Tuesday, September 25, 2012

Dr. Z's LSU Review: Light Years to Go.

Remember this guy? He's the All American fullback we don't use.

So should Auburn fans feel pleased, or at the very least encouraged by what we saw in Jordan-Hare Saturday night? I think the answer to that is yes and no.

Yes because we saw a team fight their guts out against a team that is supposed to be right in the hunt for a national title. No, because it's hard to expect these guys to play at that level every week.

Yes, because we saw a defense's heart grow four sizes. No, because we have an offense that has absolutely no identity. (more on that in a second)

Yes, because Auburn's fans have not given up on this team. No, because, let's face it, we have high expectations and we expect better.

The main thing I took from Saturday is that Auburn can play with anybody. But how is this supposed to be a surprise? For the last 30 years, teams have feared Auburn. Auburn is supposed to be an elite college football program. The 2012 Tigers show flashes of that history every now and then, but by and large this season, we haven't even been close.

Auburn has several winnable games over October, with Arkansas being in an absolute tailspin, a bad Vanderbilt team, and an Ole Miss team with a defense that gets blown over by a stiff breeze. Do I expect Auburn to be 6-3 headed into the Georgia game? I just don't know yet. Based on what we saw against LSU I would say yes, but can we play to that level every week?

A better question is can we find any semblance of an offense before the Arkansas game? I am, to say the least, underwhelmed by Scott Loeffler. His first down calls absolutely killed us Saturday. How many times did we start out second and 15? Why not try running between the tackles? When Auburn did that, they gained positive yardage. Tre Mason had sixty plus yards rushing on a handful of carries. We have an frickin' All American fullback in Jay Prosch, and he spends 60% of the game on the sideline. I thought Loeffler was brought in to turn Auburn back into a pro-style, smash mouth football team, yet all I saw Saturday night was a half-assed version of Guz Mahlzan's offense without the hurry-up.

We have too many big timers on this offense to be this bad. Yes, some of it is execution, especially at the quarterback position, but I would say that most of it has to do with lack of identity, and that starts with the O.C.

Defensively, much much better. It was nice to see a team with a chip on its shoulder. The tackling was good. The pressure on Mettenberger was solid, and the coverage was as good as I can remember in the last 4 years.

Now they have to continue to move forward. They must improve and make life miserable for other offenses. I trust the stache completely to get that done.

So here we sit. 1-3. If you can't remember the last time Auburn started 1-3, it is because that never happened before 2012. I still haven't given up on them. You haven't either. Let's continue to support these players and maybe, just maybe, we can salvage this already disappointing season.

War Eagle.

Monday, September 24, 2012

LSU Review (AU 10 LSU 12)

I was putting the finishing touches on this blog when I hit something on the keyboard and deleted the entire thing. It's a shame because it was good too! Even had an Ivan Drago and cutting the Russian reference!

To recap...

Proud of effort and physicality. No moral victory to be had, just proud the young team grew up and need to use this as a stepping stone. Need to learn to play with this type of effort each week to be successful in their remaining games.

Positives were playing physical, Kiehl Frazier's comfort level, Jeffrey Whitaker (played his best game at Auburn), Jonathan Wallace (proud of his effort with no prior experience and willingness to sacrifice his undersized body), crowd noise at Jordan-Hare, the play of the Auburn secondary (played a ton of guys), and downhill running game.

Negatives were the repeated use of the lateral running game, not trying to stretch the field vertically beyond the 2nd play of the game, limiting Tre Mason (severely) and Mike Blakely (entirely), Poor 1st down production (having to climb out of a hole each series having gotten behind the chains), LBs not meeting the fullback in the hole at the line of scrimmage but rather 3-4 yards downfield.

The schedule now lightens and begins to look like our competitors schedules. No one has played more quality football teams to date than Auburn. If we bring LSU game type intensity each week, this team gets on a roll from here. They have nothing to lose and are growing in confidence. That's a dangerous mix. Don't give up on these guys. Better days are ahead...and they're right around the corner.

Friday, September 21, 2012

LSU Preview

Auburn can beat LSU. It's not likely, but it's well within the abilities of the guys wearing that blue jersey Saturday night. The question I have is, Do they believe they can beat LSU? Do they show up Saturday night already beaten, already expecting to be outmatched, out-manned, the less physical football team? Do they enter the game expecting to struggle to run the football, expecting their QB to make untimely mistakes, expecting their young tackles to struggle against a fearsome pass rush? Do our coaches play things so close to the vest they give our players little chance to be successful because we're so basic, so vanilla, so predictable that we surrender our playbooks in the name of oversimplification? Does the crowd enter lackadaisically, sitting on their hands hoping for the best but expecting the worst thereby forfeiting one of the greatest homefield advantages in all of football?

