Friday, September 22, 2006

Belated Auburn-LSU recap

OK, recaps get done on Sundays from now on, since The Man made it clear this week they’re not getting done in the middle of the week.

Now, if you will, travel back in time with me to a magical era, when J**n V****n still had a name, college football officials were living lives of quiet dignity throughout the land, and William Walker was still waiting for a playmate in the University-Presidents-Who-Love-Their-Football-Just-a-Little-Too-Much sandbox. A magical time called … last Saturday. Live on digital tape, here’s the JCCW’s recap of Auburn-LSU 2006, maybe not the biggest rivalry in the country, but after three straight years of mind-bogglingly good games, it might already be the best.

(One quick aside: if you’re new to the JCCW and like what you see here, do check the Wazzu and Cap One Bowl recaps. Thanks.)

Pregame

TIM BRANDO: Only minutes to kickoff on the Plains of Auburn! Spencer, who do you see winning this matchup?
SPENCER TILLMAN: [Spews several sentences of complete and utter gibberish in which the phrase “push-push” is the only halfway intelligible offering. I’m not making this up.]
TIM BRANDO: O…kay. And why did you pick … the team you picked, Spencer? SPENCER TILLMAN: [ Relates incomprehensible statistic along lines of “The teams are a combined 24-0 in their last 24 wins.”]
TIM BRANDO: Well, you’re certainly right there, Spencer! Probably. Perhaps. We’d better send it out to Auburn. Craig and Steve, take it away!

CRAIG BOLERJACK: Thanks, Tim! Welcome to Jordan-Hare Stadium, where more than 87,000 screaming fans are on hand to watch their No. 3 Auburn Tigers take on the sixth-ranked Tigers of Louisiana St. With me is Steve Beuerlein. Steve, both these teams have talked about being disrespected. Which one has the legitimate gripe?
STEVE BEUERLEIN: Well, Craig, consider that this is the only match-up of top 10 teams this week and that this game will almost certainly decide the SEC West. Now, not only has College Gameday turned their noses up at it, but CBS has decided to give Florida-Tennessee the coveted primetime spot and send their No. 1 broadcasting team to Knoxville! Judging by the fact that this game will be called by you and me, Craig, I’d say both these teams have been disrespected!.
CRAIG: Right you are, Steve! I may be competent, but that doesn’t mean I’m not a walking slap-in-the-face to both these programs!

--Auburn, as usual, click-clacks out of the tunnel surrounded by the mystical Fog of Intimidation. Undeniably cool-looking, but, uh … is this chemical fog? Because having been a theater minor many years ago, I can tell you that chemical fog has this nasty tendency to attach itself to the inside of your lungs and can make breathing, um, a bit of a chore. Inhaling chemical fog is just not optimal before undertaking three hours of blisteringly intense physical exertion, is what I’m saying. But I’m sure Tubby would never risk something like that just to make his program look all cool n’ stuff. Never.
--Steve says the defenses will “flat-out kill you,” as opposed to halfheartedly killing you over their morning sausage-and-eggs.

First quarter

--Auburn’s first six play calls: Pass, pass, pass, pass, run, pass. No first downs. Uh, Al? That No. 23 we’ve got? Goes by “Kenny,” last name Irons? He’s not bad. Really. Give him a try sometime.
--On the plus side, LSU’s run on third-and-3 on their first possession goes nowhere. And what Kody Bliss does to the football on his first two punts—the second a 61-yarder--is considered a crime in most states. If this game was a ‘70s art film, this is what we would call “foreshadowing.”
--1st-and-10, Dwayne Bowe drops a sure first-down pass Jamarcus “the Behemoth” Russell places right in his hands. Then someone helpfully reminds him he had LASIK surgery recently and he's supposed to be much better now that he has 20/20 eyesight. Bowe, his confidence restored and not wanting to let a good human-interest story down, corrals the next one to keep the LSU drive alive.
--On fourth-and-1 from the Auburn 32, the Behemoth finds Jacob Hester with a short pass. Hester makes the over-the-shoulder catch, takes a good two steps, fires off a series of jumping jacks, and is in the process of re-enacting the zombie dance from the “Thriller” video when Karibi Dede tackles him from behind and dislodges the ball. A terrific play by Dede, but Bolerjack and Beuerlein are understandably stunned when the replay official rules the play an incomplete pass.

