Sunday, November 29, 2009

Alabama Review: The Tide...It is a Turning!

I don't know if I've ever felt prouder of a team in defeat. The Auburn Tigers left their guts on the football field Friday and as a guy who recognizes maximum effort being given, the team with minimal to no depth played their hearts out and nearly pulled a stunner! Am I claiming a moral victory? Absolutely not! I'm claiming the Auburn Tigers fought like champions and led against a team that has steamrolled virtually every opponent it has played this season. They were fearless, aggressive, and united in the purpose of defeating an arch-rival, a team no one thought they could play with...not even their opponent. Alabama did what great teams do...they weathered an early onslaught, and went on a do-or-die drive converting multiple 3rd down attempts to win the football game in the end. When they had to have it, they delivered...and teams with depth and talent like they have have that capability. What this game displayed is the gap between the programs has narrowed considerably in one season...that's what made us proud! Losing this game is still a bitter pill to swallow. But, when even Alabama's band members felt silly singing "we just beat the hell out you!" as is tradition in post-game, you know you've garnered respect! They may not admit it...rephrase...they'll never admit it, but deep down they know, Alabama has no place else to go but down...and Auburn is on the rise!!

What I saw...

1. Auburn sold out to stop the run and was going to force Greg McElroy to beat them. They stymied the run better than anyone could have ever dreamed, but unfortunately, McElroy played well above his head and was mistake free.

2. McElroy- when he blew kisses in the direction of the Auburn faithful after throwing a TD pass to his tight end, I wish I could have jumped through the television set and do what Daren Bates did to him later in the game (a flying helmet to the throat)!

3. Daren Bates- his hit on McElroy was vicious and if he played on Sundays he'd be fined his whole game check. That being said...YOU DA MAN!

4. Who's the state's best back? Is it Ben Tate or Mark Ingram? Neither had a game they'll talk to their grandkids about one day. In fact, Trent Richardson was Alabama's saving grace. I think the perfect person to answer this question would be a common foe, a perennial all-everything defensive back from Tennessee in Eric Berry. You remember Eric Berry as the UT defender Ben Tate sent into the second row of Neyland on his way to 128 yards. He seems like a qualified candidate to settle the issue. Would he say Ben Tate? I'm not sure. What I do know is if I were fielding a team today who I'd take...and his last name rhymes with mine.

5. Alabama's decision to change its offensive set to spread Auburn out and throw 5-10yard routes was a good move on their part. It forced our extra defender out of the box (which surprisingly did nothing to help their run game) but it got McElroy in rhythm and settled the Alabama offense down.

6. Kudos to Johnathan Evans, true freshman reserve to Eltoro Freeman, for filling in admirably. He was out of position on a few 3rd down conversions covering backs out of the backfield and dropping into passing lanes, but all in all the kid played his tail off and made us proud.

Finally, the bowl game is huge for Auburn. Not the game itself but rather the preparation and practice time. It truly is equivalent to two spring trainings and the time spent on the field is critical to next seasons hard as that might be to imagine. For a team looking to add/build depth at critical positions and turn the reigns over at others this is where it gets done.

Saturday, November 28, 2009

Bama Reax: Reap the Whirlwind

Alabama won it's second Iron Bowl in as many years yesterday. In doing so they learned a very valuable lesson: things are as close as they have ever been.

It took one game in Tuscaloosa a year ago to think Auburn was dead and buried in the stink that is Bryant-Denny.

It took one Saturday afternoon in on Pat Dye's field to show that "light years ahead" is not so far as one might think.

Auburn stood toe to toe with Alabama, something I honestly cannot imagine even as I type these words. Not after the meltdown at home against Kentucky. Not after the Bayou beatdown where I questioned everything from Chris Todd's health to Ted Roof's qualifications.

I see in this loss an Auburn program on the cusp of something great. I see a team laying its guts on the line for a coaching staff it believes in.

I see a bright future. Is there any question who the playmakers were on the field yesterday? Darvin Adams did yesterday what he's done all year for us in being the best receiver statisically in the SEC. He and T-Zach are playmakers in an offense that highlights playmakers.

