Saturday, January 15, 2011

Here's to You Wes Byrum

So an old Auburn friend told me I left out Wes Byrum in my game review. So I thought I'd take a look back at his game winners.

Let me preface this by saying I equate kickers to relief pitchers. They are quirky, often eccentric, but definitely characters. Position players might even resent kickers a little. (Rob could tell you more about that) But they have a pressure filled job. Wes Byrum excelled in the brightest of spotlights.

2007 Florida-Nobody gave Auburn a chance in this one. Auburn jumped out to an early lead and played Tubby ball the rest of the way. Byrum came out, lined up and kicked the game winner, but pre-anxiety attack Urban Meyer called timeout just before the snap. So Wes lined up and kicked it again. Gator chomp to Urban and Timmy T followed, and later Lou Holtz was named honorary "thenator" from the state of Flordia.

2007 Arkansas- Byrum kicked three field goals, including the game winner to knock off the Hogs on the road. Will Muschamp was quoted as saying "F$&^%* awesome, you m(*^^%*&^%&& kicker you!!!"

2009 Outback Bowl-Byrum kicked the game winner in OT to close out the craziest Auburn win I'd ever seen...until the 2010 Arkansas game.

2010 Clemson-Byrum nailed another game winner in OT. The Clemson kicker is rumored to have put up a poster of Wes in his dorm room after the game.

2010 Kentucky-Cam Newton drove Auburn all the way down the field. Byrum jogged out, kicked the game winner, then jogged off the field like it was no big deal.

2010 BCS- Byrum ended his Auburn career with a chipshot field goal that sent every Auburn fan into a state of bliss that may never wear off. Honestly, did anyone think he'd miss that kick?

So, my apologies Wes for not mentioning you in my game review. Hope you get a shot in the league and have a great career. If not, you'll probably get a job as a marine sniper or bomb diffuser.

Friday, January 14, 2011

National Title Review: (AU 22 Oregon 19)

2010 National Champion Auburn Tigers...I stand and salute you for a magical, dream season. A season in which your character, cohesiveness, and integrity were tested weekly, both on and off the football field, and each week you amazed me with your ability to rise above the fray and battle together towards victory. A season in which the Tigers had the best individual offensive and defensive players in America on the same squad and how either of you had the ability to completely dominate a football game. A season in which so many contributed to victorious outcomes, yet did it with little attention or's to you Darvin Adams at Kentucky, here's to you Onterio McCalebb against LSU, to you Mike McNeil becoming a tackling machine in the biggest game of your life, the national title, to you Antoine Carter making your signature hustle play against the Tide and Mark Ingram, to you offensive line for paving the way for one of the most dominant rushing football teams in collegiate history, to you Craig Sanders for covering kicks like a mad man all year long, to you Demond Washington for your Ole Miss kick return, you Zac Etheridge and Aairon Savage for your leadership, your determination to battle back from career and life altering injuries to guide a young defense, you Phillip Lutzenkirchen for coming up with big-time TD catches time and time again, you T'Sharvan Bell for raising your level of play in the biggest games of the year, you Michael Dyer for making that incredible run that will grant you Auburn immortality, you Kodi Burns for giving up your natural position, your body, and sometimes your teeth to allow others success, you Coach Chizik for building this program according your vision and making it enjoyable to come to work every day!

But my biggest behind the scenes contributors go to the two men that were brought to campus by Coach Tuberville and who have been the most instrumental hires Auburn University has made in its athletic department bar you Coach Yox and Chette're like fathers to us players, you mold us physically and spiritually into men by pushing us beyond our comfort zones, you make us believe in our abilities and in each other by the work ethic you instill, the ear you lend, the encouragement you provide. You are the best in the business at what you both do and Auburn is lucky to have you. You both deserve this more than anyone else associated with Auburn athletics and I for one am grateful for what you meant to not only this team, but what you have meant to my life! Thank you!

