That doesn’t mean all is lost however as Auburn still has an opportunity to finish strong and win 10 games this season. Winning out would make this group the first to win 10 or more games in back-to-back seasons since 1988-89. While that’s a goal still within reach, Malzahn said the ultimate goal is to get back on track and improve as a football team down the stretch.
“We're always going to have high goals,” Malzahn said. “You set your goals high. You don't always reach your goals, and that's the way life works, too. And the true champions and the true winners rebound, and they come back and bounce back. And that's been our message.
“Our seniors are definitely committed to that, our leadership,” he added. “Our coaches are, too. We're disappointed, as well we should be. But that's behind us. That is what it is. We've got to find a way the next two weeks to finish this thing strong. We will finish this thing strong, there's no doubt.”
That starts this Saturday night as the Tigers face FCS Samford at Jordan-Hare Stadium for a 6 p.m. kickoff. Even though this is a game Auburn won’t need to play perfect to win, senior center Reese Dismukes said everything they want to accomplish the rest of the season starts with playing well against the Bulldogs.
“There is still a lot to play for,” Dismukes said. “We’ve got this game this weekend and anytime you play a game it’s the next thing and we’ve got to get number eight under our belt. That’s really all we’ve got to think about right now. We all know what’s ahead of that, but as far as this week goes we’ve got to focus on beating Samford. That’s all that matters right now and getting better.”
While the Auburn offense has played at a very high level for much of the season, the defense has taken a turn for the worse the last five games. Allowing more than 30 points in each of those contests, the Tigers have struggled to slow down opposing offenses for the most part and in turn have drawn the ire of fans and media alike for their play. Dismukes said that’s not something they focus on as a team, instead choosing to stick together win or lose and push forward.
Dismukes and this group of Tigers knows all about criticism and how it can take a toll on a team. Just two seasons ago Auburn was mired in one of the worst seasons in school history. Dismukes said there is no comparison to that and what the team is going through right now, but the focus remains the same and that is to control what you can control and don’t worry about any outside distractions.
“There are a lot of people out there that are going to say stuff,” Dismukes said. “Right now it’s just letting our young guys know not to listen to any of that. We’ve been in the worst of the worst of those types of situations. There are a lot of people out there that are going to talk and don’t know anything about anything. It’s all opinionated and you have to keep these young guys locked in that we still have a lot to play for. There is a lot still on the line. None of that outside stuff really matters.”