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Upon Further Review: Too Little Too Late for Gus?

By on November 6th, 2018 in Football 14 Comments »

Many Auburn fans were ready to turn the page on Gus Malzahn on the last play of the first half of last Saturday’s win over Texas A&M. Some fans across the nation had already all but moved on. Some of them moved on early this season. Others after Tennessee came into Auburn and ran the Tigers off the field. The dwindling few probably had that defining moment with 1:09 left on the clock in the first half. 

After the Aggies took the lead with another Trayveon Williams TD, a catch and run from 14 yards out, Auburn had a little over a minute and all its time outs to drive the field and try and answer the bell.

TAMU was set to get the ball back to start the second half, and it felt like it was now or never. Surely, given the situation, the vaunted offensive genius could work some magic. Even if it meant chunking the ball around and possibly turning it over, at least he would show some sort of killer instinct and willingness to adapt.

Jarrett Stidham was sacked.

Boobee Whitlow went up the middle for six yards. 

End of half. 

TAMU promptly came out of the locker room and went eight plays and 75 yards for another Williams TD. 24–14. Texas A&M and the two touchdowns started to feel like we might be witnessing 2012 déjà vu when Johnny Football ran Gene Chizik out of Auburn.

After Williams’ last TD the Tigers responded with five plays and a punt, followed by three 3-and-outs.

Yet, Auburn fans stuck around inside the stadium. The fans at home didn’t turn the TV off, including yours truly. Why? Because it would be a totally Gus thing to somehow pull this off, and he did just that.

With seven minutes left, a beat up and tired defense that has been relied on far too much this season came up with an interception. It was a gamble for young Noah Igbinoghene to undercut the route on the sideline. He baited Kellen Mond on the throw, and when Mond let it fly, Iggy made the best catch of the season, a toe dragging snag on the line with full fingertip extension. 

Stidham and his men marched down the field like they were suddenly the offense they were supposed to have been all along. He tossed a 21-yard strike to Darius Slayton to get to the one before Chandler Cox took it in on the next play. Truth be told, I am not sure that Slayton didn’t score. 

Now, think about this for a second. The team that had just one first down all half, that had more three and outs than first downs, suddenly righted the ship and managed to go to second down just twice and third down just once while picking up four first downs. Just when you thought you had seen it all, they did it again. 

The team that seemed so far out of it suddenly made a furious comeback and won the game.

This game, as you recall, has been the turning point for every Malzhan team. Except now, we have a slightly different flavor. To begin with, it’s the first time the home team has won a game in this series, which is significant. Secondly, the Tigers won’t turn this win into at least being in the hunt for the SEC West. That ship has sailed. 

Even after many Auburn fans had let go and bailed from the Gus Bus, he does something to make people at least turn back and look at the taillights. “Won’t Adjust Gus” was gone at halftime of this game, make no mistake. However, he may still be a lame duck coach.

But even the staunchest of Gus detractors has to admit that for once Gus did what he should have done all along and something he’s not done since 2009. He let the offense dictate the play-calling and not the other way around. He let Stidham chunk the rock around the yard.

It showed some growth as a coach and adaptability he hasn’t shown since becoming the head man on the Plains. 

Will that work against Alabama and Georgia? Probably not. Was the win this weekend, considering how it was won, be sufficient to buy back trust? Many fans will say it won’t be enough. Some might even wish Auburn had lost, so that Malzhan’s fate would be sealed, but that takes the joy out of this win. That’s an interesting thing too, because isn’t it about winning?

14 Comments

  1. zotus zotus says:

    “Too Much Too Soon for Gus” would certainly be closer to the reality of the situation at Auburn right now. Just saying.

  2. WDEGirl says:

    Nope, I am off the Gus Bus permanently. The longer he stays around, the further we fall behind. He absolutely cannot develop talent nor motivate players.

    How do we have 5 Top 15 recruiting classes and not only can we not compete with the Top 15 ranked teams, we cannot compete with Teams that aren’t ranked….looking at you Rocky Top.

    UGA will do in the East with Kirby Smart, what Saban and UAT have been doing in the West, leaving everybody else in their dust.

