Monday, October 31, 2011

Ole Miss Reax: One Handed Kirchen

I've said once or twice Lutzie is the best tight end in college football. He does all the little things. He blocks well, he gets people into the right position, he runs very good routes.

Every once in a while, he reminds us why we love football so much. The catch and score in the waining minutes against Ole Miss was poetry.



I think #43 has to be happy his close friend Clint Moseley is now the Auburn QB. He gets way more balls thrown his way. I am happy too, because I get to see more plays like that.

All in all, Auburn had a pretty complete performance against a desperate team Saturday night, although they gave up a few too many rushing yards to suit most of us.

Some random thoughts:
- Clint Moseley looks at home as Auburn's quarterback. A 257+ passer rating speaks for itself. It kind of makes me look back to Arkansas and Clemson and say what if.

-Eltoro is Spanish for "the toro". I wish #10 would've been given more of a chance 2 years ago. He just gets better and better. Sometimes you just have to tell a guy to go out and hit whatever you see.

-Think Auburn missed Mr. Blake? Emory gave Auburn an instant boost coming back from injury. If that's 75%, Georgia better be very very worried.

-Do punter's get dead legged? Steven Clark is still hanging punts high, but his average has dropped around 7 yards over the last three games. Hopefully he'll enjoy the week off to get a little more distance.

-Gabe Wright is frickin huge. He wears Nick Fairley's #90, but he's bigger than Nick, with a huge wingspan. He will be a beast soon.

-I think I'll just go ahead and score that meaningless touchdown. I guess if I'm Houston Nutt, I'd do the same thing. Maybe it will make him feel better when he gets canned after losing to Mississippi State.

Overall, this was a good win for the Tigers. I think we'll see a confident team head to Athens in a couple weeks. In the meantime, let's all enjoy our week off.

Ole Miss Review (AU 41 Ole Miss 23)


Welcome Back Mr. Blake!


October draws to a close and...if we're being honest with one another...the best case scenario played out for our Auburn Tigers. Most experts expected an 0-4 run through USC (road), Arkansas (road), UF, and LSU (road). Ole Miss was considered by many the only game this young football team would be winners. Instead of staring 4-5 in the face and needing a win over UGA or Bama to become bowl eligible, this team now has nine victories in its sight...10 if it took down the self-proclaimed "Muhammad Ali of college football" in Bama and followed with a bowl victory. You talk about heads exploding!

I was thrilled to see Clint Moseley be both bold and efficient Saturday. No hesitation to let it fly deep, made good decisions, and threw the ball with fantastic precision. He looks extremely comfortable in the pocket and will flourish as long as we give him time.

I was also happy to see Mike Dyer run with aggression and passion. He must be the most underrated back in this conference as he's done more this year without the help of a passing game and with a drastically inferior offensive line than his highly touted counterparts from Alabama and South Carolina.

I did not like the way we allowed Ole Miss to run the football down our throats the first half. Why we don't stack to box and make a terribly inexperienced, poor passer like Ole Miss' Mackey beat us with his arm is beyond me? Most of the first half we only had six men in the box when it should have been 9!

Overall, I'm happy this team beat an inferior opponent the way it did. Auburn teams of the past would lose games it had no business losing (see Texas Tech losing to Iowa State). This team's only losses remain incredibly difficult road games at top 10 Clemson, Arkansas, and LSU. There's no team in America that runs that gauntlet unscathed.

I know these guys are ecstatic to finally have a bye week. Two weeks to prepare for Georgia as well as a week to allow guys to heal and recover from dings and strains is beneficial and critical in allowing this team to go on the road yet again to face a talented football team. Rest up and prepare well for those Georgia Bulldogs. Would be a tremendous feat for this team to sweep the best teams the East has to offer!

Friday, October 28, 2011

Dr. Z's Rebel Black Bear(?) Preview



Wait, that's not a ridiculous-enough picture of Houston Nutt...




That's better

It's judgement day on the plains this week. We should know a whole lot about Auburn after about the lights go out in Jordan-Hare come Saturday night. Auburn got flat out trounced by LSU last weekend. Ole Miss comes limping into town with a defense that should be the cure to what ails the Gus Malzahn offense.

We may also be seeing the farewell tour of one Houston Nutt, a crazy looking, crazier acting coach who has been the clown of the SEC since 1998. He has handed Auburn some of its worst losses over the years, though mainly when he had names like McFadden and Jones in the backfield.

These days he is reduced to yelling at columnists in press conferences and griping about Auburn stealing his recruits, and up until this year, he has been the only coach to hold Gus Malzahn's offense in check.

Can you imagine what Arkansas would've done with McFadden and Jones had Nutt just left Gus alone back in 2006? Instead, Ole Miss is firmly seated in the basement of the SEC.

After the LSU debacle, the offense desperately needs some confidence. Mike Dyer needs to get off quickly. Trevon Reed needs to emerge. Clint Moseley needs to show we actually have a bit of a vertical threat. And let's face it, after LSU, Ole Miss should be closer to his days at Leroy High as far as speed of the game.

At this point, I think the defense is playing pretty well considering. I look for them to have a statement game.

My guess is the Rebs, err...bears, put all they had emotionally into beating Nutt's former team. I don't think they can get up again in a tough environment, to beat the Tigers.

