Wednesday, January 11, 2006

Don't Look Back in Anger...well, some anger's normal

I know Auburn fans aren’t really anxious to relive the Capital One Bowl meltdown against Wisconsin. (I also know that’s like saying Charger fans aren’t exactly watching daily game tape of that Super Bowl they lost to the Niners by 800 points, or that Coke exexcutives aren't entirely thrilled when their relatives bring up "New Coke," or that Southern Civil War enthusiasts aren’t itching to re-enact…wait, scratch that last one.)

But before you can look to the future you have to memorize the past, or some junk like that, and besides, a performance this historically, legendarily bad deserves to be remembered, right? Anyways, here’s the JCCW’s blow-by-blow recap of this year’s Hangover One Bowl broadcast:


ABC’s John Saunders: Hi, I’m John Saunders, and welcome to Barry Alvarez Barry Alvarez! Today’s matchup pits Barry Alvarez Barry Alvarez Barry Alvarez. Craig, Barry Alvarez?
Craig James: That’s right John, Barry Alvarez Barry Alvarez Barry Alvarez. The question is, Barrry Barry, but Barry Alvarez Alvarez Barry Alvarez?
Random McRandom, Ex-Lineman: Man, I tell you what Craig, Barry Alvarez! I mean, Barry Alvarez Barry Alvarez!


--Brandon Cox throws an interception on the game’s second play from scrimmage. If this game was a novel, that’s what we’d call “foreshadowing.”
--On Auburn’s next drive, Kenny Irons rushes for 11 yards and first-down, prompting this exchange between Ron Franklin and Bob Davie (I’m paraphrasing):
Franklin: I’ve seen Kenny Irons several times this year, and let me tell you he is something special. He’s the sort of running back that either make you miss or run over you, the type of back whose children you hope your daughters are fortunate enough to bear.
Davie: That’s right, Ron. They’ve had some great backs down there on the Plains, but by the time Kenny Irons finishes his Auburn career I wouldn’t be surprised if he’s brought about peace in the Middle East.

Irons fumbles the ball away on the very next play, of course. Isn’t it Irons-ic. Don’t you think?
--Wisconsin kindly refuses to score following either turnover, showing that either they got confused about which week was Christmas and which was New Year’s, or that they had already sensed how easy things were going to be for them and were pre-emptively declining to run up the score. I’m going with the latter.
--After Badger receiver Brand Williams takes a screen 30 yard to paydirt, making several Tigers look like they showed up for the game wearing their special New Balance “5-2-40 Tortoise Xtreme” cleats, Devin Aromashodu fields the kickoff a yard deep in the end zone. He then proceeds to do a Fred Astaire-quality tap dance on the goalline before returning it to the 9. Typical senior mistake, I guess.
--Wisky then “drives” (i.e. Brian Calhoun races 60 yards) to the Auburn 3. But the Auburn D rises up and stops Calhoun on three straight rushes to force a field goal. If this game was a novel, we’d call this a “red herring.”


--Auburn’s sequence of plays beginning on first-and-10 on their own 44: ugly-ass failed screen for 10-yard sack, delay of game, dropped pass by Anthony Mix, incompletion, punt. Tiger fans wonder if the real Brandon Cox is tied up in a closet somewhere while evil criminal mastermind Gabe Gross plays in disguise.
--12-play, 86-yard touchdown drive for Wisconsin. Yawn. Badger players contact bowl coordinators, ask if game difficulty setting can be bumped from “Varsity” to “All-American.”
--After an Auburn punt, ABC puts up the “Total Yards” graphic, which reads in the neighborhood of Wisconsin 627, Auburn 3.
--After having his helmet sneakily ripped off his head by a Badger lineman, Auburn tackle Troy Reddick makes the classic high-IQ move of throwing a punch at the helmeted Badger in full view of the officials. This action, while swift and decisive, fails to accomplish any of the following: 1) Causing the Badger player even the slightest physical discomfort 2) Giving Reddick anything resembling adequate retaliation 3) Help for his team. It does, however, accomplish all of the following: 1) Penalizing his team 15 yards, ending any hope of scoring before the half 2) Allowing the Badger to cackle evilly under his breath 3) Giving his fingers an excellent chance to break in irony 4) His ejection from the game. Oh well. Just another senior mistake. He’ll learn.


Sideline reporter extraordinaire Holly Rowe: Coach Tuberville, your team played like a bunch of drunken zombies out there in the first half. What are you going to do to get things turned around?
Tuberville: Um…hair of the dog?


--Stanley McClover and Stanley McClover’s dreads decide that if he’s going to go pro after the game, they’d better make at least one highlight, so ESPN can have something to play as Mel Kiper reads off his scouting report on draft day. Sack, fumble, Auburn recovers.
--Cox throws incomplete on third-and-goal, bringing his totals for the game so far to 1-47, 2 yards, 1 pick, 0 TD. John Vaughn then somehow inexplicably misses the area outside the uprights and can only watch helplessly as the ball sails between them instead. 17-3.
--After the Wisconsin kicker politely shows Vaughn how a miss is properly done, Auburn drives to the Wisconsin 40. In a brief “moment of clarity,” Cox hits Anthony Mix square in the hands on third-and-four. Mix, as the kids say, drops it like it’s hot. What can you do? It’s just another senior mistake.
--With time now obviously of the essence, Al Borges bumps his two-season streak of successful-play-calls-on fourth-and-long-with-all-hope-of-winning-on-the-line to something like 12 in a row. Cox hits Obamanu for 13 yards on fourth-and-10 from the Wisky 19.
--As the clock winds down, Auburn players hold four fingers in the air, the famous method of closing the third quarter by showing how many passes their quarterback has completed thus far.