BEUERLEIN: Wow. I’m surprised. If I didn’t know better, I’d say that makes someone else involved in this game who needs LASIK surgery. And quick.
BOLERJACK: You said it. If our replay official still has his driver’s license, we’d better suspend it until he takes that eye-test again. That call was more obvious than the giant E on top of the eyechart.

(I’m paraphrasing.)

The other interesting thing about this play? “Jacob Hester,” surely the most Amish name in football. At least until LSU’s next big recruit, Shadrach Zachariah, arrives on campus.
--This whole “forward pass” concept isn’t working out for Auburn today. Second down, Glenn Dorsey roars into the backfield when Joe Cope tries to block what we can only guess is his imaginary friend Twinkles. Sack. On third down, Cox throws a pinpoint pass to the pinpoint two feet behind his intended receiver. Picked. Sigh.
--The consolation is that LSU’s offense is just as incompetent/our defense just as brilliant as ours/theirs. Run for loss of four (thanks to Will Herring, who looks twice as comfortable in his third game at linebacker as he did in his 30th at safety), near-sack and incomplete, near-sack and incomplete. Then LSU negates a punt downed inside the 10 with an illegal formation call and the second punt goes into the end zone. Sid Bream could have been involved and that possession still couldn’t have been any uglier.
--Irons dropped for a loss of two. Right now, both defensive lines are chewing up the offensive lines and spitting them out. If it wasn’t offensively disrespectful, this is where I’d make the crack about yardage in this game being harder to come by than it was at Verdun. (Know your history, kids.)

Second quarter

--Second verse, same as the first. Cox is sacked on third down by Dorsey; Bliss saves the Tigers’ collective ass by sending another punt into low-earth orbit for a net of 61 yards. If Auburn wins this game, I doubt Bliss is going to have pay for another beer in his life.
--CBS predictably hauls out the Earthquake Game clips, which is even more painful for Auburn fans than most realize. If there are any non-Auburn fans reading, know this: that godforsaken play in that godforsaken hellhole was the only thing that kept the eventual 10-1 SEC champs from hosting Notre Dame in the Sugar Bowl for the national championship. Look it up. Take your time. I’ll be over here sobbing and breaking things.
--We’re at the 12:03 mark of the second quarter, and CBS already has enough footage for a “Look at how many times Brandon Cox has been sacked!” montage. Please, o-line, stop the madness. I really don’t want the fine state of Alabama to be inundated with crimson “Honk if you sacked Brandon!” bumper stickers.
--Holy crap, a drive. Cox hits Dunn on third-and-10 for a first down and suddenly there are holes. Irons for 11. Stewart for seven. Irons for five. Cox hits Rodriguez and whaddya know, it’s first-and-goal from the 10.
--Cox takes a hit on second down. He’s down, grabbing his leg, and in obvious pain. Well, it was a good season we had. Man, remember when we beat the crap out of Washington St.? That was awesome. Good times, good times. It seems like only yesterday … Oh thank everything holy Cox is up and running to the sideline. He looks OK. Whew. OK, heart, up and at ‘em.
--Whaddya know, it’s fourth-and-goal from the 10. Fortunately, we have Vaughnbot 3000, who is incapable of felling pressure, has no electronic memory of the 2005 debacle, and has programmed by Dr. Alfred Borg (our offensive coordinator) to …
--Oh. Oh goodness. He doinked it off the upright. From 26 yards out. 26. The placement on the left hash isn’t great for righty kickers, but 26 yards out. Against LSU. After a 16-play, eight-minute drive. THAT DOES IT. As of now, J**n V****n, you are nameless at the JCCW, and you shall remain so until you hit a kick longer than 30 yards in a game in genuine doubt (i.e. a game not against the MSUs or Buffalos of the world.) No backtalk—you get your name back when you’ve earned it.
--Naturally, LSU seizes on the momentum shift and drives into AU territory. Weird how missed 26-yard field goals can even turn luck around—the Behemoth fumbles on the run, and the ball bounces right into Bowe’s hands.
--Apparently, Quentin Groves is related to X-Man superhero Nightcrawler. Just as the Behemoth scrambles right and looks to have tons of running room, Groves teleports from his defensive end position on the opposite side of the field to a spot just behind the Behemoth to make the tackle. Sweet.
--LSU hits a 42-yard field goal and go in at the half up 3-0. I swear. F*ck*ng V****n.

