When the news hit that Gene Chizik had been fired, I immediately got all nostalgic and remembered the good times we had with that white shacket (shirt-jacket for those not in the know). Understandably most of those good times came in the first two years (2009-1010), but boy were they good.
So let me pick my top five for you. They are in chronological order because it’s too hard to rank them by best. To be fair, I also picked the five worst. Given the last two seasons, it was extremely hard to whittle them down to five games. Let’s look at those first, so that we don’t leave with a bad taste in our mouths. Thanks for the memories Gene… the good ones.
Kentucky 21, Auburn 14 – October 17, 2009
Kentucky was a bowl team that year, but anytime you lose to the Wildcats in football, it’s embarrassing. Auburn had not done so since 1966. The Tigers were coming off their first loss of the season at Arkansas after a somewhat surprising 5-0 start to the Chizik era. It was cold and I didn’t give Kentucky a passing thought. I looked up in the 4th quarter and they had just scored to go ahead. It seems the team and coaches did the same thing.
LSU 45, Auburn 10 – October 22, 2011
This was the first game that I felt purely dominated in the Chizik era. Auburn went into the game with only two losses, and somehow still ranked in the top 20, but were huge underdogs. LSU nearly decapitated multiple kick returners and ran up and down the field on Auburn all day. It was a day game in Baton Rouge, which usually doesn’t end up being an easy time for LSU, but they had no problems that day.
Mississippi State 28, Auburn 10 – September 8, 2012
Easily one of the worst offensive performances in the Chizik era. Apparently the Mississippi State defense knew the Auburn offense’s hand signals, which made the play-calling completely ineffective, something that would show up the rest of the season. If there was a starting point for what appeared to be uninspired play it was this loss to Mississippi State, which like a loss to Kentucky, should never happen.
Arkansas 24, Auburn 7 – October 6, 2012
This game spelled the beginning of the end for Chizik. The worst Arkansas team in years, the same one that lost UL-Monroe, was worse than Auburn in just a seemingly bad year, right? Nope. More uninspired play showed throughout, especially when Auburn finally scored to get the game within reach, but let Arkansas go right down and score to take a big lead again. For most, it was over for Chizik after this game.
Texas A&M 63, Auburn 21 – October 27, 2012
I know I said that I wouldn’t pick the worst loss of the bunch, but this is it. Yes, even over the Georgia and Alabama blowouts that followed, because after this embarrassing performance, those were somewhat expected. I had never been to an Auburn game that was over after the first drive until this one. Once the 2nd quarter hit, I was so numb to all of it. The scoring, the losses, everything. I could not care anymore what happened either way. I cheered and wanted to win, but after this game, I put no real thought or effort into my optimism.
Alright, enough of that negativity. Contrary to what many want to say or believe, Chizik was responsible for some of the best games in Auburn history, and it wasn’t all just confined to the 2010 season.
Auburn 41, West Virginia 30 – September 19, 2009
Chizik’s third game of his Auburn career came against a high-powered team from West Virginia. You may remember it as the “Rain Game” due to the storm/downpour that suspended the game for around an hour. You may also remember being stuck in the stadium concourse with a bunch of sweaty fans, or if you were student, you’ll remember staying out in the rain. Auburn used four turnovers to knock off the Mountaineers in one of the most exciting games of the Chizik era. Any detractors of the Chizik hire were back on the wagon following this win.
Auburn 38, Northwestern 35 (OT) – January 1, 2010
It may not have been the best executed game in the Chizik era, but it definitely was a spring board into the Championship season. Northwestern fought back, missed a FG to go into OT, and lost the game 15 times before unsuccessfully executing a fake FG. It was one of the most frustrating, but most resilient performances of the season and showed what type of team we would see the following year.
Auburn 65, Arkansas 43 – October 16, 2010
Other games on the schedule looked bigger, but this one scared me the most. I knew what Ryan Mallett’s arm was capable of, and I knew how Auburn’s defense struggled against the pass. After Nick Fairley knocked Mallett out of the game, Tyler Wilson came in and played even better. There was no defense in this game, until Auburn came up with two picks and a fumble return for a touchdown. The margin of victory was a little misleading, but Auburn needed every point they could get to knock off the Razorbacks.
Auburn 28, Alabama 27 – November 26, 2010
This is the best win of the Chizik Era. It could have been his worst, but he was able to do something in the locker room at halftime to turn it around. The current generation’s version of “Punt, Bama, Punt” will go down as one of the Top 5 games in Auburn history. Outside of X’s and O’s, this game showed Chizik’s ability to keep a team together after a season’s worth of adversity.
Auburn 22, Oregon 19 – January 10, 2011
Gene Chizik gave every Auburn fan younger than 70 years old what they have never seen. He took Auburn on the biggest stage and shut down the second most powerful offense in the nation. He completed a season with more distractions than any team has ever seen by winning the one and only thing every football coach, player, and fan ever wants. He did it at Auburn. He did it for Auburn.