Auburn- 28
Giggety- 17

Ole Miss Preview



Houston Nutt entered the SEC as a head football coach my sophomore season, 1998, at Arkansas and has been been a thorn in the side of Auburn since his arrival in this conference. I truly feel like Nutt's existence on an SEC sideline hinges on the outcome of two games...this one, and the Egg Bowl. He loses to us, I think he's done. I certainly hope we don't allow this opportunity to slip away...unless of course, Gus Malzahn is on their short-list (although if Gus turned down the opportunity to coach the East's doormat in Vandy, not sure why he'd desire to coach the West's cellar-dweller?).

This game boils down to one thing in my mind...the big play. If we don't give up the big plays and make Ole Miss earn their points with consistent drives all game--we win. I don't believe they can do it without our help. If we're overly penalized, turn the ball over, allow them a defensive or special teams score, consistently give them a short field to work with...we could be in trouble and lose to an inferior team.

I'm interested to see Clint Moseley perform against a below average SEC defense as opposed to the stellar NFL caliber defense he saw in his first start. The game should play out in slow motion for him comparatively this week. The onus falls to the offensive line to keep Clint upright and give him time to throw the ball downfield. The offensive line play of late has been the biggest disappointment and reason for most of our offensive, thus this team's, woes.

The Ole Miss offensive has been awful all season long. They rank 107 in passing, 107 in rushing, and 104 in points scored to this point. For comparison sake, AU is 106 in passing and we know how putrid our passing game has been. Ole Miss has been worse! We rank 35th in rushing.

On paper the match-up appears to be just what the doctor ordered for the Auburn Tigers. Of course, Ole Miss appeared to figure out what they do well last week against Arkansas and are hitting their stride just in time for Auburn. Evenso, Ole Miss has no business winning this ballgame.

I'm still waiting for the Auburn Tigers to play a complete game. Perhaps this is the week. And maybe we never see a Houston Nutt coached football team again!

AU-33
Ole Miss-20

Monday, October 24, 2011

LSU Reax: The Woodshed



Saturday was hard to watch. I have very little to say about it except 'Ouch, my backside hurts.'

The LSU Tigers are for once a complete team. For all of the jokes Les Miles has endured over the years, he has a juggernaut in 2011, and in my opinion, the best team in the country based upon what I have seen so far.

Auburn, on the other hand, is far from complete. We are a work in progress to be sure. No one really expected much else from the 2011 Tigers. I did expect better in some areas.

Offensively, we are flat out awful right now. The O-line looked flat out afraid of LSU's front 7. Clint Moseley may be pretty good in the future, but it is awfully hard to tell as he runs for his life.

The defense has moments where I think they have a chance to be pretty good, but the secondary still has these flat out awful lapses. That happened twice in the first half Saturday, essentially sealing the deal before the break.

Ole Miss and Coach BatS&*t crazy come to town this weekend. We better be ready. Nutt has a history of pulling an upset. They almost did against Arkansas at home on Saturday.

Not much else to say really. If you're down, take solace. Nothing cheers me up like dancing Auburn children...

video

LSU Review (AU 10 LSU 45)

Ball Game!



The trip to Baton Rouge was both remarkably terrific yet completely miserable. As you know, my wife and I pick one conference game each year to attend without our tribe of children. As a player, you're wisked in and out of campus and see very little, so I enjoy seeing the campuses, meeting rival fans, experiencing other team traditions and game day atmosphere and comparing them to the Auburn experience. With respect to what goes on outside the stadium, I must admit I was blown away.

The LSU fans were the most hospitable group I've ever seen offering Dana and me more food and drink than we could consume. Alligator sausage, boudin (pronounced BOO-DAN), duck gumbo, red beans and rice, hoghead cheese, and catfish all made up my pregame meal. I was fed by three or four different tailgates, people that just came over with enormous bowls or platters wanting to share food and fellowship. It's more than a gathering, it's a party...a celebration of culture consisting of genuine people that live life to the fullest. At Auburn I get the feel of thousands of individual tailgates. We say War Eagle or nod or waive and walk on to "our spot." At LSU, it felt like one enormous party from one tailgate to the next. There were no ropes marking off spots...just tent after tent after tent of fine cajun cuisine freely offered to all passers-by. It was a clinic in tailgating.

The reason for my rant on the hospitality...walking to the game from our hotel a man stops his truck a few hundred yards from us. He gets out and waits for us to approach. He lets us know we are about to be walking through a bad part of town. He insists we ride in his truck and shuffles his grown kids around in the cabin to make room for the enemy. When we get to the stadium and part ways he insists we return to eat. On the way back...same story, different family. They took care of us and we were appreciative! We ran into a couple of LSU's finest representatives and left humbled in more ways than one.

Inside the stadium, LSU showed us how far we have to go to return to the pinnacle of college football. We were outmanned, outmatched, outcoached, and over-run from opening to closing whistle. We did all the classic things you can't do when you're playing a superior team in their house...inopportune penalties that kept drives alive resulting in points for LSU, giving up the big play, poor punting, losing the field position battle, inability to protect the quarterback, inability to establish the running game. To beat just about anyone on the road these things can't happen. To beat the number one team in America, and quite possibly the most athletically powerful team I've ever seen, you must not only be dominant in these categories, you need to be a little lucky too.

