You have to give Alabama credit for how it played Saturday. It did a lot of things well. I didn't like everything I saw from the Auburn team, but I was proud of the way those kids played.
In the first half the Tigers did an effective job of stopping Alabama's running game, but Alabama completed two big passes, sort of gimmick plays, for touchdowns. One was a flea flicker, a play in which the Auburn defense made a mistake and let the receiver get behind the secondary.
The other play, which they hit to the tight end, was a really well designed one, a one-time deal, based on how Auburn's linebackers covered. They ran the linebacker off with a wheel route and then ran a wheel route behind the wheel route. The tight end faked a block and then hesitated at the line of scrimmage before running a crossing route behind the wheel route. It was a play they had not shown and you have to give Alabama credit.
The big problem Auburn had in the first half was the offense, which managed just one first down. I thought the defense fought Alabama about as well as it could fight them, but if you don't possess the ball at all you just keep putting pressure and more pressure on the defense. If you look at the age and maturity of a lot of those players on the Auburn defense, that much turned out to be more pressure than those players could handle, although I did like the way they hung in there and kept fighting.
On the defensive side of the ball I thought the Auburn kids played about as well as they could play defensively until that final drive. Because of that it seemed to me that Auburn was still in the game going into the fourth quarter. Auburn still had a chance to win it until the interception that was returned for a touchdown. That play took the energy out of the fans and took the energy out of the team.
It just wasn't to be on Saturday for the Tigers, but there are better days coming. As bitter as it might taste, that is one the Tigers will just have to swallow, learn from it, grow up and move on.
Yes, losing to Alabama is tough for any Auburn team to take and yes it feels bad to the Tigers, but it is probably not as tough on the Tigers as it was on Alabama last year when it lost a 24-point lead in Tuscaloosa and watched Auburn come back and win on the way to SEC and national titles.
What is important for Auburn now is for the players and coaches to keep their heads up, get back to work. The players need to take care of their academics with final exams coming up. The coaches need to make sure they are putting the finishing touches on what is shaping up to be another strong recruiting class.
It's important to sign the type of kids who can help you win ball games like the one last Saturday. The Tigers have a lot of those type guys right now, but most of them are freshmen and sophomores. Those players in red jerseys Auburn was playing made mistakes, too, when they were freshmen and sophomores. I can remember Coach Saban griping and complaining about them not making the right adjustments and so forth. Auburn's kids have been doing the same things, which is just a fact of college football life.
In addition to recruiting, the coaches will soon be focusing on bowl practice and the opponent in that game. With such a long time between the last regular season game and the bowl trip there is plenty of time to prepare the team to play a game while also getting in what amounts to an extra spring practice. It is a period when the coaches have the opportunity to experiment by moving players around to different positions to see how they look. It is also a great opportunity for players down the line on the depth charts to show the coaches they are ready for a bigger role next season.
(If you have a question or a subject you would like me to write about in future columns, you can email it to PatDye@autigers.com.)
Editor's Note: This is part of a series of columns that College Football Hall of Fame member Pat Dye is writing for AUTigers.com about the game he played and coached. An All-American player at Georgia and one of the top head coaches in SEC history at Auburn, he also served as a head coach at East Carolina and Wyoming. Dye participates in the Legends Poll, a Top 25 rating of the best teams in college football as determined by a panel of all-star former head coaches. Dye writes three columns for AUTigers.com--The Dye-Log, the Dye-Gest and Pat's Picks.