Or does this team grow up on Saturday night? Do they put together a full 60 minutes of fundamentally sound, ultra-aggressive, confident football in their greatest test to date? Do they believe they can outplay the guy across from them, out-smart him, out-work him, out-hustle him, outlast him from opening to closing whistle? Do they believe in the systems, the gameplans their coordinators have installed? Do they walk down a Tiger Walk and enter a stadium so passionate, so deafening, so electric, that even if they had gotten off of the bus uninspired, they have no alternative but to be bursting from the inside out to run through a brick wall for Auburn University, for each other, for themselves? Do they understand when you don the blue jersey, they represent us all, all that have come before them, all that support them no matter where they reside within the landscape of college football--the pinnacle or the valley? Does that Auburn logo, that stadium, the necessity of defending both no matter how challenging the opponent ring hollow or ring true?

Those are questions we can't answer. Only these football players know the answers. Not the coaches, not their parents, not their best friends, not any sports commentator or analyst. Only the guys wearing the blue jersey know in their hearts if they've prepared well, they believe in their plan, they believe in their ability to execute that plan, and if they are willing to fight like hell to make it happen.

I believe this game is less about LSU and more about the psyche of Auburn. Can we run the football when LSU will sell out to deny it? Can Kiehl Frazier beat the LSU secondary occasionally to make them honest? Can our young offensive tackles protect Kiehl long enough to provide some semblance of comfort for a struggling QB? Can we convert in the red zone? Can our defensive tackles man up and provide the push they've desperately lacked through three weeks? Can we get off the football field on third down? Can we tackle well for four quarters and make LSU earn every inch they get? Will we win the special teams battle?

I attended the game in Baton Rouge last year and the disparity in physicality, emotion, talent was frightening. I'll be looking to see if we've closed that gap in all aspects. I don't think we win this football game, but like I previously said, what we think means nothing. Come to play. Come believing. Come ready to dominate. Come to play 4 quarters. Come to shock the college football world. Come because you Auburn and at Auburn you may beat us, but to do so you'll have to kill us.


Thursday, September 20, 2012

Dr. Z's LSU Preview

I hope we see that again once or twice Saturday night.

So it's game four, and very few of us would have thought that AU would come limping into the game at 1-2. Even fewer could have predicted the way we got here. A pretty good effort against a (what we think, anyway) pretty good Clemson team was followed with a less than stellar effort on the road in Starkville. Auburn showed flashes of breaking through against a better than advertised La-Monroe team, only to wilt in the 4th quarter and barely escape with a win.

Which brings us all to a weekend we dread every other year, when Bubba Didier and Jean-Claude load up the Chevy and head north. They roll into Auburn and make us all reconsider the Louisiana purchase. If you are unlucky enough to converse with these people you are lucky to comprehend a single word. They swear. They spit bourbon. And that's just the eight year olds. The Cajuns have a reputation for great tailgate cooking, but don't be fooled. Most of them just pick up a bucket at Popeyes on the way in.

Yeah, I know, I'm a little hard on the Louisiana folk, but a long time ago I had the unfortunate pleasure of interning in Louisiana for a few months (seemed like a few decades). I guess I got overexposed. I wouldn't call them rednecks, unless there are French rednecks. And it's not worth all the blackened redfish or drive through daiquiries in the world to put up with dealing with the corndog nation every day.

Yes there is a game Saturday. I expect Auburn to bounce back well and finally get some sense of urgency. Expect a rowdy crowd when it kicks off Saturday night. I think we will show the LSU faithful that a night game at home is more than just getting piss drunk and acting like a dick to the opposing fans (I'm looking at You, LSU eight year olds).

I must admit, the LSU defense looks pretty daunting. We must establish the run. I still believe we can run the ball on them. And maybe, just maybe Keihl can get the deer in the headlights look out of his eyes and make a few plays. And for heaven's sake, do not turn the ball over. If we lose the turnover battle, nay, if we don't win the turnover battle by 2 we likely lose.

On defense, four words: cowboy the f$#k up. The defensive line has to show some toughness. The linebackers need to put a hat on somebody and not look like cockroaches (on their backs with legs int he air) after a play. Pressure Mettenberger into a turnover or two, and maybe, just maybe, some of that old Jordan- Hare magic starts floating around.