I was most frustrated by the silly defensive penalties in the first half, all of which sustained drives by gifting LSU 1st downs, and all of which led to touchdowns that shouldn't have occured. 1st drive...3rd and 4--> illegal defensive substitution giving LSU the first down. Second scoring drive...2nd and 10--> Jordan Jefferson fumbles snap and is sacked for a loss of 10 negated by a silly personal foul grabbing of the facemask penalty. 3rd and 20 becomes 1st and 10. Two plays later they're in the endzone. Third scoring drive just before half. It's still a ballgame. 3rd and 5. Demetruce McNeal breaks up the pass on what should have been an INT setting AU up in LSU territory. Instead, pass interference on Chris Davis. Automatic 1st down. Three plays later, repeat bomb to Reuben Randle. Game effectively over.

The next most frustrating was watching our special teams, particularly our kickoff returners get absolutely destroyed kick, after kick, after kick. LSU was bringing the hammer and we were content with being the nail. It's been a long time since I've seen a special teams group make ours look inept and frankly cowardice.

Final most frustrating moment...listening to their crowd chant, "WE WANT BAMA" with half the game left to play. That added insult to injury knowing this game was over long before the final whistle.

But when you step back and look at the big picture, things aren't as bad as they seemed walking out of Death Valley. Entering October, I wrote a best case scenario would be to split the four game gauntlet. We did just that. When you look at who we have lost to...Clemson, Arkansas, LSU...all ranked in the top 8 with combined records of 22-1. Our schedule has been the nation's most difficult according to Sagarin and we remain ranked in the BCS (#23) even with 3 losses and no ranking in the Coaches Poll (the computers recognize the schedule strength).

At one point during the second quarter, I pointed out to my wife Dana we had six true freshman on the field at one time defensively...including the entire defensive backfield. Last year those guys were playing high school ball. This year they're playing the top team in college football. People get tired of hearing about youth, but it's legitimate. These kids are still cutting their teeth, but I promise you something. This is the kind of beat-down you don't forget. This is one that pushes you during spring and winter drills when no one's watching. You never forget what it felt like and you promise one another the next time you play this group there will be hell to pay. There will be a day of reckoning and it will make it all the more pleasurable and fulfilling having experienced the low point.

This team can still win eight or nine football games and far exceed even the loftiest of expectations. Will be interesting to watch how they respond against Ole Miss.

Friday, October 21, 2011

Dr. Z's Bubonic Chronic LSU Preview



Hey Hey Hey, smoke weed everyday.

I am constantly amazed at how dumb college athletes can be. LSU's best offensive and defensive player are suspended for failing a drug test. It's a selfish stupid thing to do. Now a chance at a national title may be in jeopardy for the Bengal Tigers. But hey, at least we now know why the honey badger has such an appetite.

I agree with Rob on the aspects of the game. Steven Clark must have a big game keeping LSU offense pinned down. The defense has to stuff the run and make Lee beat us.

Offensively, Clint Moseley has to walk the fine line of being a gun slinger and game manager. He must make confident throws but not turn it over. To use a baseball phrase: "don't give him anything good to hit...but don't walk him".

Rob has been giving me grief about not going to Baton Rouge. He needs to see it for himself as a fan. I was there last in 1997. The experience was so bad I decided BR was a place to scratch off my list. If anyone gives Rob any grief, Dana the Terminator will protect him.**

For the record, I never said I don't think we have a chance in this game. Rob is the one picking us to lose, so go on the Rivals board and trash him. I'll be on there. My handle is "Antwon Nolan's python".

Auburn 17
Puff, Puff, Give 13

**Another reason I'm not making the trip is I'm broke from my New England Vacation. Rob kindly offered for me to share a room with Him and Dana. But they like to walk around naked, which makes me a tad uncomfortable. They also insist that I walk around naked, which makes me feel a tad more uncomfortable.

Thursday, October 20, 2011

LSU Preview



I couldn't think of a worse weekend to be breaking in a new starting QB. Pulling off a road win against this LSU team is an unenviable, tall task. I would equate its likelihood to receiving a meaningful tax cut from a modern day Democrat…in most cases it’s not happening. Winning on a national stage with a rookie QB making his first start? Even more improbable! There are, however, reasons to remain optimistic about Auburn’s chances within Death Valley Saturday afternoon.

1. The resurgent Auburn defense. Their play has improved remarkably at all levels. Confidence is high as it’s obvious the processing of the game has slowed immensely for this extremely young group.

2. The Auburn defense vs the LSU offense. For whatever reason, Ted Roof’s defenses seem to thrive against downhill, pro-style offenses. Auburn struggles against the spread attacks. LSU is the epitome of power football for which Coach Roof always seems “ably-manned” and tactically sharp.

3. Clint Moseley brings a confidence to the quarterback position Auburn has lacked now for several weeks. Granted, that confidence may be short-lived against one of the nation’s top defenses. It does, however, force LSU to defend the pass, rush, and potential QB running threat. Auburn has to be multiple to consistently move the ball.

4. LSU suspensions. Probably not a dramatic alteration to the LSU or Auburn game plans, but any time you lose your starting tailback and a ball-hawk/play-maker like Tyrann Mathieu it hurts. Maybe it’s a rallying point for LSU? Maybe it’s a distraction? Either way, it won’t hurt to have those guys in street clothes Saturday!

5. Auburn rushing attack. Ranks twenty-seventh in the nation, two spots ahead of LSU. The ability to control the football, run clock, protect an inexperienced QB and young defense has been critical and the impetus to a 2-1 run through October. To go to 3-1 the Auburn rushing attack needs to be spectacular.