Winning another national championship was undoubtedly a long time coming for the Auburn Family. Many great teams, many great coaches, many great individual players have come through the program and given us all moments of grandeur. Many teams were passed over ('83, '93, '04) and not permitted the opportunity to prove their worth on the field of play denying Auburn the elusive prize. But this team had that special characteristic of unity like none I've ever seen. That is a direct reflection of the coaches and the leadership qualities of the seniors on this football team. You seniors will be a successful group in whatever direction life takes you as those qualities are hard to come by.

The Game...

-Auburn packed the house. It looked like a home game on TV. Ticket prices rose to the price of compact cars and shut down ticket broker sites. The world learned what I already knew, Auburn fans are the most passionate fans in America. It was a lesson in the Auburn spirit!

-Field conditions were putrid, the worst I've ever seen. I noticed guys slipping on the opening kickoff and as a direct marketing battle took place between Under Armor and Nike, I'm sure the athletes weren't the only ones pissed about the miserable performance of their product on a slippery field.

-Mike Dyer's run encapsulated Auburn's season in one play...unbelievable, never quit/play to the whistle, incredibly athletic moment. Most years his knee hits, but in a year like 2010, when hail marys go for TDs in championship games and fumbles roll 30 yards down the sideline...his run and athleticism set up an Auburn National Title.

-Nick Fairley is a beast! The SEC is glad to see you go! You're an unblockable demon and I wish I could have played with you. Coach Oliver would have loved you! The Auburn Family always will! He made too many plays in this game to even begin to name them.

-Glad to see Kodi get in the endzone to open the scoring in his final game. His entire season was spent doing the dirty work to make others look good. Great to see his efforts rewarded with a TD.

-The safeties played their best football of the season. Mike McNeil was the run-away leader in tackles (a few of the bone-crushing variety), and Zac Etheridge was in position all night with an athletic INT and several open field tackles.

-Cam showed grit and resolve playing through pain, something we haven't seen him endure this season amazingly. He was the most amazing talent I've ever seen as a dual threat quarterback and the memories he gave us will be cherished forever. Just as I wish I could have played with Nick Fairley, I'm so glad I never had to prepare for and tackle Cam Newton. (Wouldn't you hate to be the guy he ran over from Arkansas on the goalline!)

Amazing game...capped off an amazing season...played by an amazing group of young men. Thank you guys for the memories! War Damn Eagle!

Thursday, January 13, 2011


I am staring at the laminated copy of the Birmingham News. The headline reads "Believe it".

Three days later, it is simply very hard for me to do. The Auburn Tigers are national champions. Now read that again. Just two years ago, we were at rock bottom. Decimated by the Crimson Tide in the 2008 Iron Bowl, with a longtime coach on the way out. Jay Jacobs then hired Gene Chizik. I wasn't there with the heckler that day, but I might as well have been. He was saying what many of us were thinking.

Then Coach Chiz hired his staff. It looked pretty good on paper. I was pretty excited at the time about Gus Malzahn's offense. I knew Trooper Taylor was a good recruiter. Getting Tracy Rocker back home was a good move too. So maybe, just maybe, Coach Chizik knew what he was doing.

His first year as head coach Auburn went 8-5. A team with a lot of heart with pedestrian talent at best laid a strong foundation.

Then there was the top 5 recruiting class that included some guy that Florida ran off that had great talent, but might be the next Daniel Cobb.

Three games into the season we thought we might be a 9-3 type team if many things fell our way. Then after LSU, something changed in my mind, at least. We had an offense capable of keeping us in games. Now this is backward from conventional thinking. How many times have we heard that defense wins championships? But the defense was just good enough, just opportunistic enough to make this team able to compete.

I decided after the Iron Bowl that no 53 year hex would deny this team. Auburn dominated Alabama after the first quarter, erasing that huge lead. Part of me thinks that if Bama would have scored 41, we'd have scored 42.

