Monday, October 3, 2011
South Carolina Review (AU 16 USC 13)
Kudos to the Auburn coaching staff. Outside of Auburn, you are perennially downgraded, questioned, and ridiculed as recruiters only! Within Auburn, your defensive coaches have been verbally assaulted (I stand accused) for the repulsive product we've repeatably seen fielded. You made one of the SEC's most celebrated coaches of all-time look inept, washed-up, in total disarray. You devised a total team effort to limit the effectiveness of a Heisman front-runner, allowing this Auburn team to win, on the road, against a Top 10 opponent when the biggest question for most entering the game was whether Lattimore would rush for 200 yards before the half? Offensively, you adapted your game to suit what we do best...running the football with Mike Dyer...allowing for complete domination in time of possession and total plays, areas we all but conceded up to this point this season.
Defensively, WOW! Coach Ted Roof, take a bow. When you come up from your bow...give the world a prolonged double middle finger! You deserve it. You brought more pressure, had kids giving unbelievable effort, created multiple turnovers and totally confounded a South Carolina offense that entered the game doing basically whatever it wanted against its previous opponents. You didn't go soft after a long TD pass to Jeffery like many coaches would have. You allowed our young corners to challenge the SC receivers for four quarters and they did so valiantly without our best defender in Chris Davis. By doing so, you were able to bring additional rushers and actually pressure a QB! Amazing how much better a secondary looks (INT McNeal, INT Thorpe) when the QB has to hurry and timing is altered!
And Coach Malzahn, I can only imagine how difficult and completely against your religion it is to not only run the football 67 times, but to run basically the same exact play over and over again. Your patience and willingness to control the ball, and clock, both wore down the South Carolina defense for the final drive and kept a potentially explosive SC offense on the sideline. Amazing how much better a defense looks when it plays 52 plays instead of 100! Your offensive philosophy in this game was a huge reason for our defensive success. Coach Chizik's influence on what you called was evident.
The largest contributing factor, but perhaps the most overlooked, was the play of our punt team. Punter Steven Clark punted seven times. Five of the seven pinned the Gamecocks inside their own 20. Field position was brutal for South Carolina, considerably limiting what on offensive play-caller is willing to risk. If we pass out game balls in the locker room (which I'm sure would be an NCAA violation so we don't) this one belongs to you Mr. Clark!
It wasn't perfect. It was largely frustrating from an offensive perspective. I wanted Trotter pulled. I wanted Frazier throwing. I wanted more pass attempts down field. And that's why I spin dials as an optometrist and don't coach college football! A freshman QB would have never stood his ground allowing Lutzenkirchen time to clear the defense knowing full well tremendous punishment in the form of an unblocked SC defender was your reward upon release of the ball. A lesser man would have thrown that ball away, escaped the hit, and lived to play another play. Trotter took one for the team thus delivering for his team when it mattered most! Had I been the coach, he'd of never had that opportunity. I'm glad Chizik and Malzahn believed in their QB more than I did.
There was an awful lot to like about this game, yet so much we can improve on. The important thing is we go on the road with a young football team and mature dramatically before our very eyes. We beat a top 10 football team in their house, before a national audience the old fashioned way...controlling the football, winning the field position battle, stuffing the run, and playing great defense. When we look back on this season, perhaps this game in Columbia will be the one we point to as the game that provided the spark!