Friday, September 14, 2012
After two weeks of quality opponents getting the best of our beloved Tigers, another quality opponent enters Jordan-Hare for the season home opener. Much like our vision and expectation of our own team, this ULM team is not what we expected entering the season. We are worse than we thought, and they are much better. They come in riding a wave of success having just defeated the #8 team in the land, in their stadium, and did so with resolve, overcoming a large deficit, and without flinching. Auburn on the other hand, looked much worse from week one to week two in too many areas to count. What does it all mean for this week?
I still believe there's no reason in the world ULM should be in this football game entering the fourth quarter. Auburn, unlike Arkansas, must dominate in the trenches, establish the run and stick with it. Arkansas could have run the football all day long with Knile Davis, but Arkansas wanted to look pretty, wanted to throw for yardage and impress with an aerial assault, even when up three TDs. It was dumb and cost them the football game. Auburn needs to rush for close to 250 yards in this game. This isn't the game to get Kiehl confident. If we spend time forcing Kiehl to complete passes to keep the sticks moving, then we're playing right into the ULM gameplan. They'd love nothing more. As much as I hope Kiehl has a big day and leaves this game with more belief in himself than when it started, I hope our offensive and defensive lines show up ready to take control of this football game from start to finish. The difference between the SEC and the Sun Belt should be apparent at every level in a game like this, but nowhere more apparent than in the trenches. If that's not the case tomorrow, then I'll throw my hands up and openly question our personnel along the front. I don't expect that to be the case.
I really feel this team will improve each week. I understand we didn't see it in all areas in Starkville, but there were some areas of improvement, particularly with tackling and defensive pursuit. It was a game to build upon defensively. They'll continue to improve as they gain confidence in both their assignments and each other. Offensively, there's no sugar-coating it, Starkville was an utter disaster and Kiehl Frazier must play better...light years better. I hope this week offers him that opportunity and he takes full advantage of it.
I'll end by pleading for your best as a fan on behalf of this football team. I know your frustration and bitterness at the way this season has started is off the charts. Your disappointment is not lost on these players or coaches, that I assure you. I can't adequately portray to you what it means however to walk down a packed Tiger Walk, to enter Jordan-Hare Stadium bursting at the seams, to feel the adoration and appreciation for the effort put forth, the hard work during the week, the dedication, the pride involved in wearing the AU logo even when things are rocky. Even when you lost a game you should have won. Even when you haven't lived up to expectations. These kids want to win football games. They want to be successful individually and as a team. Don't give up on them no matter the score, the record, the outcome. These young men represent all of us when they compete. When you pack out a stadium after a disappointing 0-2 start, you send a message of support to your team, and a message of unity to the country. Get to the stadium Saturday morning and do your part...even if this team struggles to do theirs.
Finally, I had surgery on my feet Wednesday and am heavily medicated as I type. If I've rambled or I've written incomprehensibly...accept my apologies!