I almost can talk myself into picking Auburn.



Tuesday, September 18, 2012

Dr. Z's LAMO Review: I Still Don't Feel Too Good About This

A win is a win. I guess.

So after Auburn's first home game in front of a way more enthused crowd than I would have expected, Auburn beat a La-Monroe team that may be much better than the La-Monroe's of yesteryear.

Still, it's freakin La-Monroe. Auburn is supposed to win that game by 4 touchdowns at least. They even managed to do that with Tony Franklin calling the shots on offense.

Auburn showed more effort on defense, but we still see glaring problems in positioning, tackling, and personnel. The defensive line just is not getting it done, and that is the biggest problem with the defense right now, no matter what some say about our linebackers. Still too much cushion in the secondary. Are you telling me all these great recruits at defensive back cannot cover two star receivers in bump and run?

I am really more dismayed by the offense, before a trick play for a touchdown and a hail Mary for another, Auburn was down 14-7 late in the first half. That should not happen, no matter who La-Monroe beat last week. Frazier was better, but inexplicably curled back into the fetal position in the fourth quarter, throwing a mind-numbing INT which led to another score. I've heard some say that Jason Campbell had growing pains like this back in 2002. But let's face facts, Campbell was inconsistent, but he never looked this bad. The play calling is so odd to me. Why is it that with an all-american lead blocking fullback, we decide to run from a single back set? Why is Frazier throwing late in the fourth when we can run the ball a few more times and kick a field goal or worst case punt the ball away? I understand that we are struggling to find an identity on offense, but it seems we cannot make up our mind what we want to do.

I thought Ontario had another solid game. As did Tre Mason. Blakely shows flashes, but the fumble when we are about to make it 35-14 was the difference between a blowout and winning by the skin of our teeth. It totally changed the momentum of the game.

The only other comment I can make is thank heavens La-Monore decided to kick the PAT instead of going for two, because my guess is we'd be talking about 0-3 at this point.

I don't want to sound bleak. I am pretty frustrated. But at this point it doesn't look too good. We have a monster coming in Saturday night. The first of a few this season.

Let's do better guys. I don't know how to tell you, but just do better.

Monday, September 17, 2012

ULM Review (AU 31 ULM 28 OT)

Unbelievable that football game came down to the wire. After seemingly having this ULM team on the ropes, twice driving to extend the lead to 35-14, up two scores...with the ball...with less than 9 minutes to play...yet to have it boil down to me begging ULM Coach Todd Berry to not go for two and the throat of Auburn really left me dumbfounded. I have never seen an offense lose its way as quickly and as completely as this Auburn offense did in the fourth quarter. Speaking of fourth quarter...very disheartening to not only lose the fourth quarter, but to be totally dominated in the fourth quarter...a 14 point swing...the quarter every team in America works January to August to win. I am glad we pulled out the victory. I am disappointed in the way it ended.

It wasn't all bad, in fact there were some individuals that played fantastic football, some progress noticed in areas that have struggled. There were also some areas we continue to be below average in. The good and the bad...


+ Cody Parkey. Continues to be the most reliable weapon we have. Confident, accurate, consistent. Not only has he been perfect on every FG opportunity, he drills them straight down the middle leaving no doubt whatsoever. His placement of kickoffs have been stellar and have forced offenses to start many drives inside the 15 yard line.

+ Running game. Despite teams loading up the box to stop Auburn's only legitimate offensive threat, this offense continues to move the ball successfully on the ground behind a talented group of offensive linemen, a lead full back, TEs selling out in the run game, and WRs dedicated to stalking defenders down field. If we could establish any sort of downfield passing presence our running game would be deadly. If we continue to flounder in our passing game making terrible decisions, holding the ball to long, not throwing the ball away or using our God-given athletic ability to scramble and live to play another down, our running game will go south in a hurry as we enter the meat of our schedule. If we remain one dimensional, the LSUs and Georgias and Alabamas of the world will utterly embarrass our offense.

+ Crowd at Jordan-Hare. For an 11 AM game in the hot sun against a Sun Belt opponent, after opening the season 0-2, I thought the crowd was great. I'm proud the Auburn faithful haven't abandoned these guys trying their best to be successful. They'll continue to improve and perhaps surprise us before this season ends.

+ Kickoff coverage, particularly black Jake Holland. True freshman WR Ricardo Louis was a monster on kickoff coverage and the broadcast crew continued to call him Jake Holland. There are players that do more for their teams, but does any other team have a guy that can be a white middle linebacker as well as a black WR who covers kicks like an animal? Jake Holland for Heisman?