So 2010 is in the books. It will be one for the ages. I hope my three year old remembers Cam, and Ontario and Darvin and Nick. Mainly I hope she'll remember how happy the 2010 made her daddy.

As for the game:

-For anyone who thinks the 2010 Auburn Tigers were a one-man show and that Rome will fall in the coming season, Exhibit A- January 10, 2011. Cam was just OK by Cam-standards. He missed open guys, he got banged up, and he had that mind-numbing fumble that led to the tie late. Michael Dyer is the real deal, folks. He will be a force to be reckoned with for th next couple years. Ontario was a menace too. Emory Blake quietly made plays all year. I hope like the devil we get picked 4th again in the SEC West for 2011.

-Give Ted Roof a 20 minute halftime to come up with a plan, he's good. Give him a month and some change, he's freakin amazing. Auburn absolutely dominated the line on defense. LaMichael James was a pinata Monday night. If not for the Cam fumble Auburn likely would have shut out Oregon in the second half. I have a feeling that as talent improves, especially in the secondary, we'll see a much different Auburn defense in the next few years.

-Hello Mr. Shoemaker-We've given Shoe some grief this season. But man-oh-man did he come through in the championship game.

-Nick, we hardly knew thee-What a season from Nick Fairley. He was a wrecking ball on the D-line. Rob calls him unblockable. I would agree. Enjoy that bed of cash you will sleep on next year, my friend.

-Universtiy of Pheonix doesn't have a horticulture program. The slip and slide that was the turf in this game was awful. Somebody should get fired over that mess. My advice: Hire an Auburn grad to manage your turf. Case in point, the 2009 West Virgina game.

-Watching Nick Saban and Urban Myer break down a college football game is like watching Hitler and Napoleon break down a war.

-As we have said all year-Throw it to Kodi!!!! (actually we said this as a joke all year, but man it was great to see Kodi get a TD catch in the National Champoionship game.)

Well, that's it. I'm sad it's over but glad I was along for the trip. Thank you 2010Tigers for making us believe, and coming through.

What if the "5-19" guy could do it again?

Wednesday, January 12, 2011


Commentary coming soon. Right now, I don't have the words...

Sunday, January 9, 2011

THE Championship preview--For All The Marbles

Walt Disney's about to sue somebody's *ss.

So after a month and some change, here we are. The pinnacle of college football is a little more than 24 hours away. I can barely sit still.

This dream that we, as Auburn folks, have had for so long can come true tomorrow night. Am I nervous? Check. We have come so close before, only to be robbed by a computer poll or A.P. voter. 1983, 2004, throw in '93 if you'd like. Now we control our own destiny. For all of the uselessness of the BCS, God bless that system, for this year anyway.

I watched Oregon a few times this year. Pat Dye called them "pretty sporty" a few weeks back. I agree. They are good. They play fast and unorthodox. They have a great running back and a host of good receivers.

But as I look through that schedule, I see plenty of cupcakes. Stanford aside, there's not much to impress. USC is rebuilding and not very good. They destroyed Tennessee in Knoxville, but anybody with a pulse this year beat Tennessee. The PAC-10, save Oregon and Stanford was mediocre at best.

Now Auburn has not had it so easy. They ran the gauntlet of the SEC West. Arkansas, LSU, Bama. They won in tough places on the road. They fell behind a lot, then came back with a vengeance.

Much has been made about match-ups. The power of Auburn vs. the speed of Oregon. But let's be 100% honest, is Oregon any faster than LSU or Alabama? No way. Bama and the CornDogs are fast...and big. I cannot see how Oregon can hang in with the Auburn offense unless we flat give it away.

Oregon's Achilles heel is pressure right up the middle. Cal made Oregon's life miserable right up the gut. Who's that Lombardi trophy winner that destroys people from right up the middle? Oh yeah. His name's Fairley. He'll be in the backfield all day.

I do think Oregon scores quite a bit in this game. They will test the edge. Eltoro better have a great game. But again let's be honest. 2 or 3 stops is all Auburn will need. Hold them to field goals when you can. Make then drive the ball like you've done all year, and we got ourselves a crystal football.