6. Steven Clark. The ultimate weapon and national leader in pinning teams inside their own twenty. Clark has the ability to make life miserable for the LSU offensive staff with poor field position. He’ll be called upon frequently and he must deliver.

7. Possible return of Emory Blake and/or Trovon Reed. Auburn’s passing game needs a true threat to keep the LSU defense honest. Either or both of these guys at 100% and on the field could potentially be a shot in the arm for the offense.
I could make a list of just as many reasons to doubt Auburn’s ability to pull off the unthinkable upset. I’ve seen strange things happen in Baton Rouge with my very own eyes. I’ve seen even more bizarre things happen within this series since my playing days concluded. For Auburn to win Saturday…stranger things have happened.


Dr. Z and I have made a road trip each year since we've been doing the blog. Year one saw us trek to Athens and lose by a score. Last year we went to Lexington and won on a last second Wes Byrum kick (prelude to a national title!). This year it's Baton Rouge. One small problem. Dr. Z doesn't think we can win, so Dr. Z is sitting at home in Trussville, AL and watching from his living room. I, on the other hand, will travel on to Baton Rouge...with my bride...wearing the brightest orange Auburn shirt I could find. I don't see us moving the football enough to win the football game either. I do see us fighting four quarters and making LSU earn everything they get. I do also see me having a hell of a time willing my team to victory within hell itself (Death Valley). Sort of hoping to fist-fight my way out of Tiger Stadium. And to win my trip cost back at the casino!

LSU-24
AU-13

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

There is Life After 40 After All




You might remember just before the National Championship game, I posted about my college buddy J.R. I am happy to tell all of you that my friend received a liver translant last night. His transplant nurse was an AU grad of all things.

I'm sure it will be a long road to recovery for J.R. But he now gets a shot and a full recovery. I am so happy and thankful that it all came out OK.

So here's to you buddy. Can't wait to see you up and around and back to cheering for the Tigers in Jordan-Hare.

Monday, October 17, 2011

Dr. Z's Mother-$%&$*@^?! Florida Review



The phrase "going postal" may be changed to "going Muschamp"

And you thought Will Muschamp had mellowed after becoming a head coach. His reaction to the no-call on the muffed punt was so expletive laced that the kids from Me Myself and Irene were turned off by the offensive language. He didn't even wait for an explanation from the officials before he started showering the crew with F-bombs. I was actually in shock that he didn't get a flag after he called timeout, just to get in more swearing. It was like watching Gordon Ramsey on Hell's Kitchen or soemthing. And I'm not sure the call was wrong, either. Rainey obviously waited very late to signal fair catch, and he didn't raise his arm up over his head.

I don't thing the call mattered in the general scheme of things. The Gators were so inept on offense, the would've blown it anyway. Muschamp has a long way to go with this bunch he has. The are mismatched for the system they try to run on offense, and they are not very disiplined.

The first half of this game was hard to watch. Auburn followed their predictable offensive game plan as of late, by pounding it on first and second down, getting behind the sticks on 3rd down. It is pretty obvious Trotter has lost confidence. His throws have no touch and are off the mark. It's like he's throwing the ball too hard. Moseley was a nice change of pace, and he looks like he can at least keep the pressure off of the running game.

Defensively, we looked pretty good, but I have tempered my optimism just based on the fact we have stuffed two teams that have bigger QB issues than we do. I love Eltoro Freeman making plays, and bringing a little energy to the game. He and Darren Bates will have to continue to get better if we have a chance at all to get to 9 or 10 wins. All in all, I love how much this unit has improved.

I think we have a shot in every game with the defense getting better. But our special teams play is helping us win ballgames. Rainey didn't drop those punts by accident. Steven Clark's punts are so high that they have to be hard to catch. Chalk up Saturday as another game the special teams have won for Auburn.

Auburn has found a way to win 2 out of 3 so far in October, and that's 2 more than most experts said we would win before the month started. Saturday will be a huge test for the Tigers. We'll have to bring our A-game.

Here's hoping we will.

Florida Review (AU 17 UF 6)



An ugly game to watch. A beautiful outcome. The Chizik staff did their very best Tuberville impression and came out a strategic winner...doing it with field position, turnovers, and terrific defense. A few weeks ago, Ted Roof was everyone's punching-bag and punch-line. The majority wanted Roof fired. Today he looks like he deserves a raise (although I'm sure Chizik will get the credit in the eyes of many for the defensive resurgence?). Alternatively, our offense continues to regress. It's like pulling teeth watching this offense bang it's head against the wall running against 8 and 9-man fronts. That being said, it still amazes me the success this team has on the ground even as the defense gears up solely for the run knowing the passing threat is minimal to nonexistent.

This was my first game to attend this year, and a few things stood out to me with an opportunity to see the entire field.

1. Our youth is unbelievable, particularly in the secondary. True freshman playing critical snaps at both corner positions, both safety positions. Occasionally, our entire defensive backfield were all true freshman. Early on this season, that was a liability. As the year progresses, you can easily see the game slowing down for them and their athletic ability becoming evident. Our DBs are going to be the best group in the country in the near term.

2. Intensity of Jordan-Hare. I know it seems silly and perhaps improbable, but I forget how loud that stadium can get. Crowd support was incredible, and I assure you meaningful, for this young football team. It's the ultimate home-field advantage!

