There are only so many of these, Auburn linebacker K.J. Britt pointed out recently.
The hours of work and the pouring of sweat might as well have flashed before his eyes, as he thought back to the offseason, the weight room, the playbooks, the meetings and more.
Everybody wants to win a national championship, he said, sitting outside the heartbroken Auburn locker room last Saturday night after a gut-wrenching loss to Georgia. He knew that wasn’t going to happen for him and his team.
But the season wasn’t over. He wasn’t going to just quit. He still has games to play.
And he isn’t going to take any one of them for granted.
“We work hard,” Britt said in a moment of emotion. He was asked what Auburn had left to play for. He answered emphatically. “We work hard, 365 days a year, for 12 to 14 moments in a year, with 60 minutes.
“That’s what we’ve got to play for.”
Auburn hosts Samford at 11 a.m. Saturday in Jordan-Hare Stadium — and in the November air on the Plains, the game marks a chance for a family to share the day using affordably priced tickets, for a smaller in-state program to pick up a payday, for a mother to watch her son play on a famous field, and, yes, for the Auburn football players to strap on their gear and step out on the field for one of the ever-so-few gamedays they’ll enjoy in their careers.
As Britt says, that’s what Auburn has to play for Saturday.
Samford of the FCS should pose little problem for Auburn, as the Tigers tune up for Alabama and the Iron Bowl on Nov. 30. Samford is 5-6 on the season, having played all its games at the FCS level. That Samford beat Alabama’s tune-up opponent Western Carolina 31-13 last week could amuse some Auburn fans comparing scores during the day.
Otherwise, on the field, Auburn expects to roll up the score and get some of its younger players in on the action to earn some valuable gameday experience.
Auburn fans could see the next generation of players in spots, particularly on the defensive line and in the secondary where departing seniors will give way to new players next season. Auburn could also give some future offensive linemen some snaps on that side of the ball.
Auburn is 27-0-1 against Samford. The tie came in 1927 at Birmingham’s Rickwood Field, 9-9.
Auburn beat Samford 31-7 in the teams’ last meeting in 2014.
Legendary Auburn Heisman Trophy winner Pat Sullivan served as the Samford head football coach from 2007-14.
Terry Bowden was Samford’s head coach from 1987-92 before he arrived on the Plains and led Auburn to a perfect 11-0 season in 1993.
Samford coach Chris Hatcher is a coaching veteran who has led teams at Valdosta State, Georgia Southern and Murray State before Samford.
Hatcher’s teams have averaged 33.62 points per game during his tenure, better than the second-best average of 28.57 points per game put up by Bobby Bowden as head coach at Samford from 1959-62.
Terry Bowden’s teams scored 27.92 points per game to place third on that list. Sullivan’s teams had the fifth-best scoring average at 25.5, completing a list loaded with names familiar with Auburn football fans.
Texas A&M head coach and former Auburn quarterbacks coach Jimbo Fisher played quarterback at Samford in 1987 and was a member of the Samford coaching staff from 1988-92. He left to with Terry Bowden for Auburn, and ultimately coached Patrick Nix, the father of current Auburn quarterback Bo Nix.
Hatcher is a longtime stalwart in coaching but appears to be making his first gameday trip to Jordan-Hare Stadium. Hatcher coached in the SEC as an assistant at Kentucky from 1997-99 but the Tigers and Wildcats did not meet in any of those seasons.