I think Auburn's size and pace is too much for the ducks. I am showing my SEC bias here, but I think we are the better team from a better conference. We are going to win this game because we have to. I believe that. I believe in Auburn this year like no other year.

All in. All the way. Win for Auburn.

Auburn 49
Ducks 34

Friday, January 7, 2011

Win it For...

This guy

I found a new blog the other day, simply titled Win it for. It has a collection of suggestions for the team to win it for this guy or that gal. It's got some great stories and I suggest you check it out. I thought I'd throw in my "win it for" nomination.

I met Owen Pierce, Jr in 1996. We were both ex baseball players. My career had ended a few months before thanks in part to a shoulder injury that one surgeon called "the black death" for pitchers. I had a surgery to repair it, but I was never the same. J.R., as we called him, was from Tampa. A decent enoguh high school palyer who loved the game of baseball. His dad, Owen Sr, played baseball at Auburn in the fifties. Owen Sr's picture hangs in the hotel bar at the conference center.

J.R. is a cut up. He makes you laugh out loud a lot. We met by chance when I joined up to play ball on a summer league team made up mainly of college wash-ups in the Central Alabama baseball league, known around those parts as the "Cable" league. It was the most fun I'd ever had playing baseball. Several of those guys are still good friends to this day, but J.R. was the guy. He almost single handledy made me enjoy the game of baseball again. (Anyone who has ever played junior college ball in Alabama likely knows where I am coming from).

The Cable League is made up mainly of African American teams scattered all over Central Alabama. The baseball fields in this league are made up of backstop in the middle of a pasture, literally. The games were played on Sunday afternoon. Fans came out and gave the white college kids a hard time. The joshing was all in fun and we always had a nice laugh with these folks during and after games.

J.R. was a stocky guy back then. He endured his share of ribbing when he pitched. One game they called him Spanky about every pitch he threw. Another game, when I was catching, I told the plate umpire that J.R. was Terry Bowden's only son. He walked up between innings and asked J.R. for tickets. It was a great time and baseball in its purest form.

J.R. also landed me a job at Auburn's Red Lobster. Lots of good stories from this place too, but I'll save that for another day. I made a lot of friends because of that guy, and really think in a way he taught me how to be more relaxed and easy going, something I need these days as I work in the health care field.

I moved to Birmingham after Auburn and J.R. went back home to Tampa. I lost touch with him after a few years until 2006, when my brother ran into J.R. at the now defunct Buffalo's on Magnolia after Auburn's 7-6 win over LSU. We kept with each other after that. He was planning on coming up to my brother's wedding in Destin in 2007. When he didn't show, I got pretty worried. This was pretty uncharacteristic for him.

I got a call the next day. J.R. was very sick and they weren't quite sure what was wrong.

Today, J.R. is on a liver transplant waiting list. He needs one because a childhood blood transfusion gave him hepatitis. It stayed dormant until his thirties. And today he sits, waiting, for a new liver and a new chance at life.

I saw him last in Auburn this year for the LSU game. I literally didn't recognize him. Today he looks frail and almost fragile. He didn't get to see Ontario's game winning touchdown run that afternoon because he became so run down by the unseasonable heat of that October day he collapsed in the upper deck at Jordan-Hare and wound up watching the rest of the game from the E.R. at East Alabama Medical Center.

So, I say win it for Owen Pierce, J.R., the biggest Auburn fan I know, a great friend, and a the guy for whom I hope and pray that there truly is life after forty.

War Eagle J.R.

2010 Lookback-SEC Championship

Going In...We were quietly confident about our chance to win an SEC Title. Auburn was better than they were back in September. South Carolina was arguablyy better too, but we all kind of got the feeling this was our year.

What Happened...Ran em right out the the Georgia Dome. Auburn was unstoppable and played outstanding defense. Cam played his best game in an Auburn uniform. Really, they all did.

