Sunday, January 28, 2007

Iron Bowl recap, half the second

And we’re back! Only two full months and another handful of days after the game was played!

Third quarter

--Coming out of halftime, Tubby tells Tracy Wolfson that the disastrous suicide-blitz at the end of the first half was a “stupid call” (that’s true) that was “my fault” (not true). Nice to see Tubby fall on his sword for his defensive staff like that, transparent as it was. This is you why some coaches are able to hire great assistants and some (currently unemployed) coaches aren’t.
--Gary Danielson explains that what he’s really looking for in a man, what he really wants out of a relationship, is honesty. “I love Tubby,” he says dreamily. (This is an actual quote. Though maybe it wasn’t actually said “dreamily” … maybe.)
--Alabama takes page from of the Book of Nutt and lines up Jimmy Johns in the shotgun. Auburn stuffs it twice. As it turns out, this is much less effective when you line up Jimmy Johns instead of Darren McFadden and can’t put Felix Jones on the field at the same time.
--If you’ve been playing a drinking game where every time Gary Danielson says “gash” or “gashed” during this broadcast, after that last replay montage you’re most likely unconscious.
--Wilson converts on third down, he finds Oakley a couple plays later for like 30 yards, but no biggie, they keep running it and don’t gain any more than a couple of yards each time, Wilson might have just completed another … wait, they’re already on the AU 13? How did that happen? Oh crap, they just scored. Crap. Weird drive—hard to say the AU D really looked bad at any point other than the well-executed Oakley play, but 80 yards in 11 plays is 80 yards in 11 plays. The hell?
--Fortunately, Shula’s somewhere-south-of-intelligent decision to throw the ball from the 1 on the Tide’s previous extra-point try means the Tide is saddling up for two again. Wilson is nearly sacked and flings it incomplete. It’s 15-14 ‘Bama, but I’m not sure when the last time Auburn was behind and I felt this confident, because there is NO way those missed extra points don’t bite the Tide in the ass. One you can get away with. But a second, on a forced-hand decision caused by the first horrible decision? The Tide is doomed.
--Well, perhaps not. It's 2nd-and-10, and you’re never going to believe this, but Cox was sacked on his first pass of the second half! It’s true! I know, it’s shocking!
--To be fair, the line gives him time on his next couple of throws, and Auburn moves out to the Tide 47. To be equally fair, the line fails to give Irons a crease any larger than the ones on my church slacks on first and second down, and then on third … I mean, do I even have to tell you Cox was sacked? Auburn punts, and if the Tide score on this next possession, it’s time to break out the heavy-duty worrying.
--Interview with Shula coming out of the commercial break, in which he uses the phrase “felt that” (“the fans want to win, and we’ve felt that, and the players have felt that, and the waterboys have felt that …”) approximately 12 times in seven seconds.
--Bit of a break there for Auburn as a holding penalty wipes out what would have been 3rd-and-inches and backs the Tide up inside the 10. Coverage holds on second and third and we should get good field position.
--Hmph, turns out we should have had better field position than we got. Smith clearly calls for a fair catch, makes it, and gets bumped and just about wrapped up whilst standing there. But no flag? Danielson agrees with the call, saying “If you’re an Auburn player or fan who thinks that play deserves a flag, I’ve got a lovely pink tutu-and-leggings set that would be perfect for you,” (I'm paraphrasing) but you’re opening up a mighty wriggly can of worms if you start letting there be any contact after a fair catch. There are places the rules can bend, but this shouldn’t be one of them.
--Cox hits Stewart on the same wheel route that’s already worked once this game and has worked approximately 749 other times this season (and will go on to work for a touchdown against Nebraska). Honestly, I’m not sure why Borges ever calls anything else.
--Ugh. The next two snaps start with a snap from Joe Cope to his own groin (prompting Verne and Gary to make with the obligatory tee-hee-he-hurt-his-balls jokes) as Cox was busy audibling. 1st-and-15. Then Cox runs into his own wideout in the backfield and overthrows Gabe Mackenzie. 2nd-and-15. Then Cox narrowly avoids a delay-of-game whilst painstakingly audibling against a stacked Bama line into … a toss sweep with Montez Billings, the wideout, as the lead blocker. 3rd-and-15.
--So we all know what’s coming. By now, I’ve got “Cox is sacked” pasted into the clipboard,” it’s a huge blitz, and sure enough … wait, TOUCHDOWN! Cox tossed it up for Prechae Rodriguez, who adjusted, went up, and got it! Shades of Pat Nix to Frank Sanders! Auburn leads 20-15 ... whew!
--After the TD, those forever classy Bama fans throw something, a can or a water bottle, at the celebrating Auburn players. OK, so Rodriguez wasn’t exactly a complete model citizen (after senidng a “Shhhh” maneuver i nthe crowd's direction) but I think we’ve established long before now that throwing things at players moves you to the very front of the line of Class A Jerks.
--Stewart hits Guess on the smoothest halfback pass since Cadillac's in the 2004 UGa game, and it’s 22-15 Auburn. In case you’re keeping track, that’s two blown extra points by the Tide with the Tigers picking up one extra—and entire field goal’s worth of swing on extra-point tries alone. Thanks, Mike!
--Not surprisingly, it appears the touchdown woke the Auburn hitters up. Patrick Trahan levels Johns on the kickoff, and Antonio Coleman flattens Darby on a draw play. I like our chances entering the …

