Friday, October 05, 2007

Wish List: Vanderbilt

This image selected to remind you both of what Auburn overcame to beat Florida and what our last several early-Saturday games have been like.

A few assorted links before this week's Wish List:

--Not even remotely new to anyone, but after repeatedly taking Ryan Ferguson to task for his anti-Cox comments I should probably acknowledge his gracious, classy, intelligent post in the wake of the football gods' decision to award Auburn sole, full custody of the Gators last Saturday (we'll see this weekend if LSU gets visitation rights). Gracious enough, in fact, that despite every impulse to the contrary I'm going to just gloss over his gripe that the officiating was "one-sided". Even if doing so makes my eye twitch.

(And oh, as for a certain colleague of Ferguson's at O&BH whose take on Auburn came in for a well-deserved flogging here and elsewhere, the deluded rants of sub-message-board clowns who call an offensive line that just got finished shoving his team around all over the field "inept" aren't worth dignifying with a response (or a link). You won't see him referred to in this space again.)

--Between their classic Teagle photoshops and Bryant cartoon violence post, it's relatively safe to say that no other blog devoted to a team outside the SEC gets as much attention from the state of Alabama as the MZone. Which probably explains why they took the time this week to point out the stupidest Auburn t-shirt ever printed and played host to the funniest comment yet on the coaching rumors du jour: "Miles to Mich, Tuberville to aTm, Petrino to LSU, Barfield to Auburn." Sweet.

I was going to post a picture of Barfield with the ironic caption "Auburn's next coach?" But a Google image search for "doug barfield auburn" turned up no pictures of Barfield. It did turn up this guy. I think he might have made a better coach.

--You have to read Will's beautiful excoriation of Ray Melick's indefensible pandering to King Crimson. I have no doubt that Melick's brand of "protection" is something that happens on a regular basis with media on both sides of the state, but it's something that you better damn well not get caught doing and if you are, goodness gracious you better have a better excuse than "Well, it turns I am his personal lapdog after all." Melick's credibility with Auburn fans--like the temperature of his buddy "Nick"'s cold, cold heart--is now officially somewhere well, well below zero.

--I screwed up by forgetting my SEC Power Poll ballot this week, so I didn't get the plaudits from one and all I would've gotten for ranking Kentucky about sixth and boldly predicting last night's defeat. (Well, I would have gotten them from our cat. I told her.) So I'd better go ahead and say that I don't think Florida's going to beat LSU tomorrow night--but it's going to be a down-to-the-wire, decided-by-a-field-goal type game. Meyer will have the Gators ready.

On with the Wish List, starting with two for the whole team:

1. That they set their alarm clocks correctly or don't tear the club up the night before or just do whatever the hell is the opposite of what they've been doing before 11:30 a.m. kickoffs. Seriously ... the last four early "starts" for Auburn have resulted in 1) Croomage 2) the Cotton Bowl, a surefire ESPY nominee for "Dog-Ugliest Win" if they hadn't decided to skip that category 3) the Georgia beatdown, just the thought of which makes me want a drink in my hand NOW 4) The Arkansas beatdown MAKE IT A DOUBLE. You also don't have to go to far back to the Capital One Bowl fiasco, yet another suspiciously hangover-esque performance.

I have no even halfway plausible explanation for why the team seems so utterly ill-prepared for early kickoffs--and at home for three of them, no less, ruling out a team-wide SpectraVision addiction--and thus no real recommendation for fixing it. I just know they better, because this game scares the ... well, a whole variety of substances out of me. So I also wish ...

2. That they share that terror. Think about it: all the youngest team in the league and almost the whole daggum country has heard all week long, from every angle, is some variation on You ... are so ... AWESOME.

I worry that the Tigers are going to get up Saturday, see Vandy on the schedule, and just want to make an omelette ... and suddenly realize that Vandy has them squeezed so tight they can't even do that.

The chances of Auburn fans saying "This .. is not ... awesome" at some point during Saturday's game are quite, quite good.

