Some losses stay with you forever.
Stop me if you’ve heard this one. A top ten Auburn team goes on the road to face an unranked, struggling SEC rival. Auburn is heavily-favored, despite having not won a road game in the rivalry in nearly 20 years. Auburn is in the middle of a very successful season after the two previous seasons with talented, but underperforming teams. A win keeps Auburn in the hunt for the national championship. Auburn’s dark horse Heisman candidate running back tallies more than 150 yards and a touchdown while Auburn builds a three score lead. Then collapses and loses late in an upset that costs them a share of the SEC title.
Because that’s what happened on November 1, 1986 in Gainesville, Florida.
Number 4 Auburn took a 17-0 lead early in the fourth quarter. Then, a one-legged Kerwin Bell and the Gators struck back. Bell took the ball in from a yard out on a quarterback sneak. Robert McGinty tacked on three more from 51 yards out to make it 17-10.
A lot of our younger readers may have glossed over that last bit but it’s important. Who was Robert McGinty? McGinty was the goat (as in “scapegoat”, not G.O.A.T.) of the 1984 Iron Bowl who missed a last second 42 yard field goal that would have given Auburn its third-straight win over the Tide.
Again, some losses stay with you forever.
Florida scored for the last time with less than a minute left. The Gators went for two and Kerwin Bell hobbled in to give the Gators their first lead of the day 18-17.
I told you that story to say this. Auburn’s loss to LSU hurts. It should hurt. It will hurt in November, it will hurt in June, and (on the rare occasions you think of it) it will hurt in 2048.
But this is just what happens when you give your heart again and again to a bunch of 18-22 year old men. Sometimes you get the Kick Six. Sometimes you beat the number one team in the country on a field goal. And sometimes you blow a 20-0 lead in a must-have road game against a rival.
What you never do—indeed, what you couldn’t do, even if you tried—is quit loving them.
Maybe the Tigers run the table this season. Maybe they limp to a 7-5 finish. But I know where I’ll be this Saturday. And next Saturday. And the Saturday after Thanksgiving. And Saturday, September 1, 2018 when Auburn opens up against Washington (no matter who’s coaching).
You’ll be there too.
War Eagle, Always.