3. Daren Bates is a headhunter! I thought he played a terrific football game. He looks to have become the leader of the defensive unit and plays with unbridled aggression and effort. Whether or not he played excellent assignment football within the scope of his required duties I have no clue. What caught my eye was the punishment he delivered. It was a sight to see!

4. The substitutions on offense seem pointless sometimes. The play ends and we frantically shuffle in and out a handful of different receivers. We snap the ball...they block. We frantically run in a few more receivers. We snap the ball...they block. Seems like the same guys could block a few plays consecutively? Not a big deal, you just don't see all the offensive substitutions on TV.

5. Tackling has improved immeasurably! At every position it is obvious Auburn has spent some time addressing the fundamentals as it relates to tackling. Tackling alone is the top reason for the defense's newly found success.

6. Clint Moseley provided a noticeable shot of energy to the entire stadium. His entrance was palpable and he did not disappoint. He didn't set the stadium on fire, but he forced Florida to defend the pass as well as the QB run. He looked to be the dual threat we've all been hoping for...only we thought it would be Kiehl Frazier.

7. Jake Holland deserves mention. The guy played with a broken wrist, two bad knees, and an injured bicep. And his first series he immediately made his presence felt with a few plays behind the line of scrimmage. Eltoro Freeman has been fantastic in Jake's place, but Holland deserves some credit for his play against the Gators.

8. Coach Chizik's emotion on the sideline. He throws an atomic fist dang near every good play his team makes. He bear hugs his players when they make a great play. He meets his defense beyond the hash-marks on third down stops. I love that! I love a head coach not afraid or too big to show how much he cares and appreciates the effort given. I never had that, and to see it makes me wish I could have played for this staff.

9. Will Muschamp needs anger management. If ever a coach will stroke out on the sideline (God forbid) it's Will Muschamp (followed closely by ND Coach Brian Kelly)! Perhaps he should be forced to coach from the press box in an attempt to allow kids to watch UF games on TV without forcing parents to explain F-bombs. Florida games are rated-R with Will at the helm.

10. The start of fourth quarter new Auburn tradition of acknowledging the fans with a quick jaunt toward the student section. I noticed the officials running along the team and immediately directing them back toward the AU sideline. Last year the officials never blinked...could've cared less what the Auburn sideline was doing. Wouldn't be surprised to see a new rule added to the rule book next season forbidding this type of expression...what with fun, and exuberance, and college football players involved!

All in all, big time win for this Auburn team. Lots of recruits, and lots of bowl representatives were in attendance. This win will go a long way in determining Auburn's bowl game destination. Auburn remains a player in the SEC race and continues to defy the experts. Is it possible this team has what it takes to go into Death Valley and shock the college football world? We will soon find out.

Friday, October 14, 2011

Dr Z's Florida Preview from New England

Greetings from Maine. I'm typing my preview from an IPad so hopefully the auto-correct won't embarrass me too much.

So I walked around Boston yesterday looking in my AU sweatshirt looking for a War Eagle. I didn't get one. I didnt even get a "scam Newton". I think the the city is still pretty depressed about the Red Sox blowing a huge September lead and fall out of the playoffs. Can you imagine a super-talented team with an insurmountable lead blowing it late? Yes, Sox fans and Bammers have much in common, I have a feeling Red Sox nation depression is similar to Bama Nation depression post Iron Bowl.

As for the game, we have two evenly matched teams who both need a win. Florida has been beaten and battered for two straight weeks by Bama and LSU. We have quarterback issues in case no one noticed, but so does Florida. Our running game is better than theirs, with Dempsey and Rainey being banged up.

I think we have a good shot at winning this one, with a night game and the home crowd. Hopefully, Barrett Trotter has seen the sports shrink from that bad cable show. Dyer in/Speedwagon out is the way to win this one...

Auburn 21
Boom #%*%><€+| 17

Thursday, October 13, 2011

Florida Preview



The Florida game is a pivotal game for both teams. Both teams are practically mirror images of one another at this point struggling with the same issues...youth, injuries, poor QB play, brutal gauntlet of a schedule. Both teams badly need this win for confidence, bowl positioning, and to stay relevant in the SEC race.

Keys to the game...

1. Coach Malzahn needs to get Barrett Trotter comfortable and allow him to have some early success. Give him some easy throws, establish a rhythm, throw on 1st down some, give him some play action to work with. By no means am I saying we shouldn't pound the ball with Mike Dyer, but rather allow Mike Dyer more success by making the Florida defense defend both the run and the pass.

2. We must win the turnover battle. We were fortunate to get four against South Carolina and survive on the road. Three more last week against Arkansas was too much to overcome. With Florida starting an inexperienced QB, on the road in one of the most hostile environments college football has to offer, we have no excuse to not win this battle!

3. Speaking of inexperienced QBs...the Auburn defense under Coach Ted Roof has a miserable record of allowing wide-eyed, inexperienced, young QBs to come into Jordan-Hare Stadium and look like Heisman contenders. We can't afford to sit back and let another young (but talented) Florida QB get comfortable and play the game of his life. I hope Coach Chizik/Roof and Co. throw the kitchen sink at the young QBs and make life absolutely tortuous. They need to be hit all game long and by nights end feel as if Auburn played defense with 13 guys!

