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Auburn loses heartbreaker in final minutes of BCS National Championship

Published 5:07pm Friday, January 10, 2014

One local alum’s take on the final game of Auburn’s miraculous season

By Bart Moss

Sports Columnist

 

Florida State’s Heisman Trophy quarterback didn’t really look the part Monday night until it counted.

Just after Auburn’s Tre Mason broke free and sprinted toward the end zone to retake the lead in the BCS National Championship game, it appeared as though the Tigers capped off another great ending on college football’s biggest stage.

There was still just over a minute left for Winston to pull off the Seminoles own miracle finish. He did just that, ending Auburn’s miraculous season with his own come-from-behind win.

It would be easy to be upset, mad, and disappointed if you are an Auburn fan. A little disappointment is okay. No one likes to lose.

The Auburn Tigers fell just a few points short of being the best team in college football. Think about that. This team was 3-9 just last year. They went 0-8 in the Southeastern Conference.  They were completely blown out by the best teams in the SEC.  It took a miracle to beat Utah State. They were not fun to watch, and off-the-field controversies seemed to follow them everywhere. Their coach was fired. The program was in disarray.

Then something happened.

A new coach. A new attitude. Leadership. Hunger. Hard work.

All we saw as fans were the fantastic finishes, the wizardry of Gus Malzahn’s offense and maturation of a team on Saturdays.

What we didn’t see behind-the-scenes was Malzahn and his veteran staff slowly but surely getting this team to believe and buy in to their program. It was a lesson in leadership and team building for any coach or business leader to follow.

I remember taking my son to the second game of the year when Auburn played Arkansas State. Auburn won but I walked out of the stadium thinking it was going to be a long year and they had a long way to go. We were there the next week when Nick Marshall engineered a late comeback to defeat Mississippi State. It was exciting for sure but I still had my doubts.

Then came the LSU game. Auburn gets dominated in the first half, but something happened at halftime. They still lost the game, but it had a different feel. They came out of the locker room and fought and fought and fought. Why was that impressive? Because last year they quit. This year they continued to fight.

Most observers say Auburn’s turnaround happened when they went to Texas A&M and won. I think it turned around in the off-season conditioning program and in the locker room in Death Valley.

We all know what happened next – the Prayer at Jordan-Hare and the Iron Bowl field goal return. The stars aligned and the dominoes fell in just the right order to get Auburn to where they were Monday night.

Was luck involved? Yes. No team gets to that final game without a little luck on their side. The ball has to bounce your way sometimes. But Auburn deserved to be where they were, and they proved it on the field.

Before Monday night’s game, few people were giving Auburn a chance to even stay close to Florida State. They had too much NFL caliber talent. They were stronger than Auburn at every position. They were dominant all season. Auburn can’t play defense. Auburn can’t pass the ball. Auburn is one-dimensional. They went from and eight and a half point favorite to an eleven point favorite by game time.

So, yes, as an Auburn fan, Auburn graduate, and someone who was once part of the football program as a walk-on, I am disappointed. But I am also proud – I am proud of the fight. I am proud of the effort. I am proud of the courage in the face of adversity this team has shown all year long.

The game was fun, it was exciting to watch, and it will be remembered for a long time.

There was a hunger in this team to prove people wrong. There is going to be a hunger in this team during the off-season to complete Monday night’s unfinished business.

In his post-game press conference Gus Malzahn said he thanked the seniors for laying the groundwork and the foundation for this program.

“Our program has a very bright future,” Malzahn said.

Monday night’s game can’t overshadow how far this program has come in just one year. It was a rebuilding year for the Auburn Tigers and what a heck of a rebuilding year it was.

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