Saturday, January 06, 2007

Cotton Bowl recap, half the first

The first Auburn bowl game I can remember watching was not the 9-7 win over Michigan in ’83, unfortunately. It wasn’t the '82 Tangerine against Boston College or the '84 Liberty against Arkansas, both wins. No, it was the 1985 Cotton Bowl against Texas A&M. In case you’ve forgotten, Auburn played like … well, pretty much like they played against Wisconsin last season. I was six, and cearly remember Auburn being down by approximately 18 touchdowns by the end of the third quarter. It wrapped up a 36-16 loss.

With that result still echoing around in my head, and last year’s collapse against the Badgers (despite the fact those Tigers were playing twice as well at year’s end as these Tigers) and the 10:30 a.m. Central kickoff—for the record, thirty minutes earlier than the JP LF-fueled Arkansas and Georgia catastrophes—let’s just say my expectations for this game were firmly south of “win.”

But hey, hope springs eternal, especially when you have Quentin Groves, a rested Kenny Irons, Courtney Taylor … and especially a noodle-head like Bill Callahan on the opposite sideline. Here’s what happened.


--After a rousing montage of Auburn highlights, Fox gives us footage of Tubby in the locker room telling the Tigers they’ll need to be ready to play from the opening kick. Tubby, you might want to remind them exactly when said kick is, since judging by the Arkansas and Georgia games, they probably expect it to be at about 2.

--PAT SUMMERALL: Welcome to the Cotton Bowl, everyone! I’m the ossifying corpse of Pat Summerall. At one time I was the country’s preeminent football play-by-play man and a regular broadcaster of Super Bowls. Now I can’t get through a 30-second preview for a cut-rate bowl game without reading every one of these words off a teleprompter. With me is … a talking bear. Talking bear, what do you think of our matchup today between the L.A. Express and Boy Scout troop 253?
BRIAN BALDINGER: Uh, Pat? Why don’t you just stick to reading the teleprompter.
PAT: Sure. Let me just find my reading glasses … I’m sure they’re here somewhere …

--Although the Fog of Intimidation is absent, Auburn does their usual linked arms entrance (which Summerall seems unusually impressed with). Nebraska, however, enters with their initial row of players holding hands. The Official Girlfriend of the JCCW opines that it’s an image, you know, a little more effeminate than a college football team might want to project. Me, I think it’s more Kum Ba Yah than effeminate, but either way it’s Advantage: Auburn.

--As if the follies in the broadcast booth weren’t enough, Fox’s overhead camera apparently has some condensation or huge smudge on the lens as the players come out for the coinflip. For their next trick, the audio never arrives from sideline reporter Kristin Voda's pregame interview with Callahan. A solid 30 seconds of silence pass before Summerall interjects. They’re all professionals here, folks.

First quarter

--The Cornhuskers come out running with back Marlon Lucky, and Summerall has already dropped two confusing jokes on the name “Lucky” inside the first three minutes. It’s going to be a long, long broadcast.
--As Nebraska drives, we get shots of Callahan and Tubby. Not often you see both head coaches opting for the bespectacled look. I give the advantage to Tubs—with no cap, Callahan looks a little like that one eternally self-satisfied “expert” from down at the bar who accidentally wandered onto the field.
--3rd-and-19 and Lucky picks up the first down on a friggin’ shuffle pass. Baldinger talks it up as a great call. Sure, it’s a great call if you want to pick up 10 yards for a field goal try. It’s only a great call first-down-wise if the defense is, as Auburn’s seems to be (again), still mentally back at the hotel room.
--3rd-and-7, Nebraska converts. 3rd-and-2, Nebraska converts for the touchdown. 15 plays, 80 yards, 7:30 off the clock. Tubby looks befuddled, probably because he distinctly remembers telling his team to be ready to play from the get-go. They had the cameras there and everything, didn’t they?
--Operating under the assumption that someone else will get to it eventually, at some point, right after they finish this other thing, later today, the return team lets the kickoff take a couple of bounces before falling on it just ahead of the Nebraska coverage team. See, they knew it’d work out. Meanwhile, Auburn fans everywhere are reaching for the defibrillator.
--Irons runs for a first down. At least the offense is awake! Wait: 1. Auburn’s 277th consecutive poorly executed screen pass 2. Run for no gain 3. Sack. 4. Punt. Nevermind.
--Lucky rushes for 11. When the announcers are talking about how they can see the holes in the defensive line from seven stories up, your defense is officially getting gashed. The resemblance to the Wisconsin disaster is palpable at this point. Its like Groundhog Day, but we just relive New Year’s Day over and over again.
--Holy crap! It’s 3rd-and-3, and instead of converting as they have every other third down, Zac Taylor zings the ball off his receiver’s hands and into the hands of the very speedy Karibi Dede. (The Very Speedy Karibi Dede … great, I think of a sweet nickname for the guy just as he plays his last game.) Dede returns the ball to the Nebraska 9.
--If I had one phrase to sum up the Fox broadcast director’s philosophy, it would be: Shots of the band = RATINGS!
--An excellent playfake by Cox, Stewart’s wide-open, it’s 7-7. Hoo boy, we needed that.

