Sunday, October 31, 2010
What an effort on the road! The biggest question I had was how this team would respond after consecutive physical and emotional battles in the national spotlight. They responded in a way that exceeded my expectations. I fully expected Auburn to win the game, but I thought Ole Miss would give us some problems and fight us four quarters. The most impressive aspect was the way the offense took what Ole Miss gave them. We didn't beat our head against a brick wall and defiantly try to run Newton when it was obvious Ole Miss was determined to not let him beat them with his legs. So instead McCalebb ran for 100 yards in the first half alone. Dyer ran for a career high 180 tough yards. Newton showed his accuracy throwing for over 200 yards and two scores to a multitude of different receivers. It was a definitive case of pick your poison for the Ole Miss defense and when it all settled, the poison turned out to be a well-balanced, physical offensive beatdown the Tigers put on the Rebs.
The word the keeps coming to mind after watching the way Auburn handled Ole Miss...STRONG! 350 yards rushing...STRONG! Mike Dyer's 21 carry, hard-nosed performance...STRONG! Three different receivers with 5 or more catches...STRONG! No sacks given up on the road against a team eager determined to stop your quarterback at all costs...STRONG! The defense stopping Ole Miss on 4th and 1 in Ole Miss territory just before the half and coming away with more points...Back-breaking STRONG! Demond Washington racing 100 yards on the kickoff return...Will-crushing, game over STRONG!!! T. Zachery stiff arming his man into the ground on his TD catch...I'm feeling a little sorry for Ole Miss now STRONG! The unbelievable downfield blocking by our WR, Kodi Burns in particular...STRONG!
There's so much praise to be distributed for many fantastic efforts against Ole Miss. But my Eyes on Auburn unsung hero award goes to Kodi Burns. Throws a TD pass to open the scoring, throws block after repeated block to free up running backs and fellow WRs, and makes two critical third down catches to sustain drives early in the game.
^ Only one punt all game. And the one punt was a sky high boomer. Only 36 yards but with that height there was zero chance for a return.
^ Wes Byrum 3 for 3 including a season long 48 yarder. Made it look easy too.
^ Offense rushing for over 300 yards for the 5th consecutive game and accumulating over 500 yards again Saturday. I said before the game if Auburn could rush for 300 yards against Ole Miss this may be the greatest rushing football team ever...I think they could be...at least in Auburn history.
^ The play of Demond Washington. The INT was probably the biggest play of the game, thwarting a sure Ole Miss scoring opportunity immediately after our offense gave them incredible field position. The kick return...amazing! Several great open field tackles. The TD catch the guy had on him was just an unbelievable play by the Ole Miss WR. Can't fault Demond on that one.
^ Mike Dyer showed me a burst of speed on his TD run I didn't know he had. I've thought he's been average to perhaps slightly above this season and mainly because I didn't think he had incredible speed to go along with his bowling ball stature. He proved me wrong on one run and immediately his stock rose immensely in my eyes.
^ Play at the line of scrimmage on both sides of the ball. That's where it all starts and we're playing as good as anyone in the country if not the best.
^ Zack Etheridge back on the field a year removed from being paralyzed in this game. You're a tougher man than most Zack!
-May have gone to the well one too many times on the flea-flicker to Neil Caudle. That play won ugliest of the game. We got way too cute with that one.
-Poor angle by the play side safety on the speed sweep TD run on the second play of the game for Ole Miss. He never got blocked, he just ran himself out of the play with a poor angle.
-Ole Miss' gray uniforms. All the build up for that nastiness? Come on!
-Jesse Palmer's BCS countdown analysis last night! Coming from a guy that was replaced by a third string walk-on named Noah Brindise in the only game I played against Jesse, what a D-bag! Needing style points in the SEC?? Please dude. Get a clue. Compare the strength of schedules and loosen that tie you've tied too short brother.
Thursday, October 28, 2010
Actually I think this is the correct mascot. Wait, that's not right either (stupid George Lucas)
What a week! Still pinching myself over the #1 ranking in the BCS. The big question-Can we sustain? Interestingly, I had two LSU fans in for eye exams this week. The are both sold on Auburn and Cam Newton. And they both desperately want us to beat Alabama. One of them even said "it would be almost worth us (LSU) losing to Bama just to see Auburn wreck their world the day after Thanksgiving." That my friends is some hard core hate of the Mullet Nation right there.
As far as Ole Miss goes, lets face it. We should win this game if we show up and do what we do. That doesn't mean we shouldnt all be worried. After all, we are Auburn. The same Auburn that eeked by a pathetic Alabama team 18-17 in 1997 to go to the SEC Championship game (thanks Edward Scissom-hands). Or should I bring up 06 when we just needed to beat a lousy Georgia team to go to the Sugar Bowl. We all remember how that one turned out.
So yeah, we should be confident, but still worried, because that has been our history. Make no mistake, we will get every punch thrown at us you can imagine from Ole Miss and Houston Nutt. Trust the almost Rebel Mascot when he says it....
But I think Auburn's run game is too good for us not pull this game out. We need to limit turnovers, and force a couple of our own.
And for goodness sakes play with the same aggresiveness on the road we've shown in the first half at Starkville and Lexington. Do this, and I think we're staring amen corner in the face with a 10-0 record. I'll say....
Rebel Alliance 28
Not sure if this is the correct logo or not, but it's the logo I see when I think of Ole Miss.
However you want to slice it, when you're the number 1 team in the land and going on the road...look out. You're going to bring out the best effort, fanaticism, competitive spirit, emotion of whomever your opponent may be. It's well documented the last three number 1's have gone down on the road three consecutive weeks. Bama to Carolina, Ohio State to Wisconsin, Oklahoma to Missouri. The difference this week...Ole Miss is not a top 25 team like the others played.
