On an unseasonably warm evening in October 2017, Gus Malzahn arrived at his postgame news conference wearing a striped Auburn polo and traces of a scowl.
The Tigers had just blown a 20-point lead on the road against LSU. They were 10-10 in their past 20 games in the Southeastern Conference. They hadn't beaten Alabama or Georgia in nearly four years. And their past three seasons had ended with records of 8-5, 7-6 and 8-5.
"It's not the end of the world," Malzahn told reporters.
In Auburn country, however, there was a growing sense it might soon be the end of Malzahn's time on the Southern plains.
Then, in a span of just seven weeks, everything changed. Auburn clobbered then-No. 2 Georgia and dominated then-No. 1 Alabama. Malzahn went from coaching on the hot seat to signing a seven-year, $49 million contract extension — complete with a massive buyout clause that won't dip below eight figures until 2023.