Wednesday, January 16, 2008

Chick-Fil-A Bowl recap, half the second

Picking up where we left off ...

Third quarter

--Auburn starts the third quarter with the same sort of mouthwatering offensive efficiency they began the game with, as Cox throws for 13 to Billings on the half's opening snap and three plays later Burns bursts through a huge hole for a first down across midfield on 3rd-and-2. Burns might even take it to the house if not for the good work by the Clemson safety to plug the hole and the CU linebacker coming in to clean things up. Wait, did I say "Clemson safety"? I meant the freaking back judge, who apparently is busy daydreaming about the free postgame Chick-Fil-A lemonade as Burns collides with him. And did I say "CU linebacker"? I meant one of Burns's own teammates, who knocks him over as he's trying to regain his balance after running into the official. Cripes.
--There's still a few kinks to work out in this whole newfangled "multiple tailbacks on the field at once" system, as Lester demonstrates by making ... you know, it's not even half-hearted, it's more like a 1/8th-hearted attempt to block as Fannin takes the dump-off and sprints to the corner around him.
--Burns picks up 5 and gets facemasked, taking Auburn to the Clemson 25, and just as importantly prompting Maguire to make the following statement, carefully transcribed for your reading Pleasure/pain: "Bob, this is the deal with, with them, with a guy like Kodi Burns, is a guy that's got the quick feet, now you start faking the ball to Lester and and, you're gonna, gotta QB that's mobile, that can run. That's what makes him so effective." When I told my parents growing up I wanted to be a sportscaster, they always told me I'd have to speak more carefully and pronounce things clearly to make that dream come true. Clearly, they didn't have any idea what they were talking about.
--On 3rd-and-7 from the 22 Burns rolls out and throws a bona fide laser beam to Fannin, whose hands surprisingly don't turn to dust from the heat of having to catch said beam. In fact, he pulls it in and waltzes in for Auburn's first TOUCHDOWN! of the game. Fantastic play on both ends. Well golly gee, I guess all those times Burns was screaming this year that he threw the ball all over the place in high school and could still throw something other than picks and incompletions ... I guess he might have been telling the truth. Who knew? Anyways, 10-7 Auburn.
--Griese expounds over the kickoff on the joy of discovering Chick-Fil-A at this game a couple years back. I'm telling you, the great majority of people here in Michigan have no idea what they're missing. It's like living amongst the savages of Borneo. Except that they're pretty much just savages in Chick-Fil-A terms.
--I'm going to have to buy this Cullen Harper guy a drink someday. He throws two hideous incompletions on 2nd and 3rd and Clemson goes three-and-out in response to Auburn's TD. That's the kind of fire we like to see, Clemson.
--Auburn picks up right where they left off last drive, lining up with two TEs to the same side and springing Lester past the confused-looking LBs for 30 yards. The next three plays: Lester for 5, pass to Lester for 6, Tate for 9. To say Auburn has a bit of momentum at this point is like saying that John Madden's motorhome has a bit of momentum when it flies down the side of Pikes Peak. Should we go ahead and break out the bubbly?
--Of course not. The next three plays: Tate tackled for three-yard loss, Cox completes under duress to Smith for a yard, Cox throws it away on fourth. Turnover on downs. So much for the stake through the heart. At least Clemson has the kindness to go three-and-out yet again, though their punter's not with the "kindness" plan and punts it 59 yards and out-of-bounds at the 4. That's a 66-yard loss on field position since the Tate run to set up 2nd-and-1. Bleah.
--Nessler and Griese interview Rick Neuheisel over the last several plays, because if there's one thing Southeastern college football fans want during the second half of a tense and tightly contested final game of the year, it's softball Q&A with a pretty-boy Pac-10 coach.
--Not a good time for Auburn to go nowhere, but the obligatory "We'll stun them by going deep from our end zone on first down!" call to Prechae Rodriguez doesn't work and two only mildly effective plays for Lester leave Auburn a yard short of the first. Shoemaker punts to midfield and it's returned to Auburn's 42, meaning the switch in field position has now gone from "unsatisfying" to downright "unnerving."
--Spiller takes off for 20 (my notes just say "Spiller--Damn him!") and Clemson eventually lines up for a 4th-and-less-than-a-yard at the Auburn 7. They're late breaking the huddle, and Maguire helpfully says "I guarantee you they're going to call timeout." They don't, and Harper sneaks for the first. It was almost worth it, really, for Maguire to look quite that silly. Almost.
--3rd-and-goal from the 2, and Clemson sensibly decides that despite having two of the best backs in their league and a quarterback who's appeared to be under the influence of a variety of prescription narcotics for most of the game, they're putting the ball in the hands of the QB. Sims buries him for a three-yard loss. Whew.

