For me the defining moment of Auburn’s 2013 season happened back in September when Coach Gus Malzahn’s Tigers suffered their only loss on a rainy night at LSU, a game in which not many things went as planned for his football team.
Auburn had a disastrous start and got into a big hole that proved too deep to climb out of when LSU took a 21-0 lead to the locker room at halftime. However, that didn’t stop this team from trying to fight to the finish hoping to find a way to get out of Baton Rouge with the victory.
As the game went along Auburn got stronger and more confident, and I didn’t see any difference in the effort level from the visitors even after LSU built its lead back to 21 points with a touchdown pass on the opening play of the fourth quarter to make the score 35-14.
Despite Auburn’s big effort several key breaks went against the visitors that night, but by the time the game was done Coach Malzahn’s team had won me over, and a lot of other Auburn folks, too. Even though the scoreboard showed LSU had more points, Auburn had taken control and was the better team in the fourth quarter.
My initial reaction to that performance was reinforced by the way the Tigers played after that in putting together a nine-game winning streak that included an outstanding effort vs. Missouri last Saturday in the SEC Championship Game. I have nothing but good things to say about the players, about Coach Malzahn and his staff as well as everybody surrounding his team that came together to produce the biggest turnaround in SEC football history.
I think a lot of Auburn people want to say a big “thank you” to this group for restoring the respect factor to Auburn football. Now it is back to where it should be and I don’t see any reason why it is not going to be a long-term thing with Gus Malzahn leading this program.
I knew the coach when he was at Auburn as offensive coordinator from 2009-2011 and developed a lot of respect for him during that time.
I can also say that I have developed a lot of respect for the men he hired to help rebuild the team when he put together his staff for the 2013 season. I have never been around a finer group of men on any college coaching staff and the results of the strong hires are showing up on the field.
It’s obvious to me that this group of coaches and players has developed a great team chemistry and that helps explain why Auburn is the most improved team in college football this season.
There is strong senior leadership and those guys deserve a huge amount of credit for helping build a team that will be heading to Pasadena in January with a chance to win the national championship. This group has laid the foundation for the program to move forward and I can’t think of a time when Auburn’s football future has looked any brighter than it is right now.
(If you have a question or a subject you would like me to write about in future columns, you can email it to PatDye@autigers.com.)
Editor’s Note: This is part of a series of columns that College Football Hall of Fame member Pat Dye is writing for AUTigers.com about the game he played and coached. An All-American player at Georgia and one of the top head coaches in SEC history at Auburn, he also served as a head coach at East Carolina and Wyoming.
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