--Now it’s fourth-and-goal from the Wisconsin 9, and Cox lofts a ball towards Courtney Taylor in the end zone. Taylor, suitably impressed with the back-alley mugging a Wisconsin receiver got away with earlier in the half, punches his defender repeatedly in the kidneys before eye-gouging him Three Stooges-style as the ball is on its way. Thus unmolested, he makes the touchdown grab and ignores the Wisconsin fans screaming at the ref, who was three feet away and had the appearance of watching closely. He explains later that he kind of drifted in and out of the game after the Badgers went up 17, and he was probably busy balancing his checkbook in his head, or something. 17-10 with 14:49 to play, and Auburn fans feel a growing sense of excitement.
--Matt Clark ends the sense of excitement precisely eight seconds later by sending the ensuing kickoff directly out of bounds. Wisconsin adds him to the ever-growing list of Auburn players they have to write thank-you notes to afterward. (“Dear Matt: Thank you so much for the out-of-bounds kickoff. We always enjoy starting on the 35-yard line! How did you know? We promise we’ll put your gift to good use. Hope you had a happy New Year’s and say hello to Kody for us! Love, the Badgers.”)
--Five plays and 12 seconds or so later, it’s 24-10. Well, that was fun. The touchdown comes on a 33-yard run by Calhoun during which safety Eric Brock, despite being close enough to Calhoun to hand him a notepad and ask for an autograph, appears more likely to sprout wings and fly away in shame than make the tackle. This prompts the following exchange, paraphrased, from Franklin and Davie:

Franklin: That’s just not a good effort there from Eric Brock. Somewhere, you have to hope his parents are watching and are appropriately ashamed of him.
Davie: That’s right Ron. Brock just hasn’t had a good day out there today. I think when the Auburn coaches go back and look at this film, they’ll agree that Eric Brock is responsible for all the crop failures and civil war in Africa right now.

(This is still kinder than the words the color guy for the Florida-Iowa game over on ESPN has for the Outback Bowl officials, which run along the lines of putting up stakes, cutting some lengths of good rope, and gathering fuel.)

--Auburn drives to the Wisky 33, and then the following sequence of plays happen: false start, sack, incompletion, incompletion. Somewhere, an Auburn diehard turns to a skeptical friend in a bar and says “I swear! 500-plus total yards against Georgia! Yes, the same team, same players, everything! Well, I guess it’s possible it’s Gabe Gross in disguise…”
--Bliss punts to the Wisky 1. On third down, Stocco drops back into his own end zone and is met by McClover and Antarrious Williams. McClover kicks him in the nuts repeatedly by while Williams puts him in a UFC-style “submission” hold, and still Stocco completes a 33-yard pass to Williams. The quarterback match-up couldn’t be more one-sided if Auburn had started “Air Bud.”
--Wisconsin drives to the Auburn 1 before kneeling the clock out, presumably motivated by the opportunity to show that they’re not only better, but classier. Those rotten classy bastards.
--Final score: 24-10.

Miserable as that experience was for Auburn fans, there’s a great big silver lining, one so huge you can wrap up in it and keep yourself warm all summer.

See, Auburn’s been down that road—the 1) play like the best team in the SEC down the stretch 2) win your bowl game over a quality Big 10 team 3) return almost everyone of importance road--once before with Tubby. That was 2002. 2003, as you’ll recall, started with Dontarrius Thomas and Karlos Dansby on the cover of ESPN the Mag and ended with the president of Auburn University resigning lest he get bricks through his window. Good times.

Auburn was already starting to get top-five-next-season talk in places, and a bowl win would have only made it worse. “Worse” is the right word here because never in my lifetime has Auburn had those kind of expectations and delivered. Not in ’84 or ’85 with Dye. Not in ’95 with Bowden. Not in ’03 with Tubbs. Forget allergies to pet dander and pollen—if there’s a Clarinex for hype, Auburn badly needs its prescription filled.

But, fortunately, the “Throw ‘em off the trail with the ugliest bowl performance since my toilet backed up” plan has worked like a charm. Neither Stewie Mandel or Pat Forde think the Tigers are pre-season top-10 material, and while Dennis Dodd sort of mucks things up, all three agree Auburn will enter next season as the third-best team in the conference. Just the way Tubby likes it.

Yeah, it sucks to watch Auburn play like dogs, and not even the kinds of dogs you’d want to see play (did I mention “Air Bud”?) but like a team of shih tzus and toy poodles. And yeah, it sucks to see your team undo the good bowl season work done by LSU and Florida (fortunately, Georgia turned around and took most of this heat for us). But this is Auburn we’re watching here. It’s all for the best.


Anonymous said...

That was great, J. I needed the laugh. - Rod

Jerry Hinnen said...

Thank ya.