Turning a program around in the SEC…..No small task. Turning a program completely around to the point of beating your state rival (the undefeated defending National Champions, Alabama Crimson Tide,) winning the SEC Championship in the GA Dome defeating Mizzou, and playing against FSU for a National Championship in your first year…..well even Bryant himself did not accomplish that in his first season at Alabama. But then, that’s the Malzahn way. Go! Go! Go! Go!
Auburns’ miserable 2012 season where they went 3-9, not winning one conference game was a low point for the Auburn football program the likes we haven’t seen since 1950 and one that the Auburn Family would like to forget. But, it made the 2013 Season, that much sweeter. The 12-2 Season in 2013, was such a big turn around that I think Coach Bryant himself would have liked to come down and present the Bryant Award to Gus Malzahn himself. In 2013, Auburn averaged 39.5 points per game, compared to 18.7 ppg in 2012.Coach Bryant was no stranger to miraculous turnarounds. He took over a dismal Alabama program that by 1958 had reached an all-time low – only four wins in the previous three years. A player on the 1957 team who was cut from the team by Coach Bryant when he came to Alabama recalled that things were so bad the fans cheered like crazy for the rare first down. Coach Bryant returned to coach for his Alma Mater in 1958 and by 1961 they were National Champions.
It got me thinking about the two seasons, Alabama’s from years ago and Auburn’s most recent. As I pondered the two teams and two coaches, their methods are eerily similar.
One of the major advantages Auburn had over its opponents this year was being in better condition than most of its opponents. It showed in the fourth quarter, when they kept on with their hurry up no huddle approach and opponents would come to the line of scrimmage with hands on hips. One thing Malzahn, did have when he got to Auburn was a talented group of young men, highly recruited who just needed to hit the RESET button, forget about 2012, and only look forward to the future and winning championships. Malzahn and his staff began to instill this mentality into them during the off season. And these Tigers had confidence in their, ability, and in each other and learned to work together as a team for a common goal, to win the Championship.
Auburn was More Aggressive than its opponents in all but two games…LSU and FSU. But, the LSU game was really a tipping point in the season after getting down 21 points in the first half in the pouring rain, they came together and put together 21 points of their own in the 2nd half, fighting to the very end. It became very evident this team had a Genuine Desire to Win. This team knew what they had well before we as fans saw it. And in the FSU game, Auburn learned a valuable lesson that will not be forgotten any time soon, letting off the gas in the 3rd quarter and not scoring a point. Auburn had scored points in every quarter of the season except for the first and second quarter against LSU and 3rd quarter of the FSU Championship Game and the 4th quarter of the Florida Atlantic game after the game was already very much at hand.
Gus Malzahn and his team are getting better and better every week, each and every day. You saw it during the season as there was improvement every time they took the field. With each and every WIN, Confidence was growing. You could see QB Nick Marshall, gaining Confidence and Poise each time he took the field. Nick Marshall had 1,976 yards, completing 59.4% of his passes for 8.27 yards per attempt. And as for, “a genuine desire for team victory”, well if you tuned in to any of Auburn’s games in 2013, including the two losses, I believe it was obvious that this team had it.
They certainly got some intangibles to go their way from the Miracle in Jordan Hare as Ricardo Louis caught the game winning pass from Nick Marshall. To the greatest play ever in college football with Chris Davis returning a missed field goal 100 yards for a game winning touchdown in the 2013 Iron Bowl. Winning their fair share of close ones! Yes they were prepared for the play and the intangible went their way.
So, that brings us back full circle to the weight room. After January 6th, when they narrowly lost the National Championship Game, they are in the weight room grinding it out again. But this time when they hit the field for their first game on August 30, 2014, against, SEC West opponent, Arkansas, they will take this team to a whole new high. Buckle up, ’cause it’s gonna be quite a ride! Congratulations to my Auburn Tigers, SEC Champions. Can’t Wait to see you in 2014. The future National Champions.
Gus Malzahn photo by Gary Cosby Jr, The Decatur Daily
I mentioned the play that is the best in history, the play in the 2013 Iron Bowl, where Chris Davis ran back the missed field goal for the winning touch down. We’d like to hear from you. What is your favorite play of all time?