Archived Story

The clock strikes midnight on Tigers’ magical season

Published 10:30am Wednesday, January 8, 2014

By Andy Graham

This is the column I was desperately hoping I was not going to have to write, but a funny thing happened on the way to Auburn winning it’s second national title in four years … it didn’t.
The Auburn Tigers actually lost the football game.
There was no divine intervention. There was no last-second miracle.
I got very little sleep the night after the game coming to the realization that Auburn actually lost.
The 2013 season was such an incredible ride, and these players and coaches convinced me along the way they would find a way to win no matter what the circumstances.
I think the old saying applies: “The Tigers didn’t lose, they just ran out of time.”
Florida State deserves an enormous amount of credit for coming back in the second half and making the plays it needed to make to win the game.
Jameis Winston, in particular, deserves a lot of credit for his play in the second half. Auburn did a fantastic job against him for most of the game but specifically in the first half.
I thought Ellis Johnson’s scheme and the execution by the players made Winston look like a freshman.
Obviously, if the Tigers are up 21-3 at any point in a game, I have no doubt Gus Malzahn would tell you they should win that game.
The offense just could not make enough plays in the second half. Again, the FSU defense deserves a lot of credit for simply slowing down the Tigers’ offense enough to make a difference.
If you would have told me before the game that Tre Mason was going to end up with 195 yards rushing, I would’ve thought Auburn would win going away.
The Seminole defense executed its game plan by taking away the jet sweep and Nick Marshall’s outside running on the zone read. They decided to live with whatever Mason could get between the tackles.
I’m sure they thought they could contain him a little better than they did, but as it turned out it was just enough.
In the end, the team with the ball last won the game.
I suppose it’s only fitting that the last BCS game ever played was one of the greatest.
This loss is terribly disappointing, and I feel so bad for the players who worked so hard this season to turn things around.
However, there’s no doubt this team’s legacy is secure.
It will go down as one of the greatest seasons in Auburn history, and this particular team will be one of its most beloved. The truth is, this team was far ahead of schedule.
It was a team with glaring flaws that somehow rose above its weaknesses and overachieved its way to an SEC championship (a championship that’s proven harder to win than a BCS championship, by the way).
Before we get too down, let’s all remember that 2013 was only the beginning. Gus Malzahn and this coaching staff have only just begun.
If they could take a team with severe confidence issues and less talent than the top programs in the SEC to the championship game in year one, just imagine what they’ll be able to do after a couple of great recruiting classes.
There’s no question that Auburn’s best days are ahead of them.
Graham is a sports columnist for The Outlook.