+ Sideline Emotion. I got chill bumps when I saw VanGorder throwing atomic fists and chest bumping his players running off the field. Sure, he may have been lost and not realized he stopped ULM on 1st and 10 instead of 4th and short. His intensity and emotion, however brought about, was a welcome sight and I know for a fact enjoyed and appreciated by his defensive unit. Enthusiasm is infectious and 90% of playing defense is having the right mindset. I liked his outburst, regardless of the fact it was unwarranted.

+ Quan Bray. Solid punt returner, fearless receiver, great pass and awareness on the throwback to Frazier. He has become the weapon opposite Blake we thought Trovon Reed would be and I enjoy watching Quan play.

+ 1st half Kiehl Frazier. Looked like a different QB from what we saw a week ago. Was accurate, made mostly correct reads, was poised and in rhythm and seemingly in control. Unfathomable the dichotomy between first half Kiehl and second half Kiehl. Never seen anything quite like it.


- Not necessarily bad, but trending in the wrong direction is Steven Clark. Not consistent and two weeks in a row his punts have been short. If not for some friendly rolls, he barely averages 30 yards/punt in this game. Mississippi State was much the same. He's having a poor run right now and I hope to see him shake free from it.

- No killer instinct. This team doesn't know how to win. Just like I questioned the leadership in an 18 point loss to MSU, I question the leadership in allowing an opponent to crush you in the 4th quarter in your home opener when you literally had your foot on their throat. We gave them opportunities. Their confidence grew as ours flat-lined.

- Offensive Playcalling. Again, this was not bad all game, but in the fourth quarter it was bad. We are up 28-14. There is less than 9 minutes to play in the game. We are virtually in field goal range with a 2nd and 8 looming. We have rushed for over 200 yards at this point in the game. Why then throw the ball? Why not run the ball, which is the only way we have been effective and is our greatest opportunity to move the chains. At the very worst we fail convert on three straight runs and we line up our most consistent player to attempt to make it a three score game. We continue to bleed the clock. Instead, we got impatient, we wanted to give Kiehl some confidence, we learned nothing from the Arkansas film the week prior. They intercept (granted the read by Frazier was pitiful) and the game takes on a completely different feel.

- 2nd half Kiehl Frazier. Leaves me scratching my head? He became so unsure of himself, so uncomfortable. The coaching staff lost all faith in his ability to put the ball in the air and rightfully so, his decision making was not good. Instead of learning from his mistakes and making a mental catalog to draw from, he dwells on them, they affect his confidence, his entire demeanor, the offense as a whole.

- Rushing Defense. 4 yards/rush against ULM is entirely too much. Against MSU...4.6 yards/rush. Clemson?...6.2 yards/rush. In order to be successful on defense you have to stop teams from running the football. Period. There's no way around it. We don't do a good enough job consistently to make teams one dimensional. We therefore must play on our heels, letting their offense dictate the game as opposed to our defense.

- Defensive Tackles. If I didn't know who our defensive tackles were simply because I'm an Auburn fan and follow our team I wouldn't know we even had DTs on the field. They are completely absent. Other than Angelo Blackson making an appearance every so often, the others are AWOL. Don't believe they'll be striking fear in the hearts the LSU OL this week.

- Time of possession. We can't keep the ball. Our defense plays entirely too many snaps. I don't care how many players you rotate in the ballgame, when the other team has the ball nearly a full quarter more than you, your defense will get gassed.

- Trovon Reed, Robensen Therezie, Erique Florence, Kris Frost. Ask any Auburn fan prior to this season if by week three not a single one of these guys would make a meaningful contribution, I'm fairly confident 99.9% of us would have scoffed at the notion. That's shameful. Far too much talent in that group to be spectators. You earn your stars by how you produce on Saturdays in an Auburn uniform, not on Fridays in high school. I think we have some guys that just don't get that.

Lots of room to improve, obviously. Also lots of guys I'm really proud of. I'm just waiting for the light to click for our defense, our QB, our play-calling, our talented players who've yet to contribute. At some point the light will come on and things will improve. i just hope it's sooner rather than later.

Friday, September 14, 2012

ULM Preview

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!

War Eagle!


Dr. Z's La-Monroe Preview-No Chickenhawks!

It would be a cool mascot though, wouldn't it?

I never, ever thought I'd say this, but the Louisiana Monroe game is critical.

