Being an AD in this league is as much fun as I’ve ever had in any league I’ve been a part of. The mix of competitive natures and a sense of attachment here isn’t easy to compare, but it’s one of the best gaming experiences I’ve ever had. Season 5 in the CFSL was a disappointment to me personally, until it wasn’t. When my fortunes changed, it became the most fun season I’ve ever had, and it’s invigorated me again for something I already love. I’m Matt Pack, the AD at Auburn University, and we were one play away from shocking the league.
We never realistically should have made the playoffs. My personal life had cut into my prep time, and the effects were showing. We weren’t prepared in some weeks as well as we should have been, and we lost because of that. We ended the regular season 3-5, with only a moonshot of a chance to make the playoffs. I didn’t expect it to happen.
Florida beat Miami in a tough game in week eight. We had lost two straight, but that outcome got us into the playoffs. We were a playoff team. Nobody expected us to do anything when we got there, but we were in. It lit a fire under me, after what I had allowed to be an underwhelming season. We had a ticket, I wanted to see that team show up the way it was capable of.
Quarterfinals against Washington, a team that had already beaten us that season, and had historically owned us. I was also going against an AD who had taught me a lot in Wyrmreaver (Neal). I couldn’t get the defense right against a team that was capable of beating you two ways. I had the talent, but I couldn’t find the formula. About one in the afternoon, two days before the game, I found something. Like many things in the gameplanning world, it wasn’t a sure bet. But, it checked the boxes I was looking for. I continued to test it, the results held up, and it became my gameplan for that game. I sat at my bar that night, drinking soda and hanging off every play. Neither team scored 20 points, but Auburn. I celebrated while my wife laughed.
Winning that game got me the honor of playing Ohio State, which hadn’t lost a game all season. I was also a couple of days away from travelling to the first ever CFSL Hangout. I was in crunch time. I ran tests, I strategized, but I felt like I was missing something. I decided the day of the game, in New Braunfels, Texas, that the offense needed to adjust.
I watched that game alone in the living room of my best friend as he and David, a guy that’s grown on me, called a barn burner. I will never say that I felt safe until it was over, but a dropped pass and a timely tackle later, and Auburn won again. We were .500 now, and in the National Championship game. I got a champagne bath, deserved or not, and loved every second of it. We were still in it, and we were firing on all cylinders at the right time. Only one thing stood in our way of completing the biggest Cinderella story in league history. Texas. They had squeaked by, as much as we had, in the semifinals to get to the big game, and I’d never beaten them. It never gets easier.
A small crowd formed at the mothership to watch the championship game. I was a wreck, but to be fair, I always am on Gameday. It’s a byproduct of caring this much about a hobby you love. I got to meet new people, and watch my team in the biggest game of my program’s history. We started off slowly on both sides. 0-0 after a quarter. Then Auburn started to find a way again, and built a two score lead. There’s evidence on Twitch of my reaction to this.
The game was the best, most fun I’ve ever seen in this league. Texas won in overtime due to an interception we threw on our first possession. It’s football, it happens. We lost by three points to a team that had only lost once all year, had two, two-time players of the year on both sides of the ball, and we had pushed them to the limit. We had our chances. A failed fourth and inches, a missed field goal, etc. At the end of the day, we were probably one play away from winning that game.
I will always be proud of that team. They came together when nobody gave us a chance. They played their guts out like there was no tomorrow, because there wasn’t for us. Texas earned what they had one, but it still owns a spot in my head that we were that close. We’re coming into season six now, and I’m on fire again. My team is excited, and a team that is a .500 team historically is expected by some to be the favorites this season. I don’t know how it’s going to play out, that’s the beauty of this league. I do know this, though. The season five Auburn team, that was one play away from winning it all, or missing the playoffs entirely, is a part of what makes the CFSL the best league in sim gaming. We’ll see you in season six. It’s going to get better.