OXFORD, Miss. - For a time Saturday, Auburn's football team was having a lot of fun on homecoming day at Ole Miss' Vaught-Hemingway Stadium.
After Cody Parkey's field goal with a minute left in the first half, the Tigers had scored 17 unanswered points and led 17-14. Quarterback Clint Moseley was playing with nerve and confidence. The defense was shutting down Ole Miss' no-huddle, up-tempo offense.
It was fool's gold. Auburn did what bad teams do. It found a way to lose in ways we've seen before and ways we haven't.
Center Tunde Fariyike, pressed into duty by an injury to Reese Dismukes, airmailed a shotgun snap 28 yards to the end zone that Ole Miss recovered for its second touchdown. A shanked Ole Miss punt that would have put Auburn at the Rebels' 38 in the fourth quarter was wiped out by an offsides penalty that cost 41 yards of field position. Another first down was wiped out by an illegal motion penalty.
Amazingly, Ole Miss tailback Jeff Scott did the same thing Mike Dyer did to Oregon, the same thing Andre Ellington did to Auburn in the opener after catching a pass from quarterback Bo Ellis. He rolled over would-be tackler Ashton Richardson, who didn't lock him down at the 42, and raced away to the touchdown that pretty much clinched it for Ole Miss.
Finally, after a heads up kickoff return by C.J. Uzomah gave Auburn a smidgen of hope at the Ole Miss 35 inside the last five minutes, Moseley threw his only interception of the day. Ole Miss romped gleefully through Auburn's dispirited defense. What looked like the return of an Auburn heartbeat in the second quarter became a blowout.
By Ole Miss.
By a team that had lost 16 consecutive SEC games
By a first-year coach running pretty much a carbon copy of the offense Auburn coach Gene Chizik abandoned.
Once again, Auburn did not answer the bell in the fourth quarter. Ole Miss led 24-20 when it started and scored 17 more. In six games this season, Auburn has been outscored 62-3 in the fourth quarter. I've never even heard of anything like that.
And going back to last season, the Tigers have lost six consecutive SEC games. If you're wondering, yes, just more than 21 month after winning the national championship, Auburn replaces Ole Miss as the team with the longest losing streak in SEC games.
I'm not here to call for anyone's job. I don't do that and I won't, but others will certainly scream long and loud. And they won't just be on message boards.
What I know is this: What I witnessed at Vaught-Hemingway Stadium, what I witnessed last Saturday against Arkansas is not Auburn football as I have known it for most of my life.
Youth, injuries, new schemes, new coordinators, forget all that. None of that explains what is going on with this Auburn football team.
This is a bad team. A very bad team. Probably bad enough to lose at Vanderbilt again next Saturday. Maybe bad enough to lose to anybody.
The damning thing about that is this should not be a bad team. This should be a decent team headed toward being a great team in the years to come. Instead, it is headed toward the bottom of the SEC at breakneck speed and doesn't seem inclined to do much about it.