Sunday, October 17, 2010
Arkansas Review (AU 65 Arkansas 43)
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!