Critical because the already damaged psyche of this team needs something good to happen, and fast.

Critical because a monster game with LSU approaches on the horizon.

Critical because we all hate losing.

When Auburn plays a team like La-Monroe, we usually know the outcome beofre the ball is even teed up. Tomorrow? Not so much. Unfortunately,given the way both teams played last week, this game is not a given by any stretch. La-Monroe was a giant killer last week, even though Arkansas might be a paper tiger. Auburn played armadillo on the road last week, and Dan Mullin was happy to be driving the 18 wheeler that ram right over them.

So what does Auburn need to do to be better? First and foremost Keihl Frazier needs to be much much better. But is he capable? I would have said after the Clemson game he is, but after last week's awful performance, can he shake that off and be the quarterback we need him to be? I'm not sure. Putting the guy in better situations will help. Maybe not so many play action passes, like Rob mentioned last week, so Frazier doesn't have to turn his back to the defense. Maybe some designated pass plays to Trevon Reed and Quan Bray. And if you believe what some in the blogosphere say, then the other team actually not knowing the plays before we run them is helpful.

On defense, it is the same thing we have been saying for (I swear to God) four years, run through the guy, wrap up, and stop diving at ankles. I hope the highly touted defensive line shows up at some point. I also hope we throw Kris Frost into the mix at some point too, because four tackles a game by our linebackers is getting old.

I expect us to win Saturday. It would be awesome if we could win big, get a little swagger back in our step, and move forward.

Here's hoping we will.

Auburn 40
LMAO (but not nearly as much after last week) 21

Monday, September 10, 2012

Mississippi State Review (AU 10 State 28)

WTH?! What an embarrassing performance against a team that recruits at a level below even that of Terry Bowden. We simply ran up against a team that was hungrier, better prepared, more confident, capable of executing, believers in their abilities and schemes. When we play football that uninspired I question two things...where are our leaders within this football team and why can't our staff have a team better prepared (particularly our offense)?

I thought for three quarters our defense played quality football. Wasn't perfect, blew some coverages for touchdowns, too soft up the gut defending the run in our nickel package, but terrific third down efficiency, improved (not perfected) tackling, more pressure and man-to-man technique in the secondary.

I can't put a ton of blame on the defense for the missed tackles and lack of energy in the 4th quarter. I've been there. I've played in games in which your offense is the defense's worst enemy. I've been asked to go out and keep my team in the game after the offense continually puts our backs against the wall with turnovers, no running game, no confidence. It's a tough position to be in and the level of discouragement is astronomical. So I get not being willing to sacrifice your body for the untenth time knowing full well your effort is in vain. It takes sheer pride in your uniform, yourself, in your parents efforts to travel to watch you play, in the fans that come to support you week in and week out to overcome the desire to quit.

Where I do find fault with the defense is it's propensity to roll out the red carpet for the State offense into the endzone. Third and 10? Let me interfere with you and help you sustain your drive...TD State. Third and 10 again? Let me jump offsides and make this crucial down much more manageable for you. In fact, just run for the 1st down right down our throats...TD State. Let me just not cover your tight end or your slot receiver, or better yet, let me pick up a personal foul and set you up inside our five...TD State!

Cut out the freebies and this defense plays well enough to win the football game. I hear people griping out tackling, and I agree, it ain't great, but it was much better in week 2 than week 1.

This defense just seems timid too me. It's unsure in it's progressions, unsure of what it sees, unsure if they can depend on the guy lined up next to them, behind them, in front of them. We don't play with authority, with speed, with tenacity, with ruthlessness, with a damn chip on our shoulder, boulder-sized, eager to make your life on offense a living hell for 60 minutes. We don't disguise what we're doing well, cause we don't know what we're doing. When I watch LSU or even Georgia's defenses over the weekend, I'm envious. I see guys fly to the football making people pay on the other end. They would strike a bit of apprehension in me if I were to compete against them. Against Auburn, I'd just make sure my QB stepped up in the pocket...that's about my only concern. That's pitiful!

Offensively, no excuse for not giving Kiehl Frazier easy throws to attempt to build some confidence on the road against an outstanding secondary (not sure it would have even mattered?). Not only did we make him read the defense, we made him read the defense with his back to them with play-action, and we asked him to read #13, State's most savvy defender. That was the ultimate mismatch, yet we continued to do it. I can't fault to OL for not running the football for more yards. It's not hard to stop the run when 9 are defending against 6 or 7.

