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Undercover Barner: The Twelfth Loss

This week’s Undercover Barner chooses life.

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John David Mercer-USA TODAY Sports

Sometimes you just come up short.

Since we started CaM, I’ve written about ten Auburn losses. Nine of them came in the first* season. One more came in 2013. There were two losses that year, but I couldn’t find the words to write about the last one.

Tonight, I am tasked with writing about the twelfth Auburn loss of our tenure. As I sit down to write this, I’m watching Tre Mason finally get his first touches with the St. Louis Rams. I’m prepping for a trial tomorrow. My birthday is next week. There’s a tornado watch until 10pm here. I guess what I’m trying to say is that life seems to have gone on.

Where Auburn’s loss to Florida State felt like the end of the world, this one feels like the beginning. Hear me out.

In my heart of hearts, I didn’t think Auburn was going to get through the Murder Schedule © unscathed. Call me a bad Barner or whatever, but I figured we’d be a 10-2** team this year. I mean, I didn’t realllly expect to lose to Mississippi State but I was sure we’d lose to Kansas State so, honestly, I just mixed up my States. As we’ve said before, this season has been uncomfortable, mostly because we had more questions than answers. The LSU game served to pump us up, but MSU kindly showed us that perhaps that game was more about LSU’s problems than our own prowess.

So while there is plenty to gripe*** about, I just can’t get too upset about this. Don’t get me wrong: I ugly cried in the fourth quarter. I would’ve much rather Auburn come out of Starkville with a win, but they didn’t. By the time the game actually ended, I found myself in this weird zen-like state I think people call "maturity." Auburn didn’t do enough to win the game and MSU did. They deserved to win. You don’t turn the ball over twice on your first two possessions on the road, allow both to lead to touchdowns, fail to capitalize on red zone trips of your own, and still expect to win football games. Without Cam Newton, it just doesn’t happen.

But this team is still chock-full of talent. It isn’t any different than the team that beat LSU 41-7 or Arkansas 45-21. The offense is still deadly when it’s clicking. The defense is still opportunistic. Auburn is far from being down for the count. Auburn isn’t undefeated anymore, and that sucks, but so does crying in your bed at 6pm on a Saturday.

I wrote but never published this about the loss to Florida State in January:

I’ve spent the better part of a week not wanting to talk about it. I haven’t been able to read articles or watch highlights. I can’t deal with the what-if scenarios or the detailed accounts of the last-ditch effort. And it’s not because I’m a sore loser. I recognize that Florida State was the better team that night. I’m just heartbroken.

It’s stupid to care this much, honestly. I know it. Football is just a game, and college football is a game played by 18-22 year olds who are as unpredictable as they are incredible. But this part, this mourning of what could have been, this is the price we pay for loving something. As the clock ran out on Auburn’s magical season, this is the only thought I could muster:

I guess I just thought that if you had clear eyes and full hearts, you couldn’t lose.

Once you go through that kind of heartbreak, you have to choose life, man. There’s no way around it.

Congratulations to State****. They’re on top of the world for the first time, and it’s an incredible feeling. I’m not sure if I’m ready for a world where Mississippi State wins it all, but 2014 has been pretty weird already, so why not #HailState?

Enjoy the bye week, Tiger fans. Sorry to cut this one short, but I really need to get back to trial prep. Have to fight the good fight and whatnot.

Until next time—War Eagle!

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*What a time to start a blog, right?

**Let's just take a moment to appreciate Gus Malzahn for 10-2 being a conservative win estimate.

***I’ve always thought criticizing the officiating after a loss was just the sign of a sore loser, but every time I think about that OPI call against Sammie, my blood boils. However, if we hadn’t dug ourselves a nice hole with the first two offensive series (among other things), it wouldn’t have been backbreaking. C’est la vie.

****But not Dan Mullen.