This will be short. We have much more important things to think about than the worst year in Auburn football’s modern history. Yes, it’s good to remember the bad times so that the good times will be better, and 2012 definitely taught us to be humble, just like 2003 did. So, without further ado...
5 Years Ago - 2012
After the departure of Gus Malzahn, Gene Chizik had to find a replacement to run the offense that had brought Auburn a national championship just two years before. As the search was conducted, a couple of things were troubling right off the bat.
First, it didn’t seem like there were any real candidates. I’m sure feelers were sent out to a ton of guys, but I honestly can’t remember any big coaches truly considering Auburn.
Second, it took a long time. The news wasn’t “Auburn vetting candidates,” it was “Auburn turned down by another candidate.” That wasn’t exactly reassuring. When Scot Loeffler took the job, it was a full 40 days after Malzahn had left for Arkansas State. It was #meh from the start.
Loeffler’s qualifications were basically associative. He’d “coached” Tom Brady when he was a graduate assistant at Michigan. He’d been Tim Tebow’s quarterbacks coach in 2009, and stuck with the Gators for 2010 as well. Of course we know that Florida was otherworldly when Dan Mullen was in town, and that they took a major step back once he left, even with Tebow still on the team.
When Auburn got him, he was at Temple. Not doing terrible, but nothing great either. Hey, that wasn’t a problem. Auburn got Al Borges from Indiana while they were terrible, and Chizik had come from Iowa State when they were (as usual) terrible. Both had helped Auburn to undefeated years. Maybe this guy would work too.
On the other side of the ball, Auburn had found a new defensive coordinator as well, bidding goodbye to Ted Roof. In stepped Brian VanGorder.
New faces all around. Despite that, Auburn had talent to burn on the roster. The 2010 and 2011 recruiting classes had been fantastic, and now those players were starting to mature. What’s the worst that could happen?
Giving up 500+ yards to Clemson again in the opener, for starters.
Auburn lost just 26-19 in the Georgia Dome to the Tigers to start the year, but again, they got decimated by the Clemson offense, allowing 228 yards to Andre Ellington on the ground. It wasn’t a bad loss, and the offense hadn’t been terrible, so it was forgivable.
Then the next week against Mississippi State rolled around. Keihl Frazier had been inefficient against Clemson, but it was nothing like what he did in Starkville. Just 125 yards through the air, three interceptions, and no touchdowns from the offense. Auburn lost 28-10 with the only touchdown coming from McCalebb on a kickoff return. The team looked lost, and all early signs pointed to a complete unraveling.
Thankfully, the Tigers were much more talented than Louisiana-Monroe, who visited town in week three. That didn’t prevent Warhawk quarterback Kolton Browning from nearly orchestrating the upset. ULM took Auburn to overtime, but the Tigers pulled out a 31-28 victory for their first win of the year. If they’d lost, Chizik would’ve been gone before the sun set that night.
Instead, Auburn lost the next five games. In a fit of gallantry, they nearly pulled off the upset against LSU at home the next week, losing just 12-10, with the difference coming on a safety early in the game. Then a 24-7 loss to Arkansas followed, and the split-quarterback offense was back with Clint Moseley taking snaps from Frazier.
Auburn actually didn’t play terribly in the next loss to Ole Miss, they just fell apart late, allowing three touchdowns in the fourth after leading 24-20. Then they lost to Vanderbilt. Again.
If Chizik’s job wasn’t done yet, it died with the loss at home to Texas A&M in the first meeting between the two since the Aggies joined the league. Johnny Manziel cruised to a 28-0 lead and A&M coasted 63-21 -- scoring the most points and gaining the most yards against Auburn in Jordan-Hare history.
Auburn did get two more wins that year, as thankfully New Mexico State and Alabama A&M sat on the late-season schedule, but the final two conference games resulted in a whopping zero points for the Tigers.
Georgia and Alabama shut out Auburn by a combined 87-0 and it almost seemed like both sides (well maybe not Alabama) were a bit sorry that the Tigers had fallen this far. We’d get them back the next season.
Chizik was gone shortly after Thanksgiving, and the search was on for a new head man. I would’ve given my right arm for someone who’d be able to orchestrate a quick turnaround. Please. Send help.
Coming Next: Miracles