I watch Texas A&M, Florida, even Utah State and see young QB's nary shy of confidence, making plays with their arms, their legs, leading their football teams as underclassmen. I find myself asking why? Why are these kids so far ahead of Kiehl Frazier developmentally? Is it demeanor, coaching, system? I've come to the conclusion that Kiehl just doesn't believe in himself right now. Maybe for all the above stated reasons. Maybe for a litany of others. But the difference in Auburn and Mississippi State Saturday really boiled down to QB play, plain and simple. And until Kiehl Frazier gets it together, this season will continue on its same course...rock bottom. There is no other answer at the QB position for this team (unless R. Therezie chooses to play QB too). I'm pulling for you Kiehl to find the answers, to play with confidence, to be a success. I'm hoping your coaches earn their keep and find what makes you tick to help you in your progression. I'm hoping some seniors on this football team step up and be the leaders their seniority requires and let you know they support you and are there to help make your job easier. Good luck my friend. We need you in a big way.

Dr. Z's Mississippi State Review-Times That Try Men's Souls

Thought I would bring back a couple of pics from the archive to describe our reaction to the debacle Saturday in Starkville.

This is Rob after Keihl Frazier's 3rd INT:

Here's me after his second fumble:

I am truly at a loss for words here. OK, not totally. I can think of several appropriate four letter words.

How can a team with all this talent look this bad? Keihl Frazier was flat out awful Saturday. I mean I have never seen quarterback play that makes me long for the days of Jeff Klein and Daniel Cobb. Yet no call to the bullpen by Chizik and the offensive staff. Clint's shoulder must be in worse shape than a 37 year old optometrist, because Frazier needed the hook at halftime, if not for a series or two, just to get his head on straight.

Defensively, we are no better than we were under Ted Roof. If I have to watch another defensive back whiff at someone's ankles my head really might explode. This great defensive line we have been hearing about all summer, where is it? If nothing else they should be shutting down the run game. And maybe they did for the first half of that game, but I saw a lot of quit on defense in the fourth quarter.

I can compare this to 1998, when the offense was awful and decimated by injuries. The defense kept us in games. They almost single-handedly beat eventual National Champ Tennessee. They had guts. They had pride. And they never got embarrassed like this.

In 2012, I see no guts. I see no pride. I see a team on the ledge.

But I am not giving up. Neither should you. At some point, Auburn will get its head on straight and begin to play to their potential.

They better, or else all of the capital Gene Chizik built up in 2010 will be gone. I do not want to see that happen. I want these guys to succeed.

War Eagle.

Friday, September 7, 2012

Mississippi State Preview: Dan Mullin's White Whale

Let's face facts, there are a ton of question marks for the 2012 version of the Auburn Tigers as we head into week 2.

Let me get this out of the way first. I am not worried about Mississippi State. Nor am I worried about Dan Mullin and his butt hurt over not getting Cam Newton. Somebody who was listening to Kevin Scarbinsky's radio show (I know, nobody listens to that douche, right?) tweeted that Mullin and his wife care more about beating Auburn than arch rival Ole Miss. I have no idea why anyone would care what a coaches wife thinks or why that is relevant, but it does tell me quite a little bit about Mullin's obsession with Auburn. Well, if he wants to go all Captain Ahab on us, he's welcome to try.

My concern this week is Auburn.

My concern is defense and tackling, and Keihl Frazier developing into the quarterback we all hope is capable of becoming. My concern is that our team shakes off a loss to a very good Clemson team and has no hangover coming into this all crucial match
up with State. We don't want to use the term "must win" in week two, but it kind of feels that way right now.

Auburn is in danger of being written off already. A young team with a great deal of talent is already looked over by many football pundits. I am not ready to do that and neither should you.

I expect Auburn's coaching staff to correct the problems we had against Clemson. I expect this team to grow up Saturday.

Dan Mullin may be Captain Ahab, but his crew doesn't have the mettle to take down his white whale.

Auburn 28
State 17

And call me Ishmael....

Thursday, September 6, 2012

Mississippi State Preview

If you compare schedules across America, you'll be hard-pressed to find another team with two tougher tests immediately out of the gate as the Auburn Tigers. The Bulldogs of Mississippi State feel, once again, Auburn is prime to be beaten, they've come razors edge close two years consecutively, and the time is now to get over the hump. They believe in their QB Tyler Russell, that he has all the tools necessary to run the Dan Mullen offense as Dan Mullen has drawn it up. They have experience at wideout with three seniors leading the way. They return virtually their entire defense, minus first rounder Fletcher Cox, and will have a pair of corners that will push for All-Conference honors. They have circled this game against Auburn since their season ended last year. With a pathetically weak, backloaded schedule, a win over Auburn would propel State towards a probable 7-0 start. Here's why it won't happen.

