The most dangerous phrase that can ever be uttered about a Gus Malzahn-led team is true again: Auburn has momentum. Something new is also true for this Tigers team: they have swagger.
In 2010, Malzahn’s offense had momentum going through the final stretch of the season, which led to huge comeback victories over Georgia and Alabama and a domination of South Carolina. In 2013, after a disappointing loss to LSU, the Tigers regained momentum behind an on-fire Tre Mason and Nick Marshall.
That led to two of the most memorable plays in college football history.
This year, after disappointing losses to both Clemson and LSU, it’s back. In the 40-17 beat down of the Bulldogs from Georgia, Auburn didn’t just show us that it has its momentum back. It has its swagger back.
One of the biggest story lines in college football this year has been that “The U” is back. Miami football has returned to its historical dominance, and many would attribute it to the new swag that the team has found.
The celebrations of Miami, the dancing on the sidelines, the players having fun and, most of all, the turnover chain. The Canes just look like they’re having fun again, and it’s done amazing things for their record.
There was always a sense of concern and worry around this team, even if they were up. Unless a drive ended in a score for the offense or a forced punt for the defense, the players just didn’t look relaxed and would walk off the field with upset faces being concerned about the next drive.
Malzahn said before the game that he wanted his players to be loose the whole week. He wanted the team not to be worried about plying the number one team in the country, and wanted them to have fun.
The result of this was an air of confidence surrounding the team, and that confidence was evident on the field and on the sidelines Saturday.
One of the most fun moments for the players was been in the fourth quarter during the long timeout after Malzahn challenged the spot of the ball on the field. During the reviewing process, Jordan-Hare Stadium played a plethora of classic songs from a few years back.
The songs included "Crank That," "Swag Surfin’" and Teach Me How to Dougie. The players, both on the field and on the sidelines, had a big party. Showing off their dance moves, it was clear that the players were having fun with their 40-10 lead that they held with six minutes left in the game.
After the game, Auburn linebacker Deshaun Davis said that the coaches stressed that they wanted the players to be loose.
“We wanted to be loose. I actually feel like this was the first time our coaches allowed us to have fun like that on the sideline," Davis said. It’s always, ‘you all lock in, you all sit down and lock in.’ But we know as a unit — we’re big kids, bro, we like to have fun so when we hear a song we can dance to we dance to it and then we go back out there and get a three-and-out. That’s just how we operate."
Auburn safety Tray Matthews appeared to be enjoying himself against his former team.
“It was definitely a party. We had a big party,” Matthews said after the game. “We’ll have another party tonight.”
The confidence Auburn showed on the field Saturday can be seen as a big contribution to its pummeling of the Dawgs, and the return of its swagger is something Auburn fans haven’t really seen since Trooper Taylor was running up and down the sidelines and celebrating big plays with Nick Fairley.
It’s hard to forget Taylor and Fairley celebrating after the brawl between the Tigers and Bulldogs in 2010.
If the Tigers go into the Iron Bowl with the same swag and the same confidence around their team, Malzahn could be booking his second trip to the SEC championship as a head coach.