Don’t Hold Your Breath, It May Be Never

Lyn Scarbrough

October 15, 2017 at 3:57 pm.

Oct 14, 2017; Baton Rouge, LA, USA; LSU Tigers place kicker Connor Culp (34) celebrates with holder Josh Growden (38) after a field goal to take the lead during the fourth quarter of a game against the Auburn Tigers at Tiger Stadium. LSU defeated Auburn 27-23. Photo Credit: Derick E. Hingle-USA TODAY Sports

Oct 14, 2017; Baton Rouge, LA, USA; LSU Tigers place kicker Connor Culp (34) celebrates with holder Josh Growden (38) after a field goal to take the lead during the fourth quarter of a game against the Auburn Tigers at Tiger Stadium. LSU defeated Auburn 27-23. Photo Credit: Derick E. Hingle-USA TODAY Sports

Few things are certain in life, but several are pretty much guaranteed.

The sun will rise in the east and set in the west.

Gravity will never make things fall up.

And after what happened on Saturday in Tiger Stadium, Auburn will never win another football game in Baton Rouge.

It’s dangerous to give absolutes. After all, maybe the earth’s rotation will reverse and maybe the laws of Mother Nature will change. But, an Auburn win in Tiger Stadium … nah!

Ain’t gonna happen!

If Auburn couldn’t prevail this year, when will it ever win there again?

In the 18 seasons since the visiting Tigers last brought a victory back home … going on 20 years now, by the way … few, if any, Auburn teams appeared to have a better chance.

Auburn was one of the nation’s hottest teams, averaging 48 points a game in its three most recent wins, all over SEC opponents. Its defense was among the nation’s leaders in almost every category and its placekicker is the country’s best.

In the meantime, LSU lost at home to Troy.

Objectively evaluating all positions on both teams based on what had happened so far this season, Auburn entered the game better at every position.

Comparative scores went heavily in Auburn’s favor. LSU lost to Mississippi State, 37-7, a 30-point loss. Two games later, the Bulldogs lost to Auburn, 49-10, a 39-point loss. So, by comparative scores, Auburn should have won by 69 points.

After the first 20 minutes of the game on Saturday, that margin didn’t seem outlandish. Auburn led 20-0 and LSU had been outplayed every bit that badly.

But, things started to change, and even from the box upstairs, the momentum swing could be felt. Not sure when it started. Maybe when Auburn had to kick a second field goal rather than score another touchdown and increase the lead to 24-0. Maybe it was LSU’s late touchdown just before halftime. Whenever it was, you could feel it.

As it became apparent that LSU had stolen the momentum and had a great chance to win the game, e-mails and text messages from Auburn fans starting pouring into my I-Phone in the press box.

Here are some message highlights:

** Throwing passes 30 yards downfield when you just need four yards for first down! (Agree. Didn’t seem like smart play calling to me, either.)

** Starting every possession with the same running play! (Agree. How about not being so predictable and conservative. Play calling and execution.)

** Running Pettway! If Johnson needs a breather, use (Cam) Martin or (Malik) Miller. (Agree, again. Don’t know why an ineffective, less than 100% runner would be first choice.)

** Block in the back! Block in the back! Who are the refs, Three Blind Mice! (Again, agree. Not even a question. Those blocks in the back should have negated LSU’s punt return touchdown which cemented the momentum change. In a four-point game, do the math and determine the significance that play had on the outcome. But, that’s not the point. When you lead 20-0, a blown referee call shouldn’t be able to provide a game’s winning points. There’s that play calling and execution again.)

And, the message most prevalent …

Fire Gus! Fire the OC! Fire Kodi Burns! Fire everybody! (Understand it, but don’t agree with it … at least, not quite yet.)

Remember four seasons ago. Auburn limped from Tiger Stadium after a 14-point loss, still with games ahead against Texas A&M in College Station and at home against Georgia and Alabama. Things looked bleak. For sure, nobody hurried back from Baton Rouge that night to make hotel reservations for SEC Championship weekend in Atlanta. But that Auburn team ran the regular season table, defeating all of those SEC opponents, and won the conference title game in the Georgia Dome.

That exact same scenario is there again, and if Auburn could run the table, like in 2013, the outcome would be the same.

Auburn has players talented enough to meet that challenge, so at least wait to see if that could happen again. But, you don’t get that same sense this time. More likely than finishing 10-2, the Tigers could finish 7-5, falling all the way from the Top 10 and legit discussion about a possible FBS playoff berth to SEC mediocrity and a mid-level bowl game.

How about Gus Malzahn’s future?

Not much stellar can be said right now.

His team just lost to LSU, a team that lost at home to Troy, which is a team that lost at home to South Alabama, which is a team that lost at home to the Idaho Vandals. You get the picture.

He and his staff just got outcoached by Ed Orgeron … Ed Orgeron!! … the guy with the 3-21 SEC coaching record in three seasons at Ole Miss, the guy that lost at home to Troy. Not exactly a badge of honor for Malzahn and his guys.

With this loss, especially considering the magnitude of the collapse and the questionable coaching decisions and execution, Malzahn likely has little flexibility going forward. With expectations as high as they were going into the 2017 season, another five-loss campaign and another season losing to both Georgia and Alabama (0-6 combined against Auburn’s two biggest rivals the last three seasons) won’t cut it with most Auburn folks. If you’re not on that bus yet, let me show you some text messages.

Two years from now, Auburn will have another chance to break that winless streak in Baton Rouge. Don’t hold your breath for that to happen.

Gus Malzahn would like nothing better than to lead the team in that Tiger Stadium win. But, if things keep going the way they did down the stretch in Baton Rouge on Saturday, and down the stretch for the last three seasons overall, don’t hold your breath for that to happen either.