Monday, October 15, 2012
Ole Miss Review (AU 20 Ole Miss 41)
It was this week, after starting 1-5 during my sophomore season in 1998 Coach Terry Bowden was fired/quit (however you view it) the Friday night before our game against Louisiana Tech. The difference between our current team the one I played on...this one is uberly more talented, has less injuries to overcome, they lose going away whereas we fought for four quarters against teams that were just better than us, and even we beat Ole Miss. I simply can not justify or explain away in endearing terms a team losing badly to a foe that's lost 16 straight in the conference. In fact, we now own the longest losing streak in conference play at six in a row. I've never seen a team as outplayed and demoralized in fourth quarters with the inability to execute when the football game is on the line. I have seen, and played, on teams with poor QB play...but it's an unfair comparison. Ben Leard's offenses were one dimensional because we had no running game...we had five different centers, a makeshift offensive line and miniature tailbacks. Our QBs have the luxury of a decent rushing attack. We're one dimensional because in one scenario we're mentally not ready to compete...in the other we're physically challenged. Watching Clint Moseley lumber around Saturday was painful...he looked 20 going on 70. His arm looked weak as his deep balls were under thrown and his scrambling/running ability to keep a play alive is nonexistent. And when I look around this conference, pretty much every team minus Kentucky has fantastic QB play. It's absolutely killing us.
But most disheartening is what's going on in the fourth quarter of football games. We are 1-5 and have never trailed by more than four points entering a fourth quarter this season other than in Starkville where we entered trailing by 11. Yet we have loses of 18, 17, and 21...the last two coming against teams having no business pulling away from Auburn in the fourth quarter no matter how down a year we're having. We have scored zero touchdowns in the fourth quarter all season. In fact we've only kicked one field goal all season in the fourth quarter...our lone points...and that was way back in week one vs Clemson. Outscored 24-3 by Ole Miss in the second half? Not even the most pessimistic Auburn fans could have foreseen that. A team finding ways to lose is a team void of leadership, both on the field and wearing headsets. I don't see these kids quitting, I see them unsure of themselves, making poor reads, making the same mental mistakes consistently, shooting themselves in the foot when the stakes are highest. When it happens infrequently...I place blame on the player. When it happens every week...I place blame on the staff. It's their job to get it corrected and through week 6 they have had no answers.
And now we're 8 point dogs on the road at Vanderbilt. That's what we've descended to? Eight point dogs to Vandy in week 7 of the college football season? Perception is reality and reality for our football program right now frightening. Seeing a team lose is acceptable when they fight four quarters, play with passion, leave it all on the field. But seeing a team regress, lose games going away to teams with less talent and makeshift coaching staffs, getting weaker as the game progresses rather than stronger...I just can't stomach it any longer. Fair or unfair, my belief is what we witnessed in Oxford Saturday sealed the fate of Coach Chizik. It's unfortunate, it's regrettable, but has become unavoidable and necessary. And Jay Jacobs has been put in quite a bind by Coach Pat Dye's "he can lose them all" comment. He sticks with Gene...it looks like Pat Dye runs the program. He fires Gene...he makes his former coach look incompetent, out of touch. We seem to have the problem Alabama football had within their athletic department for 25 years post Bear Bryant. No single, solitary voice. Too many hands in the cookie jar. I don't know that too be the case...it's just my perception. But again, perception is reality.
These kids work too hard and sacrifice too much to not enjoy some success. It truly pains me to see a team struggle the way we have, having been in their shoes in a near identical scenario. If I had the opportunity to talk with these guys my advice to them would be to just have fun. Don't fracture your team, point fingers, listen to outside negativity, worry about the future. No one expects you to win football games so the pressure is off. You can go out and play with reckless abandon, take chances, force the issue. Remember how miserable it feels to walk off the field a loser and use it to outwork your opponents in the offseason, in preparation, in everything you do. And know just as quickly as things go south, they can be revamped, you can have success, you can draw from the low points to reach new heights. I was there. I lived it. I feel for you. But it's up to you to change the course, to right the ship. I'm pulling for you and always will and no matter how bad things get you can count on the Auburn faithful to be there for you, cheering you on. As Coach Chizik said after Arkansas, the fans didn't deserve what we got. I hope the players can never say the same about the level of support they receieve. These kids deserve our best, and during times like these is when they need it most.