Tiger Fans Flee but Auburn Finds Old Magic in Comeback Win over Utah State

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Tiger Fans Flee but Auburn Finds Old Magic in Comeback Win over Utah State
Emory Blake

With 2:07 remaining in the season-opener against WAC opponent Utah State, Auburn receiver, Emory Blake, would catch what would end up being the biggest catch of the game.

Funny thing though: It was not a pass from quarterback Barrett Trotter or a trick play involving reserve quarterbacks Clint Moseley and Kiehl Frazier.

Blake did have three receptions on the day for 95 yards and a touchdown, but his best catch of the day came off the foot of Chandler Brooks during an Auburn on-side kick attempt late in the fourth quarter. It was magic of yesteryear and it helped to complete a 42-38 comeback win over the Utah State Aggies on Saturday to give the Tigers 16 consecutive wins in a row.

For three quarters, and most of the fourth, Auburn's youth showed that it was as green as green could be. But, when the Tigers went down by 10 points with only 3:38 remaining in the game, a calmer and more collected Auburn offense took the field.

Quarterback Barrett Trotter played consistently well for his first game, completing 17 of 23 passes with three touchdowns and no interceptions. He played his best when the team went down by 10 points, striking the first blow with a 15-yard touchdown strike to Philip Lutzenkirchen.

Many times during their run to their National Championship in 2010, the Auburn Tigers would pull a rabbit from a hat and steal victory from defeat.

Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images
Michael Dyer

Could Gene Chizik's bunch find a little bit of that old magic once again? Yes. And that is just what they did; this time, using special teams, an on-sides kick and solid hurry-up offense with good play calling by offensive coordinator, Gus Malzahn.

Once again, the Auburn offense took the field looking more determined and experienced than it had for most of the game. Once again, Trotter—who incidentally won the job more or less because of his veteran leadership—led the Tigers down the field towards a game-winning touchdown.

The game-winner would come straight up the middle via Michael Dyer and the one-yard touchdown would be his second on the day. Dyer ended the game with modest stats, rushing the ball 14 times for only 57 yards.

With 30 seconds remaining in the game, the Utah State Aggies found their 10-point lead erased by a four-point deficit. The Auburn Tigers defense would show that it had gained some experience throughout the day, stopping the Aggies offensive attack as time ticked away and eventually expired. 

At this point, I was wondering about those members of the Auburn family who turned their back on the team when Utah State took a commanding 10-point lead with only 3:38 remaining in the game.

Tigers on the comeback

Aren't Auburn fans "All In", and if so, why did many make a hasty sprint to the exits when the young team went down by 10 late in the game?

What happened to those fans who paid good money in a depressed economy to watch the game live at Jordan Hare. The replay on ESPN showed only one small section of the stadium, but believe me, there were a lot of AU fans making a hasty exit and it occurred all over the stadium.

Most of the faithful student body did remain "All In" and as a result, were rewarded with a magical Auburn victory.

Shame on those of you who turned your back on what you know is a very young and inexperienced team. Those of you who made it out of the stadium most likely caught in on someone's television or perhaps heard it on the radio.

However, you went "all out" at a time when the team needed you the most.

With many of the fans running away, the young team would rely on positive leadership from excellent coaches as well as the handful of veterans on the team.

The players stuck it out and came away with a victory. Fans should do the same. The Auburn family wins together and it will ultimately lose together. This season may be a disaster. Next season or the one after may take the Auburn Tigers back to the land where winners find a crystal football.

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Give some credit to a very prepared and experienced Utah State Aggie team. Last season, Utah State led Oklahoma in the fourth quarter until the Sooners finally put them to rest. This season, the Aggies brought that experience to Pat Dye Field and ran all over the inexperienced and young Auburn defense.

On a brighter note, special teams created a bit of magic earlier in the first half of the game when true freshman, Tre Mason, returned a Utah State kickoff 97 yards for his first touchdown as an Auburn Tiger. Mason will certainly be a positive addition for years to come.

The special teams units struggled early last season but were very prepared against Utah State. Coach Jay Boulware has done an outstanding job as special teams certainly outplayed all other Auburn units in the first game.

The Tigers defense could not stop the Aggies offense for most of the day. Worse, the Auburn offense sputtered and flopped much of the time with an almost non-existent running attack.

In 2010, Auburn was known for running a very large number of plays per game. On Saturday, Utah State ended the game with 84 offensive plays and Auburn finished with only 54 offensive plays.

In order to make a bowl game of some type in 2011, the young team will have to grow up fast. In 2010, Auburn had to snatch victory from defeat during the early part of the season due to unnecessary penalties and turnovers.

The Auburn Tigers did not turn the ball over at all on Saturday and seven penalties for 60 yards wasn't too bad for the season-opener. They can do better but all in all, they were not involved in stupid or possibly game-changing penalties.

Praise should be give to Gene Chizik and the Auburn coaches for preparing the young team in the areas of penalties and turnovers.

The 2011 season-opener will go down in history as a victory for the Auburn Tigers. To most of the Auburn family—and hopefully to all—it will feel more like a defeat. A run at the National Championship or even an SEC Championship will most likely not occur this year.

In order for those things to come to pass again for a second season in a row, the Auburn Tigers will have to improve 100 percent by the time Mississippi State comes to town on September 10.

In my opinion, the Auburn Tigers will not be able to find their old magic against the Bulldogs on the 10th, the Clemson Tigers on September 17 and then again on October 1 against the Gamecocks of South Carolina.

In fact, the young Auburn team may lose all three.

Most critics say Auburn will win some games it should lose and lose some it should win. The Tigers will need to win when they shouldn't over the next four to five weeks. Therefore, the Auburn family will need to hope that Saturday's win against Utah State did not already burn up one of the "wins when they should have lost."

A grand total of 11 players made their first collegiate start as an Auburn Tiger on Saturday and roughly 19 starters this year were not starters last year.

Yes, Gene Chizik has completely turned around Auburn football and yes, the Tigers have had two very good recruiting classes in a row. On the other hand, experience on the field is what the Tigers don't have.

How much experience they gained against Utah State in the season opener will eventually show itself in the coming weeks against quality opponents such as Mississippi State, Clemson and South Carolina.

This young team may need the whole season to gain the experience it needs to compete for an SEC Championship and, or a National Title. Time will tell.

There will certainly be many trying times for the 2011 Auburn Tigers. You may call them growing pains.

But, if you are Auburn family, you should—like the players and coaches—remain "All In" at all times!

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