Defensive end Nosa Eguae said he knew this team was special "when we really just bought into coach Malzahn's plan."
"Our goal at the beginning of the year was to have the biggest turnaround in college football," Eguae said. "We knew the only way to do that was to get better every single day. Tuesdays and Wednesdays (on game weeks) were big for us because those are our work days and we got better. We beat some teams that people thought we couldn't beat."
The confidence boost was so dramatic that defensive end Dee Ford wondered publicly back in November, "Why not win it all?" That seemingly far-fetched utterance followed a 45-41 road upset of Johnny Manziel then-No. 7 Texas A&M.
It was the Tigers' biggest win before beating defending national champion Alabama and, then, Missouri in the SEC championship game. That followed a game-winning touchdown in the final seconds against Mississippi State and a 35-21 loss to LSU after falling behind 21-0 in the first 18 minutes.
"The Mississippi State game, finding a way to drive the field and win that game in the end, said a lot about our team," Malzahn said. "LSU, we had a chance to shut her down in a tough environment, and they kept fighting."
The pivotal game, though, was probably Texas A&M.
"At the time they were one of the top teams in the country, one of the toughest places to play," Malzahn said. "Our offense drove the field with under two minutes to score, and then we held the best player in college football (Manziel) out of the end zone on the last drive, which nobody had done that up to that point.
"When we walked off that field, we felt like we could play with anybody."
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