What did it mean? Something I frankly never thought I would see. Auburn would be playing in the national title game. It's three and a half days away and I still can't get my head around it.

Previews coming later, and a special "win it for" post

BCS National Title Preview

Well, this is it! The culmination of weeks of exhilarating football capped off by an Iron Bowl win, a SEC Championship, a Heisman trophy, a perfect season! A group of young men travel across the country to play for it all...the BCS National Title. The crystal ball. The pinnacle of college football supremacy, legacy, perennial recognition.

They'll take the field wearing the orange and blue and we'll all feel as if they're playing for each of us individually. And in many ways they are. They're cognizant of the tradition, the uniqueness, the family, the guys that have come before them because they have a head coach who won't let them forget it. They'll play with passion and fight ferociously and old has-beens like myself will swell with pride and emotion to see the colors battle for it all. We're all emotionally invested in this team, as a unit, as individuals, their resiliency, their camaraderie, their representation of the university. We will all feel like we played the game ourselves when this one is over!

Truth be told, I don't know much about Oregon. I know they play fast, they limit substitutions, they score quickly, they score often, they're coach is arrogant. That's about the extent of my preparation for what Oregon is. This game will be no different than the other 13 this season. It's not about the opponent, it's about Auburn's preparation and mentality. If these guys show up and compete for four quarters like they have all season's Auburn's game to lose! No disrespect to Oregon, I think they're immensely talented. I think Oregon will have success offensively and score some points. What we have to do defensively is not self-destruct, not give away scores with blown assignments, not succumb to frustration when the substitution pattern is nonexistent and guys must play extra reps winded. You can't let the tempo get to your head. They don't run difficult plays to defend. They just run ordinary plays at a blistering pace and defenses get frustrated with it. We can't waste energy celebrating after big stops.

To me the onus falls to the perimeter defenders, the secondary and outside LBs. No way does Oregon gash Auburn between the tackles so Oregon will test the edges of our defense. Can we make clean open field tackles in space? Can we run stride for stride with speedy receivers all night and make a play on the football in the air. Oregon will try to marginalize our front four with speed and it will be the perimeter guys that must step up and raise their level of play. I still say Nick Fairley makes a game changing play however!

Offensively, we have the enormous advantage of ball control offense. If the defense gets gassed, we have the ability to grind it out on the ground and keep the defense rested. I believe our rushing attack is the difference in this game. Oregon can strike quick, but Auburn can pound you into submission. We must and I believe we will win the battle on the offensive line of scrimmage and thus we win the national title!


Thursday, January 6, 2011

2010 Lookback-The Iron Bowl

Going In...It was the Iron Bowl with a BCS Championship birth on the line. Do we really need to know anything else?

What Happened...Bama jumped out all over Auburn. Down 24-0 early in the second quarter, Auburn actually woke from its slumber and got to wrok. Slowly chiping away, Auburn cut the lead to 10 points on the second play of the second half. Bama's offense then imploded, and Auburn finally took the lead early in the 4th on a Lutz TD catch, and "the Lutzie" was born.

T'bell KO'd Greg McElroy on Bama's next to lastlast drive, Auburn forced an 8 yard punt, then milked the clock down to 1 minute with a huge fourth down conversion. Bama got the ball back, went 4 and out, and Auburn shocked the Mullett Nation with a comeback for the ages.

What did it mean? Short term, Auburn was the SEC West Champs, and we all enjoy the 365 day braggin rights, but It will be interesting to see what the long term effects are of this game. Auburn has so many times hit Alabama with daggers, but this one may linger. If nothing else, it knocked the mystique right off of the Tide, and levelled the playing field, at least in the near future.

Wednesday, January 5, 2011

2010 Lookback-Georgia

Going In...With the Alabama loss, Auburn had a chance to win the SEC West outright. We had our concerns of course. The media sh*tstorm around Cam had reached fever pitch, with Joe Schad's erroneous reporting and Thayer "sleeps with billy goats" Evan's hit job, some even speculated Cam would not play at all.

