Monday, October 25, 2010
LSU Review (AU 24 LSU 17)
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.