4. Fan support. Jordan-Hare needs to be rocking and rolling for a prime-time night game. This is an enormous recruiting weekend and these high level recruits should leave having experienced a truly unique and raucous setting. And as player, I used to admire the fact our support never wavered, even during years we made it hard to be Auburn fans. Bring your 'A' game to the stadium Saturday night and support a group coming off of consecutive road games against Top 10 talent.

5. Tackle! Florida's only chance in my opinion is to break the big play. I don't see Florida driving consistently without making mistakes of their own. Auburn can not afford to give away cheap TDs with poor tackling, poor assignment football, poor angles, a short field with turnovers. Florida will give their QBs easy routes to throw and hope their speedy play-makers can be just that. Tackle well and Florida's offense will struggle.

I like our chances!

AU-27
UF-20

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

The Arkansas Texts



So Rob and I started making public our texts we do during the game. They are knee-jerk, off the cuff, and probably reflect what 90% of fans are thinking at the time. It's mostly humor with some insight. If you get bent out of shape over it, well, go read Phillip Marshall or something.

1st:

R: I'm not texting with you. $*^% ends up on world wide web.

Z: Defense gets better and better.

R: D getting pressure

Z: Looking good early. Chiz does a good job of getting them ready to play on the road.

R: Overcoming the bad punt was unbelievable.


Z: Thank God after a turnover we run it...oh nevermind, Gus waited 2 plays for a double reverse pass.

R: Outstanding game plan execution

Z: If we run the ball like this, we camn be in every game.

2nd

R: Tough pill to swallow for Hog fans to see home-grown talent scoring on you.

Z: Yep, but I hear Dakota Mosely has eligibility left after his 5-10 stint.

R: That was a bad defensive series for Holland.

Z: Yeah, he's a living Yogi Berra analogy-How can I think and hit at the same time.


Z:We are pretty one dimensional. Trotter needs to find some confidence.

R: Have to help trotter on 1st down

Z: Little unsure about what the heck we're doing offensively. We're abandoning the passing game totally.

R: Holding on Lutzenkirchen a tough call.

Z: Didn't see it (a hold).

3rd

Clark is a weapon. Damon Duvall couldn't hold his jock strap.

Z: Better stop em here or we're done.

R: Possession @ 50 must equal 7

Z: We need the pump fake play. Where's Chris Todd when you need him?

R: Getting nothing out of punt returns

Z: What else is new.

4th

R:Trotter could do it if we gave him more decent opportunities. He only throws on 3rd and 14.

Z: If you have a rivals account, ask for your money back. #DeangeloBenton

Z: I think you should sell your Hyundai after that UGA Hyundai commercial.

R: Benton needs eye exam

Z: Nike Strobe training.

Z: Your last week Kodi Burns analogy may be spot on.

R: Bad d always Roofs fault. Be interesting to see if players or Malzahn get blame

Z: Glad that's over.

Monday, October 10, 2011

Arkansas Reax: Hog-tied



Cam's the hottest rookie qb since Peyton Manning. I'd ask you about your precious Matt Jones, except I already know he's up for parole in 18 months.

For a second, however brief, I thought we'd just run all over Arkansas. I've been wrong once or twice.

Is anyone else surprised at the butt-hurt the Arky fans have towards AU right now? I mean, they booed Dyer the entire game, but can anyone blame this guy for getting out of Arkansas? Pretty good move, I'd say.

The passing game is non-existent at this point and at this point we're reduced to some bastardized version of a Pat Dye offense from 1984. Barrett Trotter looks like he has lost all confidence since the Clemson game. He reminds me of a pitcher who can't find the strike zone. He's not missing by much, but just enough to make catches, especially with the group of receivers we have right now, impossible.

Keihl Frazier is a nice change of pace, but this in and out stuff every other down gives me fits. How can we establish any rhythm this way?

Defensively, I thought we looked much better, as strange as that is to say after giving up 38 points. They faced a short field much of the night, and other than one long touchdown run, they held their own with the SEC's best offense in the second half.

The question now is: Can we put it all together? Trotter looked great early,but Rob's right, we are not instilling any confidence by asking him to make difficult plays behind the sticks. We should play action more and throw more on 1st down.

I see a silver lining here. Once Emory Blake gets back we get a pretty big boost. Florida is banged up and to be honest, we should line up and beat them. LSU looks like a monster, but do Ole Miss and UGA scare anybody?

We still have a good chance to have a very good season, but some offensive coaching will help with that. Gustav has to do a better job of coaching up the QB's for that to happen. I think he will. Remember, he has a pretty good track record of doing more with less. Let's hope this year is no exception.

Arkansas Review (AU 14 Arkansas 38)



For every positive step the defense has taken as this season has progressed, the offense has countered with an equal yet opposite reaction. Watching our offense Saturday night was painful. It reminded me of Navy or Georgia Tech or Delaware. Teams that throw the ball as a last resort only...and look horrible when they do. Quite honestly, I'm amazed we were as successful rushing the football as we were when the passing game was completely abandoned. Kudos to the offensive line for putting up great rushing stats despite Arkansas loading up the box expecting run every play.

I was extremely underwhelmed with the offensive playcalling. There's no question Coach Malzahn is running the ball nearly exclusively at the command of Coach Chizik. It's keeping us in the ball game, allowing us to win the time of possession two weeks in a row, and is a major reason in the new found success of our defense. At the same time...it's making us painfully predictable, preventing a quarterback from establishing any sort of rhythm, and apparently causing receivers to forget how to catch because all they do is block.

