Few could have predicted what transpired at Scott Field Thursday night. Conventional wisdom said the Auburn offense was nearly unstoppable. By many accounts, defensive coordinator Ted Roof already had one foot out the door. When Auburn and Mississippi State meet in Starkville you can throw the offense out the window.
The best line of the night came during our live blog when longtime commenter JD Is Legend said, "You can take Auburn and Miss State out of 2008, but you can't take 2008 out of Auburn and Miss State."
There are plenty of things to be concerned about after Auburn's 17-14 win over the Bulldogs; but there's no mistaking how big a victory it was for Gene Chizik and his players.
"I thought the players played extremely hard and they executed what we ask them to do most of the time about as good as we could do it, said Chizik. "We didn't play perfect, but I think Coach Roof had them in the right spots and they played physical and hard and that was encouraging to see them play as hard as they did because they were relentless down to the last snap."
Miss State coach Dan Mullen and his team have had this game circled on their schedule since January. They put all their eggs in Thursday's basket. This was to be the Bulldog's coming out party.
For a brief shining moment, fans in Starkville cared about football and believed they could be relevant again with a win over visiting Auburn. The dream has not died for Mullen. Miss State will only get better.
It's hard to put into words what Thursday's win means for Auburn. It's real easy to dismiss Miss State, but a loss could have been devastating for this young Auburn team and coaching staff.
Now the sky is the limit. Auburn has a free weekend - the last one they'll get until just before the Iron Bowl. Players can get well. Coaches can work longer in the film room trying to get better. You have to like the way this schedule is shaping up for the Tigers.
Auburn's defense is on cloud nine today. This often maligned group has to feel like they can now win any game on the schedule. A team's psyche is just as important as the physical aspect. Roof announced to the country that his defense is back. Thursday's win will pay dividends the rest of the year.
Obviously, the Auburn offense disappointed at times. But, I ask you this: would you rather be concerned about Roof's defense today or Gus Malzahn's offense? I have total confidence Malzahn can right this ship quickly.
Quarterback Cam Newton continues to dazzle. He wasn't perfect and his inexperience came through at times. But I still believe this kid is going to be something very special.
As I write we still don't have a status on tailback Mario Fannin. We've long wondered whether his shoulder could make it through an SEC season. Unfortunately, we may have gotten the answer way too early.
My guess is it's only a matter of time before Michael Dyer becomes Auburn's starting tailback. Onterio McCalebb had a workman like night, but Dyer shows signs of something special. That said, losing Fannin for any length of time will hurt tremendously.
Before I close, I would be remiss if I didn't mention Nick Fairley by name. Has there ever been a better first half performance by an Auburn defender than what he showed Thursday. I feel certain I'll be running away from him in my dreams all weekend. I know Bulldog quarterback Chris Relf will do so for years to come.
War Eagle and have a great weekend.