Monday, September 27, 2010

South Carolina Review (AU 35 USC 27)

photo of Superman's father, Jerrell (Jor-El)(courtesy of Mike Kittrell, Press Register

Cam Newton is an absolute freak. I hope the Auburn faithful realize what a blessing it truly is to have an unbelievable talent leading this football team week in and week out. This caliber of player does not come along very often and we should soak it in while we have the opportunity. I played against some talented, successful QB's during my time at Auburn...Aaron Brooks (Virginia), Daunte Culpepper (Central Florida), Tim Rattay (La. Tech), Mike Bobo (Georgia), Peyton Manning (Tennessee), Rex Grossman (Florida)...none of them were as difficult to prepare for and as multi-faceted as Cam Newton is. He's not perfect, and I'm sure Coach Malzahn could tell us a zillion ways he could improve, but he's confident, he's a leader, he's athletic, he can run by you...over you...throw past you...throw through's fun to watch.

South Carolina wilted in the fourth quarter thanks in part to a fast paced offense, a ball-hawking defense, and the energy the crowd created to spur Auburn along. Auburn had been there, done that...South Carolina had not, were not battle-tested, had not trailed, had not played on the road. They fought hard and are a good football team; they will compete against everyone and I think could beat Florida and play in Atlanta. Don't underestimate the importance of this win by underselling the South Carolina Gamecocks.

What was great...

1. Third down conversions- we constantly kept the chains moving and kept USC on the field all night. We did it with a regular pace and a fast pace and ultimately it wore down the Carolina defense. Many times it was with the feet of Cam Newton running through a defender at the first down marker, but that is just fine by fact it's a backbreaker, very disheartening for a defender when the opposing teams QB runs for a first down (particularly when he runs over your middle linebacker or strong safety).

2. The number 25...Exhibit A...kick-off coverage. Running down the middle of field beside each other was #12 Demetruce McNeal and #13 Craig Sanders. McNeal made all the tackles as Sanders took on all the double teams. Covered kicks like mad-men. Add their numbers...25. Exhibit B...timely turnover. Auburn marches to the one yard line down by one and false starts. Enter All-American kicker Wes Byrum and he has a Leigh Tiffin moment drilling the right upright from an awkward angle. What happens next... Darren Bates forces fumble by Garcia and Tigers recover at the USC 26. Four plays later, Litzenkirchen TD catch. Darren Bates number...25. Exhibit C...Auburn total offense. 434 yards between Cam Newton and Mike Dyer. That's 88% of AU's total offense. Put their numbers together...25. Exhibit D...the date. 9/25. The stars aligning!

3. Distributing the ball to various playmakers. Litzenkirchen, Emory Blake, T. Zachery, Darvin Adams, swinging the ball out to running backs out of the backfield, an occasional draw or sweep with McCalebb. Lots of guys with playmaking abilities touching the football.

4. Run defense. All the hype surrounding Lattimore and his ability to carry the load. Not when you average 2.4 yards/carry. Kudos to the front seven and Josh Bynes in particular. I've got my #17 jersey on order.

5. Playing to the whistle. On Emory Blake's TD (an incredible run by the way with tremendous effort), wide out Jay Wisner pancaked his defender at the goalline. Multiple times offensive guard Mike Berry pulled around leading Cam Newton into the hole, but none were bigger than the linebacker he destroyed at the goalline on one of Newton's TD runs.

6. Forcing turnovers defensively. You win the turnover battle, you win the game 9.9 times out 10.

What was bad...

1. Pass defense in the secondary. Poor ball skills all the way around. Out of position on numerous occasions flipping field position. Particular Etheridge. I really respect Etheridge for his aggressiveness, his leadership, and obviously his ability to overcome a broken neck and still suit up on Saturdays. Nonetheless, he has been a liablity thus far, particularly defending the pass, as difficult as it is to say it.

2. Fumbles! Unbelievable. All from tailbacks too who earn their keep protecting the football. That's how they start and end every practice, protecting the football. We were lucky as ever Carolina couldn't maintain posession on the Eric Smith fumble. I have no faith in Mario Fannin holding onto the football. I love his athleticism and playmaking tendencies, but he's fumbled too many times to carry the football consistently if I were in charge of personnel. I move him to slot receiver and situational H-back. As far as Dyer and Smith, they sleep with a football in their hands the rest of the season.

3. Still no Trovon Reed. At this point you almost wish the guy had just redshirted. After stealing the headlines all preseason, his absence is frustrating.

4. False start at the one yard line. Unacceptable!

5. Missed field goal from extra point distance? Did Damon Duval slip into Wes Byrum's uni at the half? Oh no, I saw Byrum take his helmet off after the yellow hair dye observed. Missed FGs happen, but what a terrible time to miss one!

6. Giving up first downs on third and long. We've got improve on getting off the field on third downs, particularly against the pass or a team like Arkansas will score all night long against us.

It truly was a remarkable effort yet again. Dr. Z texted me during the game saying how much he loved this team. I would have to agree. They are fun to watch, they play four quarters, they give you everything they have, they're humble, and they love and defend each other. Surviving September unscathed is an enormous feat for any team, but for Auburn in particular because of the schedule. I believe we've probably been tested more severely than just about any other program in the country. It's not always pretty, but it's been enough to survive and advance. Their motto has been good to great and they are learning how to win the close ones. That's the first sign. The sky's the limit for this team.

P.S. I need tickets to this weeks game against La Monroe. Taking the whole family plus one so eight in total. If you can help please let me know! Thanks!


  1. former players have to ask other fans for tickets? I figured former players could get free tickets anytime they wanted....especially to a LA Monroe game.

  2. I wish that were the case. Maybe current NFL guys or former QBs can get in. Not defensive backs. I had to pay to get into the spring game one year after I left Auburn!

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  4. wow...that is sad rob.

    any thoughts on why we can not stop a screen play? S.C. and Clemson have gained about a mile off the screen.

    Finally, Coach Malzahn looked like he understood what is takes to win in this league. great play calling throughout the night. Coach Chizik talks about this team having to become more consistent and i say it starts with Malzahn. let's hope he keeps it coming.

  5. Brett- I think the biggest issue with the screen is just the secondary folks not getting off of blocks. You also must have tremendous pursuit from the DL and LBs. Sometimes you just have to contain it and tip your hat to a good play call. Fool me once shame on you, fool me twice shame on me.
    As for Malzahn, he did call a nice game getting the ball into many different hands...particularly the TE.

  6. Rob I love Zac E. and I believe we all do and I understand Zac not wanting to go out and smash someone but what I don't get are the poor angles he takes and his pass defense. In your opinion is this because of his tentativeness from the injury or rust (FYI i didn't play DB on this level but it is hard for me to buy the "rust" excuse, but enlighten me if i'm wrong).

  7. Adam...I really Zac is more a "box" player, good against the run, fills an alley well when asked, will come up and hit you without hesitation, etc. I think he's always been lacking somewhat in pass coverage, but most safeties are (that's why they're safeties and not corners). I think it's been extra hard for him this season because he had such limited "live, full contact" work and you just can't simulate the speed of the game in practice, let alone practice you're only a mental participant in. It's not his atheticism that has gotten him beat, it's what he's seeing and how he's reacting to what he sees. So I think (hope) he improves as the season progresses; if not, Mike McNeil may be the answer.