Ole Miss does have enough talent to keep the game close if we just go through the motions. We cannot just roll our helmets out onto Vaught-Hemingway and expect the Rebel Black Bears (how ridiculous is that) to just roll over. This is their bowl game, their SportsCenter moment, Houston Nutt's instant hot seat coolant, Jeremiah Mosali's signature opportunity. Ole Miss is probably better than we give them credit. They're probably the second most improved team as the season has progressed behind our next road block, the Georgia Bulldogs. Sure they lost to Jax State and Vandy...they beat a decent Fresno State and Kentucky and hung tough against Alabama and Arkansas. No way should they beat Auburn, however, we have to be mentally prepared to fight a team with their backs against the wall, swinging for the fences.
I believe strongly this will be the most challenging week Coach Chizik has all season long to prepare this Auburn team for this game both emotionally and physically. If he can have this team ready to play and play mistake free, penalty free, emotionally charged, aggressive/attacking, fundamentally sound football, it would be an epic feat. It would be a National Coach of the Year type effort. It's easy to play at home against LSU and Arkansas. It's hard to go on the road to Oxford and not feel a little less energized. It will be highly interesting to see how we respond.
The best thing about this team to me has been their desire to succeed, their humbleness in victory, and their never say die attitude. They are hungry, they play with passion week in and week out, and they rally around one another when adversity strikes. It'll take all these attributes to come out of Oxford a winner.
Offensively, Ole Miss is allowing 32 points per game...we are averaging 39. The matchup on paper is heavily tilted in Auburn's favor. I surely expect Ole Miss to sell out to stop the run and make Auburn put the ball in the air. LSU was too arrogant to believe they had to change what they do defensively to stop Cam Newton and the Auburn rushing attack. The league will take note of the 440 rushing yards Auburn gashed LSU for and will say, "If you beat us through the air, hats off to you." If Auburn rushes for over 300 yards again...then this may be the greatest rushing football team of all-time.
Defensively, the young guys will get tested by a QB that is far superior to what they saw against LSU. Additionally, Houston Nutt will throw something at them they haven't seen all season. It'll be a matter of making in game adjustments, not letting Masoli go nuts with his legs, and making Ole Miss sustain drives.
The emotions will be high on the Ole Miss sideline early on. If Auburn gets off to a fast start, this one's over by the 3rd. If Auburn allows Ole Miss to believe and gives them reason to continue the fight...it'll be another slugfest. My hope is Auburn relishes their role as the BCS #1 team and goes out to prove a point.
Monday, October 25, 2010
This is what I saw as Ontario ran by. I swear I heard him say Meep, Meep..
Wow! Where to begin? 8-0 and #1 in the BCS rankings is pretty sweet. It is really amazing to even begin to imagine the possibility of Glendale Arizona, considering where this group of players and coaches began.
Flashback with me to 2008. We were done. Dead and buried. Tubs was shown the door, and we hired Gene Chizik. I remember texting Rob when the hire was made. I said "I give up." or something to that effect. A lot of us felt like waiving the white flag back then. That was then. This is now.
I was flat out wrong about Gene Chizik. He hired a top shelf coaching staff and became a coach that Rob has said many times he'd love to have played for. Looks like our guys like playing for him plenty.
I never thought we'd lose the game once the ball kicked off. There was something about the electricity that was inside Jordan Hare Saturday that I haven't experienced. I went to every home game as a student. It was fun and sometimes just magical, but nothing like the atmosphere I witnessed.
So where from here? I honestly cannot say.I have no idea if this team can sustain the perfect record. We have lots of liabilities to be sure. But damn, are they fun to watch.
I think we can win the rest of them. With the best Auburn football player in a generation under center, you better believe it. This team has liabilities, yes, but they have that intangible "it" you need to win championships. With every week they gain confidence. The sky is the limit at this point.
More thoughts on the day:
-Running out of accolades for Cam. He is the best college player I have ever seen in person. Bar none.
-Nick Fairley got pushed around on the third drive. Then Tracy Rocker got in his grill on the bench right in front of us. Quote from Rob- Rocker is saying "You see that picture up there? That's me. Is your picture up there? No? Then do what the &*%# I tell you too." (to be fair, if he keeps this up we'll see his picture up there one day)
-The guy sitting behind us thought Rob was Ben Leard. I had to throw that in.
-Defense as a whole was better, but LSU's QB's are so bad its hard to guage, really. I mean those guys are bad. If no one's thought it up, LSU folks should call them 'blunder and frightening'.
-It's fun living in Birmingham today. Bammers are either in denial or just belligerent about Auburn being #1 in BCS. It's almost a "How dare they be good? We are supposed to be good. Not Auburn. Not on Saban's watch." One realistic Bama friend of mine texted me and said today Auburn is 14 points better than Bama. I told him he was nuts. I actually think its a pick em at this point.
Allright, so 8-0, another reckoning. Now to Ole Miss and worrying about us being flat and overconfident. But I have this feeling we'll be Ok...I hope.
Another game another vaunted SEC defense completely dominated at the line of scrimmage. The numbers were so inconceivably gaudy I did a triple take inside the stadium when I saw the rushing total beaming from the left-hand side of the scoreboard. 440 yards on the ground! I can't imagine defending this offense. Cam's play is off the charts. LeBron James post game tweet probably sums it up best. Cam Newton...MONSTER! Equally frightening...Nick Fairley! Can't remember a guy as disrupting and dominant as Fairley has been all season long. And the fact he was double teamed all night only magnifies his beastly play. Before the game I compared him with LSU's Drake Nevis. Fairley left no doubt who the SEC's best interior defensive lineman is!
^Crowd noise. The Auburn faithful had Jordan-Hare rocking and rolling. If the place had a roof, it would have been blown off. On several key third down attempts in the second half the LSU offense needed to convert, you literally had to yell yourself in order to stop your own ears from ringing and head from hurting. Being at the UK game and contrasting that stadium to Jordan-Hare, it's mind blowing. It's a home field advantage like no other.
