Chris Maurice reviews the Auburn Tigers recent success and examines the problems they face in their attempt to make the first ever College Football Playoffs.
Nov 8, 2014; Auburn, AL, USA; Auburn Tigers running back Cameron Artis-Payne (44) carries against the Texas A&M Aggies during the second half at Jordan Hare Stadium The Aggies beat the Tigers 41-38. (Credit: John Reed-USA TODAY Sports)
(C+P) – The Auburn Tigers were handed their second loss of the season this past Saturday at the hands of the unranked Texas A&M Aggies. Despite entering the game as the 23 point favorites and on a 14-game home winning streak, Auburn failed to get it done; and have now fallen to #9 in the latest AP Top 25 Poll. With only three games left on their schedule which concludes with a trip to Tuscaloosa for the Iron Bowl, the Tigers would now be considered Dark Horse candidates for the first ever College Football Playoffs.
Auburn is a team that prides themselves on last-minute miracles and always pulling out the victory in close games. In fact, some of the Tigers most memorable moments are game-winning plays that happened last season on the way to a BCS Championship appearance, including Chris Davis’s 109 yard touchdown return to win the game in overtime on an Alabama field goal attempt that came up short. This “can win, will win” attitude that head coach Gus Malzahn preaches has stuck with the team; and it has definitely been a huge part of Auburn’s mentality and success for the past two season.
Last season, the Tigers won four games by a margin of six points or less, and three of those games were won by a touchdown in the last 25 seconds of the game. An 11 yard Nick Marshall touchdown pass to C.J. Uzomah with 10 seconds left pushed Auburn past the Mississippi State Bulldogs in Week 3; and in Week 12 of 2013, a 4th-and-18 desperation heave was tipped between two Georgia Bulldogs and ended up in the hands of Ricardo Louis for a 73 yard go-ahead touchdown. Finally and most unforgettable for Auburn fans, there was the aforementioned “Kick-Six” to win the Iron Bowl against the Alabama Crimson Tide.
The crazy victories did not stop in 2014. So far in 2014 the Tigers have won three games by a margin of seven points or less, including an improbable 35-31 road victory over the Ole Miss Rebels which ended in a Laquon Treadwell fumble at the one yard line due to a severe leg injury.
Auburn’s luck finally came to an end against Texas A&M when the offense was unable to make up for the poor defensive play. In the first five weeks of this season, Auburn allowed only 72 total points and a mere 206 passing yards per game. In fact, in the matchup against LSU Auburn didn’t allow a single third down conversion. In the last four games the defense has not shown the same effort. Over the last four games Auburn has given up 145 points as well as 320 yards through the air. It’s no wonder Auburn is 2-2 over this stretch.
Auburn’s defensive struggles are now gaining national attention after their loss to the unranked Aggies whose quarterback, freshman Kyle Allen, was making his first SEC start. Allen absolutely tore up the Tiger defense finishing with 277 yards and four touchdowns. Although the defense held the Aggies to only six points after halftime, the Tigers were unable to dig themselves out of the hole they were in.
Auburn seemed to be on the verge of another miracle comeback until Nick Marshall and Cameron Artis-Payne got tangled up on the Aggies’ two yard line, and Julien Obioha recovered the fumble. Auburn’s defense then really stepped up, nearly causing a safety; and just like that Auburn had the ball again looking to pull off an even crazier comeback. Unfortunately for Auburn, lady luck was not on their side; and with 54 seconds left center Reese Dismukes snapped the ball early due to miscommunication with Marshall. The ball bounced right into the lap of Alonzo Williams, and just like that Auburn’s playoff hopes faded in front of their home crowd fans.
The Tigers will need a lot of miracles to go their way in order to make the College Football Playoffs this year; however, first they need to focus on fixing their defense in anticipation of the Iron Bowl on November 29th.