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Wednesday, September 18, 2013

THE STREAK IS OVER

The sun sets on that conference losing streak - Rick Palmedo


The Streak
     686 days. Yes you read that right. It had been 686 days since the Auburn Tigers had tasted the “thrill of victory” in an SEC game. Dating all the way back to October 29, 2011 Auburn had failed to win a conference game. On that day the opponent was Ole Miss and it was the last time the Tigers would come out on the right side of the scoreboard in an SEC contest until this past Saturday.
     An 0-8 conference slate in 2012 spelled the end of the Gene Chizik reign as head coach and ushered in the Gus Malzahn era. With high hopes for an improved record, this group of Tigers took the field Saturday night hoping to end one of the worst streaks in Auburn history. 0-10 in the last 10 conference games. And the Tigers did just that.
     So the streak is over. We are 1-0 in the conference. 3-0 overall. A great start to the season. More wins are sure to occur but getting that first conference win and ending the streak was huge. Some may say monumental. I would be one of those. With LSU looming, a loss to Mississippi St could have proved disastrous. Instead a last second win insured that this group of Tigers would not go winless in the conference. And that the streak would not reach 11 games.
The Game
     199 yards in the first quarter. 199 yards. That’s nearly an 800 yards pace for the game. That’s Playstation/Xbox numbers. 11 points in the quarter. A touchdown, 2 point conversion, a field goal. 11 points. Quarterback Nick Marshall looking sharp. The running backs looking average. But the offense was clicking. Then all of the sudden…nothing.
     17 yards. That was the total from the second quarter. The Offense sputtered. The Defense was giving up huge play after huge play. There was no answer for MSU quarterback Dak Prescott. He ran up the middle over and over gaining big yardage each time. 22 carries in the game. 133 yards. Better than 6 yards a carry. Better work on that.
     Still, Auburn carried a 14-13 lead into the locker room at halftime. The problem was State carried all the momentum. And they would receive the ball to start the second half after winning the coin toss and deferring. They took advantage of the second half kickoff and drove for the go ahead score. Thankfully that would be the last time they would see the endzone. The last time they would put points of any kind on the scoreboard.
Enter Nick Marshall
     Playing easily his best game as an Auburn Tiger, Quarterback Nick Marshall took it upon himself to insure that the perfect record the Tigers had posted so far would live to see another day. Oh he wasn’t perfect. He made a couple of bad throws (missing a WIDE OPEN Sammie Coates for what would’ve been a sure touchdown being the biggest). But in the end the Junior from Pineview, Ga made the plays when he had to.
     23/34 339 2/2. 339 yards through the air when the MSU defense stacked 9 in the box intent in stopping the run. That folks is getting it done. Two touchdowns including the game winner from a young man who didn’t have a spring to prepare for the season. Pretty stout if you ask me. Yes I know he threw 2 picks but one was on a Hail Mary to end the first half so I really can’t fault him for that one.
The Drive
     1:58 on the clock. 20-17 State. Ball on the 12 yard line. 88 yards between victory and defeat. Fans leaving the stadium having given up on the team. What the @!$&@!!                                     A pass to get Auburn out of the hole. A run here, another pass there and hopes were running high. In field goal range. If nothing else overtime was a possibility. But Nick Marshall and C.J. Uzomah would have none of that. C.J. did a double move leaving the State defender looking for his panties on the field. A strike from Marshall from 11 yards out and Auburn regained the lead.
     TOUCHDOWN AUBURN!! The crowd went crazy. Then the dreaded words no one wants to hear. “The previous play is under further review”. Review? For what? He was clearly in the end zone. He never bobbled the ball. It was a touchdown. No way this is overturned. As it was the Line Judge felt Uzomah went out of bounds and came back in to make the catch. Unless he was pushed that would make it an illegal touch because as e know an offensive player cannot leave the playing field of his own volition and then be the first player to touch the ball after coming back in bounds.
     A hush over the stadium. 85,000+ waiting, praying, hoping. “The replay shows the player was pushed out of bounds. The ruling in the field stands. Touchdown”. Eruption. Noise reaching decibels not heard at all last year. Auburn with the lead. 24-20. :10 in the clock. Ten seconds from victory. Ten seconds from staying undefeated. Ten seconds from breaking the streak.
:10
     Auburn teed it up with just 10 seconds left on the clock. You had to figure a squib kick was coming. Uh, nope. Auburn chose to kick it deep and rely on the defense to make one more stop. (Let’s rethink that strategy for the next time this happens Coach Gus).      Ball at the 25 after the touchback. (Wow the Parkey kid can boom it!) time for a play or two. Pressure from the D Line. A tackle. 3…2…1…ZERO!!! BALLGAME!!! AUBURN WINS!!!
     In a game where they could’ve easily given up. A game in which both the offense and defense struggled throughout the second, third, and part of the fourth quarters, this team found a way to win. They got the job done when the odds were stacked against them. They made the plays when they had to. They won a game and ended a streak. They played with heart, grit, and determination. They played like Auburn Tigers.
The Aftermath
     The win accomplished multiple goals. For the players it proves that they could win in the face of adversity. For the coaches it gave them more information on just what type if team they have and what their strengths and weaknesses are. For the fans it gave us another week of being able to stick out out chests and make claims of being undefeated. It ended the streak.
     This win can go a long way in determining where this team ends up as the season unfolds. Remember that in 2010 we beat that MSU team by a mere 3 points and went on to win a National Championship. Last year we lost by 18 (28-10) Saturday we won by 4. Times, they are a changing. It truly is "A New Day."
     With a big win under its belt Auburn now travels to Baton Rouge for its first road game of the year against the number 6 team in the nation. A tough test awaits this group of Tigers as they invade Death Valley looking for a rare night win against LSU. I said in an earlier blog that I thought Auburn would steal a game from one of the big 4 (lsboooo, bammer, ugag, or A&M and Johnny Football). This is the game I was pointing towards. The boo have been playing solid football. But there’s something in me that says overmatched Auburn is going to march into Red Stick and come away with a monumental upset of the number 6 team in the country.
Auburn Football
     It’s time to put Auburn Football back on the map. Time to dig our way out of the cellar and claw out way back to the top. That climb started this past Saturday.
     We saw the continued growth of a Quarterback. We saw a never say die attitude from the players. We saw a defense bend repeatedly but didn’t break when we couldn’t afford it. We saw an offense sputter but turn magical at the right moment. We saw an Auburn win when it seemed bleakest.
     We saw work, hard work. Those of us who stayed until the end believed in Auburn. And in the end we sure as hell Loved It!!!

Until next time War Damn Eagle!!
BEAT LSU!!!!


by: Rick Palmedo
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