Sunday, November 04, 2007

The gleaning

Because if there's any opponent against which a pick-six deserves to be celebrated via ridiculous dance, it's Tennessee Tech.

There's nothing substantial or nourishing to take away from a meaningless pre-season exhibition ... wait, sorry, that's what basketball teams do at this time of year. (Grand Valley, AUM raises their glasses and says "Nice job.") What I mean is that there's nothing substantial or nourishing to take away from a meaningless in-season virtual exhibition. We should be clear about that. The score means nothing, the usual key stats (total offense, etc.) mean nothing, the attendance numbers mean less than nothing (I wasn't there--no, I didn't decide to drive down from Michigan for the Tennessee Tech game, strangely enough--but if 85,754 people actually came through the turnstiles to watch that game, my name is Reprobatus Bibbs).

But there are tidbits to be had if you comb through the box score with a comb, um, fine-toothed enough. Not enough to make a "Here's how Auburn's going to do in the Amen Corner" meal out of, sure, but maybe a light Sunday afternoon snack.

So, by the numbers ...

The punting might be back. Shoemaker launched four for 208 yards, 52 a pop. Tatum's one attempt went for 61, meaning Auburn averaged 53.8 yards a punt for the game and three of the five were down inside the 20. Not bad. As this is one of the very few elements of the game where the quality of opponent theoretically makes no difference, it should be fair to assume Good Old Shoe is back to his early-season form. (Then again, as punting is also nearly all mental and Tennessee Tech means no pressure whatsoever while playing against, to pick an example completely at random, Alabama provides more pressure than either freshman will have experienced before, this might also prove to be a fluke).

Burns should have thrown the ball more this season, period. I know I've been hammering the Burns issue this season, but when the coaches have made any opportunity for him to actually, you know, play quarterback as opposed to playing Tim Tebow dress-up an occasion for him to get the nervous shakes--even against Tennessee freaking Tech--it means there should have been more opportunities. I know perhaps the more logical argument is that going 0-4 is proof Burns in fact shouldn't have been putting the ball in the air against non-Watson Brown-coached teams, but he's got way, way too much talent to offer up what he called a "terrible" performance against the likes of Tech. Where's the guy who tore up fall camp? Not sure, but my guess is at this point we won't see him until next fall.

Ben Tate probably isn't about to reclaim the starting job. It's assuredly not worth making any vast, "Well so much for him"-style pronouncements, but 35 yards on 14 carries and a 2.5 per-carry average against Tech just isn't exactly impressive, even allowing for a sleepwalking and/or second-string offensive line. Take away one 13-yard dash, and you're looking at 23 yards on 13 carries. This is pure fluke, isn't it, Ben? Please tell us it is.

Tommy Trott and Cole Bennett are physically impressive decoys and nothing more in the passing game. After another reception-less game for Bennett and a single catch for Trott vs. two more for McKenzie, it's pretty clear McKenzie is the go-to tight end when Borges wants to go airborne. Not that any of them are about to suddenly become Auburn's answer to Jason Witten, but McKenzie now has nearly twice as many receptions (13) and Trott and Bennett combined (7). I'm a bit surprised by this and by the fact the TEs have gotten so little attention in general, given the rampant dropsies that have plagued the WRs, but I wouldn't say I care. Trott's proven himself a less-than-reliable option and if Borges' calls tell us McKenzie is that far ahead of Bennett as a receiver at this point, we don't have any reason I can see to doubt him. It's just one of those "Well, huh, who would have guessed" kind of things.

The kickoff units have to get better.
Another 67-yard return given up. If the Tech guy could do that, no wonder Tubby didn't want to kick to Trindon Holliday. The inconsistency of the kickoff guys doesn't help, of course. Morgan Hull got his shot and followed up one deep kick to the TTU 3 with one (that I assume was also deep, someone correct me if I'm wrong) to the TTU 21.

And ... that's about the extent of it. The scrimmages and workouts and full-speed practices and games that even Phillip Marshall whines about having to stay to the end of are mercifully behind us. It's time to turn the Amen Corner and after the last two not-on-TV barely-worth-listening-to games, I couldn't be more ready. Let's hope the Tigers are, too. Too bad they couldn't have played a game that would have told us at little more about if they were or not.

Thought you might want a visual representation of what going through the Tennessee Tech box score was like.

1 comment:

Will Collier said...

Believe it or not, the 85K attendance figure wasn't far off, if at all. Tickets were few and far between outside, and the stands were pretty full. Surprised the heck out of me, to be honest.

Of course, that was at kickoff. The mass exodus (including me, for once) started midway through the third quarter. Too bad, I missed the pick-96.