Auburn Football: Where do we go from here?

October 9, 2018 By Skye Underwood

It all starts with Jarrett Stidham. The leader of the Auburn offense has been a shell of himself, but isn’t solely to blame for an offense that’s been lifeless
Todd Van Emst/AU Athletics

After Auburn fell to Mississippi State, 23-9 on Saturday night, Alabama fans were poppin’ bottles like they had just won the national championship. There’s no doubt in my mind that Alabama fans get more joy out of Auburn losing than Crimson Tide winning.

Bama fans have filled the radio airwaves to laugh and let everyone know that they think Auburn sucks. I get, I get it. It’s your hated rival that your team was unable to beat the last time the two teams faced one another. In fact, that Auburn team was the last college football team to beat Alabama on November 25, 2017.

The Crimson Tide have since won 9 straight games while Auburn is 4-4 in the same time span.

The (6-0) No.1 Tide are rolling with arguably the best offense in college football but their defense has shown chinks in the armor after giving up over 400 yards of offense and 31 points to the 2018 SEC doormat Arkansas.

Auburn on the other hand, specifically the offense, looks like two day old road kill roasting on hot pavement underneath an Alabama summer sun. The smell of death is so strong that you vomit a little in your mouth. That’s how bad the Auburn offense is.

And the Auburn defense? They get a pass after practically carrying the weight of the team all season. It finally took its toll last Saturday night when Mississippi State possessed the football for the majority of the game at 41:53 compared to Auburn’s embarrassing 18:07 time of possession. Any defense would sputter.

No, Kevin Steele, you don’t owe anybody an apology. Your defense has played its heart out all season, while we’re all waiting for the offense to show some heart. If anything, the offensive coaches and players owe you and your staff and the defense an apology.

But now is not the time to point fingers and blame your teammates for the struggles and for an offense that reeks of death and needs resuscitated. The guys on that side of the ball know they’re struggling. They know they’re in a funk. If anything, they need to be held accountable for their screw-ups, yes, but they also need to be encouraged, lifted up and reminded that they’re talented players that simply need to step up and raise their game to another level.

On October 14, 2017, Auburn was a top-ten team when they had to go on the road to an unranked SEC West opponent at the midpoint of the season. The Tigers jumped out to a twenty-point first half lead over LSU before the Bayou Bengals fought back in dramatic fashion for the come from behind win. LSU gave Auburn their 2nd loss of the season and as a result, the Tigers fell down to No. 21 in the polls.

There were the typical “fire Gus” fans that let their voices be heard loud and clear after the heartbreaking loss. No one could really blame them.

But credit to Gus Malzahn and his Auburn football team, when the adversity was at its worst, the Auburn head coach and his team rose up to be its best, winning five games in a row and knocking off two No. 1 teams to close out the regular season ranked No. 4 by the College Football Playoff committee.

Fast-forward to October 6, 2018 and a top-ten Auburn team has to go on the road to an unranked SEC West opponent whose backs were against the wall after Mississippi State suffered back to back conference losses to Kentucky and Florida.

I wasn’t the least bit confident going into the game if I’m being honest. Had State defeated Florida the previous week, I would have liked Auburn’s chances, but the Bulldogs were due in front of a Saturday night rockin’ home crowd that was hungry for a win.

And the Bulldogs could’ve been easily dealt a loss after a three touchdown swing that could’ve went Auburn’s way and then we wouldn’t even be having this discussion right now.

Right before halftime, Fitzgerald was stuffed before the goal line and the officials ruled it a touchdown. Replay, however, clearly showed Fitzgerald cradling the ball in his belly lying on his side with his back turned toward the goal line separated by a thin strip of green grass. In other words, it was clearly not a touchdown, but from the SEC replay headquarters in Birmingham, Alabama, Crimson Tide graduate and SEC director of officials Steve Shaw and his boys ruled that Fitzgerald did in fact score a Bulldog touchdown, to the delight of Tide fans everywhere.

Then there was the play where Boobee Whitlow fumbled the the football after he broke the plane with possession, but it was recovered by Mississippi State and ruled a touchback by the officials. Again, the replay office in Birmingham confirmed the call despite replay clearly showing that Whitlow reaches out with two hands and breaks the front of the plane while in possession of the ball and then fumbles the ball once his chest is over the goal line. In other words, I thought it was clearly a touchdown but others disagree.

But maybe the most painful of all was Jarrett Stidham’s overthrow on the easy touchdown to a wide open Darius Slayton on the reverse-pass. If those three things go the other way, Auburn’s walking out of Starkville with a 4-7 point win.

After being upset by previously unranked Mississippi St., Auburn fell to 4-2 and No. 21 in the polls, the exact same spot the Tigers held last year after its mid-season loss to LSU.

That Malzahn Tiger team was left for dead after its second loss of the 2017 season, but like a phoenix rising from the ashes, stormed back to take the college football world by storm by defying the odds and defeating Georgia and Alabama.

Does this Auburn team have that same spirit? Or will the Tigers just roll over and play dead? Can Gus Malzahn motivate these Tigers to do the unthinkable in back to back years?

There’s still a lot of football left to be played, but Auburn has to do a one-eighty on offense to help a defense that legitimately gives the Tigers a chance to beat anyone they play. However, if Jarrett Stidham and the Auburn offense doesn’t snap out of it, the Tigers are staring at at least two more losses and as many as four.