Is there any doubt after watching yesterday and all season who the top offensive players in the country will want to play for? Guz Malzahn took a guy with a dead arm and turned him into a record holder. Two recievers you've never heard of before La Tech are now tops in the league.

Is there any doubt that Gene Chizik is a players' coach? Rob has mentioned countless times how he would have loved to play for a coach that not only pays attention to the defense, but is right there high fiving those guys as they come off the field.

Auburn's close folks. This year, for all of it's mind numbing meltdowns in that three game losing streak, has been a rousing success. A bowl vicotry gives Auburn 8 wins, and that's about 4 more than I thought they'd get.

So for all the heartache the 2008 season caused, 2009 helped all Auburn fans believe again. Let's hope we continue in this direction.

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Dr. Z's Bama preview

Look Out. Here comes the Evil Empire

I hate this game. But it's here. The Crimson Empire comes calling this Friday. And we don't stand a chance.

Or do we?

2002: Georgia had just ripped our collective guts out on a 4th and forever. Our starting backfield was out. That particular starting backfield happened to include Carnell Williams and Ronnie Brown. Not to mention a fullback who's hobbies included giving himself tattoos.

Bama was steamrolling in 02. Auburn promptly showed up, went up 17-0, and cruised behind a little white guy running the ball.

I'm not saying it's likely but anything can happen.

I don't have to tell any Auburn fans headed to the game that the Bammers will be hard to be around. These people have really short memories. Or maybe I should say just black spots, because they have no problem remembering the Bear, who died when I was 7 years old. They have a really hard time remembering things after that for about the next twenty eight years, except for 92. That they can recall, but nothing after that until last season. I dated a girl in college like that. Always blacking out a not remembering the night before. She was fun.

I will give Bammers this, they are the rosiest people in the world. Every year you will hear them predict a national title. Eternal optimists no matter what, and for 2009, they may just be right.

Let's be real. Bama is by far the best team Auburn has played all year by a long shot. We will need a break or two or five. Eltoro needs to play. We are all hoping he can go. Todd needs to have his best day. Actually insert anything here related to Auburn. Everybody needs their best day Friday. Coaches, players, fans, band members. We'll all need our best day.

If it happens that Auburn pulls over a win it is a shocking wonderful surprise. If not, well we still exceeded expectations and the future looks bright. I'm with Jerry at Warblog. Let's enjoy this one. A year ago, we were dead and buried.

Now, a year later we exceeded expectations and are racking up in recruiting. This coaching staff took no depth, medium talent, and won seven games. We're not done by any means. Give us a year maybe two. Why not start Friday?

Auburn 24
Evil Empire 21

Sunday, November 22, 2009

Alabama Preview

As much as I may not want to say it and you may not want to hear/read it, Alabama has arguably been the most dominant team in college football this season. Sure they've had their scares, namely a miraculous blocked field goal to escape a loss against Tennessee. Sure, they've gotten calls that have gone their way, most notably a blatantly obvious INT missed call (x2..on the field-excusable, in the replay booth-unbelievable) by LSU that would have put LSU right back in the game. But other than those two games, Alabama has really dominated their opponents from start to finish.

As we know, Auburn has given away 2 wins this home against Kentucky and last week at Georgia (two wins that would have landed Auburn in a New Years Day Bowl). Other than that Auburn has dominated their opponents with the exception of going on the road to Arkansas and LSU where we were manhandled. Within the confines of Jordan-Hare we have played our best football and knocked off some teams (Ole Miss, West Virginia) many believed unlikely for this Auburn team to beat this season.

Auburn's success revolves around three things...the play of Chris Todd, the abilty of the defense to tackle well, win the turnover battle. When we accomplish these three things we win football games, period! Can we win these battles against a team as strong as this years Crimson Tide? It will a daunting, uphill challenge.