I really feel for Barrett Trotter. He would be the first to tell you his play has been anything remotely acceptable. But the offensive playcalling has done little to breed confidence or put Barrett in manageable situations to convert through the air. Here's a typical drive in which Barrett throws a pass...1st and 10-->Dyer up the middle for no gain. 2nd and 10-->Dyer up the middle for loss of 1. 3rd and 11-->okay Barrett, we need you now...convert 3rd and 11 for us as Arkansas throws the kitchen sink at you! He never throws on 1st down. Rarely on second. The play action pass is non-existent. Of course Gus Malzahn has forgotten more football than I have ever known, but I do know Barrett Trotter has been asked to deliver only in tremendously difficult situations when the success rate of doing so is drastically reduced.

At the same time...if we've decided to totally abandon the passing game, then Kiehl Frazier should be our QB. At least he is a threat to run the football. I guess you could continue to bring in Trotter for obvious passing situations. Or what about Clint Mosely? If the QB decision was so difficult to make, shouldn't Clint Mosely's play in the spring and summer be enough to warrant at least one series in a meaningful football game?

I truly believe Barrett could be a success in this offense. He's not far away. He received no help from his WRs. He received no help in the offensive playcalling or the offensive philosophy. He puts a little too much zip on some passes he doesn't have too. He seeks to get outside the pocket a little to quickly. He doesn't throw the ball away sometimes when he should. But he'll only be a success if we go back to throwing the football the way we did in weeks 1-3. In those weeks, Barrett Trotter was the last thing we were worried about as fans. He was the positive!

When our defense looks terrible...it's Ted Roof's fault. When our offense looks terrible...it's our player's fault. That doesn't add up to me.

Defensively, we played well enough to win the football game. That is the best offense we'll see the rest of the way. I was proud of the determination and effort put forth. We still struggle with the little things in playing zone defense, and tackling sometimes rears its ugly head, but overall this group has grown by leaps and bounds. It's now time to allow the offense to hit on all cylinders, run the true Malzahn attack without fear of how our defense will respond to more time on the field.

Friday, October 7, 2011

Dr. Z's Arkansas Preview-The Feral Pig Nuisance


Auburn fans, you are clear to fire at will.

While doing my crack research into this week's game, I found that the state of Arkansas is actually encouraging their residents to shoot and kill any Razorback they see roaming the state. Apparently there is a feral pig nuisance in Arkansas. Glad the state actually came around to something the rest of the SEC has known for years.

I think I would be conflicted if I was a hog fan about the idea of shooting my mascot. Granted, Auburn has the majestic eagle while Arkansas has the razorback, a wild pig that eats and root in its own excrement. So may be blasting way at your mascot is less of a problem for Arkansas fans. I'm sure PETA will be filing a complaint soon.

Rob will tell you as a player he hated this game because it felt almost like a non-SEC game. History tells us that Auburn has had a pretty good success rate on the road in Fayetteville, at least before Petrino took over.

Arkansas, despite their hype, is a bit of a mystery. They got run over by Alabama. Then again, who hasn't this year. They looked less than stellar for the better part of a half against Texas A&M, who's hype video song for 2011 must be "Give it Away" by the Red Hot Chili Peppers.

One thing for certain is they can't stop the run, which favors Auburn. They have a great passing game, but the Qb has taken more hits than Rick Perry at a GOP debate.

The key to this game is to run the damn ball. Mike Dyer will be ready to stick it to his home state. We should run him and then hit 'em with play action.

The other key is pressure on the QB. We remember Tyler Wilson absolutely shredded us last season. He's been good this year too, throwing for over 500 yards against A&M. He gets knocked around a good bit, thanks to a banged up O-line.

We really need a similar defensive game plan to what we had against Carolina. Stuff the run, press the wideouts and 'bring the hammer' to Wilson.

I think we have a good chance if we can do that.

I picked us to lose last week, which was obvious bulletin board material, so I'll say

Nuisance Pigs: 31
Auburn 29

but I'm hoping for this...

Thursday, October 6, 2011

Arkansas Preview



I say this every year. Arkansas is the most difficult opponent in the conference to face. Not always physically/athletically...although they're always good enough to beat you if you don't arrive ready to battle. When you play Arkansas, you know a physical game in store. The problem for most SEC teams is Arkansas doesn't get the competitive juices flowing. How many recruiting battles come down to Arkansas and fill in a SEC school? A few...but not many. Going to Fayetteville is even more daunting. It's hard to get to, a long trip, in the middle of absolutely nowhere, in a smaller stadium filled with squealing fans wearing pig noses. It's just different and the difference is palpable as a player.

What I like about the match-up...

1. Auburn is catching Arkansas at the right time. They got pounded by Alabama and survived a brutal battle against A&M. The Hog defense gave up over 620 yards against Texas A&M including nearly 350 yards on the ground! We want to run the football to control the clock and Arkansas has had great difficulty in stopping the run. Lots of defensive injuries for Arkansas after these two games. They are limping defensively into their off-week after their game with Auburn.

2. Auburn's performance on the road last week on national TV against a top 10 team. Tells me the stage this week (virtually the same as last) is not too big for a young football team. We should play with plenty of confidence.

3. Our greatest depth defensively is in the secondary and at defensive end, the two most important areas when attempting to slow down this Arkansas offense.

