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The end of regular season always brings a mix of emotions for college football fans. Some might be excited to have their Saturdays back. Others may be in the hunt for a new obsession.
Most adjust to the lack of thrilling gridiron action by continuing to analyze and debate recent games or projecting how next year’s squad will compare.
But being an Auburn fan has had its perks over the last couple of weeks.
The Sugar Bowl is one of the more notable New Year’s Day bowls and the matchup between the Tigers and the Sooners is at the top of many to-watch lists.
There’s also been a striking number of awards doled out to Tigers.
Best in the USA
It’s one thing to win a team award. It’s humbling to win a conference award after fighting your way through the SEC West.
But it’s an entirely different feeling to be recognized as one of the top players in the country.
That was the case for a trio of Auburn players on Monday.
Senior defensive lineman Montravius Adams and junior kicker Daniel Carlson were named second-team AP All-Americans.
— Auburn Football (@FootballAU) December 12, 2016
It didn’t stop there. Carlson was also named a second-team FWAA All-American while junior defensive lineman Carl Lawson was dubbed a first-team FWAA All-American.
— Auburn Football (@FootballAU) December 12, 2016
And there’s still more time and opportunities for the Tigers to add a few more things to their collective trophy shelf.
A friendly reminder
Sophomore Kamryn Pettway stole the spotlight a few games into Auburn’s season.
And when the former fullback got going, he was almost unstoppable. The running back bulldozed opposing defenders and approached Auburn rushing records the same way — with no mercy.
The 6-foot, 240-pound rusher was the reason the Tigers reeled off six-straight wins after opening the season 1-2. Pettway made it tough for the ball to go to anyone else. SEC defenses knew he was about to come barreling through and still couldn’t stop him.
In fact, the only person who could stop Pettway was himself.
After dealing with a nagging quad injury, Pettway suffered an injury on his final (and longest) run in the Tigers’ win over Vanderbilt.
His presence clearly was missed in Athens against Georgia and Auburn hoped to have a healthier (if not 100 percent) Pettway back for the Iron Bowl.
Yet it quickly became clear the running back was far from full go.
As Auburn returned to the Plains after the Iron Bowl, the focus shifted to Auburn’s disappointing quarterback play. Pettway faded into the background a little bit — even before all of the breaking Jarrett Stidham news.
Auburn’s defense was tremendous in 2016. The turnaround Kevin Steele commandeered was something special. But their success wouldn’t have been as notable if it weren’t for Pettway.
Athlon Sports dubbed the Montgomery, Ala., native the SEC Breakout Player of the Year, an honor he was more than deserving to receive.
— Tim Horton (@CoachTimHorton) December 13, 2016
So this is just a kind reminder to Auburn fans that yes, the Tigers will have a solid plan at quarterback next season. Offensive coordinator Rhett Lashlee will be able to call an array of plays and target skillful, young receivers.
Best of all? The Tigers still have Pettway.
And if the quarterback news continues to dominate the headlines (which it surely will) you can count on the bruising running back to provide his own…er, kind reminder come next September.
- SEC Country’s Benjamin Wolk explained how despite landing top JUCO quarterback Jarrett Stidham, Auburn continued its quarterback recruiting efforts.
- Dutch Dixon, of Fly War Eagle, said Stidham’s arrival raises the expectations for Auburn’s 2017 season.
- ESPN staff writer Greg Ostendorf says Stidham’s arrival will make the Auburn Tigers playoff contenders next season.
- AL.com’s Tom Green lays out Auburn’s practice schedule leading up to the Sugar Bowl.
- Auburn gymnastics earned its highest preseason ranking on Monday.
Happening on the Plains
Why Auburn’s New York loss is a good thing
The Tigers’ first trip to Madison Square Garden definitely was memorable.
Unfortunately, it also was somewhat heartbreaking as Auburn suffered a last-second loss (on of all things a tip-in score) to Boston College.
Heading into halftime, Bruce Pearl said he thought his young team was overwhelmed by their historic surroundings. And while the defeat definitely stings, it could — and should — end up being a turning point this season.
The adjustment to college hoops is one of the hardest these young Tigers like Mustapha Heron and Danjel Purifoy have had to make to this point in their athletic careers.
Sure, it’s the same game and these guys were top recruits. Some of the adjustments are easier than others (Heron is a shining example of someone who isn’t having much trouble adjusting to the speed or physicality of the game) but the lifestyle of a college player is just different.
Managing classes, practices, workouts, lifts, new coaches, new teammates and being away from family (see, there’s a lot happening) are components of a process players can’t fully understand until they’re in the midst of it.
At that point the days are whizzing by so quickly that the first season is coming to a close before they know it.
Still, every college underclassman has moments that stand out in their mind.
In some cases, hoisting a trophy or bathing in confetti which motivates young players to return to that scene.
Most of the time, however, young players are motivated by a loss. A tough loss. One that bothers them, keeps them up at night and leaves a disgusting taste in their mouths for days to follow.
Monday night was that loss for Auburn.
The Tigers were only topped one other time this season, by Purdue in the Cancun Challenge. It was a learning experience.
But to play as bad as Auburn did in the first half (and it was ugly), still be within reach and then fight back into a thriller — not to mention in one of the greatest venues in all of sports — yep, that’s going to stick with this team.
And though there were many self-inflicted errors there were also high points.
Bruce Pearl’s team knows it can count on Danjel Purifoy and Mustapha Heron to be playmakers when it counts. Auburn learned an invaluable lesson about mental preparation and playing down to the level of its opponent.
So while the Tigers will remember and see that last-second tip in play in their minds through the next several days, it’s going to end up being a game, and a moment, that will lead to bigger and better things for Auburn basketball.
Here are a few highlights from the game.
— FS1 (@FS1) December 13, 2016
Another memorable part of Monday night was the fan support the Tigers felt all the way up in the Big Apple. This was the scene at the NYC Tiger Walk.
— Jay Jacobs (@jayjacobsauad) December 12, 2016
— AuburnPix (@AuburnPix) December 13, 2016