As the Auburn players walked off the field at Tiger Stadium on Saturday, there was obvious disappointment. Heads were hung. Players were still in shock. It wasn't supposed to end like that.
But the message in the locker room after the game was clear -- it's the not the end.
"It's our first SEC loss," Auburn coach Gus Malzahn said after the game. "We still control our own destiny. We've got to win. We've got to win out. And that's what's on our mind. I'm frustrated, but it's not the end of the world. We're going to finish this season strong, and there's no doubt in my mind our players feel that same way."
Sure, Saturday's 27-23 loss at LSU was difficult to stomach for fans. It wasn't any easier for the players and coaches. But in the locker room after the game, Malzahn brought up another loss on the road at LSU -- a 35-21 loss in 2013. That season, Auburn responded by winning nine straight games, an SEC championship and made it all the way to the BCS national championship game.
This season isn't over. The Tigers (5-2, 3-1) can still win the SEC West. They can still win a conference championship just like they did four years ago.
"This isn't really the end of the road for us at all," quarterback Jarrett Stidham said. "[Malzahn] told us that in 2013, they came down here and lost and still were able to win the SEC. Obviously, a lot of things have to go our way for us to do that. We have to keep getting better each week. We have to get in the film room tomorrow, get better and get ready for Arkansas."
"We still have a lot to play for," added safety Tray Matthews. "We have to win out. That's the biggest thing we can do. We have to move forward. We can't harp on this [loss]."
One of the keys to righting the ship will be simply to get healthy again. Matthews, who missed the second half Saturday with a hamstring injury, is one of a number of Auburn players currently banged up. Mike Horton and Tre' Williams missed the LSU game due to injury, and others including Casey Dunn, Derrick Brown, Marlon Davidson and Deshaun Davis all left the game at various points to get looked at in the medical tent.
However, healthy or not, Matthews believes losing Saturday will provide motivation for this Auburn team down the stretch, beginning with Arkansas next week.
"We just have to come out with fire," Matthews said. "It's definitely going to light a spark. We'll come out, play hard as usual, and we can't get complacent with the lead."
"I think we can turn it around," fellow safety Stephen Roberts said. "It's got to be a big thing for us to do that. The main thing we're working on right now is getting back to the drawing board and locking in."
The Tigers will return to practice this week with the LSU loss in the rearview mirror. The focus turns to Arkansas, and then they will get an open week to rest up before a final stretch that includes Texas A&M, Georgia and Alabama.
"The loss is something to learn from," H-back Chandler Cox said. "It's just a little bit of adversity as a team, and it's life. Life hits us. You just have to respond to it and move on."
Respond and move on. Why? Because it's not the end of the road.
Jarrett Stidham: "This isn't really the end of the road for us at all." pic.twitter.com/g65zX3P68n— Greg Ostendorf (@greg_ostendorf) October 14, 2017