^Tailbacks carrying the load and keeping the pressure off Newton. Dyer rushing for the century mark on 15 carries. McCalebb going for 84 yards on just 4 carries. Fannin averaging 10 yards a pop when he hangs onto the football. Take Newton out of the equation and we still rushed for over 200 yards on the SEC's best run defense. Absolutely crazy!
Tremendous leadership! Cam Newton is just a leader! He was constantly picking up the Auburn defense on the sideline; praising their effort and encouraging more of it. And it's not a flashy, showy type of leadership either (although he does have some of that too). It's typically a pat on the back, a wink, a nod, a chest bump...just an acknowledgement that, "Hey, I can't do this on my own. I need you guys to keep plugging away." I'm telling you, as a defender that's used to the offense getting all the glory, particularly the QB, when he acknowledges your effort, it means more than anything any coach can say, any columnist can write, any sportstalk host can spout. It means the world and you raise your level of play for him. And it didn't stop with Cam...I thought Zack Etheridge was a tremendous leader to the young guys he was playing with in the secondary.
Coaching! Not the calm demeanor of Coach Chizik or his excitement for his players when they make a great play. Not the playcalling of Malzahn and the 440 yards his offense exploded for on the ground. Not the scheme of Ted Roof to hold a capable, but struggling LSU offense to 250 total yards. Not the emotional Trooper Taylor willing his players to victory. No, the coaching gem I witnessed was Tracy Rocker excoriating his defensive line, particularly Nick Fairley after LSU's initial drive of the game. He verbally abused his D-line, and challenged them unabashedly to man up and shut down the LSU running game. He stood toe to toe, teeth clinched, fists flying, spit spewing, as intense I've ever seen any coach on a sideline and demanded more from his defensive front. And they delivered big time. Nick Fairley was a monster indeed and the reason...Coach Tracy Rocker!
-The Auburn team gathering between the third and fourth quarter and running toward to student section. It's a mutual agreement. The players are stating how much they appreciate the support and we're ready to fight this last quarter. The fans are stating, we appreciate your effort and we're gonna be louder in this final quarter than we have all night...keep plugging away. When I played, this was when the fans left to get a hot dog and we sat on the bench in utter silence. Now it's a mutual showing of respect between team and fans. Really enjoyed it.
Young, battered secondary holds tough. Made LSU earn everything they got (minus the trick play for the TD) and made numerous plays on the football to bat away passes. Thorpe played through an injury, Etheridge made several big plays, Washington continually ate the bubble screen up at the line of scrimmage, and even true freshman Chris Davis was tested early and rose to the challenge. All around solid effort from a group most often criticized.
-Punting. Nearly killed us. LSU's punter kept was their saving grace. He single-handedly kept LSU in the game by repeatedly killing punts inside the five yard line. Contrast him with Steven Clark's miserable punting effort--low line drives, easily returnable kicks. Kicking it to arguably the most prolific return man/athlete in the SEC in Patrick Peterson. It was a horrible punting effort and kudos to the defense for overcoming the terrible field position our kicking game put them in.
-The play action quarterback scramble on 3rd and 1, from the 40, tied at 17 that lost six yards. Newton did an amazing job to only lose five or six after breaking tackle after tackle in the backfield. But why call that play in such a crucial situation when they still haven't stopped you on the ground? We got cute and it didn't work and then a terrible punt followed by a great return gave LSU the football on our side of the field. Again, kudos to the defense for rising to the occasion and sacking LSU on two consecutive plays.
-Mario Fannin's fumblitis. He's a head case now. And every time he fumbles on a critical drive (and we always lose his fumbles too which makes it even worse) I'm one step closer to becoming a head case as well. He truly is an immensely talented football player combining speed with size with the ability to catch the ball out of the backfield in a unique way. But fumbles and injuries have hampered him his entire career (and for a guy with such good hands the fumbles are mysterious) but I truly believe it's all in his head now.
-Short kickoffs. This hasn't been a major problem because of our excellent kickoff coverage, but it sure would be nice to kick into the end zone on occasion and not allow for a potential run back.
-Wes Byrum missed a FG?! Had to be due to Les Miles headset frequency of 666!
Ultimately, the score was closer than the game. Give LSU's punter a lot of credit because he was brutal with his placement. He made us go the length of the field and kept the scoring to a minimum. I was extremely proud of the defensive effort and not allowing either LSU QB to be successful through the air. Both QB's were shaken up at some point in the game, which is a testament to an aggressive defense. We will be banged-up, sore, and emotionally spent after this slugfest. Tough week of preparation lies ahead. The #1 ranking is well deserved. Now time to stay humble and hungry and finish. That win ended season #2. Time to regroup and finish stronger than ever down the backstretch.
Thursday, October 21, 2010
LSU's slightly less imposing two headed monster at QB
The biggest game of the year. How many times have we said that already? When you are 7-0 football team, they are all big I suppose.
But LSU-Auburn, both undefeated. Both with an opportunity to place themselves squarely in BCS talk with a win Saturday. Does it get any bigger?
I had butterflies all week about Arkansas. It has been worse this week. I keep asking myself if Cam can do it again against LSU. I keep wondering if our defense will show up again. Are the injuries we have going to be too much to overcome this week, or the next or the next?
Figure all that in with playing a Les Miles coached team, and, well, like I said I am nervous about this one. He's the guy who wins the lottery after accidentally giving the teller the wrong lotto numbers.
Fortunately, I like the matchups. Forget for a minute about what everyone is talking about, that is the Auburn offense vs the LSU defense. To me, the most important matchup will be the LSU offense vs the AU denfense.
Why do I like the matchup for our defense? LSU's quareterbacks. Jordan Jefferson has been bad. Jarret Lee is the best second option? He has an uncanny ability to fold when the pressure is on. LSU is a power running, run first team. What is the one thing our defense has shown they can do? Can LSU sustain long drives without turnovers and penalties? I don't think they can. Auburn's defense is opportunistic, and LSU likely will give plenty of opportunities.
