Forgotten no more, Auburn returned to the national stage on an electric afternoon in College Station, Texas.
Malzahn and his players celebrate the upset win Saturday/Todd Van Emst photo
As the college football world sat on the edge of their collective seats, expecting another miracle from Texas A&M quarterback Johnny Manziel, it was Auburn’s defense that put the exclamation point on a 45-41 win with a sack by Dee Ford on 4th down with 11 seconds remaining.
A bruised and battered Johnny Football could only sit and watch as Auburn’s players celebrated their biggest win since the 2010 BCS National Championship.
In his first year as head coach, Gus Malzahn has the Tigers 6-1, bowl eligible and right in the middle of the SEC West race.
A year ago, this team was 1-6 and headed to a 3-9 finish. The Aggies could have named the score in a 63-21 win at Jordan-Hare Stadium last October.
But Auburn showed at Kyle Field Saturday just how far it’s come in a year.
The Tigers piled up 615 yards of total offense including 379 on the ground. Quarterback Nick Marshall accounted for 336 total yards and four touchdowns. Auburn’s defense gave up 602 yards but also had two interceptions, three sacks and held the Aggies to 5-of-13 on third down.
How far will Auburn rise in the polls Sunday? Top 15 is certainly possible. The Top 10 may be too far of a leap but we’ll see. Auburn will certainly be a part of the first BCS rankings that come out Sunday night.
But these Tigers have much more important things to focus on.
Auburn will return to Jordan-Hare next Saturday with a non-conference matchup against Florida Atlantic. The first of three games the Tigers should be favored to win.
But Auburn is not a team that can afford to look past any opponent, and that certainly includes road games at Arkansas and Tennessee, but if they take care of business the next three weeks, they can go into Amen Corner against rivals Georgia and Alabama at Jordan-Hare with a 9-1 record.
I doubt even the most optimistic Auburn fan saw this coming in August.
Credit Malzahn and his veteran staff of assistants for instilling discipline and toughness back into this program and making the players believe they can win again.
Auburn’s three SEC wins were all decided in the fourth quarter and it was Auburn’s players that were in better shape and made the key plays.
And it’s brought Auburn all the way back from a preseason afterthought to one of the nation’s biggest comeback stories.
Yes, Auburn is back playing big-boy football and I expect they’ll hang out here for quite a while longer.
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