You would think that the Miss. St. game would have cured them of that, but again: this team is younger than youngerson. This is the first time they've really been praised all season. Our coaching staff has never shown the ability to get their team properly focused on the alleged lightweights of the schedule, even when--like Vandy--they punch well above their weight. If the Tigers don't have the proper fear and respect for a Vandy team that may be a little underrated at the oment thanks to Nickson's no-show against the Tide and all the Kentucky fawning, this will be a win streak truly built too small.

When Auburn has the ball.

3. That the brain trust lets Kodi pass. Whatever the headline writers at the B'ham News might have to say about it, Burns isn't 2006 Tebow yet by a longshot. For starters, he's used even more sparingly--six snaps the other night, zero meaningful ones vs. NMSU after Cox had been reinstated. If Auburn really wants opposing DC's on their toes the week before, they'll need to use Burns a bit more often. The Florida TD notwithstanding, he's more like a trick play opponents know is in the bag at this point than an actual weapon.

Or at least he would be if there was any trickiness to him. Every snap against Florida was some variation on the Incredibly Surprising Quarterback Draw--even on the lateral from Cox he was supposed to do the running on rather than pass / hand-off / do anything unexpected. If Auburn wants the WunderTime effect as badly as they seem to, they need to let Burns do some of the things Tebow did last year: play-action pass, pitch on the option, weird gadgetry like maybe the lateral from Cox ... followed by a step forward to draw the D, then a retreat and toss? Not that play exactly, necessarily, but why not something like it? Run it once, and every time Burns steps on the field again, the D gets that same nervousness that made WunderTim such a handful last season. If Tubby's going to torch Burns's redshirt, let's get all we can out of him.

4. That Borges doesn't go nuts with Cox. Yes, Brandon finally looked like the real-life quarterback we all remembered in sepia tones from 2005. Now that he can do so without feeling like disaster's waiting to strike every time he asks for a passp lay, Borges must surely be tempted to start winging it around again. But it's Cox's lackluster performances in these disappointing g-a.m.-es (so, so clever I am) that have been much of the catalyst. Not that it takes some sort of football savant to say "Establish the run," but given Lester's return and that the Tide--the only real opponent Vandy has played to date--gashed the 'Dores on the ground like whoah, Auburn really should make sure they establish the run.

When Vandy has the ball.

5. That Coleman and Carter stay stout vs. the run. Hopefully Groves's replacements were paying closer attention when Quentin was playing fundamentally sound against Florida rather than when he was on his whole "Hey, I know they might run right in the space I'm going to create by pell-mell to the QB in pursuit of a meaningless record, but you guys can cover for me, right?" kick. 2nd- and 3rd-and-long where Nickson and his scattershot arm (I call him "Dr. Misfire") have to think pass first are bad for Vandy. 2nd- and 3rd-and-short where Nickson can hand off or run it himself or throw short to Bennett or air it out deep for, uh, Bennett are much, much better. With Marks o nthe other side, the new DEs are going to be run at and it's up to them to stand up vs. Vandy's impressive-looking five-seniors offensive line to make sure those 2nd- and 3rd-and-shorts don't happen.

6. That Blackmon feels better. Auburn's D did a fantastic job of not breaking after bending a bit vs. Florida, but if Blackmon's back to his wrecking-ball-made-of-evil ways, methinks Auburn doesn't even bend. Hopefully we'll get some indications this week that that Blackmon will return to us soon to replace the meek (by his standards) impostor we saw last Saturday.


Anonymous said...

    Dougie B wasn't as bad as all that. Yeah, he took some hits, but mostly from our own boosters, who were pissed about Paul Davis being passed over. The 1979 Tigers were a work. We were on probation, again, with no TV, no national attention. Yeah, we did have some "ridonkulous" games against a crappy, first year Johnny Majors team, and that game on the road blowing a 38-21 halftime advantage against Wake Forest, but there were some gems, too.

    Two thousand-yard runners (cribbs and Brooks)in the same backfield. Bill Curry getting his first bombing from Auburn. Big Frank Warren. Man, there was nothing that big guy couldn't drink, smoke, or crush. We put down Charley Pell, and spanked those MS Bulldogs. We went to Athens, broke Buck Belue's arm (why we didn't break his jaw, I'll never know!), and wore Georgia OUT, 33-13. We had Bama, too, till Steadman Shealy rounded some folks up and did what national champions do, drive it the distance for a game-winning TD. Still, we gave the NC Bama team more trouble than anyone else...