Offensively, I think we'll get ours. The Red Sea may not part like against Arkansas's D, but we will score points. Guz is out for a reckoning against these teams that embarrased him last year. John Chavis, prepare to be reckoned.
For goodness sake, let's get some decent punt coverage this week. It's their best offensive weapon. Don't give LSU the opportunity.
I am pumped man. Let's do this.....
Corn Dogs 24
Wednesday, October 20, 2010
LSU reminds me of that relative you have that chose the "alternative" path. The one that dropped out of school, partied seven days a week, never grew up, but somehow still makes more money than you do, drives the newest German import, and has a smokin' hot wife. For him, success follows in spite of his best efforts otherwise.
No team does less with more than any team in America. Talent...loaded. High school football in the state...fantastic. Fan base...rabid. Money...limitless. Head coach...best stated by ESPN's Pat Forde "In Satan's lair, there is a lockbox with the words "LES MILES" written on it. Inside is the LSU coach's soul. The Hat clearly has made a deal with Lucifer that allows him to win nearly 80 percent of his games as coach of the Tigers, capture a national title and make more money than all but a tiny fraction of working Americans. And doing it with a unique flair for coaching lunacy in pressure situations." I couldn't agree more. He may be the antichrist?!
Like Arkansas' offense last week, LSU's defense will be the best we've seen to date and likely the best we'll see this year. They're giving up less than 15 points per game and have speed all over the field. Their unsung hero and chief disruptor...DT Drake Nevis. He is LSU's Nick Fairley and check out their numbers through seven games. Tackles-Fairley 33, Nevis-38. Tackles for loss-Fairley-13.5, Nevis-11.5. Sacks-Fairley-5, Nevis-5. And both have one INT. Think how dominant Nick Fairley has been for Auburn this season and you see Drake Nevis has been every bit the dominant, anchoring force for the Bengal Tigers. Every one talks about the corner Peterson, and the linebacker Sheppard, but the defensive success starts up front with Nevis. If we can control him, not allow penetration and constant disruption, then we move the ball successfully on LSU.
I've got to believe LSU defensive coordinator John Chavis makes Cam Newton beat his defense through the air. Not many (if any) defenses can dictate to the Auburn offense what they can and can't do, but if there's a defense that has the ability to take away an aspect of Auburn's offense (Newton's legs), it's LSU. I fully expect Auburn to spread the field early, dink and dunk, sweep with Mccalebb, stretch the field vertically with Adams and Zachery in order to create, maintain, and allow running lanes to open for Newton. If we can hit early with someone other than Cam, that would be huge for lanes later in the game for the Heisman frontrunner. Our tailbacks must take care of the football and not give LSU a short field to work with.
Defensively, I don't know what to expect anymore. Their offense against our defense may take the progression of athleticism and production in SEC football back 50 years. I can see us completely shutting LSU out, and I can see LSU scoring 40. Who knows? Let's hope our defense plays with pride, with intensity, and for four quarters...that's all I ask.
Special teams will be enormously important this week as field position will be critical for our defense. Make the struggling LSU offense go the distance all afternoon. If they can do it, tip your hat.
Ultimately, home field advantage is critical in this contest. I believe the LSU offense will make one too many mistakes in this one that'll be the difference.
Tuesday, October 19, 2010
Monday, October 18, 2010
They asked Arkansas LB Jericho Nelson to describe the last thing he saw on Cam Newton's 1st TD run.
Midway through the third quarter of the Auburn-Arkansas game I gave up being frustrated with the defense. It begame laughable to me how fruitless our efforts seemed to be against a backup QB who was absolutely shredding Ted Roof's D. I just began to enjoy the game for what it was and one I may never see like it again. It was as entertaining as you'll ever see.
I also had in the back of my mind that we'll get the ball last and we'll win.
Fortunately it didn't come to that. 3 fourth quarter turnovers equalled 21 points and the game was over with an entire six minutes left, and so Janie (my three year old) and I were on the deck again playing basketball as time dwindled.
It was a game that had nearly everything and got Auburn one step closer to an SEC West title. Yes our defense is not so good. Yes we gave up 43 points.
But we won the game by 3 freakin touchdowns.
Let that sink in for a moment. Then consider that Auburn scored 65 points in an SEC game and threw 15 passes. (14 by Cam, 1 by Kodi) Arkansas had a top 20 defense coming into that game. They had 8 and 9 guys in the box to stop the run...and they didnt even come close to stopping it.
We've got issues on the defensive side. No argument here. I could Rob's stomach turn from 30 miles away in that game. Any former DB would feel that way. It was hard to watch. But you know what? They can only get better, and LSU's two headed QB monster (the cute Sesame Street kind of two headed monster) may be just what the doctor ordered.
I guess I am saying I don't think we see another offense like that agin this year.
-Special teams 2009=liability. 2010=asset.
-Nick Fairley has been sent hear to destroy opposing quarterbacks. I think he's the reason Greg mcElroy is playing so badly for Alabama. He's already having nightmares.
-Replay booth guys If I ever see you, I am buying you a round. Not because I think you screwed Arkansas, but because you did your job. No video evidence was available to overturn either call. They didn't use intuition. In the end they got it right. That being said officiating was spotty at best for both sides.
At the end of the day, 7-0 is pretty sweet any way you look at it. Auburn is a top five team with the best player in the country in the backfield. We are getting breaks that we have been due to get for 10 years. I still say we need to beat LSU to start talking big things. But is there any reason today to think we can't?
Sunday, October 17, 2010
The only thing more beautiful than Cam Newton!
