Auburn running back Shaun Shivers looked at the crowd in Jordan-Hare Stadium and wondered what happened to the so-called “Family” at Auburn.
They weren’t there.
Auburn football team leaders have voiced their frustration with fans, feeling betrayed after the nationally-ranked team came back for a home game for the first time in a month only to look up to find too many empty seats in the stands late Saturday in a competitive 20-14 win over Ole Miss.
The Auburn players have heard the venom outside the locker room walls for too long. Saturday night and Sunday, they decided it was time to finally speak up and make their own voices heard.
And now, going into the last stretch with Auburn’s two greatest rivals left on the schedule, the Tigers are bent on winning with plenty to prove — whether the fans are with them or not.
“Come on Auburn Family, we gotta be better than this,” Auburn middle linebacker K.J. Britt typed into the glow of his phone and fired off onto Twitter on Saturday night.
He’s disappointed in a fan base that’s suddenly fractured. His teammates are now going into the biggest games of the year against No. 6 Georgia on Nov. 16 and No. 2 Alabama on Nov. 30 unsure of just which Auburn fans will still support them.
Senior safety and fellow team leader Jeremiah Dinson called out the energy in Jordan-Hare on Saturday, and labeled it with a thumbs-down emoji. Their defense had just made the game-saving stop to beat Ole Miss in the final minute. Most of the student section was empty then, after many of the players’ classmates decided to escape the cold on a November night rather than support the team picking up its seventh win.
Shivers found a photo of the emptied section Sunday and tweeted with the message: “What happened to being a ‘Family’?”
Britt made himself clear later Saturday night: “We need our fans on our side,” he posted. “Starting to wonder what Auburn fans are cheering for now.”
Fans booed at halftime when Auburn’s offense elected to run out the last few seconds of the second quarter rather than risk a shot down the field leading 10-7. Freshman quarterback Bo Nix was on the field then.
The mid-season departure of backup quarterback Joey Gatewood last week only added fuel to the fires of frustration for some fans who seemed to have jumped off board after two competitive losses against two Top 10 teams on the road at The Swamp and at Death Valley.
Nix accounted for 360 yards in the win over Ole Miss, but still has his doubters and detractors like the rest of the Auburn players.
“Whole lot of couch coaches and players out there,” linebacker Chandler Wooten tweeted, taking a sarcastic shot at the second-guessers after Auburn won to move to 7-2.
Auburn players said all week they were excited to get back in front of what they called “the best fans in the country.”
Now: “I hope it freeze for these last three games,” outspoken defensive lineman Coynis Miller lashed out in a post, responding to that photo of the emptied student section and the word going around that the students left when they got cold.
The message from the locker room is clear. The Auburn team stands together, and that includes the head coach and includes the starting quarterback.
If the fair-weather fans don’t stand with them, it’s not changing the Tigers’ mission.
In their mind, they’ll just beat Georgia and Alabama all by themselves, if they have to.