    Acid Reign

PhilipVU94 said...

2nd- and 3rd-and-long where Nickson and his scattershot arm (I call him "Dr. Misfire") have to think pass first are bad for Vandy.

Sadly you've pretty much described Nickson to a T. I keep hoping that he'll be less erratic with maturity but it doesn't seem to be happening. If he can get over locking in on the primary receiver (usually Bennett, of course) then he can be pretty effective. But the four picks by Eastern Mich., most of them just by reading passes to Earl and dropping LBs in the right place, aren't encouraging.

Conversely, for the first time I'm starting to think we might have a shot in a 10-7 or 13-10 game vs. Auburn, although I sure would like to have your kicker.

Anonymous said...

Yep, this one is scary. It's scary because, unlike the last game, we aren't the underdogs (though, based on your apt comments about our AM game performance in the last several years, I'd say we are). I'm saying we pull it off, but in a really ugly way. Which is to say a nail-biter that will have many perplexed about the rest of the season. Aw, to hell with it. I'll gladly take win and yell till the cops knock on the door. War Eagle!


Jeremy said...

I can't believe Orange and BS was stupid enough to bring up the officiating when if it WAS one-sided -- and it was -- it was all for Florida. ALL. The a priori incorrect interference call on the punt? And then Eric Brock getting shoved to the ground in the 'confusion'? The PDA with Meyer and his striped slave? The bogus late hit on Savage(?) when it was simply his momentum? The late-hit / spearing of Rod Smith? The oh-sorry-I'm-blind clocking of Burns two seconds after the play was dead?
Is he trying to be funny or something?

But yes, those shirts are ridiculous. I cringed. Must've been some guy with a bubble-jet in the back of his van at the game.


Anonymous said...

Well, I should wait until the end of the game so I don't jinx it...but at the time of this posting we are up 21-0. After seeing this team show up and put Vandy out of the game if the first 18 min of play, I have to say that this team is the same one that played Florida. I'm afraid we are stuck with this bunch for the rest of the season...THANK GOD! 8^)


PhilipVU94 said...

Congratulations. Your team was obviously well-prepared and executed well. Good luck the rest of the way.

Anonymous said...

Thanks for the kind words and I really do think Vandy played 4 quarters of very solid ball. We just could not afford to take Vandy for granted and we knew it (as you can see from my earlier comment). That's what most scared us fans. AU obviously had to completely focus and prepare for this game and that was the difference this time, as opposed to what happened earlier this season. Now I hope Vandy blows out the rest of the season. I think we were better today, in most ways, than we were when we met UF. I was afraid we might go the other way. If we had slipped and tried to take a breather here, I certainly think the 10-7/13-10 scenario you described would have been entirely possible. We fans were still a little shaken by the start we had this season. I now see that the team is more solid than many of us are. This was a big game for us. Now, to start the whole process over again for Ark...


Jerry Hinnen said...

AR, I'll cop to being 1 the year you're describing. But I heard enough Barfield stories from my Dad and a few other older fans to scar me for life. Maybe Dougie B's not as bad as I've been told, but the list of Auburn coaches you can rely on for a "bad coach" punchline aren't numerous.

Jeremy, I'm with you. As I said, it took a great deal of effort on my part not to expose that bit of silliness for what it is.

SC, given how awful Nickson looked I'm not sure they were better overall than vs. Florida--so hard to tell--but there were excuses not to focus on this game and Auburn passed on them, so fro mthat aspect, yes, this was as impressive a performance.

Lastly, Phillip, thanks. We wish Vandy every bit of luck the rest of the season. I think Johnson'll make it happen eventually.

Pat said...

Don't kid yourself, Barfield was that bad. Who else could manage to win only six games in 1978 with future NFL phenoms like William Andrews, Joe Cribbs, and James Brooks IN THE SAME BACKFIELD?

Thank God we got rid of him and picked up Pat Dye. Best coaching move Auburn ever made.