BATON ROUGE, LA. — Derrick Brown sees no other choice.
Standing under Tiger Stadium on Saturday night after his team’s second loss, as the sun set on Death Valley and on Auburn’s championship aspirations, Brown didn’t have to think twice.
What’s next? Beat Ole Miss. Beat Samford.
And, yes, beat Georgia and beat Alabama.
“We need to win these four games,” Brown said unflinchingly after Saturday’s 23-20 loss to LSU.
“There’s no other option than to win these four games.”
Auburn’s all but out of the SEC West divisional race, now at 6-2 on the season and 3-2 in the SEC and knowing it’s unlikely both LSU and Alabama could lose two SEC games down the stretch to even give Auburn a chance.
But Auburn left Baton Rouge still bent on finishing the season “the right way,” as head coach Gus Malzahn said — and for Brown and his teammates, that rings true.
Auburn’s goals have changed: Now with four home games left, it’s all about wreaking havoc and winning for Auburn power.
“Our guys aren’t going to flinch,” Auburn head coach Gus Malzahn promised postgame. “They’re disappointed. We have a really good football team. We have to correct some things. We have four games left against some really good teams, and there’s a lot to play for. I’ll tell you that.
“So that’s really our message. But our guys will stick together. They’re true Auburn men. We’ll finish this thing the right way.”
Auburn plays Ole Miss at home next week before a bye and the stretch run against Georgia, then Samford and then Alabama.
“We’re going to go back home, play in front of the best fans in the country,” Brown said. Brown is a senior who turned down early entry into the NFL Draft in part because he wanted to chase championships at Auburn.
Now he’s left fighting for Auburn pride.
“Stick together,” was the message in the locker room from Malzahn, according to linebacker K.J. Britt. “Don’t let the media, don’t let anybody outside of here, don’t let anybody divide us. We’re all we’ve got. We’ve got to stick together, and that’s true.
“A real brother is going to fight and we’re going to have to fight 24-7. We’re going to have to fight all the demons, everybody who is trying to divide us. We just can’t listen to the outsiders. We have to fix our problems internally and we’ll be alright.”
D.J. Williams enters spotlight
A flash, D.J. Williams stamped his name on the SEC.
In another, he showed it was no beginner’s luck.
Auburn’s freshman running back broke loose for two big runs for Auburn, lighting up a bright spot for Auburn on a dismal day in Baton Rouge.
He broke loose for a 41-yard rush late in the first half and then ran free for 70 yards in the third quarter on a run to the 9-yard line, which set up an Auburn lead-taking field goal.
Those carries accounted for most of the 130 yards he finished with on 13 carries, but seemed to provide a needed boon to the Auburn offense going down the stretch of the season.
“D.J. Williams is coming into his own. I think everybody saw that,” Malzahn said. “I really think he’s got a chance to be an outstanding back.
“That was really his first real rodeo, as far as being the primary running back against a really good defense in a hostile environment. I think he’s got a chance to be a really good player.”
Williams started the season limited by injury, but reached full strength just around the time lead back JaTarvious Whitlow was injured at the Florida game. Whitlow made his return to the lineup Saturday but played in a limited capacity.
Penalties set Auburn back
Auburn was flagged for its most penalties of the season and charged for its most yardage by penalties on Saturday.
As Malzahn says, on the road against the No. 2 team in the country, you can’t do that and expect to win.
Auburn was penalized 15 times for 98 yards.
Auburn was charged with eight penalties for 40 yards on offense and seven penalties for 58 yards on defense.
“We had some opportunities, but when you have that many penalties you’re not going to beat anybody — not a good team on the road, with 15 penalties,” Malzahn said. “That’s probably the biggest disappointing thing for me.
“And any time, that’s coaching. That’s me. I’ve got to do a better job with the discipline of the penalties.”
Auburn’s 15 marked its high for the year with 12 charges against Texas A&M being the second-most. Auburn’s 74 penalty yards charged in that game marked Auburn’s most until Saturday, too.