Fourth quarter

--PUNT BAMA PUNT! CBS atones for the Van Tiffin footage by opening the fourth with replays of (objectively speaking and without any hint of bias on my part) the greatest ending of any football game—NAY, any sporting event, anywhere—of all time. I don’t understand why something that happened several years before I was born involving people I’ve never met and never will gives me goosebumps, but I’m glad it does.
--CBS tells us Mike Shula is 0-18 as Bama head coach when entering the fourth quarter. 0-18! Not one comeback, even over the likes of Mississippi St. or Northern Illinois! Again: and the national media wondered why Bama fans wanted to get rid of the guy?
--Groves is, once again, all over Wilson. Danielson says he managed it despite Bama “putting two guys” on him, but the replay shows that despite Danielson’s perfectly reasonable assumption that Bama wouldn’t leave their backup right tackle (Kyle Tatum) alone facing arguably the most dangerous pass-rusher in the entire SEC … Bama most certainly did leave their backup right tackle alone facing arguably the most dangerous pass-rusher in the entire SEC. Good job, Kines. Bama punts.
--It’s Kenny Irons time! 18 yards over right tackle! Now he’s got room over left end and … FUMBLE. Bama ball. Dammit, Kenny. Replay shows that Bama’s #91, backup end Chris Harris, sprinted all the way around from the weak side to knock the ball away from Irons’s blindside. Have to admit that’s a tremendous play.
--HA! So is that! Not to be outdone in the “defensive linemen who hustle and are rewarded with game-changing plays” category, widebodied Auburn nose tackle Josh Thompson runs 10 yards downfield to pop Keith Brown, who’s in the grasp of Herring. Ball comes out! Auburn falls on it! Herring is given all the credit by the booth even though Thompson had nearly everything to do with the fumble! I would stop using exclamation points, but this is the IRON BOWL!
--Tracy Wolfson tries to report Herring’s ambition to follow in his father’s footsteps and become a chiropractor (somewhere, the M.D.-carrying Official Father of the JCCW is gritting his teeth), but Wolfson is, peculiarly, so hoarse that I’m much more worried about Wolfson’s future career plans than Herring’s. CBS can’t get lozenges and a bottle of water onto the sideline?
--The Auburn drive goes nowhere, but Bliss uncorks a 53-yarder that gets returned for -1 yards to the Bama 11. Yeah, a net of 54 ain’t bad.
--A terrific job by Nikita Stover to get both feet in bounds on a long pass play (you only need one, son!) takes Bama to the AU 13. That’s not so good. Will Herring agrees, storming through to damn near take Jimmy Johns’s head off on the next play. Five yard loss. Tell me again, why did we ever have that guy playing safety?
--Whew! Wilson gets chased out of the pocket and his lob pass juuuuust misses his man in the back of the end zone. It’s now 4th-and-15, and this is precisely where Mike “Dr. Decisive, the Avatar of the Perpetually Overwhelmed” Shula loses his job. First he keeps his offense on the field, then tries to rush the FG unit on, then has to call time-out when it’s obvious there’s not enough time to get the snap off. Then, because he’s wasted the time-out, he sends the offense back on. It’s not really the indecisiveness here that’s so appalling. It’s the expression on his face CBS gleefully gives us multiple times, which says, basically, “I should have applied for that opening at the post office … Why can’t Dad hang around on the sidelines to help me out at times like these … I am so taking a long, hot bath when I get home,” etc. It doesn’t really matter that, in the end, he gets the call right—since a field goal doesn’t change the fact that Bama will have to score a touchdown at some point, it’s better to go for it. (Though the reason for that is, again, Shula’s brainless first-half extra-point call. It should be 21-17 at this point.) When it’s the fourth quarter of the biggest game of the year and your coach looks like a 10-year-old who wandered away from his Mom and got lost in the J.C. Penney’s, it’s probably time to get a new coach.
--Wilson’s fourth-down pass is easily broken up by Irons in the end zone. There’s a moment of comedy when the Bama bench notices a flag on the field and celebrates, but of course the flag is for Andre Smith’s hold on who I think is Marquies Gunn, a hold so egregious the Bama coaches transferred Smith to the defensive line on the spot for his “takedown ability.” Auburn ball!
--An anonymous Auburn player just broke out a premature thumb. Don’t like the tempting of fate there one bit, dude. Patience!
--A long drive here, with the Tide only holding one time-out, could end the game. Looks like Irons is paying penance for his fumble—it’s five straight carries for Lester. Can’t complain, I guess (though I bet Kenny Irons is) as Lester gets one first down and burns the clock inside of two minutes. Still, Javier Arenas gets 22 yards' worth of return following a 46-yard punt. Yeah, a net of 24 yards at this stage of the game ain't so good. C'mon Auburn.
--All right, one more stand, Auburn D! Let’s go! You can do this! You … Good grief, I’m not even done with my pre-drive cheers before there’s an INTERCEPTION! David Irons! YESSSS! Auburn will win the Iron Bowl!
--Bust out the thumbs! War … Damn …Eagle!
--Alabama’s classy #55 Terrence Jones classily nails Carl Stewart in the back as Auburn kneels to end the game in a typically classy Bama move. Mmmm …. classy.
--That’s it! The final whistle! w00t! Tubby and Shula meet at midfield, David Irons runs around in various directions screaming like the crazy screaming person he is, Jonathan Wilhite heads to the locker room showing off his best celebratory M.C. Hammer moves. (I have to say, they’re good moves.) As Wolfson gears up for the post-game interview Lundquist coins a euphemism for the ages concerning Tubby, calling him “among the least shy” coaches he knows. That’s as great a way to say “pretty much insufferably arrogant” as I’ve ever heard. Tubby lives up to his billing by saying that pulling off Auburn’s series of wins in T-town is “almost impossible.” And yet, whaddya know, his teams managed it. Tommy Tuberville: Among the Least Shy! Little wonder why Auburn fans love him (yours truly included on days like today), but it’s hella understandable why other fans might not.
--Five in a row, folks. Five! Where’s my “Fear the Index Finger on the Opposite Hand” shirt? War Eagle!

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