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Upon Further Review: Auburn’s Historic Win Over Purdue

By on January 1st, 2019 in Football, News 14 Comments »

MVP of the Music City Bowl, Jarrett Stidham threw for 373 yards and five touchdowns in a little more than two quarters of play (AP photo)

The Auburn Tigers surprised and amazed the college football world with their historic win over the Purdue Boilermakers in the Music City Bowl. The Tigers set or broke several offensive records on their way to a 63–14 blowout victory. Although Vegas had made the Tigers a 3-point favorite, many fans, including yours truly, were worried about a dangerous Boilermaker team.

The matchup had the makings of a potential trap game in favor of Purdue. The Boilermakers seemed to have momentum after exciting their fan base with a good showing in the Big 10 Conference and selling out their ticket allotment in less than 24 hours. Added to that was the feeling, as with last year’s Peach Bowl, that Auburn didn’t really want to be in Nashville.

As it turned out it the opposite was true. Both Gus Malzahn and his players were determined not to allow a letdown such as happened last year in Atlanta.

Players reported an energized Malzahn during bowl practices. But Gus was quick to give the players credit. “I mean it was a thing of beauty to watch the guys make plays,” said Malzahn. “When we make explosive plays and we play fast, we’re a pretty good offense, and today it all came together.”

And Auburn football finally gave the fans something to feel good about in 2018. While most were overjoyed with such a complete victory, some folks are never satisfied. Browsing comments on message boards and Facebook  showed some wanted to downplay the win by implying Purdue was not a worthy opponent. Comments such as, “They were not any good,  just a 6–6 team.” I don’t buy it. 

I understand the naysayers pointing to the 6–6 record, but this was not your typical .500 ball club. After opening the season with a 4-point loss to Big 10 West champ Northwestern, followed by two losses by a combined 4 points, including SEC member Missouri, the Boilermakers went on to blow out Nebraska, Boston College and eventual Big 10 champ, Ohio State. In addition, it took Wisconsin 3 overtimes to get a win over the Boilermakers.
And that is precisely the reason most national pundits picked Purdue to win its bowl game, despite the Vegas line.

This Purdue team was by all accounts a team on the rise, until it ran into an Auburn team with a lot to prove. I really believe the Tigers could have played with anybody that day.

Talking with a friend after the game he pondered the same question many Auburn fans had, “They played with confidence like we haven’t seen since the opening game against Washington. Where did it come from?”

My answer was simple. To start with, there were no dropped passes. During the regular season, several critical drives were ended by receivers with the dropsies. In addition the an O-line that gave Jarrett Stidham protection, running backs were healthy, and play calling was not by committee—all of which is usually a recipe for success. And success always breeds confidence, which also can be contagious for your defense, causing it to play at a higher level.

The more success you have, the more the confidence grows as the game moves along. In contrast, the other team gets discouraged and out of sync.

One of the big parts of the winning formula seems to be Gus Malzahn’s getting back to his hurry-up roots. After the game Purdue coach Jeff Brohm said, “I’ve been part of games that were a bad outcome, but that one happened fast.”

Auburn running back Boobee Whitlow agreed, “I’m looking like, dang. We were just going in such a fast pace. Purdue couldn’t even adjust to it. I’m like, Well, hate it for y’all next year.”

Therein lies the big question. Can Auburn play like that next year? If it can, it will be fun football once again on the Plains.

14 Comments

  1. WarSamEagle WarSamEagle says:

    I've read some of those negative comments too. Just proves some people are always going to look at things negatively. I read one that said "same old Gus, builds a lead in first half and then can't keep it going in second." What a bunch of b*******t. Anyone could see that after the second half score, Gus pulled Stidham and started emptying the bench. I was elated at the way Gus had the team ready and also with his play calling and I hope the positives of this game carries over for him and the team to next year.

  2. AUwaterboy AUwaterboy says:

    Can’t remember when I’ve enjoyed a game on TV more. As to your reasons for the team playing with confidence, I would add that I think Gus was motivated to prove to everyone he still had it. Showing his team he was going to be aggressive, I think help give them have that confidence.

    The thing I saw different in this game was aggressiveness. What’s been missing to me is a killer instinct. I loved seeing him go for it on 4th down even when we were up by a big margin.