Halftime

--There’s an ad for Chick-Fil-A. You wouldn’t think so, but the sight of those beautiful cows parachuting into a football stadium has me on the verge of tears. Check back with me in December, but as of now the single worst thing about Michigan is the food. There is no sweet tea. There are no good ribs. And there is no Chick-Fil-A, no precious, precious Chick-Fil-A. It’s a cruel world.
--Beuerlein promises more “fireworks” in the second half. Judging by the way these defenses are playing, he’s right … if by “fireworks” he means those little gunpowder snaps you threw at people’s feet as a kid. But I doubt either offense is going to even get up to “sparkler” level in this game.

Third quarter

--LSU’s offense has developed a kind of pattern. Drive over midfield with relative ease … fail miserably in attempts to drive any further. Witness their first possession of the third quarter: from the 20, they make the AU 47 in five quick plays. Then Hezekiah Abednego Jacob Hester gets dropped for a loss of two. Then an incompletion. Then a punt into the end zone, because punter solidarity requires Chris Jackson to make Kody Bliss look even better than he already does. Nice.
--If you’re an LSU fan: Uh-oh. Cox just threw his best pass of the day, a precision 16-yard out to Smith. Then Irons for 5 on a play he should have been stopped for no gain on. Then Irons for 9. Look out.
--KENNY IRONS! He drags the entire LSU defense with him on the manliest 12-yard gain you will ever see, down to the LSU 21. How bad-ass is Kenny Irons? Let’s see, how do I put this delicately … he has cojones the size of grapefruits, does that work?
--Cox with another beauty, this time to Stewart to the 2. But is this going to be an epic goal-line stand? Irons gets stuffed twice.
--NO! TOUCHDOWN! Cox burrows his way in on third down as Beuerlein correctly surmises the D was looking was for another handoff. Given that Glenn Dorsey was down there and that he has shown himself to be an unstoppable swamp-beast of a man, the interior of the o-line just made their best play of the game.
--At least V****n doesn’t need a second try this time. 7-3.
--Matt Clark kicks the ball into the very furthest reaches of the end zone, as always. Auburn’s kickoff coverage unit might as well take the field in shorts and sandals, sipping a daiquiri, for all the work they do.
--Early Doucet throws away the Behemoth’s good work on a third-down scramble by dropping a sure first-down, sending Will Muschamp into an Uncontrollable Seizure of Excitement on the sideline. Our defensive coordinator is apparently a madman, but as long as they keep playing the kind of D that holds LSU to 3 points through three quarters, I’m down with madmen.
--Glenn Dorsey explodes through the middle of the line to pound Irons down for a four-yard loss. Attention offensive linemen: that guy’s really, really good. At least pretend to try to block him. Thanks.
--Bleah. Cox takes AU to the LSU 39, then false start, incomplete, incomplete, incomplete. But Bliss downs LSU at their own 8. OK, now he’s just showing off.

Fourth quarter

--Guess what LSU did? They drove to midfield, then punted into the end zone. Never could have seen it coming. By the way, the punting battle couldn’t be more lopsided if Jackson was kicking in clown shoes.
--Would you like to know why Tubby, for all his faults, is one hell of a football coach? Because he does things like go for it on fourth-and-1 on his own 40 in a 7-3 life-or-death SEC game. You think his players don't love that kind of ballsiness? Of course Auburn makes the first, after which Tubby declines to do the Sam Cassell "Look How Much Testosterone I Can Produce" Dance, which is a shame.
--After Taylor gets busted pushing off an LSU corner and—you guessed it--Dorsey tackles Irons for a big loss, AU catches a massive break on third-and-Infinitum. The same corner (Daniel Francis) runs Taylor over with Cox’s floater up for grabs. Pass interference. Under no circumstances should the question of whether Taylor could have gotten back to the intercepted pass if he hadn’t been run over be considered. Nothing to see here. Let’s move on.
--Third-and-one, and Cox pulls off the prettiest play-fake you will ever see. Any defense with anything less than perfect discipline is going to give up either a huge bomb or at least a first-down pass underneath. Instead, both receivers are blanketed by the LSU defense. Incomplete. Unbelievable--anyone who watches this game and attributes the score to bad offense or conservative play-calling (on this drive alone, Auburn ran an end-around, two bombs to Taylor, and play-action on third-and-a-yard) is more wrong than a stockbroker pushing Enron.
--Auburn punts, and LSU of course takes four plays to reach the Auburn 33. Then, of course, their next three plays are three-yard gain, loss of two, sack by Marquies Gunn. Auburn’s not playing bend-but-don’t-break defense; they’re playing bend-then-break them defense. (Man, am I witty. You’re not going to find solid-gold comedy like this anywhere else, folks.)
--It’s fourth-and-8 … the Behemoth throws downfield … YES! It’s batted away! … NO! There’s a flag! NO! It’s interference and a first down! … YES! They’ve waved it off! It’s Auburn’s ball! Holy crap! Have you ever seen a play worth this many exclamation points?!?

