GUS MALZAHN (PHOTO BY JASON CALDWELL)

Jason Caldwells Tuesday Morning Quarterback Column: Same Song, Different Verse For Auburn Tigers In Sugar Bowl Loss

Auburn's 2016 season came to a fitting end in a Sugar Bowl loss to Oklahoma on Monday night.

New Orleans, La.--The final game of the 2016 season for the Auburn Tigers perfectly summed up everything that went wrong for Gus Malzahn's team this season.

Falling 35-19 to the Oklahoma Sooners to end the year at 8-5, it was again costly injuries, mistakes and poor coaching that doomed the Tigers in what was almost an exact repeat of the losses to Georgia and Alabama late in the year.

Coming out of the gate with Sean White playing quarterback the Tigers drove the length of the field for a touchdown and just like that the Auburn offense looked to be back in midseason form, but it was just a mirage as White took a big hit on the series and that would impact things the rest of the way.

White not being on the field wasn’t the only reason for the embarrassing offensive performance, but it definitely played a big part. Having the quarterback on the field and able to throw the football definitely made this a different Auburn offense and without him they were again a group without a pulse.

Even with that the Tigers had the ball down 21-13 in the third quarter and faced a fourth down and less than a yard to keep the drive alive. Following a timeout Malzahn decided to punt the ball and that was essentially the game.

With Kamryn Pettway running well and Auburn needing to keep the Sooners off the field it was the perfect time for Malzahn to show some confidence in his offense with John Franklin on the field. Instead he punted, giving Oklahoma a chance to extend the lead and essentially put the game away.

This one’s not all on the offense, however,because the Auburn defense has to take its share of the blame as well. While their teammates didn’t help them out, too many mistakes and missed tackles helped an Oklahoma offense that didn’t need anything to be dangerous.

The key drive came early in the second quarter. With the Sooners facing a third and 27 from their own 34, Auburn appeared to stop Oklahoma on a great play by DeShaun Davis, but Carl Lawson was offsides on the snap. That gave the offense another shot and Baker Mayfield’s connection with Joe Mixon for 32 yards put them in scoring position. Later in the drive Lawson ran past Mayfield and he scrambled before hitting Mark Andrews for the score.

Time after time this Auburn team couldn’t get out of its own way on Monday night and the season perfectly summed up the entire year for the Tigers.

Not trusting Franklin to get the job done, not going for it on fourth down, White’s injury, and for the first time defensive lapses signaled the end of a rollercoaster season for the Tigers.

Instead of blasting into 2017 with plenty of momentum and positive energy, Auburn now limps into the new year with the same questions and a long time until we find out if they have the right answers.

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