Second quarter

--Fox gives us a clip of Nebraska receiver Cortney Grixby leaping onto the shoulders of his teammates in the pregame team huddle. Grixby sort of accidentally (but firmly) nudges the head of one the Huskers’ giant linemen, who a moment later gives Grixby's leg a bit a shove … was it playful? Or irritated? If I had been a giant lineman whose head had been nudged by a skinny, athletic wideout showing off by leaping around like some kind of shoulder-padded lemur, I know which one it would be.
--Another Nebraska third down, another short drop back, and Quentin Groves tackles Taylor from four feet away. Seriously, that’s how long his arms are. Jay Bilas thinks his “length” has “upside.”
--Wow. Taking a page from Tubby’s book (the book titled “1,001 Questionable Gambles in One’s Own Territory"), Callahan calls for a punt fake reverse. Patrick Trahan obliges Callahan by storming through the line and blowing it up (not that he gets any credit for it from the announcer's booth). Tristan Davis makes the recovery. Sweet.
--Pat comments that even Auburn’s special teams is walking off the field with linked arms. Uh, Pat? Those other two guys are helping the bell-rung Davis, who, if you’ll look semi-closely, couldn’t tell you his Mama’s name at the moment.
--Courtney Taylor makes a leaping catch at the 2, lands like a bag of bricks, and stays down in obvious pain. Well, that’s fine. Because the offense has been so efficient the last few games, you know. Losing our best receiver ... not worried.
--Stewart goes over the top for a hilariously undeserved 14-7 lead. Give the AU O some credit, though--at least they recognize the importance of taking advantage of opportunities. Since they don’t figure to create many of them on their own, and all.
--Summerall rehashes the by now quite familiar anecdote about Stewart playing the violin. Baldinger responds by calling Stewart’s two TD’s a “virtuoso performance.” Goodness—that was almost funny. Maybe they’ll actually draw a chuckle by game’s end.
--Sweet, fourth down for Nebraska. Now, if we could get even a field goal, push it to 10 … wait, a substitution infraction? The defense can have substitution infractions? Well, all right, as long as the Huskers don’t …
--20-yard touchdown run by Brando Jackson. Summerall neglects to say Brando broke loose like a runaway StreetCar Named Desire, which is too bad. The effort to tackle Jackson by Aairon Savage and Patrick Lee on this play would have been acceptable if Jackson had been, say, a rhinoceros. As Jackson is not a rhinoceros …
--Summerall and Baldinger talk about how great the Cotton Bowl’s new scoreboard is. Hmmm. Maybe if the ads on the side weren’t the size of the screen itself. Looks like they bought an off-brand, floor-model Jumbotron on discount to me.
--Determined to reclaim the lead, the Auburn offense takes the field and goes three-and-out with ugly Cox throw-aways on first and third. Way to seize momentum back, fellas.
--Fox comes back from a break with footage of the offensive line getting chewed out by a coach Baldinger identifies as “Al Borges.” The coach is, of course, Hugh Nall. I never thought I’d say this, but … are the Lincoln guys available?
--On cue, sideline reporter Kristin Voda reports that Nebraska is sitting back with their arms open, and Brando Jackson said, quote, “The wait is over,” while Auburn is standing with their arms folded, being serious. Voda then throws it back to the booth, shattering Eric Dickerson’s 2001 record for “Most Nonsensical Sideline Report of All Time.”
--Nebraska leads Auburn in total yardage 163-36. And it’s tied 14-14. Heh heh heh. Ladies and gents, your 2006 Auburn Tigers!
--It’s third-and-long for Auburn after a Nebraska punt, and not surprisingly (what with the pressure on every dropback since, oh, late September), Cox starts looking at the rush approximately .3 seconds after the snap. Sack. Fourth down.
--With AU backed up near their own goal line, they need a big boot from Bliss. He shanks a 37-yarder. Sigh.
--Fortunately, the Huskers go nowhere as Summerall pronounces their receiver Purify’s names as “Purifee” for the third time.


Shots of the band = RATINGS!

Second half coming tomorrow a.m.


Anonymous said...

You're a lucky man in at least one respect. I was AT that '85 Cotton Bowl. Suffice to say, it sucked. TA&M drove down to about the five at the very end of the game, and Jackie "I Will Burn In Hell" Sherrill called a timeout with 30 seconds left so he could run it up by another touchdown.

Jerry Hinnen said...

I just hope for your sake, Will, you weren't at the 1996(?) Outback ... sitting in a monsoon for three hours wearing a garbage bag as a 247-year-old coach beats your team senseless is just no way to spend New Year's.

But at least JoePa wasn't Sherrill. How did Sherrill miss HeyJennySlater's Most Loathsome list?

Anonymous said...

Yes, I was. I think I'm still wet, too.