The positives...With the exception of Arkansas (a team Alabama destroyed), this AU offense will be the best unit Alabama has faced this season. With an extra week of preparation and rest, Auburn will come out with nothing to lose. All the pressure is on Alabama. They have an SEC Championship game next week to play and national championship implications every time they take the field. Over time, that wears on you I'm sure. Auburn has the better part of a full month to heal up and rest after the Iron Bowl allowing them to give a level of effort perhaps you're not otherwise willing to give.

The negatives...Auburn's biggest weakness (stopping the run) is matched to Alabama's greatest strength (Mark Ingram and the Alabama running game). If Eltoro Freeman is out and true freshman Johnathan Evans is forced into action that task gets even more difficult. Alabama is the most athletic defense Auburn will have seen to date. Auburn will have to outscore Alabama and Alabama's defense is just as unpredictable and unorthodox as Auburn's offense. If we can't move the ball offensively, it won't be close.

What has to happen for Auburn to win?- Auburn must sell-out to stop the Alabama running game and force McElroy to beat them. Alabama will score points, Auburn must respond with points of their own. We can't beat ourselves or make it any easier for Alabama by turning the ball over or foolish penalties. We must ride a level of emotion that must be present around and in Jordan-Hare Stadium that rivals the level of emotion last seen in Auburn the first time these two teams squared off in Auburn, 1989. Alabama must turn the ball over and Auburn must capitalize on every opportunity we are presented with. Can all these things come together and happen? In college football anything's possible!


Yeah, I'm a homer!!

Monday, November 16, 2009

Georgia Reax: Zigged when we shoulda zagged

I have to say despite the depressing loss to Georgia on Saturday, we had a blast in Athens.

Gotta say thanks to Dr. Thomas, the longtime team eye doc for the Dogs gave us 45 yard line seats. By far the best I have ever had for a college football game. It's who you know I guess.

After paying an arm and a leg to park in Red Dog's yard (yeah, called himself Red Dog). We walked up to the main strip of Athens, and found a cool little sandwich shop and sat outside and enjoyed the beautiful weather and chatted with some really nice UGA fans over some draft beer.

I have to ask the question: do the UGA girls all get together and decide to wear the same thing to the game. Virtually every girl had on a dress and boots. Was there a mass email I missed? It got to the point where I had to say "Nice boots." to every co-ed we passed. Most just laughed and said thank you. Props to the one girl who asked me how old I was. Touche' Yes, I am too old to make comments about your boots, but know it was all in fun.

I have to say that Athens is a pretty cool college town and the stadium is one of the best in college football. It is pretty hard to navigate, and the breezeways/tunnels are too small to get through. I had a pretty interesting conversation with another college kid while taking 30 minutes to navigate through the mass of people in the breezeway.

The kid who was probably a soph at UGA asks me "Did you go to Auburn because you couldn't get into Georgia or Alabama?" I replied, "Actually, I got into Vanderbilt, Wake Forest, Alabama, and Auburn, among others. I didn't apply to Georgia because their academics are watered down by the Hope Scholarships. Oh and kid if you want to talk to me, call me Dr. (I never play the Dr card, but in this instance, it just seemed right)

I then asked the kid what he was getting his degree in. Quite predictably he said psychology. To that I said "With that degree get used to saying 'Want fries with that?'" The kid then told me something I wouldn't repeat on this blog. If only I'd gotten into UGA maybe the conversation could have been avoided.

As for the game, I really thought we did everything right in the first quarter. We came out and punched them in the mouth. The thing is when you use the boxing metaphor, you really need to, you know, finish with the haymaker. We never used said haymaker. And the INT that killed us...oh man, not the best time to be on the wrong page guys.

We really just kind of hit the wall in this game defensively. I thought the first half was pretty well played. Fairly obvious that depth killed us at linebacker after Eltoro went down. One day we will not have to talk about depth being an issue. One day.

Everybody hates losing the rivalry game, and I hate it when we all say that this season already has exceeded expectations. Maybe that's true, but I think when we look back on 2009, we'll see another win or two we left out there.

Well, a week to rest and then it is Iron Bowl week. Where we throw the record book out the window, right? Enjoy the long needed bye week everyone...

