In what was possibly the strangest Auburn football game in decades, if not ever, the home team Tigers left Jordan-Hare Stadium with a 17-14 overtime win.
Auburn managed to jump out to a 14-0 lead in the first quarter behind a sledgehammering Tank Bigsby performance and Robby Ashford’s ability to sprint and scramble for sizeable gains on the ground.
It was clear from the beginning that Auburn had no plans to throw the ball at all.
As the Missouri defense became aware of that realization, they simply put more and more people near the line of scrimmage until the Auburn offense was completely choked out and shutout over the final three quarters.
In that same timeframe, the Missouri offense was far from explosive, but found ways to spark its own rushing attack and scored two touchdowns of its own to tie the game by halftime.
The Auburn vs. Missouri game was completely dormant for the duration of the second half. Both defenses forced punt after punt, while the two offenses struggled to put together anything more than couple of first downs.
This contest was very close to becoming one of the most forgettable SEC games in recent memory.
Then, as the fourth quarter drew to an end, a roller coaster of follies began that would crescendo on the game’s final play in overtime.
Auburn would get completely stonewalled on a 4th down and inches play that gave Missouri the ball back with under two minutes to play.
Missouri inevitably connected on their only big passing play of the game and moved all the way to the Auburn three yard line with fifty seconds remaining on the clock.
This set the stage for the most inexplicable series of events in a football game that I can recall.
The Missouri coaches chose to not even attempt to score a touchdown from the three yard line, but instead moved backwards on purpose to center the ball in the middle of the field for a field goal.
Then, on fourth down Missouri’s kicker missed the simplest of chip-shots to send the game to overtime.
Once in overtime, Auburn narrowly avoided disaster twice on their possession.
First, a Robby Ashford interception was overturned upon review, then Anders Carlson’s missed kick led to a second chance because of a Missouri penalty. Ultimately, Carlson made the field goal and gave Auburn a three point lead.
Finally, on Missouri’s offensive chance in extra time, their running back breaks a long run and begins to reach the ball toward the goal line in order to secure the touchdown and the victory.
As that happens, the Missouri player simply loses control of the ball, it rolls into the endzone, and Auburn’s defense recovers the fumble.
Game over. Auburn wins. Just the way the coaches drew it up.
Well, maybe not quite, but it counts as a win all the same.
This game, and Auburn’s season at large, gives everyone lots to think and talk about.
For instance, two seemingly opposite things can sometimes be true at once. The 2022 Auburn football team has provided the perfect case study for this idea.
The Auburn defense bounced back from last week to hold Missouri to only 3.4 yards per rush attempt. That is encouraging unless one checks Auburn’s own stats and sees where the home team was limited to a brutal 1.8 yards per carry.
Similarly, Auburn scored three points in overtime and was able to win the game. However, the Tigers have now scored six total points in the second half, including zero against Missouri, versus Power 5 opponents this season.
Another interesting note is that Auburn finally forced two turnovers and that was an instrumental part of earning the victory. But, Auburn narrowly avoided disastrous turnovers of their own on Ashford’s late pass ruled incomplete and an earlier fumble of his that a teammate recovered.
Lastly, Auburn is 1-0 in the SEC on the season and therefore has everything left to play for this year.
On the other hand, it is reasonable to wonder if this Tiger team will be able to muster even one more conference win in 2022 based on the last two weeks’ performances.
Whether this is just the first of many more victories this season or the last one that the Auburn Tigers see for a while, I do hold to the axiom that there is no such thing as a bad win.
But, this game against Missouri might make some people think hard about that truism too.
Zack Shaw is a contributing writer for Yellowhammer News and former walk-on for the Auburn Tigers.