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About Last Night: #15 Auburn 48, #5 Alabama 45

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Gave it some time, here are some thoughts.

Auburn Football Photo by Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images

Isn’t it funny? Two weeks ago, we were all gloom and doom, sky is falling, chicken littles.

Gus Malzahn wasn’t going to be the guy, but there was nobody prepared to fork over the cash for the buyout. Everyone that figured Yella Fella would pony up a solid $25M to send Gus off to Arkansas or somewhere found out that rich businessmen get rich by not paying that kind of money on a gamble.

Then, there we were. Gus is still on the sideline, coaching against Alabama in a game that he absolutely could win, especially without Tua under center for the Tide.

So what happened?

Gus not only tricked the greatest coach of all time into blowing a gasket, but he tricked all of the Auburn fans that wanted him gone as well.

Auburn beat Alabama 48-45 in the 84th Iron Bowl, which turned out to be the most insane edition of the storied rivalry. At a high level, here are some of the things that stood out:

  • The win puts Auburn at 9-3 for the regular season, which turned out to be one of the toughest in school history. The Tigers’ only losses came by 11 at Florida, 3 at LSU, and 7 vs Georgia. Before the year began, if we’d said that Auburn would go 2-1 against Oregon, A&M, and Florida, and 1-2 against LSU, Georgia, and Alabama, you’d probably take that. We did it. Successful year. Auburn now has a chance to reach ten wins in a bowl game, which will likely take place on New Year’s Day in a sunny Florida location.
  • Alabama’s season is ruined. Imagine being so spoiled as to think that your season is ruined at 10-2, with both losses coming by fewer than ten total points. There will be no Playoff appearance for the Tide in 2019, which means they miss the Playoff for the first time since its inception. MUST BE TOUGH. Cry me a river. While they’ve had incredible longevity over the last decade, this is a bit of a different feel. The last three good teams that Alabama played put up 44, 46, and 48 points on Nick Saban’s vaunted defense. In 2020, they stand to lose the vast majority of their skill players, offensive line, and a ton of their defensive stalwarts as well...
You know, these kinds of defensive stalwarts...

...who knows what kind of coaching turnover happens in the meantime for them as well. The point is, the #decline seems a little more founded in reality than hope.

  • Gus Malzahn once again showed that he’s THE guy that can get Saban’s gourd. Nobody else has that ability. Sure, Dabo’s beaten him a couple times, but those were straight up one-on-one slugfests where Clemson was just better. Auburn was better in 2013 with the Kick Six, and they were better last night too, but when you roll out something new (pop pass/punter substitution trick) and it causes Saban to bitch about the rules, you know you’re doing something right. You’re putting mileage on that engine, and that’s a good thing.

As for the game itself, what a wild ride. We had 48 combined points in the second quarter, two pick sixes (including one that went for 100 yards), and so many elements that harkened back to the Kick Six and must’ve given Saban a feeling like he was Buckner walking back into Shea.

Let’s dive in.

I saw so many people (Auburn fans even) talking about how rushing the field was dumb. If it annoys Alabama then it can’t possibly be a bad idea.

Also, doing anything to entertain of the MVP of the 2017 Iron Bowl is fine by me.

One point of contention earlier in the year was the fan support at Jordan-Hare Stadium. Auburn didn’t get to play any big games at home until Georgia, and while the crowd was unreal for that affair, we had to endure the “It was cold” excuses from the students after Ole Miss. Last night paid any sort of fan support debt in full.

In the past, the Iron Bowl has always been a rivalry game that seems pretty clean on the field. Most of these guys grew up together, played against or with each other when they were younger, and so the bad blood on the field is kept to a minimum. It’s usually the idiots in the stands that can’t handle the tension and do things like “destroy historic landmarks”.

Yesterday, though, we got to see some real chippy play from both sides. Seth Williams got tagged with an unsportsmanlike conduct penalty (he is from Tuscaloosa, after all), and Boobee Whitlow was on the receiving end of a penalty after a helmet slap too.

All that an emotional ballgame means is that when it’s all said and done, you end up with a heck of a celebration... even if it is super goofy.

Gus has reason to be excited. His offensive line — much-maligned throughout the season — did something incredible when you put it up against what we’d seen earlier this year —

We got a superhuman effort from Derrick Brown with 3.5 TFLs, we got 114 yards from Boobee Whitlow, a turnover free game from Bo Nix, and we got the effort you’d expect from our opposing kicking game voodoo.

For real, though... Auburn somehow escaped that game with injuries galore. Anthony Schwartz played exactly one snap before going out with an ankle injury, and we saw tons of dudes laid out on the carpet at various times throughout the game. Honestly, with the receivers that Alabama put on the field (Waddle was their FOURTH OPTION), there’s no reason that the Tide should ever lose with Tua, Namath, Mac Jones, you, or me at quarterback. Auburn somehow also forced Alabama to only use Najee Harris in a semi-meaningless way. He got 146 yards on 27 carries, and scored, but in the grand scheme of the game, did his performance really matter? It didn’t.

For the first time all year, against a good opponent, I had confidence that the offense was going to do something. Driving late to take the lead for good, I didn’t really feel nervous in thinking that we’d need some other miracle to take place for us to win. We went right down the field and got a Classic Gus Wildcat call for the game-winning touchdown. It just so happened to clown a Bama defender and make a meme out of Xavier McKinney.

And how about the final play? Being at the game, it was wild to watch. Jaylen Waddle was out there about 40 yards deep the whole time, and he had no idea he needed to run off until the final moment, but he didn’t get off the field before the flag was there to greet him at the sideline. Bama’s hero all game long was the guy that got flagged in the end. It’s poetic. What’s also poetic is Gus’ ability to needle at Saban by doing something completely legal. Saban’s literally just mad that he couldn’t use it first. The way he described the entire ordeal as “unfair” makes it seem as though Auburn put some sort of a cloak on Arryn Sipposs and smuggled him into the formation. Instead, they trotted him out with the rest of the offense, stuck him at receiver, and five-star corner Patrick Surtain decided to cover him.

Maybe Saban should’ve known that Auburn wasn’t going to go for it when a failure has the Tide already in field goal range. Maybe his years of football knowledge should’ve taken over. They didn’t. He panicked. His staff panicked. His players panicked. The process failed, and the best collection of talent in the country folded when it mattered most.

Gus Malzahn bamboozled Nick Saban. He ‘boozled him hard, and that’s going to be the most satisfying thing to come out of this Iron Bowl. Auburn scored 48 points, but the number of Nick’s gray hairs that’ll resist Just For Men’s latest formula are far more numerous.

War Eagle, everyone. #WeBeatBama.