Thursday, October 11, 2012
Ole Miss Preview
This football team is beyond a crossroad. It is screaming down a path of no return. We've seen poor philosophical approaches bring about poor execution; poor execution bring about poor results; poor results bring about a non-unified voice of frustration in the locker room. We're a team about to hit the road for a crucial two game stretch midway through the season and we sit here two days out not knowing who are QB is, what our offensive identity is, dead last in this conference (with some pretty bad football teams) in scoring offense, rushing defense, total offense, interceptions, pass efficiency, sacks against, first downs, and turnover margin. Wow! Inconsistency here and there I expect. Regression and not playing to your strengths I do not.
It's one thing to lose to an Arkansas program in disarray. They have some weapons and will win more games as the season progresses. It's quite another to lose to an Ole Miss program having lost 16 straight SEC games. That's a streak you can't have end on your watch if your head coach Gene Chizik. When you've already been beaten by a coach spending more time trying to climb out of bankruptcy than in-game deficits and your lone win is an overtime defeat of a middling Sun Belt program, your margin for error is razor thin. Last week was a must win to salvage a season on the brink. This week is a must win to salvage a coach on the brink...at least in my eyes.
And Ole Miss presents an enormous challenge. Their fast-pace, unconventional offensive attack is what Coach VanGorder's defensive unit has struggled immensely to stop all season. Their JUCO QB, Bo Wallace, looks brilliant one play, Frazier-esque the next. He's thrown just as many picks as Kiehl, but has 4x the TD tosses as well. Which Bo Wallace shows up will go a long way in determining the outcome. What about our defensive front? Do they play dominant football as they did against LSU, or do they disappear and go completely unseen as was the case against Arkansas and others? Can we make an offense one dimensional and force an erratic QB into mistakes or do we allow them to run the football making life easier for both the OB and the coordinator? What do we get from Kiehl Frazier or Clint Moseley? Do they play with confidence and make wise decisions or do they flounder and flake as we've grown accustomed to? Do we have an offensive line determined to protect their QB and run the football with success at will or do we penalize ourselves with yellow flags...consistently imploding on ourselves with drive killers? I don't know? I don't know what Scot Loeffler chooses to do, how (or if) our QBs can mature, who on this team takes the onus of becoming a playmaker and leads by being productive, efficient, successful?
Are we tough enough mentally to win on the road in this league after such a disappointing season? Do we trust one another, love one another, willing to give the guy next you everything you can possibly muster to win the small battles within the war? Do we have a group capable of walking into a stadium on the road undoubtedly beleaguered and scarred, but locked arm-arm ready to fight for four quarters against the team across the field, the guy across the line, the whole crowd if need be...everything in red and blue. Stand in the ring and not only match punches, but throw so many the opponent can't respond because you're a machine. You're on the offensive. You refuse to take a body blow because you refuse to stop punching. That's what it'll take from this Auburn team because quite frankly, we're not good enough to win any other way. Not yet. And until we are, if we continue to walk into stadiums across this conference and play any other way...we'll lose. And we have no one to blame but the guy we see in the mirror. You leave it all on the field against Ole Miss...you win. I'm not convinced we have that type of character...and that's what is saddest of all.