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Worst Five Plays: Disappointing moments from Auburn’s 2015 season

Michael Niziolek

mniziolek@ledger-enquirer.com

AP

Auburn stumbled more times than it would have liked getting to the finish line in 2015. The Tigers finished 6-6 and there were plenty of disappointing individual moments along the way.

Here is a look at the top five…

5. Dropping the ball in overtime — Despair was a common emotion in Auburn’s locker room following a 54-46 four-overtime loss to Arkansas.

The winnable game slipped through the Tigers’ fingers thanks to a series of blunders.

On offense, Auburn dropped seven passes with the final one coming on the last play of the game. Ricardo Louis dropped a pass in the end zone from Sean White that would have given the Tigers a chance at two-point conversion to tie the game.

“It’s going to hurt for awhile,” Louis said, of the loss. “I just have to come back stronger.”

4. Lighting a fire in Fournette (tie) — Rudy Ford helped fuel Leonard Fournette by dismissing the running back leading up to the SEC rivalry game.

“That shouldn't be difficult, that much, of a challenge,” Ford said of stopping LSU's star.

Fournette responded by creating a highlight reel at Auburn’s expense that included a pair of standout moments.

The first was leaving footprints across Blake Countess’ jersey on his way to the end zone in the second quarter.

Fournette lowered his shoulder into Countess knocking the defensive back to the ground.  Countess tried holding on to the back, but all he got for the effort was a look at the sophomore’s cleats.

Fournette’s 29-yard touchdown run in the third quarter was a similarly embarrassing moment for Auburn’s defense. He broke three tackles on the play including a diving attempt at his shoulders that sent Tray Matthews flying. 

“I'll tell you one thing, Leonard sure likes playing,” LSU coach Les Miles said. “He did some things today where I said, wow.”

3. Tricky play calling — The majority of Auburn’s trick plays didn’t hit their mark this season.

One final swing and miss came in the second quarter of the Birmingham Bowl when Jason Smith attempted his first pass since his time in junior college. Smith underthrew his intended target Ricardo Louis by a good 10 yards.

The miscue at midfield prevented from Auburn from adding to a 10-0 lead. Memphis was able to get a field goal on the ensuing drive. 

Auburn’s offense rebounded in the second half on its way to a 31-10 win, but the reverse pass could have been costly. Poorly timed trick plays hurt the Tigers’ offense far too often in 2015.

2. Going ballistic — Will Muschamp is known for his intense demeanor on the sidelines, but his fiery nature cost Auburn in this year’s Iron Bowl.

After Justin Garrett was called for a questionable personal foul in the fourth quarter of a close 19-13 game, Muschamp launched into a tirade towards the officials and had to be restrained on the sidelines.

His antics drew a second 15-yard penalty for unsportsmanlike conduct. The penalties added 30 yards to Coker’s 1-yard gain and put the Rolling Tide in field goal range. 

1. Jeremy Johnson slips up in Death Valley — The beginning of the end for Jeremy Johnson as Auburn’s starting quarterback early in the year came on the road at LSU.

On Auburn’s opening possession, Johnson stepped back in the pocket only to lose his grip on the football.

What initially looked like a backwards 10-yard pass was ruled a fumble. Johnson managed to recover it, but the mistake halted a promising drive and let LSU eventually extend its early lead to 14-0.

“It happens,” Johnson said of the ball slipping out of his hands.

Johnson was 11 of 19 for 100 yards with two touchdowns and an interception in the loss. He ran the ball 12 times for 41 yards with a touchdown, and was sacked five times.

After the game, Auburn coach Gus Malzahn called the offense “out of sync” and pledged to evaluate every position. He announced a change at quarterback two days later.

Michael Niziolek covers Auburn football for the Columbus Ledger-Enquirer. Email him at mniziolek@ledger-enquirer.com or follow him on Twitter, Facebook or Google+

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