Unbelievable football game to say the least. Both beautiful and embarrassingly disgusting at the same time. Our ability to move the football at will...stunning! Our inability to defend the pass...equally stunning! Our offense able to run the football with 9 defenders in the box knowing exactly who's gonna run it and where and it didn't matter...amazing! Our defense allowing a backup quarterback to come into the game knowing the pass is coming and we can't stop it...putrid! Nonetheless, 7-0 is an absolutely phenomenal feat regardless how it was attained. And for all the negativity the defensive performance stirs, they stood tall and made the necessary plays in the fourth quarter, ultimately putting the game away. Anytime you get a defensive TD, a pair of picks, and legally knock out the opposing teams QB you're doing something right. The shortcomings are obvious and don't need to be highlighted by me...those guys just have to do some soul searching and work to improve each week. That was the single most lopsided matchup for our secondary this season and they survived it. Learn from it and get better this week.
1. Offensive line play. Several times I counted the number of Arkansas defenders aligned five yards or less inside the box. More times than not, the number was eight and many times nine! To not completely shut down the running game with that many defenders in the box speaks volumes to what the offensive line was able to do. And they've done it all season. Kudos to the big uglies!
2. Wes Byrum splitting the uprights on every opportunity! So nice to have that luxury!
3. Kickoff coverage! If anyone should have left that game with a concussion it would be Arkansas' KO return man, #11. He was obliterated time and time again, usually by the unbelievable coverage combo of Craig Sanders and Demetruce McNeal. Sprinkle in Emory Blake and the kickoff coverage has been nothing short of superb!
4. Special teams as a whole. 99 yard KO return, blocked punt to set up a score, unbelievable kick coverage. Nice game planning and personnel decisions by Coach Jay Boulware.
5. WR's downfield blocking. Several times Kodi Burns threw blocks to spring bubble screens or allow Newton to set up defenders off their blocks. They know their role and do it well.
5. Cam Newton's physicality! After running over their LB at the goalline on our first score of the game, I'm not sure how anyone on Arkansas' entire defense had the courage to step in front of Cam. I know I wouldn't have. I'd be diving for the shins!!!
6. The defense turning the ball over and controlling the fourth quarter. It would have been easy to lick your wounds and play with a "we can't stop them" mind-set, but they kept at it and finally made a handful of game salvaging plays.
The Not so Good...
1. Punting! Granted, we seldom do it so the punter perhaps is cold on the sideline, but when called upon we have to get better production from someone. I've been unimpressed with the tall freshman and think I'd feel more confident with Shoemaker, simply because of the experience. Whoever's back there, give us 38 yards in the air and some hang-time!
2. Run defense not as dominating as it's been. Of course, playing a team as prolific through the air as Arkansas you aren't necessarily in the best alignments to eliminate the running game and you probably breathe a sigh of relief when you see the QB hand the ball off rather than drop back. They didn't kill us with the run like they have in recent years, but they did enough to rack up 138 yards on the ground.
1. Officiating was questionable at best throughout and miserably terrible early on for Auburn. The holding call on Ziemba on our first drive was ridiculous and completely flipped field position giving Arkansas a short field setting up their first TD. That horrible call was followed by the pass INT call in the end zone on Demond Washington which gave Arkansas the ball first and goal at the one instead of forcing the FG attempt. We caught our breaks as well, I'm aware, but these two calls were blatantly terrible and a lesser team might not have overcome them. Both teams walk away from this game thinking the refs screwed them.
1. Pass Defense. Putrid. Disgusting. Embarrassing. Anti-Auburn. I cringed at each score. And listen, I'm not claiming to be beyond reproach. I was on the field when Florida's Noah Brindise came off the bench and beat us 1997, when Mississippi State's Matt Wyatt relieved their starter and beat us every year, so for some it may seem like the pot to kettle. But, I couldn't believe after Mallett went down we still decided to sit back and not rush more than four guys to pressure the inexperienced back-up. It looked like we were gonna make the guy an instant Heisman candidate in one half of football.
The biggest thing for this team at this point is to stay humble and remain hungry. They are undoubtedly an immensely talented team with potential to beat any team in the country. It comes down to desire, unity, minimizing mistakes, respecting your opponents, and showing up prepared for battle every week. Running the gauntlet to 7-0 is a fantastic achievement! Praise to a deserving bunch!
Thursday, October 14, 2010
I love pulled pork...but I digress.
I've read a lot about curses this week and about how Arkansas has been the albatross around our necks ever since joining the conference. Rob will tell you below its the hardest SEC game on the schedule to get up for emotionally this side of Vanderbilt.
We have been a punching bag for the hogs for too long. For every good memory we have (Kenny Irons running wild in 05) we have several bad ones (Matt Jones running wild in...well almost every year we played him).
My personal favorite of kicks in the gut was 2006. Arkansas had a true freshman QB and we had a defense that had absolutely stonewalled everybody. Guz ran us to death with McFadden/Jones. But the stage was set when Mustain (who no one has ever seen again) hit Monk with a dying quail of a pass that wound up for a long touchdown. In typical Tuberville fashion, the BBQ bunch had no idea what to do when they got down a couple scores. We finished 11-2 in the worst great season any Auburn team has ever had.
So how's this for an idea: Reverse the curse, if there is one. I am also a huge baseball fan. The Red Sox did it in 2004 after years of being hit by the Yankee bus. Their motto- "why not us?"
We have 3 offensive starters from Arkansas, including the best running back recruit in the country. I guarantee you Mr. Dyer will be jacked up. How about letting him run behind Mr. Ziemba? My guess is he will be equally stoked to stick it to his former state.
Will the Hogs give us our biggest challenge of the year? I am just not sure. They played Bama off their feet at home, but escaped Georgia's worst team in 20 years late in that game. They also had to stave off the Texas Aggies last week. The Texas Aggies are woeful.
One thing for sure: we have to get pressure from the front four. Fairley will have to be A game Fairley for our defense to have a shot. Rotate those freshmen phemons on the d-line, pin our ears back and go get Mallett. Make him hurt, like we did with every other QB we've faced at home this year. Do that and I guarantee mistakes from Mallett will come.