What happened...Cam played all right. He torched the Bulldog defense both running and passing. Nick Fairly was all over the place. His tenacious play led to a late hit which led to a "code red" from Mr. Class Mark Richt. The Georgia bench cleared but Auburn was the only team that day to have suspensions. Oh and Auburn again turned a tight game into a laugher in the fourth, winning it 49-31.

What did it mean? Auburn had won the West with a game to spare. We were beginning to think big things, as in bigger than just an SEC title. The Evil Empire loomed on the horizon. There was no way we could get behind and expect to comeback again, right?

Oh, and we again learned that Georgia fans a are a bunch of whiny b*tches.

Tuesday, January 4, 2011

2010 Lookback-Chattanooga

Going In...We knew this would be a blowout.

What happened...It was a blowout.

What did it mean? Amidst the swirling controversy, Auburn took care of business. "We stand with Cam" became a battle cry. Little did we know the trickle of (mis)information would continue to come out.

2010 Lookback-Ole Miss

Going In...A possible landmine in Oxford was waiting for the Auburn Tigers as they took on an down Ole Miss squad with a potentially scary QB in Jeremiah Masoli.

What Happened...Cam caught a TD pass on a rainmaker from Kodi Burns. Auburn laid waste to the Rebel Black Bears from there on out, cruising to a 51-31 shellacking. The game was over by halftime. Ole Miss got a couple of mop-up TD's to make it seem closer.

What Did it Mean? Auburn was 9-0 at this point. Cam had locked up the Heisman. Basically this team was hitting on all cylinders by game 9. A cupcake was next up for homecoming followed by a struggling UGA. It looked like the Iron Bowl would decide the SEC West.

Monday, January 3, 2011

2010 Lookback-LSU

Going In...Can you say Epic Showdown? Rob and I were heading down to this one, sitting in a one of the crazier sections not specified for students. Who knew educators from Chambers county could be so nuts? (thanks for sharing the whiskey, ladies).

What happened...Auburn dominated in the trenches. The box score showed a very lopsided game, but thanks to some brilliant LSU punts, the game was tight until Ontario Speedwagon tore off a 70 yard touchdown run in the fourth quarter. The home crowd was outstanding, and the defense showed up late to seal the deal. I got to see two epic beatdowns that day, after watching a girl pummel some poor guy at 17-16 while enjoying a cold one after the game. Ahh, college...

What did it mean? Auburn was beginning to look like a team of destiny. Cam was beginning to look like a Heisman frontrunner. I officially began to call Auburn a contender.

2010 Lookback-Arkansas

Going in...We were looking for a score-fest. Neither defense was very good. Ryan Mallett was the real deal, and Petrino was still a smug unhappy little man. It's hard to believe that D-bag was an eyelash from being the Auburn coach.

What happened...The scoreboard nearly exploded, even after Mallette was KO'd by Nick Fairly. The Razorback-up QB was out of his mind good until the Fourth quarter, where 2 INT's sealed Arky's fate. With 2 minutes left, I was rebounding for my three year old on her kiddie hoop. All was right with the world.

What did it mean? Boy our offense is good. Boy our defense is bad, especially against the pass. The secondary looked totally lost. But Auburn was 7-0, and all of a sudden we began to dream of an SEC title.

Saturday, January 1, 2011

From the AJC message board:

“Mark Richt is the Sarah Palin of college football coaches – no brain, no heart, no guts, a quitter and cashing in on celebrity while the constituents want the real deal.”

Ouch. I am trying to figure out how this team will be any better next year. Change coordinators all you want, that outfit I saw in the fourth quarter against Auburn and in the Liberty Bowl has no heart. Heart comes from the head coach in my opinion.

The state of the program is so bad UGA VIII took a page from Ferris Bueler and took a sick day. Warning UGA, Ed Rooney is on to you.