Georgia Review (24-31)

Another blown opportunity. Another game in which Auburn takes control and imposes its will on the opposition early on, only to give it away with turnovers, inopportune penalties, and the inability to take away the run.

-What a tremendous atmosphere in Athens. The UGA fans were mild and tolerable as they've been humbled rather frequently this year. No grown men barking at me, hiking up a leg to mock piss on me as I had remembered as a player in trips to Georgia. No, I believe their fans came away in utter shock at rallying to win a game. At least the one's we were around.

-It's a shame Todd had the two INT's because, other than that, he was fairly sharp. The last INT was an obvious miscommunication as Adams broke towards the sideline and Todd threw it to the center of the field. That set up UGA's go ahead score, another team capitalizing on our mistakes.

-The inability to get Ben Tate off and running successfully was disappointing, especially given the early success through the air. This was one of the only games I can recall seeing Ben tackled on numerous occasions by one defender. I also believe McCalebb was about 75% on the ankle, which did not provide the shock value his speed gives the opposition's defenders when he's healthy, only allowing Ben more room to run.

-The turning point in the game, in my eyes, was the loss of Eltoro Freeman. With Freeman out, freshman Johnathan Evans stepped in and the Georgia running game found it's footing. Prior to Freeman's departure, the only real Georgia offense game from bombs down the sideline with Neiko Thorpe defending.

-The injury to Rambo on our last drive ended up greatly benefiting the bulldogs... preserving the win. How? Because it gave Georgia's defensive line a much valued needed rest...probably 15 minutes worth. The next play...Todd gets sacked. On fourth down, again, Todd under enormous pressure and must throw the ball very early. Adams has no chance to get in "jump ball" position.

-Two most costly plays of the game: 1. Fannin dropping pass at the goalline. It would have been a tremendously difficult catch, but it was open and Todd delivered a beauty. Auburn wins if Mario comes down with the catch. 2. Burns illegal motion penalty in which he completed a long pass down the AU sideline. It turned out to be a 40 yard penalty and would have resulted in Auburn points.

-The "you've gotta be kidding me, did he just do that AGAIN?!" moment: You guessed drive, Auburn down 7, Auburn driving..."False start. Number 73, offense, five yard penalty." I understand how it happens...he's on an island, isolated...blocking a speed rusher without the ability to hear the quarterbacks cadence (particularly on the road). So he moves when the defensive end moves. But, only the defensive end didn't move and Ziemba put us in a hole to climb out of...again!

-The "you've gotta be kidding me, did he just do that?! moment of bliss: Demond Washington racing 99 yards on the KO return to tie the game. Moment of pure grandeur! The UGA fan beside Dr. Z tried to dampen the moment with his farcical claims of AU holding, but he couldn't contain our celebration!! Another moment I thought, "We win! They can't overcome that!"

Depth reared it's ugly head in this one defensively. If we stop the run and don't turn the ball over we win going away. It's a could have been, should have been sort of year, but I still feel we're light years from where we were last season, and where we were projected to be this season. Better beat us this year while you can, because Auburn's on the rise and championships are on the horizon. In the words of Coach Tuberville, "And you can write that down!" I just did!

Thursday, November 12, 2009

Dr. Z's Georgia Preview


So Rob says last Saturday "Want to go to Athens?"

He didn't have to ask twice. The ultimate road trip awaits. OK, so maybe it won't be the ultimate college road trip, given that college waved bye-bye to Rob and myself years ago.

My most fun college road game ever was the 1995 Auburn-UGA game. We made the drive from South Alabama to Athens via Bainbridge Georgia where a teammate of mine had to pick up his parents'season tickets. Up through Georgia, we drank beer the whole way (OK really bad thing to do but I was in college after all, and not driving). One guy in our crew had these cute Clemson girls come down to meet us. I say they were cute, though one of them looked just like Greg Maddux. Seriously, she had Greg Maddux's face on a cute girl body. Weird right? So three college pitchers drink too much beer and ask this girl all night how she gets so much movement on her change-up. She was not amused.

