Friday, December 14, 2007

Fear the Index Finger on the Opposite Hand: Iron Bowl recap, half the first

First: I apologize for the hiatus.

Second, yes, I know we were just a couple demons short of all hell breaking loose since the last time I posted anything of any length--thank goodness Crowley set his alarm for p.m. instead of a.m.--but there's already well-written opinion out there on all of that. There's no JCCW-style snarky recap of the Iron Bowl, though, is there? So now that I've finally managed to crawl out of the rubble of the past few weeks and dust myself off a bit, that's what you're getting. "Playing to my strengths," and whatnot. Enjoy.




Pregame

--Mike Patrick's wretched and unholy rasp welcomes us to Jordan-Hare. Goodness gracious sakes alive, I cannot stand this man. You know the old line about, um, not relieving one's self on a given person if they were on fire? It's close, but I wouldn't say that about Patrick. I'd gladly relieve myself on him, actually.
--ESPN's intro features a pair of "House Divided" couples who robotically "trash talk" each other about former Iron Bowls as a way of showing all the usual requisite series highlights ("Punt Bama Punt" is of course still goose-bump inducing and should be watched once a day by everyone everywhere, while Van Tiffin's kick is more played out than "Let Her Cry" was in the summer of '94). Unfortunately, ESPN doesn't show us the outtakes, which I imagine would have gone something like this:

HUSBAND: Hey, remember 2003, when Cadillac went crazy?
WIFE: Actually, I remember 2003 quite clearly. You had those idiot frat friends of yours from school over, you all got piss drunk, and at the end of the game they threw our new deck furniture over the rail in "celebration" and the table smashed. 500 bucks down the tube, Ray. 500 bucks. I'm serious, I'd give my left arm for an Alabama win tonight, Ray, just so I'd have the satisfaction of knowing those losers would be crying into their Bud Lights tonight. I can't believe you still talk to those guys. God, don't, don't even look at me.
HUSBAND: *long pause* ... um ... hey, remember 1993?
WIFE: *tears "House Divided" flag down, attempts to shove it down HUSBAND's throat*
ESPN DIRECTOR: Cut!

--Patrick asks Blackledge to comment on the emotion of rivalry games, which he says Blackledge knows all about from playing in the Penn St.-Pitt series, a rivalry so intense and important to both schools it hasn't been played since 2000. Way to work your audience, Patrick.
--I will never, ever get tired of Tubby linking arms with the players and walking out of the Fog of Intimidation. It perfectly straddles the line between being gag-inducingly corny and the very best kind of earnest, unironic gesture, all while doubling as charming bread-and-circuses spectacle. Kind of like all of college football, really, not to make too much of a big deal about it.
--ESPN decides the best way to get their viewers pumped for kickoff is to show us Perry Farrell, Kelly Rowland, and 50 Cent singing "Celebrate" on a glammed-up New York stage. Because if there's anything that screams "it's time for the biggest college football game of the year in Alabama," it's definitely Perry Farrell, Kelly Rowland, and 50 Cent singing "Celebrate" on a glammed-up New York stage. (And while we're here, it seems like just yesterday I was jamming to my "Pets" cassingle in my bedroom ... what the hell happened, Perry?)
--Patrick says the War Eagle circling the stadium is the SEC tradition that "touches him the most." That should be endearing, but instead I just find myself thinking "Well, at least something's willing to touch him."

