The Auburn Tigers suffered what coach Gene Chizik called an "embarrassing" loss at the hands of cross-state rivals Alabama by a score of 49-0, ending their 2012 campaign with a 3-9 mark and the school's first ever 0-8 SEC season, raising speculation to a fever pitch around Chizik and his staff.
When asked multiple times about his job security, Chizik replied it wasn't about him, but it was about the players and the fans who he said "don't deserve this." Chizik also wouldn't address any questions about the alleged NCAA investigation into the program, even unceremoniously walking out from behind the podium and leaving as a question opened with the words, "There's a report."
Auburn's offensive and defensive coordinators, Scott Loeffler and Brian VanGorder were conspicuously not made available for questions after the game.
On the field, problems on either side of the line of scrimmage that have plagued Auburn all year were on center stage again in Bryant-Denny Stadium.
"We weren't very efficient offensively," said Chizik. "We were extremely not very efficient defensively."
Auburn garnered just 163 yards against the Tide's talented defense and were shutout for the second straight SEC game. The defense, meanwhile, allowed Alabama 483 yards and 49 points, as well as 11-of-14 third conversation attempts.
"It was a very disappointing, embarrassing loss to our in-state rivals," Chizik said. "It's obvious to everybody that it was just a sad performance."
From the beginning of the game, there was little doubt that Auburn would be in for a long game. Alabama took the opening kick and reeled off back-to-back ten play drives that set the tone for the rest of the afternoon. Both were capped by touchdown runs: one apiece for TJ Yeldon and Eddie Lacy. Auburn quarterback Jonathan Wallace showed his arm off on two third down passes to Emory Blake that picked up first downs, before the drive stalled and Steven Clark was called on to punt.
Though the game was just 14-0 after one quarter, Alabama began to pile on in the second half and scored four touchdowns on four possessions to put the game out of reach well before halftime.
When the second half started, Alabama led 42-0 and was still out for more, with the starters still in and the offense throwing for the endzone. The back-ups surfaced only after a 38-yard pass made it 49-0 and made Alabama's starters on offense seven-for-seven scoring touchdowns on their possessions.
Tide quarterback AJ McCarron continually found open ball catchers thanks to excellent blocking up front that rendered Auburn's defensive line basically nonexistent. Freshman receiver Amari Cooper was consistently open in the Auburn secondary racking in 109 yards and two scores and other receivers like two touchdown scorer Kevin Norwood and Christion Jones found pockets of space on third downs and short.
While McCarron's line of 15-for-21 and 216 yards with four TDs lived up to his game-manager reputation, Auburn's Wallace was just 5-of-14 passing, for 71 yards with two interceptions. While running back Tre Mason gained 82 yards to go over 1,000 for the season, he had two fumbles, one that was recovered by Alabama.
Auburn's players now look to the offseason, which will be several weeks longer than many of them are used to due to the rare lack of a bowl game. With the coaching situation on the minds of fans across the state, the players seemed united in believing that Chizik should come back.
Mason, Blake, Wallace, and T'Sharvan Bell all said they felt Chizik was the man for the job and that he has a clear vision for how to turn the program around.
"He's a great coach, a great father figure," said Bell.
The seniors of Auburn leave the Plains going from the highs of a 14-0 national championship season to the depths of a winless conference slate. Despite that, Blake said he loved his time in Auburn and said he learned a lot this year.
"I have a lot of great memories at Auburn," Blake said. "I wouldn't change anything... I can't believe my time here is over."