It was my first trip to Athens and I thought the campus was really cool. I thought the UGA fans were also pretty civil. I tend to find that fans are way more hospitable when their teams are mediocre (the Dogs were 6-6 that year). We sat right behind the Bulldog statue in the end zone (anatomically correct statue as I recall). Auburn and Steven Davis ran wild, but UGA made it close at the end. Hines Ward impressed as a receiver who played QB. Fun day and a fun weekend altogether.

In 1997 I made a return trip to Athens. This time just me and my girlfriend drove over from Auburn. We had a good time because she liked to drink up on road games, but not to the point where she needed a sitter. Goergia was pretty good that year, and we came into the game as underdogs. I recall telling some obnoxious UGA fans on the walk into the stadium that I enjoyed them a whole lot better when they went 5-6 every year.

Auburn went absolutely nuts that night and rolled behind Dameyune Craig and a rejuvenated running game. The Georgia fans were gone midway through the 3rd quarter. Humble Auburn blogger Rob Pate was a Freshman free safety back then. He and his teammates were a sight to see that night.

As for this year's game, it should be a good one. Two evenly matched teams and two programs who look like they are headed in opposite directions square off.

It all comes down to the running game. If Tate and Fannin/Speedwagon get rolling, we win. I think the question is: Does UGA sell out to stop the run given that lousy pass defense? Ask any Georgia fan and they will tell you they have no confidence in Willy Martinez. With Guz in town Saturday, the poor guy's head might just explode.

I think Georgia offense will score some points. A.J. Green is the best receiver we will see this year. But with the turnover problems that UGA has, and our defense being the ballhawks they have been all year,I think Cox the Ginger Ninja gives a a pick or two. The one in the 4th quarter is the difference. That and the fact that Rob and I are undefeated in games in Sanford Stadium...

Auburn 38
Gimmicky Uniforms U 31

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Georgia Preview

The Georgia Bulldogs enter the South's oldest rivalry miles away from preseason expectations of contending for a SEC Eastern Division crown. In many aspects, this Georgia team reminds me very much of Auburn. They have a quarterback that at times has been unstoppable, and at times dreadful. They have a defense that has given up yards galore to every legitimate opponent played. Offensively, they were on fire at the beginning of the season outscoring Arkansas and South Carolina only to seemingly be "figured out" by defensive coordinators across the league. When their QB is on, they win...when he's not, they lose. Sound familiar?!

Why Auburn Wins:

1. Game means more to Auburn players than Georgia players. Auburn has way more players on its sideline from the state of Georgia than Georgia does players from Alabama. Guys that I played with at Auburn that were from Georgia foamed at the mouth all week long for this game. Takeo Spikes would say, "You play your heart out for me against Georgia, I'll play my heart out for you next week against Alabama!" (extreme censorship with that quote)! It is a game these guys take personally and pour their heart out on the football field for.

2. We have recaptured our swagger! Back to back games with tremendous offensive production gives this team the confidence to believe and expect to go into Sanford Stadium and win the football game. Three weeks ago, I don't think this team believed that would be possible.

3. The last time I was in Sanford Stadium was 10 years ago, a heavy underdog to a Top 15 Georgia team in Tommy Tuberville's first season at Auburn. Ronney Daniels and Ben Leard completely torched the Georgia defense for a 31-0 halftime lead. Why does that matter? Because I'll be in the stadium again for the first time since that game...stars aligning!

Why Georgia Wins:

1. They will be one of if not the best offenses we've seen to date. Georgia will test this Auburn secondary deep all night long in a fashion much like Arkansas did. It's no secret our secondary is depleted and Georgia will work to exploit this from the opening whistle. How does Auburn win this battle? By stopping the run. If you make a team one-dimensional they have no chance.

2. Richt on the hot seat. Nothing motivates a team more than talk of the possibility of losing your head coach. No player wants to endure a coaching change...look no farther than Alabama players sobbing to keep Mike Price (again, scratching my head)! When your leader is threatened a sense of urgency and a "us against the world" mentality forms that many times can solidfy and bond a team. If Georgia has any senior leadership, this team will come out swinging with a fury.

