AUBURN, Ala. — Immediately after Auburn’s devastating 27-23 loss at LSU, coaches and players talked about moving on.
That’s not an easy task, however, when a large part of the fan base feels as though the world has ended and calls for Gus Malzahn’s job grow louder. Yet, focusing on the future isn’t just lip service or a way to deflect questions about a tough loss. But it’s what Auburn must do, Jason Campbell said.
“After that game, win or lose, what Auburn has to realize is you can’t worry and cry about something you can’t change,” the former Tigers quarterback told SEC Country. “That game is in the past and you can talk about all the things you could have done differently, but the truth is you still have a season to play.”
The bright prospects for the 2017 Tigers dimmed following the loss in LSU’s Tiger Stadium, but in the big picture, Campbell said it’s really not the end. On the contrary, other teams have lost one conference game and are still making a solid case to earn a spot in the College Football Playoff.
“You’ve lost one game in the SEC. This year, college football is a different kind of season,” Campbell said. “The first goal is to win the [SEC] West. That’s still attainable because we only have one SEC loss. You can’t worry about the Georgia or Alabama game that everyone keeps talking about.”
Next up is a trip to Arkansas, then College Station to face Texas A&M following a bye week.
“The goal is to get to the end of the season, hopefully, with one SEC loss,” Campbell said. “Our goal is to win the West first, then win the SEC.”
The next thing student-athletes in a uniform need to do is ask what they can learn from their experience in Baton Rouge. Campbell, with all of his experience on the Plains and in the pros, has a pretty good idea.
‘You’ve got to play four quarters,” Campbell said. “The one thing they can understand from this is you can’t relax. Any play in any type of game, your play may be the one that makes the difference. Your block or your anything — just don’t take anything for granted. Just play for four quarters. Don’t stop.”
Auburn’s most recent loss may not have come at the absolute worst time. It could, Campbell recognizes, “humble” players when they needed it most.
Campbell has been on the sidelines as his Tigers have throttled opponents over the last several weeks. He’s familiar with the stats and numbers.
The current team needs to recognize its talent and ability, but also needs to understand there’s plenty of room for growth. Being comfortable is a luxury Auburn doesn’t have.
But how easy is it to stay focused when it seems like everyone is calling for changes? How can one not worry about Malzahn being asked to clean out his office in the middle of October?
“As a player you have to say, ‘Hey, we’re all in this together. Players and coaches, and we have to play harder for one another. Coaches coach hard for the players, players play hard for the coaches. It feels like it’s us against everybody,'” Campbell said.
Reasons why players and coaches do what they do don’t change after one loss, either.
“You coach the game or you play the game, first and foremost,” Campbell said, “because you love it.”
Football players and coaches can’t please everyone. That’s a lesson Campbell became familiar with during his time in the NFL. It’s just part of it. But it can’t change how you go about your job.
“We live in an opinionated country,” Campbell said. “You just have to block the noise out. You just have to block the noise out and focus on what you can control. That’s how you practice, how you get ready to go out and play next week. Everyone is always going to have their opinions.”