* Chizik & Co. have Dan Mullen's number. Auburn gets under his skin. Auburn has edged out victories over his program both on and off the field repeatedly since his arrival and over time it wears on you. It makes you wonder. In a close game, which I expect, Chizik & Co. will be confident whereas Mullen's teams have blown this game. Until they've beaten Auburn, deep down they wonder if they have what it takes.

* Auburn's running game. Auburn made a statement in week one that they will run the football and be successful doing so. Going on the road and controlling the football, stringing together first downs, changing field position and limiting defensive snaps will all be top priorities this week and the running game will be the catalyst. The addition of Reese Dismukes will add a veteran presence in the middle, provide more push and ultimately even more success pounding the ball between the tackles. I believe our OL will wear down the Mississippi State front 7 as the game progresses.

* 11 am start. Minimizes the effect of the crowd. As passionate as you want to be for your team in your own stadium, 11 am makes that a difficult chore. Cowbells alone don't get it done. Music doesn't jack a team up. Seeing and hearing sheer emotion from the mouths of fanatic supporters from pre-game to the final whistle, that's what inspires players. There will be excitement in that stadium, don't misunderstand, but not to the extent a night contest would create. We catch a break with the start time in my opinion.

* Defense with something to prove. Auburn's D knows it must play better football than what it displayed inside the Georgia Dome in week one. The advantage we have over State is we've spent a week improving on areas that were exposed by a quality opponent. Mississippi State hasn't been challenged yet, so they can't fix deficiencies they don't yet know exist. I have to believe both Brian VanGorder and Willie Martinez will shake some things up in the defensive secondary and we will see a much improved defensive unit Saturday morning. Not a dominant unit, but a group that at least tackles better in the secondary and creates more havoc up front. I also expect to see more aggression and challenge put forth by our corners in defending the pass.

* Kiehl Frazier the X-factor. If Kiehl uses his legs to keep plays alive, to allude pressure, to change defensive angles, to keep the sticks moving, he'll go a long way to helping his team leave Starkville winners. If Mississippi State corrals Kiehl, keeps him in the pocket, prevents him from being a dual threat, life will be tough, especially with their talented corners. I think Kiehl must make the State defense defend against the threat of him running. That, combined with a solid conventional rushing attack and play action which will follow, he is in store to have a big game.

* Special teams. Were stellar in week one and always play pivotal roles especially on the road. Want to get beat, have a punt blocked or a punt/kickoff returned. Want to beat yourself, miss on field goal opportunities. Luckily we're blessed to have outstanding, consistent play in this department and will loom large Saturday.

I expect this game to nothing short of an epic battle. This game is enormous, really a must-win for both programs. Who makes the fewest mistakes? Who wins the turnover battle? Who controls the line of scrimmage? Which QB has the best day? The answers to those questions gives us the winner. I like our chances. I believe we'll see inspired play from both teams and once again Mississippi State comes up short.

Mississippi State- 23

Tuesday, September 4, 2012

Dr. Z's Clemson Review-Rolling 3's when we needed 7's

Congrats to you, mascot who frightens children.

To say I am disappointed with the outcome Saturday would be an understatement. Auburn's revamped defense looked like the same old unvamped defense we've grown accustomed to. When I say same old I mean too soft on pass coverage, shredded against the run, can't get off the field on third down same old.

Auburn let slip a golden opportunity against Clemson. Red zone failures led to 3's not 7's and that was the difference in the game. To win even a majority of the games left on our schedule Auburn has to put the ball in the end zone when the offense gets down there, and doing stupid thing like catching a ball two steps out of the back of the end zone when no on is within ten freaking yards of you might just help.

Trevon Reed needs to be better. Heck, anyone that is on scholarship to catch the football other than Emory Blake or Lutzy needs to be better.

Keihl Frazier looked kind of "meh" Saturday. I think we was well schooled on what to do, but missed on some key passes when he had guys open. The reads all appeared to be correct, but the execution for whatever reason just was not there. I have the tiniest bit of problem with the play calling. I really felt like Keihl was under utilized as a runner and overused as a passer. I thought last year we didn't throw enough on first down. After the Clemson game I wonder if we didn't throw too much, especially given the success running the ball.