I think we'll get our points. Chris Todd was terrible last year and we scored 20 points in the third quarter. Cam will lead us on long drives that will wear down the Hog defense (I hope).
Another key to this game is special teams. We have to have Arkansas starting drives inside their own 30. Kickoff coverage must be better (Get well Mr Sanders. We need you.) I like having Clark in there to hang high punts. Averaging 5-8 yards more on those high ones would be huge.
It is time to reverse the curse. End the trend. And say "Why not us?"
Pulled Pork: 27
Wednesday, October 13, 2010
I always hated playing Arkansas. It had nothing to do with their record, if they were great or terrible, or how we matched-up. It was never a game we circled on the schedule, talked about in the summer, knew any of their players, coaches, history, or traditions. None of us grew up watching Arkansas, dreamed to play for or against the Razorbacks, and most of us were never recruited, visited, or saw one of their games as recruits. Arkansas never brought out the best in us, it didn't bring out the competitive drive, it never sparked the emotional high you must play with to win against good football teams. And the recent past points to much of the same...Auburn being ambivalent with regard to Arkansas football. It's a shame too. Arkansas has prevented some talented, successful Auburn football teams from playing for SEC titles in the past 10 years. Without thinking hard at all I can come up three or four years in the last 10 where losing to Arkansas has kept us from going to Atlanta.
This is the worst matchup of the year for Auburn. The strength of Arkansas' Ryan Mallett and his plethora of WRs against the inconsistent Auburn pass defense. It will be the most unconventional, pro-style, throw to set up the deeper throw, offense we see this season and my confidence is not at an all time high that we are up to the task. The Kentucky game really soured my perception of our pass defense. Up until last Saturday, I was fairly confident we were steadily improving and thought by week 7 against a stout Arkansas offense we would be challenging receivers all over the football field. I thought we took a step backwards last week. Until last Saturday, I thought we could get a decent four man pass rush against just about anyone. Didn't see it against the Cats. Perhaps I'm putting too much credence into what took place defensively in Lexington, but it gives me pause. When Kentucky was forced into obvious passing situations it didn't matter, they converted time after time with ease...Kentucky!! Mike freaking Hartline! Four incompletions all game! The silver lining I guess is this...UK did everything quick, eliminated the pass rush by calling quick pass routes. That's not Arkansas' style. Arkansas wants to kill you quickly...they're not patient...they want it all in one shot. Auburn has done a good job in preventing that from happening at the expense of giving up several long, blood pressure raising, monotonous drives. But that could be enough to force an Arkansas turnover here or there. It could cause Mallett to press and try to fit a ball into a space that's not there, to hang onto a ball a little longer than he should allowing for sack opportunities. It'll be an interesting back and forth. But in my heart of hearts, when I go to battle with Bobby Petrino in one corner and Ted Roof in the other...and Ted Roof is my guy...I'm a little concerned. Not a shot a Roof, but a testament to Petrino's preparation and playcalling ability.
Offensively, we have to make every possession count. No three and outs. Can't give away possessions with fumbles, INTs, drive killing penalties, etc. It's a great feeling as an Auburn fan knowing you have quick strike potential or grind it out ball control. Nothing beats having confidence you're signal caller can put the team on his shoulders and use his God given superior talent to take over a game. No matter how poorly the defense plays, the offense has the potential to keep us in and win every game we play. As I've been saying..they just have to stay out of their own way.
I hope to see our tailbacks have a big game and help control the ball and the clock. Defensively, Arkansas is better than most people give credit. Every defense we play from here on out will play with a chip on their shoulder in an effort to slow down Newton...to make him beat you through the air. Arkansas will be tough to crack early on, but sustaining drives will wear them down as the game progresses.
I'll be most interested to see how much pressure we're able to get on Mallett. Can we do it rushing four and protecting the shell of the defense or do we have to bring the house and expose a vulnerable secondary? Normally, shutting down the run and forcing your opponent into predictable situations is at the top of my list of musts to win, but I really don't think Arkansas cares...positive yards rushing is just icing on the cake...they want to to chunk it. Turnovers ultimately reign supreme in this one as possessions and field position will declare the winner.
I hope I'm proven wrong, but the matchup appears to be a poor one.
Monday, October 11, 2010
Heisman pose seems fitting.
What a weekend! Special thanks to Jeff and Grace for making us feel so welcome in bluegrass country.
Saturday started with a trip to the Keeneland horse track, where the tailgating was way better than at Commonwealth Stadium. We actually drove through campus at around 11 AM and there was not a soul there. It was an odd thing to those of us who are used to people setting up their tailgates on Wednesday.
The horseraces were great. I bet on a 20-1 shot in one race. I think his name was Indaweed. In hindsight I should have re-thought it, because he was slow and lethargic right out of the gate, and ate a feedbag of Doritos at the finish line after coming in 8th.
Special shout-out to our main man Josh, the friendly neighborhood college student who let us park in his yard for free. This guy had Leo DiCaprio looks and my guess is he had no problem with the ladies (one of his friends who walked with us said as much).
We found a great tailgate where a guy had converted an ambulance into a tailgating machine, complete with big screen, where we watched the Bama fail on the fake field goal. All watching, both Kentucky and Auburn fans cheered.
At that point we headed into the game with our UK student tickets in hand. UK must value their students, because our seats were on the frickin 50. The Kentucky fans were great. They really seemed to just be passing the time until Calipari's midnight madness in a few weeks. They were warm and accommodating...much like the Kentucky defense.
After the game, it only took us an hour to find Dana's van. We were a little worried that Josh had taken it to the chop-shop, but he was there guarding it when we finally found his place, while chatting it up with one of the fine ladies of Lexington.
As for the game, Rob summed it up pretty well. The Cam Newton show is here all season. Tip your waitresses. Try the veal.
Seriously though, is anyone else worried about the number of carries he's racking up? I think we should run the ball, but the 3 other backs carried just 22 times. I worry that's just not enough.