  3. Jonathon Jonathon says:

    Our Offense was thrust into the ‘air raid’ at game’s end due to a bit of hope on the heels of some momentum. Actually, the ‘air raid’ was all we had all game long… 19 yards rushing!!! Things just clicked for those 2 minutes that hadn’t all game.. or all season. None of which can be credited to Gus.
    My only credit to this and every Gus team might be their unpredictable ways… entering the UGA game with momentum, which is the only game left where we could play spoiler (a long shot at that). UGA has the East clinched and will travel to ATL regardless of this contest with Auburn. Crazier things have happened. I know we’ll all be watching because we all know there is always a chance for a miracle. It won’t be because of some savvy Gus play calling. Expect trick play(s), an onside kick out of the blue, a fake punt, throwing from the wildcat… anything that has desperation written all over it.

  4. Solojoe says:

    Wow.
    First off, this comment is in no way directed at Zach. It’s easy to tell from his many postings that he genuinely wants the Tigers to succeed and that he understands that in each and every game it’s the players that matter because they are out there giving their best for the team and have much more to lose than we fans do. I have no doubt that he wants Auburn to always win and would never, ever pull for a loss regardless of how he might feel about a coach, athletic director or college president.
    Now some of you other commenters on here (and other sites) I’m not so sure about and some of you (again, on here, other posts and sites) I’m inclined to believe were pulling against the win this past weekend and were very disappointed we won. All in the hopes that Auburn would drop it’s current coach and without consideration for the players, the staff or the fans and families who were here to support the team at their own expense. To heck with the seniors who are playing their last season, everything be damned, we have to get rid of that #$@%! coach at all costs, right? I can feel the anger in some of the posts. The team wins – it’s in spite of Gus, the team loses then it’s all Gus. However unlikely, he and the team could win the next 3 games and you guys would probably still say it was in spite of Gus and not because of him and still be mad and want him gone. Sad, really sad. I rather enjoyed this past game. I was happy for the team, the fans, myself, and ALL the coaches. It was a great win. I was basking in the glory of it even though I had practically nothing to do with it other than hope and cheer for it. Ask any of the players what they think about it. See if you find one that’s upset. See if you find one that thinks Gus needs to be gone. See if you think they got the win without the coaches. Gus has not lost the players, not yet anyways. They are going to fight, scratch and claw for him this Saturday probably while you guys are hoping for a 30 point loss. I want them to succeed just like I want Gus to succeed. You can’t hope for one without the other just like you can’t really hope for one to fail without hoping the other fails also. I think the saying goes “cut off your nose to spite your face” or something like that. Hey, if you don’t think I’m talking about you then just ignore this post, please. You’ll know if this post is directed at you probably because you’re going to get even angrier after reading it. By the way, AD Greene just came out and said Gus is “our coach of the future”. Looks like Gus hasn’t lost him either.

    • AUwaterboy AUwaterboy says:

      Need Recommend button for this.

    • Orange Talon Orange Talon says:

      Just curious, were these your feelings when Chizick was run out of town?

      • Solojoe says:

        Gene Chizik’s players had pretty much given up on him. Malzahn was gone so Chizik had no one to bail him out. There were rumors from many sources of strife both in the locker room and the coaching staff. All indicators of a coach who had lost his team and staff. If you want more evidence, Auburn lost just about all of their conference games by 2 or (usually) more scores. Georgia beat Auburn 38-0 in Jordan-Hare that year and Alabama beat Auburn 49-0 in B-D. Both those games could have been worse if the their coaches had wanted it be. That year by the Texas A&M game the players were pretty much just going through the motions. There was no belief in the coaches or themselves. Auburn needed OT to beat La-Monroe after taking a 14 point lead to the 4th quarter. Somewhere between that game and the following 12-10 loss to LSU (also at J-H) I think is when he lost the team or at least started to lose them. Could he have recovered the following year? Possible but doubtful. He would have had to find a quality OC and DC willing to risk their reputations and try and recover a team that needed a new identity and belief and I don’t think that would’ve happened. Interestingly enough, Malzahn took almost all those same players (and a converted Georgia DB) to the National Championship game the following year. But I will always be grateful to Chizik both for the championship and just as importantly, for showing the value of recruiting because I think up until that point I’m not sure folks (including the Auburn PTB) realized the importance of playing and spending a lot of money on recruiters and a good recruiting game. JMO.

  5. Orange Talon Orange Talon says:

    Auburn had 19 yards rushing. Total.

