Monday, November 29, 2010
Alabama Review: (AU 28 Bama 27)
This was a hustle moment that will be enshrined in a painting someday!
There's no way I can adequately portray in words the gutsiest, most resilient, most unified Auburn football team I've ever known and their amazing comeback in the 75th edition of the Iron Bowl. All I can do is look back to what I said before the game...this Auburn team may not be the most talented, but are the best TEAM in America because of the love and belief they have in each other. There's no other explanation for going down 24 points against the defending national champs, against the greatest front-runners in college football, in a stadium that hasn't witnessed the home team lose in 20 consecutive games, in the most heated college football rivalry in all the land. Only the most mentally strong and spiritually connected of teams could possibly endure what this Auburn team did, yet find a way to win the football game. You really get the feeling that if Bama had scored 35, Auburn would have scored 36. Bama 42, Auburn 43. This Auburn team is just made of something that strong. What a joy to witness...and to scream Rammer Jammer five times at the top of my lungs...arms raised in victory...waving my shakers in unison to the beat of the band while facing the tide fans scurrying out of Jordan-Hare West like rats under a spotlight. Thank you 2010 SEC Western Division-State of Alabama Champion Auburn Tigers for giving an old has-been that opportunity! I enjoyed it at least half as much as I did running off that field myself a winner.
-When you have the best offensive and defensive players in college football on one team, you're never out of a football game...EVER! Nick Fairley's sack and fumble recovery of McElroy was exactly what Nick Fairley has done all season long...game changing plays at critical moments. Cam Newton was defended better by Alabama than any other team this season, but he just can't be held down for four quarters. He was calm, never seemed to lose his cool, kept plugging away and eventually figured out the Alabama defense. He is the undisputed team leader and his confidence spreads like wildfire to his teammates that feed off of his energy, athleticism, and leadership intangibles.
-The defense played their hearts out! Alabama's first drive, hats off to the Alabama offense. They made plays and executed flawlessly. Auburn made them earn it and the Alabama offense did. I can live with that. Second drive, we bust a coverage and give them a freebie. Third drive the defense starts to exert it's will until the officials decide to interject themselves directly into the game with what can only be described as a criminal call against Nick Fairley. You have to want to make that call...you have to go into that game eager to make that call. The white hat single-handedly handed Alabama seven more points and if anyone deserves a one game suspension from the SEC office it's the head referee who made the most egregious call I've seen in years. After that, the defense shut Alabama down. They made Alabama completely one dimensional cutting off the head of it's vaunted running attack. They played aggressively, tackled well, made plays on the football in the back end, and refused to give up when things appeared bleak. T'Sharvan Bell was my defensive MVP! He played his finest game in an Auburn uniform and earned a tremendous amount of respect from me. And the best stat of the day, other than the scoreboard...Alabama was 0-7 on third down in the second half. That's dominant! That's taking over a football game!
-The loss of Blanc and Goggans during the first half turned out to be a blessing in disguise. Having those guys fresh and eager for a second half push was instrumental in the defensive success in the second half. The battle was won up front and the way things played out with the suspensions couldn't have been better for the Tigers D.
-T'Sharvan Bell's sack on McElroy was a tremendously heady play by the sophomore defensive back. He used the play clock to his advantage as he watched it tick down to one, using it to speed rush around a flat-footed offensive tackle to knock McElroy out of the football game, and Alabama out of field goal range.
-Antoine Carter outran Neiko Thorpe to get to Mark Ingram on the fumble play. I would bet Thorpe would beat Carter in a foot race that same distance 100 percent of the time. The difference? Thorpe never comes off the field. Carter rotates in and out consistently and had more gas in the tank. It was an impeccable effort play and Carter's refusal to quit kept Auburn alive and ultimately sparked the comeback.
-McElroy was out of his mind in the first half. We can give all the credit to the coaching staff and Coach Roof for making critical in-game adjustments, but I would bet the Auburn defense didn't change a thing at the half. I would bet the coaches rolled the dice and bet the house on McElroy and company not being able to sustain the pace of the first half. As long as the running game was taken care of and Alabama was a one dimensional, pass-happy offense, Coach Chizik and Roof believed McElroy would come back down to earth...and the fall was fast and hard!
-The Fairley sack was incredible! We all knew he would make a play at some point in the game, but it couldn't have come at a more critical time. If he ever deserved a flag in this game it was on that play. The penalty...15 yards for making the Alabama offensive guard look foolish and playing your position in an uncanny beastly fashion!
-Winning the game in the manner we did was perfect. The Bama folks thought it was over, they had ended Auburn's hopes of a National Title, they won the battle of the state of Alabama, they had shown the nation how to stop Cameron Newton, they had flexed their muscle in their home stadium and...couldn't hang on. It was the difference between a team that believed in one another in Auburn and a team of talented individuals that never gelled together and became a true team in Alabama. That my friends is called character, a direct reflection of your head coach and team leadership, and Auburn will win that trait against all-comers.
-Watch the recruits make public their Auburn allegiance. Not so much because of the win. More so because of where the game was played. Now that these guys got their free tickets from Bama to the game, time to commit to the Tigers. I did the same thing 14 years ago.
There were many more tremendous plays in the football game...Blake's ability to pull down the first TD catch after an initial bobble. T. Zachery's catch and run for TD number 2 capturing the momentum to never relinquish it. Kodi Burns making two huge catches to spark the offense. The ability to run the football in the second half enough to keep the chains moving. Newton's presence in the pocket to stiff arm a rusher before throwing the TD pass to Lutzenkirchen to take the lead. Chizik's fourth down calls and the belief he showed in his QB and offensive line to pick up the necessary yardage. Bell, Eltoro, and Craig Stevens all playing their finest games of the season defensively.
But what I'll remember about this game and take away for years to come is this Auburn team's will to win, it's desire to compete four quarters, it's ability to overcome adversity of epic proportions, it's belief in each other and in their coaches to battle together to the final whistle, it's ability to get up off the mat and stand toe to toe and out punch the defending heavyweight title holder, it's personification of character and class and coolness of mind. It's the type of team I'm jealous I don't get to play with. It's a group of young men we should all be proud of for representing the ideals and virtues we value most no matter what happens from here on out. It's a once-in-a-lifetime team I'm proud to cheer for. The comeback was incredible. The perseverance was amazing. The game was one for the ages. And one more time, as was sung as passionately as I've ever seen..."Rammer Jammer Yellow Hammer, Go to Hell Alabama!"