3. Common Opponents- Georgia beat Arkansas and should have beaten LSU were it not for the infamous phantom celebration penalty call against A.J. Green. Auburn was throttled on the road by both. Tennessee embarrassed Georgia by an unexpected aerial assault by UT's Johnathon Crompton (did I really just type that last sentence...Kiffin deserves a raise for his work with Crompton as of late)! Auburn really dominates UT on the road in perhaps it's most balanced game of the season. Still, a slight advantage goes to the bulldogs in the common opponent realm.

Who Will Win:

Whoever tackles better and commits less turnovers wins this game. Both teams will score points in bunches. This has all the makings of an offensive track meet, a back and forth ESPN instant classic. I feel like this rivalry means more to the Auburn players therefore giving an emotional edge to Auburn. Tackling is all about desire and want to. Auburn will have more of both Saturday night between the hedges.


Monday, November 9, 2009

Furman Reax and other musings

Dude, save some of that for Amen Corner

63-31. All of our wishes come true: big first half lead, starters get a much needed break We saw lots of new faces. I thought it was a great day.

-Chris Todd/Neil Caudle, you guys were off the hook. I don't care who you're playing, those stats are ridiculous.

-Any doubt Antonio Coleman feels better? Just in time for Amen. Here's hoping he terrorizes the Ginger Ninja from UGA all night.

-Oh special teams. Just because we call you Frenchy, PPL, does not mean you have to perform like France's military in WWII.

-Speedwagon, please be 100% for this weekend.

Other musing:
*Do LSU fans say "We got Heauxsed"? Seriously, I watched the INT replay 50 times and I still can't tell. Also Les, that is why you don't call a punt block on 4th and 5 1/2.

*Brandon Spikes isn't man enough to play soccer in the Mountain West. Coincidentally, Urban Meyer felt that given the heinous nature of Elizabeth Lambert's dirty play, she should be suspended from the soccer banquet at the end of the season.

War Eagle! And bring on the Dogs of the Hairy variety.

Furman Review (63-31)

This picture illustrates why the Furman game was great. This guy was our leading rusher and played multiple positions in this game. He's listed as a WR who turned corner who played tailback...rushing for 77 yards, two TDs on 5 carries! Congrats Anthony Gulley for shining when given the opportunity.

This was exactly what Auburn needed. A near flawless execution exhibited by the starters in the first half, an opportunity to rest and give the younger guys an opportunity to get their feet wet, and an occasion to keep the momentum building as the final two regular season games are upon us. On to Athens and a chance to build upon our bowl-game resume.

Thursday, November 5, 2009

D.Z's Furman Preview

Happy Homecoming! This week it's the Furman Paladins. Anyone else hav to look up what a Paladin was? In case you didn't, Paladins were knights that fought in the crusades or something. All this tells me is that Furman must have been founded by a history professor.

It is a pretty campus in the foothills of South Carolina and a really good school academically from what I hear. I already mentioned Furman is an arch rival to my wife's Alma, Wofford. She is so entrenched in the rivalry I asked her some really nasty things to say about Furman she said, "It is a really pretty campus and it's good academically. Thanks babe, you have gotta love those heated SoCon rivalries.

For the game this week, we need to score 30+ by halftime #1 to build confidence and #2 to get our starters some rest. I don't care if this a Ball State type 54-30 game as long as Bynes, Stevens and Co get a breather. We need the rest.

I have heard a few App St/Michigan reminders this week, but let's face facts, Furman is no App St. and Auburn is better than that Michigan team. Furman's .500 and has given up a ton of points this year.

We should handle them with ease, prep for UGA, and gets some rest.

Auburn 52Random historical figures-21

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

Furman Preview

Furman is the opponent on the schedule and will show up to Jordan-Hare Saturday, but Georgia is the team Auburn has prepared for all week. Much like Ball State was a tune-up for Tennessee, Furman is the prep course for the Bulldogs. Georgia scheduled similarly having Tennessee Tech roll into town as a confidence builder prior to playing the oldest rivalry in the South.