    • Solojoe says:

      I know, right? And Auburn still managed to win the game. I talked in one of my other posts on the importance of a good to great o-line. They wound up having to do it through the air. Some on here would have you believe they did it without the coaches or in spite of them. Funny but I don’t recall seeing Stidham in the huddle drawing plays out on the turf. Had to be Lindsey making those calls because no way Gus could’ve been responsible for anything that was even mildly successful. He only calls the losing plays don’t you know? Another interesting point is that Gus has never, in no way, shape or form been accused of interfering with or credited with the defensive side of the ball or their successes but the offense does get blamed for the defense getting tired. However, if you look closer, you would notice that the defense allowed most of the yardage and scoring early in the TA&M game, when they were fresh and the offense was still driving and scoring. This goes up to and including the first TA&M drive of the second half which also happened to be the last time they scored. I guess the defense got tired early and then recovered later on in the 3rd and 4th quarter? My point being that if the defense had stopped TA&M earlier when they did all of their scoring, then the offense wouldn’t have had to stage a late game rally to win. However, I didn’t hear anyone blaming Keven Steele and rightly so, it’s a team game and ultimately, Gus is the head coach and responsible for it all. I’m just suggesting that when we do decide to blame (if we have to blame which I don’t) let’s make sure we are correct on who and what we place blame. Does Gus deserve some blame for the early losses and issues? Sure. I blame the lack of development on the o-line on him not allowing these guys more playing time last year. But let’s be sure to give him credit when it’s due also. The D gives up a bunch of rushing yards and 3rd downs but all we hear about is how bad our offense is and how Gus must be interfering with the O calls otherwise we’d be undefeated. Fitzgerald put 200 on the ground against Auburn and Gus didn’t make the D calls or plays (that I know or heard) not to mention we missed a wide open touchdown pass early which means it was the right call just bad execution. That last LSU drive that they scored a last second field goal on was on the D also if you really want to blame something otherwise we had enough points to win. It’s true that our O turned the ball over to Tenn 3 times which made it very difficult to win and if you feel you need to pick a reason you might want to look at the o-line again but even then Tenn had 4 scoring drives of 50 yards or more so you can’t put it all on the offense. Bottom line is it’s a team sport and the team is coached by coaches and the head coach is the guy that usually gets all the blame and that is as it should be. What I think is funny is some on here never want to give him any credit for a win. That, to me, shows a bias and a failure or refusal to look at things objectively. Do we really have to place blame especially during the season? Is now the time to talk about replacing a coach? Before the TA&M game I read an interview with Ryan Davis where he said they (players and coaches) had reviewed all the games so far this year during the break and they came to the conclusion that had it been (or not been) for a play or 2 here or there they would be undefeated right now. Wow, this coming from a senior player on the team. Didn’t sound to me like he thought the coaches were to blame for the losses. It didn’t really sound to me like he was blaming anyone at all and it definitely did not sound to me like (as some have mentioned on this site and others) that the coaches have lost the team. On the contrary, it sounded to me like a player who thought they should have won the games they lost and that they just needed to make some more plays. Funny. That’s exactly what they went on to do to win the TA&M game at the end. It’s also what I heard one of the TA&M players say in a post-game interview as to why Auburn won and they lost. War Eagle and let’s take the Dawgs to the pound!

  6. zotus zotus says:

    Quotes of the day from Lee County:

    “He’ll be the coach next year and I’m confident — he’s already proven we can get through adversity,” Greene said Tuesday. “Every team has it and I’m looking forward to working with him for a long time.”

    “Me and Allen, we talk quite a bit and of course I’ve said this before: we’re having a tough year this year but we have the opportunity to finish strong,” Malzahn said Wednesday on the SEC coaches teleconference. “I will say this: the future is very bright. I’m excited to be the coach here and to be honest with you right now, man, my focus is on Georgia and looking forward to playing one of our rivals.”
    ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
    Question of the day:

    And what have you been doing, Steven Leath, while Rome burns all around you?

    “Working the land, passing out $49 Million contracts, hoping for a fertile Spring” replies Mr. Leath
    ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
    P.S. So there you have it, folks, the future looks bright from some quarters in Lee County. But, the present? Well, not so much.

  7. maryland tiger says:

    The reality is that (inconsistent) Gus could lead the Tigers to a 10 or 11 win regular season next year – and be in contention for the SEC West championship. They play in Baton Rouge so a 12 win season wouldn’t be a possibility. He’s a conundrum that Auburn can’t solve.

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