4. Punter Steven Clark. Having an All SEC caliber season and killed South Carolina last week by pinning their offense deep. Poor field position cripples an offensive coordinator and for a team struggling to run the football and wanting to air it out, Steven Clark's foot could be an enormous advantage in this game.

5. The game means something to key individuals wearing orange and blue. Gus Malzahn, Mike Dyer, Kiehl Frazier...all want to return home with their chest out for the holidays.

What I don't like...

1. Precision of Tyler Wilson with a stable of elite wide outs and one of the best offensive coordinators in all of football. This offense will be the most talented this Auburn defense faces all season. The blueprint to defending Arkansas was designed two weeks ago by Alabama. Pressure and hit Wilson consistently, give them the underneath stuff and punish the WRs after the catch. We must tackle great after the catch.

2. Back to back road games against top caliber competition. We proved last week we're capable. Doesn't make the challenge any less daunting this week.

3. Bobby Petrino vs Ted Roof. Perhaps the largest mismatch of the season (and it doesn't favor the Auburn Tigers!). It's gonna take an entire team effort once again to outscore the Razorbacks.

4. Emory Blake's doubtful status. Barrett Trotter has obviously developed a rapport with #80. Time for another WR to emerge as a playmaker.

Last year this Arkansas game was the only game I predicted a loss. This year...I believe the match-up overwhelms our defense. I just don't believe we hold Arkansas down for four quarters and the loss of Blake and Reed is too much for the offense to overcome. If we grind it out on the ground and play ball control, and score TD's instead of kick field goals we could win the game. I hope I'm proven wrong!

Arkansas-34
AU-27

Monday, October 3, 2011

South Carolina Reax: Garcia Being Garcia


"You mad, Brah?"

Auburn had the perfect game plan Saturday on defense vs. SC: Let Garcia be himself. The Tigers bottled up Marcus Lattimore (again) and made ol Greazy try to beat them (again).

I obviously had some pretty big doubts going in because of the defense. But Ted Roof has a way of bottling up pro-style offenses that are run first. Saturday afternoon was no exception. Of course, if you believe the scuttlebut out there Coach Chiz has been pretty involoved the last two weeks on the defensive side. Let's hope he stays there, because the d-line play was remarkably better, as well as the secondary.

The offense took a step back in this game, as Trooter looked more like the QB that downs high gravity beers with co-eds in his room at times. Granted, we couldn't block the defensive ends for the Gamecocks at all, but the two INT's were horrendous, especially the second one, which cost us a scoring opportunity.

Steven Clark is making a pretty strong push for all-conference if this keeps up. How many times did SC start on the 11 yard line. I said earlier this year that special teams would win us a game or two, there's game #1.

Lutzy is a winner, not just for the game winning TD, but for the punch-out and fumble recovery after Trotter's first INT. That was huge. He is our leader on offense, and he refuses to lose.

Dyer showed up with an Iron man type performance, carrying 41 times. About 21 of those were the same play. He lowers his body and gets three yards every time. You can win games that way.

This was a win we really needed. We dominated this game even if the scoreboard said otherwise. We need to keep pushing when we cross the 50. For whatever reason, we booged down Saturday between the 50 and the opponent's 25. We cannot let that happen in the weeks to come. But we are getting better. A win Saturday against the Hogs and we are in really good shape for the rest of October.

War Eagle.

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!

Sunday, October 2, 2011

Zack and Rob's Texts from the Carolina game

Rob and I often text during the games. Here's the complete conversation:

1st

Rob: Lattimore made Holland look like a fool

Z: Yep, but at least he fumbled.

Z: (After Reverse INT) Sometimes I hate Malzahn
2nd

Rob: Feed dyer

Z: I think Frazier needs to play.

Rob: Never seen him throw so don't know

Z/Rob: (After the first AU touchdown,simultaneous texts) We scored 3 times there/We just scored 3x

Z: After Garcia INT #1)U mad brah?--Garcia

R: WR screwed him

R: Offense killing us..

Z: Malzahn's playcalling lousy.

Rob: Typical SC outing...playing to opponents level

Rob: With field position and turnovers...we should have 30 points

Z: Yep, and the d is playing lights out so far. 1 big play and that's it.

Rob: App St vs Wofford on 68

Z:Thanks I'll pass that along to the Mrs. Sure she'll be enthralled.

Z: 1st half thoughts: o-line getting handled. Fake FG probably a bad idea, need more play action, hope Garcia has a couple more high gravity beers at the break.


Rob:OL only getting handled in obvious passing situations. Gotta let Frazier throw it. We let Uzomah and White but not our backup QB. Our DL playing great
3rd

Rob: We're seeing Chiziks influence on playcalling

Z:Yeah, Chiz should influence the line to block #6

4th

Rob: We throw nothing downfield

Z: No time

Rob: Time to pull Trotter While its within reach.

Z: Agree

Rob: Gotta have td

Z: Trotter killing us.

Rob: I think that was only pass the whole drive
A lob to JAY WISNER

Rob: If trotter starts this drive Frazier must throw like Kodi burns

Z: While Trotter throws like C. Montgomery Burns.

Rob: 9 of 20. 82 yards. 2 INT

Z: Bray fair catches with nobody w/in 20 yards!

Z: Iron bowl play. Lutzen-clutchen!!!!

Rob: Touchback???

Z: Winner winner chicken dinner!