Auburn football: When a blowout win turns into 1-point loss

You know that feeling? The one when you’re watching an Auburn football game and part of you feels like the Tigers are going to win by 20-plus points, but there’s that gnawing in your gut that tells you something bad is going to happen?

You had it. I had it. We all had it Saturday while watching No. 7 Auburn squander a double-digit lead for the second consecutive season against LSU. The end result: a devastating 22-21 loss at home on the final play of the game.

And it’s not the defensive pass interference calls (or non-calls) that really hurt (OK, maybe they hurt some). It’s going back to that moment in the third quarter when it absolutely felt like Auburn was about to run LSU out of Jordan-Hare Stadium.

And it didn’t.

After trailing 10-0, Auburn scored on its final two possessions of the first half to take a 14-10 lead into the break. The Tigers stopped LSU on the first drive of the second half, then marched 55 yards on seven plays to stretch the lead to 21-10.

LSU went three-and-out, Auburn took over on its 29 and with the way Jarrett Stidham and the offense was clicking, it was about to be 28-10 and LSU fans would be leaving the stadium and turning off their TVs. This was the game Auburn needed to win and that was going to happen.

But on third-and-9, Stidham had freshman Seth Williams wide open over the middle and LSU’s Jacob Phillips by chance was in the line of the throw and deflected it. Call it bad luck. Call it a bad pass. Call it a great defensive play. Whatever you call it, it stopped Auburn’s offense for the first time in what had to seem like forever for LSU.

More importantly, it gave the visiting Tigers hope.

LSU drove and kicked a field goal, then Auburn’s next possessions resulted in:

  • 5 plays, 17 yards (punt)
  • 7 plays, 55 yards (missed field goal)
  • 5 plays, 11 yards (punt)
  • 3 plays, 5 yards (punt)

The Auburn football collapse that we feared, that we let sit in the pits of our stomachs, reared its ugly head once again.

Did it end the Auburn football season?

No. The Tigers won’t drop far in the polls and have every opportunity to climb back into the SEC and College Football Playoff races with games against Mississippi State, Texas A&M, Georgia and Alabama remaining.

But if this sort of thing happened Saturday at home. … How confident is anyone that the Tigers can travel to Starkville, Athens and Tuscaloosa and beat those teams?

Changes need to be made. And why do those changes keep having to be made after disappointing losses?

We wrote this week that this was the type of game that Auburn needed to win. The game where everyone was picking the Tigers to win. Maybe Roman Reigns knows more about college football than we thought.

Instead, here we are … again.

It’s 2017 all over again (LSU).

It’s 2016 all over again (Georgia).

It’s 2015 all over again (first four games of the season).

It’s 2014 all over again (Texas A&M, Georgia).

If Auburn is going to take the next step and become the consistent national contender it aims to be, then it has to stop having performances like Saturday. The truth hurts, but you don’t see Alabama having those sorts of performances. Now, Georgia looks like it has learned how to avoid the letdown performance, too.

Auburn has two weeks to figure out things. Arkansas and Southern Miss should be easy victories whether or not the Tigers play their best football.

But that shouldn’t even be a question.

To be a contender, they should accept nothing less than their best football.

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