For the record: This is a 50/50 call. No, the pass was not catchable. Doucet was coming too hard across the middle to re-adjust and get to the ball before Brock even if Gilbert had never laid a finger on him. That said, Gilbert obviously did a lot more than lay a finger on him. You could easily label this a defensive hold. And the SEC is opening up a gigantic can of worms by demanding that refs not only judge whether there is illegal contact on passes deflected downfield, but judge whether receivers could get to deflected balls before the deflector. Bottom line is that if this had happened to Auburn, I’d be flagrantly pissed.

That said, you also wouldn’t be reading me here whining about it. It’s a 50/50 call. It’s true that Auburn got the breaks on all the 50/50 calls: that one, David Irons’s potential interference in the end zone in the second quarter, the 3rd-and-29 call on Francis, the overruled first down in the first quarter (which was more like a 97/3 call). But home teams get those calls. Always have, always will. And the fact remains that not one of these calls robbed LSU of points or would have guaranteed them points in any way. Every single one of those calls could have gone in LSU’s favor and the score might not have changed at all. I suggest any LSU fans still worked up over an interference non-call go have a friendly chat with some ‘Bama fans.

--It’s time to milk some clock. Oh my goodness, they just called the reverse flea-flicker halfback pass to the backup left tackle! Just kidding. They ran Irons into the line three times. Oh my goodness! Glenn Dorsey didn’t make any tackles on that series! Just kidding. He made two. I would make the old “On a scale of 1 to 10, how relieved am I that Auburn doesn’t have to face Glenn Dorsey again? 473,” joke, but honestly, relief this intense can’t be measured.
--Punt. 1:11 left. I would wager an enormous sum of money that LSU drives into Auburn territory and runs out of time. Still, who knows. C’mon, Auburn!
--LSU runs the exact same deep out play three times. It fails the first time and works the next two times. Guys that's backwards--you're supposed to be fooled the first time, then stop it the others. C’mon Auburn.
--The Behemoth is dragged down by Dede! Clock’s running…complete pass downfield to Bowe, but if he’s tackled, it’s game over… AAARRGGGGHHH Savage goes for the kill shot, Bowe slips away and gets out of bounds. Of course—this kind of game cannot not come down to the very final tick of the clock.
--As if to prove my point, the Behemoth foolishly throws underneath to avoid a sack, theoretically ending the game. But there’s a procedure penalty on LSU. Gack. One more play. C’MON AUBURN!
--The Behemoth threw it short! HE’S TACKLED! BROCK! AUBURN WINS! 7-3! UNBELIEVABLE! IT’S SEVERAL DAYS LATER AND I STILL CAN’T HELP BUT WRITE IN ALL-CAPS!!!!!!11

Good sweet Lord, what a game. What mind-blowing defense. Seriously, Irons had 70 yards, Cox was iffy, we scored seven points … aside from amazing defense in our own territory, how in God’s green earth did Auburn win? LSU fans, we’re even. We’ve had our year to gripe under our breath about our kicker costing us a game where we drastically outgained you. Now you get a year to gripe under your breath about the refs costing you after a similar performance. Here’s to hoping the next 10 games in this series are as good as the last three have been … and that we win ‘em all, of course.

Thanks for reading. War Damn Eagle!

2 comments:

Rod said...

Yep, WDE!

Good Guy said...

Good stuff.

Best Regards, Testosterone Friend