Defensively...ugh. Just my opinion here, and it's likely worth nothing, but our coaches need to have more faith in our corners. The soft zone is maddening, especially when we don't tackle well. Give Kentucky and Cobb credit, though. They are a pretty good offensive team.
I am not ready to talk SEC West title yet. The next 2 weeks will tell the tale. For now, let's enjoy this week Auburn fans, when all the Crimson 'A' flags are put in storage. When Auburn sits as the highest ranked SEC team at the midway point, and Nick Saban is swearing his way through expletive laced press conferences.
Malzahn frozen with disbelief!
Wow! That was closer than I expected. We made the Kentucky offense (Mike Hartline in particular) look like world-beaters! Can't say enough superlative things about Randall Cobb either...that guy competes with the best of them. But man oh man am I grateful we have Cam Newton on our side. He was absolutely unstoppable on the ground and UK had no answer for him. Not sure why we got away from him in the third quarter but we've got to ride his back all game long, week in and week out.
^Fast start on the road offensively. Scoring on your first 5 possessions is more like a PlayStation stat, not an SEC road game stat. Unbelievable!
^Controlling the line of scrimmage. We ran for over 300 yards and reduced UK's rushing attack to QB scrambles by Randall Cobb. They got nothing on the ground conventionally.
^Bleeding the clock to zero with a 19 play, length of the football field drive to win the football game. That drive was masterful by the offense as a whole...O-line for allowing no sacks or penetration to disrupt the flow as well as no penalties to kill the drive...WRs (Darvin Adams) for making a couple of huge grabs in traffic to keep the chains moving...Coach Malzahn for listening to his senior offensive line tell him to lose the trickeration and just run the damn football right at them and then calling plays allowing just that to happen...Cam Newton for orchestrating the drive and not being careless with the football. It was fun to watch amid the Kentucky student section.
^Lexington's Keeneland Horse Track! Beauty everywhere you look!
^Auburn's ability to rally when adversity hit and do what had to be done to get the win.
^The Auburn colors on the road...a packed Auburn section, orange sprinkled throughout Commonwealth stadium, the enormous orange and blue flags the cheerleaders wave...it sends chills every time.
^Byrum calmly nailing the winning kick in yawning fashion. Smooth I tell ya!
-Allowing UK to take the opening kickoff and carve us up like a butcher was not the way you envision establishing the tone. Thank God for the offensive firepower we countered with.
-No pass rush...mainly because of the Kentucky game plan to dink and dunk with quick routes. Still, didn't see many white shirts disrupting things behind the line of scrimmage.
-Kick coverage was mediocre at best...poor mostly. Had a lot to do with Craig Sanders standing on the sideline apparently banged up. He, along with McNeal and Emory Blake, has been a special team warrior all season long and not having his presence was evident.
-Pass defense killed us...again! Had UK in predictable third down passing situations all night and it still didn't matter. Even when we knew what they were gonna do we still couldn't stop it! Does not bode well against Arkansas. We were content to just let Mike Hartline complete every pass he attempted, all like 3 yard dump passes and then let the receiver scamper for 7-12 yards at a time. That's unacceptable and has to improve in a hurry. The one caveat however is we perhaps had a bit of a letdown thanks to things being so easy early on. I believe we let up a bit in the third quarter on both sides of the ball (and perhaps in our play calling as well) and before we knew it Kentucky was primed for the upset. We have to learn to end games like that and leave no doubt about it; completely eliminate all hope for the opposition.
-Couldn't tell from where we sat, but apparently the 2 personal foul penalties on Zack Etheridge were borderline scandalous, unbelievably questionable at best. That's too bad to flag a kid for playing to the whistle or within the confines of the white lines.
-Looking to Kodi Burns on third down? His catch on the off-balance throw against the sideline was nice, however, considering the options available in crucial situations, I don't quite get it?
-34 yards per punt...not very good!?
So, it's obvious we've got to decide what we're gonna do defensively. Are we going to continue being an umbrella, prevent, don't give up the big play, make you march it down the field against our soft-shell cushion secondary defense or will we transition to the challenge you at the line of scrimmage, run in your hip pocket, hands all over you, make a play on every ball thrown, disrupt/disguise/deceive, balls out relentless pressure, if you can make a perfect throw hats off to you defense that Auburn's used to producing? The answer to that question will be the difference in next weeks outcome.
Thursday, October 7, 2010
If you didn't know by now. Rob and I will be in the blue grass this weekend for the game against the Wildcats. We are looking forward to a great time even though our host for the weekend, Jeff, is a Bammer. Yes he is your typical Bammer. Never had one class in Tuscaloosa. At least he the sense to good to a good school for his education at Birmingham Southern.
I pick on Jeff about the Bama stuff, but he is a great friend for many years. He's a bachelor and a blackjack phenom (think rainman without having to watch wheel of fortune at 5:30 PM). He always dates the hottest girl in his social circle. In other words...
He might be this guy.
As for the game, as Doc Holliday would say, it's not revenge we are after, it's a reckoning. Don't thing this game hasn't been circled? Guz Malzahn apparently gets physically ill when watching film on the '09 game. (So do we)
My guess is Auburn takes care of business in this game as we add a little orange to the bluegrass on a fall Saturday. Cam is the difference once again, as he adds to his Heisman resume.
Basketball school soon to be on probation: 24
Stay thirsty my friends!
Wednesday, October 6, 2010
It seems it doesn't matter the opponent, the talking heads always have Auburn on upset alert. Remember how Mississippi State had a newly found swagger and were primed to pull the upset before a national audience...nice try, see you next year. Then everyone said Clemson would be ready to fight Auburn tooth and nail...and they were right, Clemson gave Auburn a tremendous test...a test Auburn passed to go 3-0. Then it became, "Well, Clemson exposed Auburn's weaknesses...we'll see how good Auburn really is against South Carolina!" Indeed we did, Auburn 4-0. Continually, Auburn's opponents are built up mightily...until the week of the game...then suddenly, "Auburn did it with smoke and mirrors" or "(insert opponent) gave the game away" or, better yet..."(insert opponent) was really terrible...(even after being blown up to be Goliath all week), we'll see how good Auburn is when they're really tested in October!"