Speaking of, Tre Mason had a a very good game other than his first half fumble despite having a limited number of touches. Ontario was Ontario. He'll bust at least a couple before the season is through.

What we shouldn't discount is how good Clemson has the potential to be. Tajh Boyd is one of the better dual threat QB's in the country, and we'll all have Andre Ellington nightmares for years to come, but poor tackling and Charmin soft coverage helped both of those guys look good.

I gotta say I have an uneasy feeling about the rest of the season. Saturday morning looks like a bear now, and given that Dan Mullin has been flapping his gums about this game all summer, State will be ready. Hopefully, Auburn will improve immensely between week 1 and 2, or else we're looking at a long year.

Clemson Review (Clemson 26 AU 19)

Tough game! Enjoyed and appreciated the effort given by both teams. Ultimately, the result boiled down to one thing...one team capitalized on their opportunities in the red zone and one team did not. Unfortunately, our team was the latter. There aren't too many games where you can step back and say, "You know, either team could have won tonight!" This was just that type game, however, you could even take it a step further. In this one, you could actually argue that at times, either team could have blown the other out, completely run the opponent out of the Georgia Dome had calls gone certain ways, WRs catch balls, calls not inexplicably get overruled, fumbles not occur. It was a heavyweight bout and both fan bases should leave proud of their programs. I know I slept well Saturday night having seen valiant effort given...despite a bitter loss to open the 2012 campaign.


+ Running Game. The young offensive line had their way with Clemson all night all over the football field...until we reached the red zone. With three new starters, this group by far exceeded my expectations both in production and minimizing penalties. Though Tre Mason ran the ball fearlessly with power and look forward to more of Tre as the season progresses.

+ Kiehl Frazier. I know he completed less than 50% of his passes, but I thought he managed the game well. The stage wasn't too big for him, he stayed calm, he put the ball where it needed to be when it mattered most. He did have some overthrows that could have gone for big gains, but he also had WRs in many instances let him down with mental lapses and just not making the athletic play for their young QB.

+ Offensive Scheme. Tons of formations and motion. As a guy whose job it was to recognize formations and adjust on the run to motion, I would despise preparing for Scot Loeffler. Seemed to be balanced with run vs pass and play action was superb (it had to be respected). Also utilized Lutz and Mccalebb in numerous ways with both alignment and assignment.

+ Corey Lemonier. Guy plays at a different speed than the rest of his defensive unit. Dee Ford is close but Corey is unbelievable.

+ Daren Bates Tenacity. This guy would run through a brick wall for Auburn and his play is inspiring and a treat to watch. He doesn't do things perfect, but he plays with passion and it needs to become contagious to the guys lining up behind him in the defensive secondary. His INT was incredible and it should have been the death knell for Clemson. The offense has to put seven points on the board after a play like that.


- Defensive Tackles. Against a young, inexperience Clemson OL these guys were virtually nonexistent. With the exception of Angelo Blackson, I was disappointed with every one of them.

- Tackling. Killed us. Again. Absolutely ridiculous. How many times was Tajh Boyd in the grasp only to escape for a positive gain. The long run by Ellington as Jake Holland tried to sling him down rather than drive him to the ground. And Ryan Smith?! You have to be a sure tackler. In fact, you and your safety counterpart Jermaine Whitehead MUST be the surest tacklers on the team! Not pretty. Not rolling at ankles. Not diving at shoelaces. Stay on your feet and hang on for the ride. You're the last line of defense...play like it.
For what it's worth, I thought Whitehead tackled better than Smith.

- Trovon Reed. Another game...and no contribution from Trovon. His opportunity came and he lost his awareness on the football field. It would have been a tough catch, I concede, but for a guy that's been around as long as Trovon he needs to make that play.

- Kiehl Frazier's Running. Kiehl's best attribute is his dual threat capability. However, he really looked uncomfortable trying to run the football. As bad as Ellington's 200 yards plus hurt, it was Tajh Boyd's scampering that killed us. Kiehl needs and can do the same.

- Soft Cushion Secondary. We just let them play catch. We don't squeeze zone threats, we don't alter routes at the line of scrimmage, we don't make life miserable for WRs. This was my biggest disappointment of all and really expected more from this group. We desperately need Therezie and Florence to man up, stay on the practice field, stay out of Coach VanGorder's doghouse, and help this secondary become more physical, deep, and dependable.

All in all, this team is a good one. This team is improved from last year. This team will be hell to deal with. This team will get better every week. This team will beat Mississippi State in Starkville. But it will be another tough battle.