First quarter

--One of the few players on the Tide's offense I'm genuinely worried about is D.J. Hall, who's an All-American talent when he has his head screwed on straight. Fortunately, based on the evidence of Alabama's first pass--a third-and-short dart Eric Brock deflects away after Hall never even turns his head, apparently deep in contemplation of the Monty Hall paradox--Hall's head has apparently been screwed on haphazardly. Goodie. Bama punts.
--It takes precisely one Auburn snap (Lester off-tackle for five) for Alabama to see one of the starters on their depleted defense limp off the field, in this case Rashad Johnson. Yes, I think it's safe to say that the game could have started just a wee bit brighter for them, especially after ...
--a Cole Bennett sighting! On back-to-back plays, no less! It's like watching the offense I imagined in my head in the pre-season. That gives Auburn a 4th-and-inches at the Bama 30, and Cox sneaks across for the first as Patrick calls him "Casey Cox" without correction. (Though somewhere Courtney Taylor is saying "You know it could be worse, right?")
--Alabama might have more success trying to stop Chinese contributions to global warming than they've had stopping Auburn on the sweep right this drive. After Cox's sneak Lester and Tate go right three times to put the ball on the Tide 11 and two Tae runs up the middle later it's an Auburn TOUCHDOWN! That was suspiciously like the offense we saw against Florida and LSU, which makes me suspiciously optimistic for the remainder of the game.
--ESPN gives us a satellite shot of Auburn and Alabama fans watching the game while stationed at the same military base in Iraq, which is a great move to begin with, but I can't help but get a kick out of the guy holding up a sign reading "www.jodyfuller.com." I'm a total sucker for stunts like that, so I log on after the game to find out Fuller's a stand-up comic from Opelika in the National Guard whose routine is based around his struggles with a stutter. Whoa! Let's get Holly Rowe on that story, huh fellas?
--Bama gets one first down on their next possession, but then Marks flattens Wilson as he throws incomplete on 1st-and-10 and on 3rd-and-eight Marks and Sims bury Wilson beneath, like, 500 pounds of angry Tiger. I'm confused ... aren't aging hippies and the like always saying that flashbacks are a bad thing? Because I'm totally flashing back to 2005 right now and I'm enjoying the hell out of it. Weird. Anyways, Bama punts.
--Cox throws an out-and-out strike over the middle to Smith for 32 yards. Seriously, to this point this game has been like injecting a liquid distillation of "Sunshine, Lollipops, and Rainbows" directly into my veins. I've loved every second.
--Of course, three plays later Cox throws it right in Simeon Castille's hands and Fannin has to make a great play to disrupt the interception. I swear, remember when Spurrier was rotating two QB's in and out every play? I think Good and Evil Brandon have been somehow doing the same thing this season without anyone noticing. The incompletion leads to a Byrum field goal, and the good news is that it's 10-0 and Bama has 11 yards in two possessions to this point. w00t.
--Of course, whenever things are going well for 2007 Auburn, we know what's coming, don't we? Javier Arenas is out injured, thank the heavens, and Auburn still gives up a 41-yard kickoff return by Lowe to midfield. Because we really wanted to give a sputtering Tide offense that kind of kickstart. Cripes.
--It's 3rd-and-3 for Bama on the Auburn 46 and Groves and Blackmon are breathing down Wilson's neck when he tosses it in Hall's general direction and Wilhite is handed an interference flag I'll be generous and call "questionable." As Patrick and Blackledge debate the call an angry voice on the Auburn sideline comes across yelling "That ball's uncatchable! That ball's uncatchable!" clear as an invisible bell. ESPN gets off profanity-free this time, but you'd think they'd have learned their lesson about mics near the Auburn sideline, no?
--Bama false starts for what seems like the fourth time already and Blackledge says the Tide needs to "hold their water." Hey Todd, Driving Miss Daisy called, it said it wants its vaguely racist anachronisms back. (ZING!)

Second quarter

--Wilson rushes for seven yards on 3rd-and-8, fumbles, and then recovers two yards downfield for the first. The Tide then grinds Coffee (sorry) for three rushes down to the 1. On fourth down Wilson bobbles the snap and sort of leans into the line. His forward progress appears stopped almost immediately. The bodies are squeezed around him like sardines playing a game of "Sardines." God and God alone knows whether the ball has crossed the plane. And then approximately six minutes later, the line judge comes in to call it a touchdown. Whatever. Between this call, the bobble that could have sprung free, Wilson's fumble-for-a-first, and the Wilhite flag, it's safe to say there are teams made up exclusively of leprechauns that haven't had drives this lucky. The breaks will come back the other way.
--Sure enough, during the official review of Wilson's sneak, ESPN mics pick up someone (possibly the same guy) on AU's sideline scream "What the f***!" a couple of times. It's not like they haven't been warned. Sic 'em, FCC!
--As Alabama prepares to kick off, Holly Rowe tells us about aging Alabama superfan Dick Coffee, who's attended every Alabama game since 19-dickety-two. No word from Holly on whether Glen Coffee is his long-lost illegitimate grandson and whether they're going to have a tense and ultimately teary reunion afterwards, which is too bad.
--Tommy Trott seals his man perfectly on Auburn's first play of their ensuing possession, springing Tate for 28 yards to midfield. When Tommy Trott is making perfect seal blocks for 28-yard gains, yes, it's fair to say things are going well for this offense. It's also fair to say the area's farmers should start checking their hogs for wings and any evidence of flight. Despite Cox missing a wide-open Hawthorne down the sideline, the Tigers churn their way down to the Tide 26.
--Of course, as soon as I dare think the word "churn" or praise Trott's blocking, two hideous sacks perfectly emblematic of the last two seasons of the Cox era bump Auburn back to the 44. Then Shoemaker "skillfully" "pins" Alabama "deep" with a 22-yard "punt" at the ... 22. Four yards from Auburn's deepest penetration. What a waste.
--A discussion of the nation's top rivalries has Blackledge call Ohio St.-Michigan the best rivalry in "the Northeast." Yes, because when I think of the "Northeast" and its preppy boarding schools, lobstermen, Revolutionary War history, and Ivy League schools, the first state that comes to mind is Ohio.
--After the "punt," Wilson apparently mistakes his receiver for Bill Brasky on third down and fires many, many feet high. Fortunately for the Tide, Fannin runs into punter P.J. Fitzgerald. Four plays later, the Tide's Nick Walker gets popped and drops a 20-yard pass. But fortunately for the Tide, he drops it directly onto his foot, enabling him to corral it before it hits the ground. Surely, surely, Alabama has already exhausted their quota of plays that cause me to write "Fortunately for the Tide," right?
--Yep, the pendulum finally swings the other way as Leigh Tiffin honks a 44-yarder after Blackmon had made a couple of good plays to stop the drive. HA-ha! Still, I'm nervous: Auburn's been the better team, but it's a three-point game, Alabama's started moving the ball, and they have the momentum.
--Which is why when Auburn faces a subsequent 3rd-and-8 with 1:10 left in the half, the one thing they cannot afford to have happen here is a Cox interception. I'm begging you, Brandon: check down, take a sack, throw it away, whatever you do, don't throw an interception now.

