The first quarter and a half were mind-boggling to Auburn fans who have watched the Tigers struggle over the past few weeks. The offensive woes of last week seemed to carry over as Samford's defensive line broke through for a number of tackles for loss and the Tigers could not get anything going.
Samford's offense seemed to click for that same time frame, though they were only able to come away with seven points. Auburn's defensive line got plenty of penetration during the first half, but receivers still got open as Samford QB Michael Eubank was able to get the ball out under pressure.
The moment Samford scored to go up 7-0, something seemed to click for Auburn. The Tigers really began to step up as Nick Marshall hit Sammie Coates in one of the most perfectly thrown balls he's made for 49 yards. It was followed two plays later by senior WR Quan Bray taking the sweep 23 yards to tie the game.
The defense awoke after that score. Where they were getting beat badly by Samford before, now they finished the quarterback pressures with sacks and got the ball back after two quick possessions. What looked like it may end up as a shoot out against an FCS team became what it was supposed to be: Auburn imposing its will on defense and making plays it needed to make on offense.
On Senior Night, Quan Bray showed out with a number of big plays. Corey Grant made one of the toughest runs I've ever seen on the opening kick-off of the game and chalked up his first touchdown catch as an Auburn Tiger on the first drive of the second half. Cameron Artis-Payne found ways to gain yards even though the blocking wasn't there early on and ended up with 132 yards to go over 1,400 for the season.
At the end of the night these seniors walked off the field 31-7 victors in their last game at Jordan-Hare Stadium. Meanwhile, Pat Sullivan - an Auburn legend - made his way down onto the field for what is undoubtedly his last game at Jordan-Hare Stadium as a participant and possibly his last game as a coach, period, as well.
The 1971 Heisman Trophy winner and head coach of the Samford Bulldogs coached from the booth, but did come down to shake Gus Malzhan's hand - a man he played a large part in hiring. It was an eye-watering site to see Coach Sullivan make that gesture. His team fought hard against the Tigers and gave a performance that I'm sure made their head coach proud.
Tonight, we salute our Seniors, and we salute Coach Sullivan. Once a Tiger, always a Tiger. Those seniors will always have a special place in our hearts for everything they've been through. Coach Sullivan will always be special as Auburn's first Heisman winner, a long-time record holder for many team records, and for being a great individual person and Auburn Man.
For those seniors, there are still two games left. One of those is the Iron Bowl. All that's on the line for the Tigers is pride and the chance to play spoiler. Hopefully they'll find a way to fight hard and go out on top.
War Eagle, Always. And it's great to be an Auburn Tiger.