Sunday, November 1, 2009
Ole Miss Review (33-20)
I owe this young man an apology...Chris Todd you proved me wrong! You came out against a tough and aggressive defense and looked as sharp as I've seen you look in quite some time. You were poised, took shots down field successfully (including a beautiful bomb to Terrell Zachery that only he could catch), and were genuinely and noticeably excited when you made a terrific play. You validated Coach Chizik's decision to stick with you as Auburn's "best chance to win." Thanks to you, I'm eating crow for calling you an injured shell of yourself. You proved me wrong, and I'm ecstatic you did. When you play like you did against Ole Miss we are capable of beating anyone! Congrats Chris Todd and keep it up!
What a remarkable turnaround! I've never seen a team look so inept one week look so amazing the next week against basically equally talented opponents. It wasn't a perfect performance, but it was a treat to see the offense come back to life, the defense play inspired, and the Auburn Tigers win a game the majority thought we'd lose (including myself). What I saw...
1. Seniors lead the way- Several Auburn seniors played their best games this season helping pave the way. Antonio Coleman played his best ball game getting pressure on the quarterback, Walter McFadden was incredible, Tommy Trott got involved, Kodi Burns contributed in big ways, Ben Tate continued being the beast that he is, and Clinton Durst flipped field position on a few crucial occasions.
2. Finally the breaks go the way of Auburn- We seemingly had more balls and calls bounce and go our way this game than any game I recall perhaps in the past 5 years. The biggest was the review and overturning of the Ole Miss interception deep in Auburn territory. I have no idea what the replay official saw, but if he was looking at the same replay we were watching, I don't see how that was enough to overturn the call. The McFadden INT and return for a touchdown...unbelievable! The blocked extra point bouncing to a corner with nothing but green grass ahead of him! And others. We were due for every good thing that occurred.
3. Tackling much improved- The defense played inspired football. It wasn't perfect by any means, but the effort was phenomenal and the scheme was improved. Much more blitzing and pressure on the quarterback which forced Snead to leave the pocket and disrupt timing. We hit him more times than any quarterback I recall this year. McCluster was a thorn in our side and had some huge gainers, but we limited those huge gainers to a few, instead of every time he touched the ball and by the end of the game he was feeling the effects of being pounded for four quarters.
4. Eltoro Freeman- Blitzes with a purpose! He also does a fantastic job of getting around blocks and to the ball carrier. His play was noticeably fast and aggressive.
5. Zachery and Adams re-emerge- Adams got the score, but Zachery twice flipped field position and set up scores with remarkable body control and strength to come up with critical catches.
6. Malzahn gets Todd comfortable quickly- Todd's first two throws were safe play action passes to running backs (Fannin and Smith) that picked up consecutive first downs. Todd began 2 for 2 and never looked back.
7. The injury to Etheridge looked bad- Kudos to Ole Miss RB Rodney Scott for recognizing the severity of the situation and lying motionless while the medical staff prepared the cart for Zac. The play ended Etheridge's season and his leadership in a young secondary will be missed.
8. Increased role for Fannin fantastic- Mario is a playmaker plain and simple. The more times he touches the ball the better. He did a superb job of being speed to Tate's power.
9. Kickoffs inconsistent- The opening kickoff went 4 yards deep into the end zone. Every kick thereafter was less and less deep. The final kick that was returned for a touchdown was fielded at the 18.
10. Chizik's sideline demeanor would make me love playing for him- Terry Bowden didn't even watch the defense when I played. Tommy Tuberville gave us the brief clap of approval when we made something big happen. Gene Chizik meets the players at the hash marks throwing atomic fists, yelling approval and praise in ways a head coach rarely does. I love it and would have greatly appreciated the head coaches recognition so openly displayed when I was a player.
All in all, this win does wonders for Auburn's bowl projection, confidence, and fan base. With two weeks to prepare for Georgia (same for Georgia...they play Tennessee Tech), here's to the Tigers riding this wave of success into Athens and beating the Dawgs!!