    From what I’ve read, Gus was pressured by higher ups to give up the play calling. This game proves he should have never done it. He could never really keep his hands out of it anyway so we had play calling by committee which didn’t always work and also proved to slow the pace down. Now I hope he keeps the pedal down in every game moving forward. That’s the only way I think he survives. I’m pulling for him. Can’t wait till next year.

  3. neonbets says:

    If your frame of reference is Friday afternoon, Aub v. Purdue was a blast. Just a fun way to close out the year and blow off some steam.

    If your frame of reference is 2018, you’re still disappointed. A win over a middling Big 10 team in one of the most unappealing bowls of entire slate doesn’t really assuage an entire season of dashed expectations.

    But these frustrated folks aren’t ‘naysayers’…they just have a different frame of reference from you.

    • AubTigerman AubTigerman says:

      I agree with you Neon this bowl win, "doesn’t really assuage an entire season of dashed expectations." The article was not intended to imply that.

      As you said, the game was, "a blast and a fun way to close out the year." And I think we are all disappointed with 2018's record. However, my use of the word, "Naysayers" was a kind adjective because the comments I referred to were not just a, "different frame of reference." But rather they were over the top mean, malicious and plain nasty. I didn't include them here for that reason.

      I don't challenge any fans prerogative to question, challenge, or criticize coaching. And I get it that there's nothing Gus can do to change some folks mind but dumping on a dominating win that sent the seniors off in a positive way was not the right time to express their frustrations. We may differ on that and that's okay.
      War Eagle

  4. AUglenn says:

    Middling team or not, it was a great game to watch as a Tiger fan. And I was so happy for our seniors they deserve to go out in a good way. Going to miss those guys. I just hope the win has some carry over to next season.

  5. Acid Reign Acid Reign says:

    …..I debated whether it was worth it to work a 14 hour shift, sleep 3 hours, watch the game, then do another 14. Yes, it was WELL worth it! I’d have hated to miss that by choice! If you watch football for fun, that game was a thing of beauty!

  6. Pine Mt Tiger Pine Mt Tiger says:

    Lots of fun watching the game. Was really proud of the team but that doesn’t mean that the 2018 season was a success. At the same time as Phillip Marshall said the other day, “Anyone that could not see this game as a positive just doesn’t want to.”

  7. WDE7385 WDE7385 says:

    War Eagle!!!
    Extremely good fun to watch Auburn all over Purdue.
    Really happy for team to have a game like that.

    Happy New Year,

    Proves Gus can be an excellent OC and “a man’s got to know his limitations”.
    (My apologies to Clint Eastwood and Magnum Force.)

  8. WDE says:

    The one question/thought that stayed in my mind throughout the game on Friday was the NOT the obvious “where was this all year?”

    It was “I am not sure the players liked playing for Chip – regardless of who was calling the plays!?!”

    As pointed out above there was a whole different level of energy and aggressiveness on Friday.

    I sent the following text below to a couple of friends with 12:54 left in the 2nd Quarter…..just BEFORE the pick 6.

    “Our time of possession is less than 5 mins, we’ve run 19 plays, have 300 yards of offense, scored 35 points, and there is still 12:54 left in the 2nd quarter. Breaking those numbers down we are scoring every every 2.7 plays and 43 seconds.”

    • dyingculture dyingculture says:

      Huh … “not sure the players liked playing for Chip”. Interesting take on it – interesting because it could very well be true. Even thinking back to November 2017 when the team was on a high, it was the defense that was dancing around and having so much fun. The offense? They seemed to be all business, come to think about it.

      Glad to see that UGA fell flat on their faces in the Sugar Bowl, by the way. Couldn’t have happened to a better group of guys. And with the Bulldog offense struggling so badly and the game out of reach, they *still* refused to let Justin Fields play. No wonder he’s transferring.

  9. easyedwin easyedwin says:

    I have watched Auburn football for 54 years and that one was the most fun, worry free time I can ever remember. My two sons were saying before the game “yeah, same old Gus; nothing will change”. They were wrong. In a quarterback conference such as the SEC, I believe Joey Gatewood will win the position and do us proud. Oregon only scored 7 points. Seven. We can beat Oregon August 31, 2019 in Dallas.

  10. hello2196 says:

    The thing is we saw a different Gus. He was constantly up and down the sideline working everybody to keep them motivated. Needs to take that intensity into 2019.

  11. easyedwin easyedwin says:

    Slayton is gone

  12. AUFan1 AUFan1 says:

    Oh no, say it ain’t so Darius… Say it ain’t so!