So here we are, in October, on the road against Kentucky...a team that's beaten no one of significance, lost 2 consecutive SEC contests and what am I hearing. Why Auburn on upset alert of course! I believe strongly in respecting your opponent, in being prepared mentally against everyone, in the adage "on any given Saturday...". I played in too many close games against the Sisters of the Poor and won too many games in blow-out fashion against top 15 teams in my time at Auburn to understand how vital it is show up prepared and ready to battle. But, I just don't see a Kentucky team being able to play four quarters against this Auburn attack. Unless we gift wrap Kentucky field position with turnovers and penalties...I see the UK fans exiting stage left by the middle of the third. I could absolutely be mistaken, but I assure you...it won't be because of Kentucky's stellar play...it'll be because of Auburn's mistakes.
Last year's loss to UK hurt. It hurt bad. They waltzed into Jordan Hare with a true freshman, first time starter at QB and ran the football down Auburn's throat. There's no way this team has forgotten that game. I know how Coach Yoxall is and I assure you, they have constant reminders of scores, school colors, postgame statements, and even letters written and sent by fans of other schools posted throughout the weight room and locker room year round. They haven't forgotten...they remember vividly.
I'll be most interested in our ability to stop the run this week. If we force Kentucky into predictable situations by shutting down the running game, this one's no contest. If they're able to establish a ground game and keep our perimeter and LBs guessing, then we'll be in for a fist fight. Offensively, our biggest obstacle will be ourselves. If we can stay out of our own way then we should score at a minimum our yearly average of 36 points.
With Kentucky reeling from consecutive conference losses on the road this game looms large for them and we'll get their best shot early. The question becomes will we extinguish their will to compete or will we allow them life and hope to fight four quarters. They believe they can beat us as referenced by Dr. Z's investigative blogging he posted yesterday. If we're serious about competing for the SEC Championship, we don't toy around with Kentucky...we blow them out!
Tuesday, October 5, 2010
Monday, October 4, 2010
Anyone else get the feeling this guy's going to be really good?
I am in agreement with Rob that things could not have gone much better for Auburn Saturday. It was great to get some guys some rest and see some new faces. Great to see Jake Holland get in there. I'd actually like to see him more. He looks like he has a really bright future.
Speaking of bright futures, Lutzenkirchen continues to impress me with his hands, his blocking and his route running. He may be the key from going from "good to great". He always seems to be open and he actually runs really well in space for a tight end. Look for him to get even more involved in the offense as the season continues.
I was probably only one of about 15 AU fans still watching the game when Moseley got mop-up time over Neil Caudle. I guess that's fine. But if Trotter is dinged up and we need a back-up (heaven forbid!), I think it has to be Neil Caudle, right?
Not much else to say about this one. I love games that are over by the second quarter. I spent much of the third playing basketball on my back deck with my three year old (paging Nell Fortner, Janie is gonna be a blue chipper).
Other random SEC thoughts:
-Think Urban Meyer wishes he had Cam Newton this season. He could probably cut his nitro dosage in half. That being said...
-Alabama is really good (sigh). I don't see them losing...until we shock them in T-town in November.
-Les is more. Miles is the luckiest guy in college football. Heck, how about all of sports? That was the biggest meltdown in the last minute of a game I have ever seen...and they still won.
-Ole Miss getting their mojo back? Maybe. But Kentucky gift wrapped that game. Let's hope their just as generous this week.
And the Eyes on Auburn crew will be there in Lexington. So if anyone wants two stars of the blogosphere (well, Rob is the star, I am just the remora to the Great white shark) to come to your tailgate, let us know! We'll happily come and eat your food and regail you with great stories of Auburn football's past(Rob) and eye care (me).
I don't think the game could have unfolded any better than it did for the Auburn Tigers. It's not the easiest task in the world to motivate yourself to perform at peak potential against a Sun Belt opponent at 11:00 AM after back to back to back emotional, physical contests. I was very pleased to see our guys mentally sharp and responsive. The opportunity to rest some key people, build depth and experience with others, and escape relatively injury-free are huge pluses. The defensive effort keeping Monroe out of the end zone is a confidence builder and truly a valiant effort because it was done with guys who don't normally play together as a unit. In a game like that, giving up several dink and dunk passes is fine...you just don't want mental lapses and busted coverages and allow a team like the Warhawks a freebie. Offensively, probably could have scored 100 on LA Monroe...did a fantastic job protecting Newton, getting him comfortable distrubiting the football to various weapons, and kept him from taking unnecessary hits.
When you look at the schedule, it really breaks down into 3 equivalent 4 game stretches building to a crescendo at the conclusion of each stretch. The scheduling is remarkably similar in each stretch....Each one has a nonconference tune-up (Arkansas State, La Monroe, Chattanooga). Each stretch begins SEC play on the road against a lower-tier SEC opponent (State, Kentucky, Ole Miss). The third contest in each stretch is a home gut check (Clemson, Arkansas, Georgia). And the final game of each "mini-season" is the money game...where championship seasons are won or lost (South Carolina, LSU, Alabama). This team is getting better every week. I've had a blast watching them this season purely because of the character and "never say die" attitude they take the field with. I still get the feeling this year could be something special.
Thanks again to all the folks (Ben Leard, Bo and Laura Megginson, Phillip Pate) that coughed up enough tickets (10) for our family and 3 friends to attend this game. My kids only made it to midway through the first quarter before we were gone, but the experience is one they'll remember and we're appreciative. Now this week, an adults only road trip to Lexington (the only SEC campus I've never seen) to cheer on the orange and blue.