Auburn’s celebration of a hard fought win over Vanderbilt came to an abrupt end Saturday afternoon.
The video scoreboard cut from flashing the 23-16 final score to the live feed in Starkville where Mississippi State was on the verge of closing out an upset over No. 4 Texas A&M.
Auburn had a murky path to the SEC title game coming into the weekend with both Alabama and Texas A&M standing in its way. A three-team tie at the end of the season would have come down to tiebreakers unlikely to go in the Tigers’ favor.
Everyone left in Jordan-Hare Stadium knew the situation.
When Texas A&M backup quarterback Jake Hubenak threw an interception in the final seconds with his team trailing 35-28, players and fans erupted.
“That’s a great feeling,” Auburn safety Tray Matthews said of the team controlling it’s own destiny. “It makes us more hungry.”
Coach Gus Malzahn ignored the scoreboard maintaining his hard line approach against thinking about SEC Championship Game scenarios.
“I haven’t thought about that,” Malzahn said. “Really the way we are going to look at it is we go to Georgia next week. We are going to take it one game at a time and see what happens at the end. That’s kind of been our formula this year.”
Auburn players agree, but they still allowed themselves to enjoy the moment considering how close the season — literally an extra second on the clock — came to falling apart.
“We knew we weren’t a 1-2 team,” Auburn defensive back Joshua Holsey said. “We knew we had a lot more in us. It kind of defined of us as a team when we were down. A lot of people counted us out and we kind of like that. We played better with that. Now we are just getting better each week. Each week is just giving us more confidence.”
Holsey, who made a game-saving offense for the second straight week, was among the players who promised Auburn wouldn’t go into next week’s game against Georgia with “a different mindset.”
“It was great to see we are in a prime position, but we have to take care of business or nothing else matters,” Auburn running back Kerryon Johnson said.