner. He has not shown ability to adapt game plan and the showing in the SECCG is a prime example. No KJ no offense was a shame when everyone knew he was hurt. He does seem to have learned not to lay down on a lead. I want Gus to stay and turn into a great coach. I will hold more opinions until we get through LSU in September.

    The program can afford the salary and the buyout if need be. Sexton earned his pay this week. At some point I hope the madness stops on coaches salary. I would have no problem with big incentives for wins, but this feels like a bad move with guaranteed money.

  15. Jonathon Jonathon says:

    Thanks Acid. Great season folks. I’ll always, like Acid stayed, have my beef with losses and expect greater than mediocrity. As we all should! Now that Gus has committed and Auburn has committed to Gus we will have every right to dissect the season(s) ahead. Gus isn’t getting paid $$$$ to continue inconsistent play or requiring JuCo QBs to bail him out. I want to see Gus recruit top QBs and develop a culture of winning consistently at Auburn. Saban puts on his pants like every other SEC coach so Gus has the pay, the fan base, the talent, and the facilities to string together championship seasons, SEC wins, playoff runs, etc. That’s what he just committed to and he’s well aware of our demands upon that commitment. WDE!!!

    • jlobailey says:

      Gus’s recruiting classes since 2013 were ranked as follows (according to 24/7 sports):
      2017-9th
      2016-9th
      2015-8th
      2014-6th
      2013-10th

      With this in mind, and knowing that Auburn will likely finish inside the top ten this year, I’m perplexed at fans who aren’t satisfied with Gus’s performance this year. Typically, a coach who performs to the level of his recruiting rankings is doing his job on the field. As the old saying goes, it’s about Jim’s and Joes, not X’s and O’s. According to the caliber guys we have, we should finish inside the top ten but outside the top five. And, oh look! Here we are.

      • Tigerstripe Tigerstripe says:

        First of all, ranking recruiting classes is bunk at best. Fans are upset because Gus hasn’t been able to consistently beat our biggest rivals. When he gave up the 20 pt lead to LSU, those same fans (including myself) were thinking, “here we go again”. He finally redeemed himself with strong wins over UGA/bama which is why fans are giving him more time hoping that he’s finally developing into a SEC coach.

  16. audad says:

    It was sort of like watching the LSU game. Dominate for a about a quarter and a half and then get totally dominated. In the decades I’ve been watching college and pro football, I have seen countless times where one single play swings the momentum in a game and it never switches back again. That was the case again Sat. after the Stidham fumble in the red zone and then our lineman muffing the recovery. I’m guessing poor #50 lost a little sleep over that one. One of the great things about sports is that we’ll never know how the game might have played out had we gone up 14-0 there or 10-0. The easy 85 yd drive they went on after the fumble put them back in it and you could literally see the change on their sidelines and on the field. The defense tried hard to keep us in it, but even they were giving up uncharacteristic large chunks of yardage as the game wore on.

    Not having KJ at full strength was obviously huge. Their DB’s must have been all-world the 2nd half since JS could never find anyone open. And for the life of me, once again, I did not see one ball thrown to a tight end. Couldn’t one of those guys slipped into the middle or the flat occasionally for a much needed 7 or 8 yd gain to keep a drive going?

    And now we probably get the worst bowl scenario possible. There will be no great kudos for beating UCF even with their 12-0 record, and of course a heap of criticism if we lose to them. A small bit of consolation–AU has the distinction this season and probably will for many years to come of being the only team to beat two of the final four playoff teams in the same season. That is quite an accomplishment, as is winning the SEC west, but it’s unfortunate they won’t get to play for the big prize.

    Acid, terrific wrap up to another great season of writing and reporting. Many thanks.

  17. Acid Reign Acid Reign says:

    …..There were going to be strong emotions after this one, and the salary bump. I understand that. My take on Gus is that he’s still learning how to be a head coach in the SEC. I’ve seen a steady improvement in how he does things, and that resulted in Auburn hammering Georgia and Alabama in November of this year. I think it would have been crazy to let him go at this point, having already lived through likely his worst years.

    ……Halftime adjustments… There just isn’t much adjusting you can do when you can’t run the ball effectively, and your quarterback is getting popped regularly. Georgia played a great game on defense.

  18. Tigers5711 says:

    Agree with last 2 posts it was a big mistake to leave KJ in the game past Q1.

  19. Jonathon Jonathon says:

    We can’t beat ourselves up over what coulda, shoulda to win the SEC. Gus just got PAID though so the next time we’re in this spot we shouldn’t need to debate coaching decisions. All steps forward are on the heels of one of the highest paid coaches in the country making the bests decisions with championship outcomes, period. His days of hiccups are over.

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