I don't know a thing about Furman other than the few people I know who have attended adore the place and the Paladins play in the same conference as Samford (I didn't even know Paladins were the mascot, I had to look it up). I'm not sure how the Furman coaching staff approaches a game like this? You would think their AD would schedule a game like this at the beginning or end of the year (get paid, heal up, and get ready for Elon or next year). To schedule an SEC power in the middle of the season with 2 crucial conference games remaining as you sit right in the middle of your conference standings at 3-3, as a coach, I'd be quite pissed. Nonetheless, Furman has to come into this game with many of the same goals as injuries, play as many bodies as possible, work on deficiencies to gain some confidence and gameday repetitions, and limit the mental mistakes.

The most interesting part of this game should be listening to Rod Bramblett and Stan White repeatedly say the name of Furman's tailback...Tersoo Uhaa! Beyond that, it should be a day to rest guys with nagging injuries, work on offensive tempo, improve on defensive fundamentals (i.e. tackling and timing a blitz), and emptying the bench for the guys who perform tirelessly week after week on the scout teams. I believe this team is mature enough to show up and compete against a vastly out-manned team (i.e. not pull a FSU against Jax State) running the record to 7 wins with Georgia looming large on the horizon.


Monday, November 2, 2009

Ole Miss Reax: A Kick Save, and a Beauty...

Eltoro is Spanish for...."The Toro".

Walt McFadden took the kick save from the Ole Miss receiver and took it to the house.

Auburn made a kick save on their season by throttling Houston Nutt and his underachieving rebels. We led 31-7 at one point in this game, albeit a short point. Never in a million years would I have anticipated such a bounce back from the last three weeks. I, and many of my blogging cohorts, had left Auburn for dead. Two road stinkers sandwiching a home debacle had us all talking about the importance of the Furman game. I joked about the PapaJohns bowl last week. Well, it depends on my mood, but I like Outback better than Papa John's anyway.

Some random musings:

-Jevan Snead...Does anyone have to ask why he transferred from Texas? He threw two picks Saturday, and he's lucky he didn't throw five. He was rattled from the get-go, and we see him calling out his teammates on the sideline? Congrats Jevan, you are the Mississippi version of Freddy Kitchens. Enjoy the remainder of your career not in the NFL. I'd take Chris Todd and his dead arm over you anyday.

-Speaking of Todd...RESPECT to you my friend. Way to hang in there when all of the numbskulls who have no idea what we are talking about (talking me here). I still think there is less zip than early on, but he's making adjustments and getting it done.

-The Running of the Bull...Eltoro. Gotta love this guy coming back after his Tennessee meltdown, missing the Arky trip, etc. He has energized the defense. The weakside is not so weak anymore. And how about all of a sudden we can pressure and tackle? If we keep this energy up, we are a pretty OK defense. (If we don't, we are a pretty bad defense, but for today that doesn't matter)

-Love SuperMario getting some touches. We are so much better we he can get the ball in space and make plays. Also, the Speedwagon gets to convalesce for two weeks. Love to see Ontario get another week off vs. Furman. I am sure UGA can't wait to see a 100% Ontario hit that corner.

-Tate is having the year that will make him one of the best (and likely most unsung) in AU history. Props to you, Big Ben.

-Mr 5-19 guy in the back of my mind got a good bit quieter Saturday. And I agree with Jerry at Warblog, Gene has done more in 09 with less than Tubbs did in 08. The kids seem to love to play for him. We are recruiting well. Those wins against Tennessee and State look pretty good now. And he is just steady. He keeps such an even keel. And he's not insane like Houston Nutt.

-Did I mention Houston Nutt is insane. He is also bound to fail at Ole Miss once Coach Footbauw's talent is gone at Ole Miss.

-Zac Etheridge, Godspeed my friend. I hope you get back on the field one day. If not, I am just glad you will be ok.

All right, a layup is next. It is a rival game at my house. My wife was a Wofford soccer player and she hates her some Palladins. (Not really, but I am trying to manufacture some personal fire about Furman).

WAR Eagle everybody!

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!!