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He throws an interception. DAMMIT TO HELL, COX. He's also hurt, which tones down the anger from "murderous rage" to "rage" but also makes me even more fearful for the way this game is progressing. "Hurt's" in the IV now, and I don't like it at all.
--D.J. Hall and Jerraud Powers to the rescue! Wilson tosses it up nicely into the end zone on 3rd-and-2 and it looks like an easy catch for Hall, who bobbles it just long enough for Powers to grab it and get his feet in for the pick. YES! Whew! At first it looks like a straight-up drop from Hall, but on super-slo-mo I think Powers reaches and gets just the slightest fingertip on the ball as Hall tries to bring it in. Nonetheless Hall should have made the play and after feeling resentful not very long ago that Bama was as close as 10-7, I now feel very fortunate Auburn's even going in at the half with a lead. Quite the momentum swing there.
--Before Auburn runs out the clock, ESPN's crack research team provides the answer to the AFLAC Trivia question, "Name the only Auburn quarterback to beat Alabama three times." The answer is "Jason Campbell -- 2003, 2004, 2005." Campbell graduated in 2004, guys.
--Have I mentioned that I have ... well, it's not really a crush on Holly Rowe. I wouldn't call it that. Nope, not a crush. But I think she'd be cool to hang out with. Let me explain: as Tuberville comes off the field he says that the offense "shut it down" in the second quarter. Most sideline reporters would leave it at that, but Holly asks Tubby "How did you shut it down?" and he explains that they struggled with corner blitzes and makes another couple of brief points. And voila, it's a sideline interview that didn't completely suck. See, I think if you're at a dinner party or you're with a big group of people hanging out at a bar, you want Holly Rowe there. Someone would make some off-hand comment about, say, being embarrassed in seventh grade, and Holly would go all professional and get them to open up about it, and the next thing you know everyone's sharing funny stories about stupid stuff they did in school and laughing and having a good time and hey, it's thanks to all ace sideline reporter Holly Rowe. Also, I think if she'd had a few you might get some good dirt on Patrick we could use to blackmail ESPN into getting Ron Franklin back for these games. Of course, maybe all of that's just me. OK, it's just me.

Coming soon: half the second. And yes, I really do mean it's coming soon. I'm back.

4 comments:

Anonymous said...

Was the Bama fan they interviewed, Dick Coffee, a crazy bearded old dude who looks like he could have stepped out of the video for "The Night They Drove Old Dixie Down" had there been one? Cause I kinda know that guy, and that would be hilarious.

Great to have you back!

Acid Reign said...

    I did like that ESPN showed a LOT more of the pregame festivities than normal, and it really fired me up! Mike Patrick babbling aside, of course.

    I totally agree about Holly Rowe. I think she'd be good in the booth, too.

DirkDawggler said...

We have endured an entire season of Mike Patrick's verbage and have still not received the answer to the question: What is Britney doing with her life? Poor journalism, IMO.

Jerry Hinnen said...

anon: No, he was bald and clean shaven. Sorry. Glad to be back, believe me.

AR: Agreed that the pregame broadcast was better than we might have expected. I maybe should have mentioned the Iron Bowl country song, which is the sort of thing I usually laugh at and this time, as you point out, actually found myself getting fired up over. Go figure.

Dirk: I couldn't agree more. I'm not sure why Patrick didn't say the same as Cox snuck over with the winning TD.