It was a cold, dreary evening on the Plains for Senior Night, and at times the Tigers' hearts just didn't seem to be in the game, but it was still a much needed victory heading into the Iron Bowl.
I wasn't supposed to be at this game. I was in the woods for a field exercise with my full-time job that was supposed to last until Sunday, but due to the incoming weather we shortened it to late Saturday afternoon. So, I was able to make it into the game with my brother and niece to be with them for her very first Auburn football game.
She wasn't terribly interested in the game, but she loved Tiger Walk and getting to meet Aubie and having her picture taken with a tiny owl at the Alumni tent.
The game didn't go exactly as expected, as Auburn struggled through the majority of the 1st quarter, but things got back on track in the second. So let's take some time and talk about the goods and bads.
Seeing Pat Sullivan make his way onto the field at the end of the game to shake Gus Malzahn's hand, and then to see him join in with the post-game prayer. Awesome photographer (and Auburn alumna) Shanna Lockwood was there to capture the moment.
Quite cool to see an Auburn legend, Pat Sullivan, on the field at Jordan-Hare. pic.twitter.com/AFDirA6dKQ— Shanna Lockwood (@shannalo) November 23, 2014
Coach Sullivan - a cancer survivor - has been experiencing some health issues this season and has not spent much time on the sideline. He made sure to make his way down to Pat Dye Field at Jordan-Hare Stadium what is likely one final time as a coach to shake the hand of the man he played a large part in hiring for the Auburn job. It was a touching moment. It may be his final time coaching in Jordan-Hare Stadium - and possibly his final game as a coach - but Pat Sullivan is someone who will always be welcome around the Auburn program. War Eagle, Coach.
The Seniors. As I said last night in the game recap, the seniors showed up in a big way once the team woke up. Quan Bray, Corey Grant, Cameron Artis-Payne, and many others had big nights. Nick Marshall had his worst outing of his Auburn career running the ball and had one badly under thrown interception, but he also hit Sammie Coates and Bray on two beautiful deep balls.
Quarterback Pressure. Auburn's defensive line was in the backfield all night against Samford, registering two sacks and a number of quarterback hurries. Unfortunately, the Samford quarterback was able to get quite a few passes off in spite of the pressure.
Kris Frost. He may have had an off week last weekend, but Kris Frost picked back up to the level he had been at for the previous weeks with his performance against Samford.
Not Finishing Plays. I mentioned just above that the defense got a good bit of pressure on Samford's quarterback, and yet Samford still made plays. I don't know what the issues were, but somehow Samford kept getting people open - often WIDE open.
Penalties. These have been a big problem over the past few weeks and they did not get any better on Saturday night. Two of the penalties were questionable, though. Mincy's defensive PI and Coates' offensive PI were two very iffy calls. Coates' was understandable in real time, though. It was the replay that showed how iffy it truly was.
The Slow Start. In his post-game press conference, Gus Malzahn indicated that Samford knew some of Auburn's offensive plays early in the game. Kodi Burns - now a Samford coach - was an Auburn grad assistant last season. Phillip Marshall wondered in a behind-the-paywall column this afternoon the same thing I am: Why were the signals never changed? If we've had the same signals this season as last season, it could possibly explain some of the offensive struggles at times. Particularly last weekend against Georgia when we faced former Florida State defensive coordinator Jeremy Pruitt.
Senior Night Being the Samford Game (i.e. the current scheduling). I know it's nice to have what should be a guaranteed win as Senior Night, but the crowd at Jordan-Hare was lacking due to it being a cold, dreary night game against an FCS team. These seniors deserved something much better than that. They deserved a full house to cheer them on in their final game. They have been through so much during their time on the Plains, and such a lack-luster crowd (many of whom left when the first light mist began to fall) was not a fitting end.