Fourth quarter

--Field goal's good. 10-10
--Oh my. I guess Evil Brandon had to give us one last stunner for us to remember him by, didn't he? Cox throws a short out on 2nd-and-8 directly to a Clemson defender, and the Other Tigers now have it 1st-and-10 on Auburn's 32. Sigh. Believe me, Evil Brandon, you didn't have to try so hard. We're not going to forget you anytime. So if you would now please leave forever, thankyouverymuch.
--And just to make us even more suddenly depressed about the quarterbacking position, Harper makes his first halfway decent throw of the night, firing up a jumpball to the basketball player-esque Aaron Kelly for 27 yards to the Auburn 4. Auburn makes Clemson work for their TD, stuffing Spiller once on a solid play from Etheridge and forcing an incompletion before Kelly takes it to the half-inch line on a dump-off. Bowden correctly goes for it on fourth down and Davis punches it in. 17-10 Clemson, and I can't believe Auburn's behind in this game. Come on, guys. I can handle losing this game if they're the better team, but they're not. Let's go.
--Auburn faces a quick third down and ... I'm pretty sure this is the Auburn playcall of the year. Oh, the TE fade to take the lead on Kansas St. was nice and there's a handful of contenders from the Florida, LSU, and 'Bama games, I suppose. But nothing can beat a Cox quarterback draw for six yards on 3rd-and-5, can it? I don't think I'd have been more surprised if they'd run the fumble-rooskie, and Ryan Pugh had sprouted tiny angel wings and flown for the first down. Well, maybe a little more surprised, but not much.
--I'd like to think the confidence-inspiring QB draw returned the spirit of Good Brandon to our quarterback: after Burns loses 2, Cox finds Dunn on back-to-back plays, first for 7 and then for 18 on a terrific throw down the seam between multiple defenders. Suppose Good Brandon needed us to remember him as well. Which we will, right?
--That play takes Auburn to Clemson's 35 and from there the Tigers grind the Other Tigers into FDA-certified organic South Carolina mill flour. Burns for 5, Lester for 7, Tate for 7, Burns through a massive hole for 15, Tate for 1 TOUCHDOWN! 17-17! 8:27 left! Game on!
--Hmm, Auburn defense, you were supposed to be buoyed by the offense's success and seize immediate control of the game, not allow them back-to-back first downs to put the ball on your 39. Oh well: the 3-yard tackle-for-loss (Thompson), sack (Sims again, still a terror), and sack (Coleman) on the next three plays aren't bad. Clemson punts into the end zone and Auburn takes over with 4:11 to play.
--Tate pops loose for what looks like a first down on 2nd-and-10, but it's called back for a hold downfield on Smith. You would think that a critical, game-changing penalty like that in the dying minutes of a tie game might deserve a replay so the fans can decide about the legitimacy of the penalty. Apparently, according to ESPN, you've thought wrong. A subsequent screen to Fannin on 3rd-and-7 comes up a yard short when he cuts back inside rather than breaking it outside (a rare misread on Fannin's part, it looks to me) and Auburn punts on fourth down. Suck!
--Not to worry, Cullen Harper is on the case. Incomplete, incomplete, incomplete, punt. Opposite of Suck! Incidentally, Harper's first toss on that drive is a three-yard flip that winds up two feet behind his receiver. Griese says it's a pass that "should be completed about 100 percent of the time," so that you should tell you something about the level Mr. Harper is playing at this evening, thank goodness.
--Auburn's got 1:32 to work with starting at their own 36, and you know that if Wes Byrum has the chance to kick a game-winning field goal, Wes Byrum is going to kick a game-winning field goal. Can they give him the chance? Good Brandon finds Dunn (who has apparently finally found a physician able to cure that case of the dropsies for him) for 16, so that's a good start.
--The finish, though, not so much. The sneaky Burns pass on 2nd-and-6 fails and Cox brain farts a pass to a blanketed Billings on third down that's nearly picked off. On the Clemson 46 it's too risky even for Tubby to go for it, and Shoemaker punts us into overtime.


--Not willing to risk any kind of slips of the tongue or other shenanigans on the coin flip, Tubby sends out presumably level-headed (or, if we're going to risk perhaps being less than politically correct, "smart") holder Matthew Motley to handle the "Yes, believe it or not, we'll go on defense first" duties when Auburn wins the flip. Motley goes to midfield alone, with no crew (or even a Crue) in sight, which is a shame. The announcers, noting that Motley is 5-10, 169, and, um, exceedingly white, start praising his "great head for the game" and ability to "get the most out of his talent" purely out of reflex. (Note: they didn't actually do this. But I bet they wanted to.)
--So Clemson's got the ball first, and as always with this first overtime thing, anything's OK here but a touchdown. So I'm not even that worried when Harper completes a couple of short passes to get Clemson a 2nd-and-5 at the Auburn 10. And sure enough, Davis gets stuffed for 2 on that 2nd down and Harper caps an exquisite performance by throwing an aimless "Please pick me!" duck into the end zone on third down he's lucky falls incomplete. Field goal. 20-17. I'll take that.
--All right, Auburn, 25 yards to a win! Let's go! Um, Lester loses three on first down. Uh-oh. Cox fires incomplete on second. Uh-oh. 3rd-and-13 coming up. Come on, Auburn.
--Sweet, Cox to Smith for 12, setting up 4th-and-1. Maguire and Griese expect Auburn to kick a field goal here, because apparently they've never seen Tommy Tuberville coach a football game before. But it's the quarterback sneak every Auburn fan knows has been coming since the instant Smith went down, and ... this is Brandon Cox's career in microcosm. For whatever reason a Red Sea parts between Bosley and Ramsey and just as Cox tries to lean forward he gets popped, really popped, by a Clemson linebacker. There's a nanosecond when Cox reels and I think the game's over, but Brandon Cox has always been tougher than that. He regains his balance and pushes forward on the left for the yard we need. Nothing spectacular, just grit, determination, the refusal to not do every single thing he can for our team, etc. Thanks, Brandon. I'm not sure we'll miss ... you, exactly. But that kind of play, that we're going to miss like hell.
--After that, I don't have much doubt Auburn is going to punch in and win this game. Tate goes for 3. Lester goes for 4 more. 3rd-and-3, Burns is in, and the way the line has pushed Clemson around this entire second half ... Go Burns! Go! TOUCHDOWN! YEAAAAAAAAAAAHHHH! Wewin wewin wewin wewin WEWIN! Tony Franklin for President of Mensa! Kodi Burns for Quarterback of the Near Future! Cox for Quarterback We'll Always Mostly Remember Fondly! Tubby for Coach! Hooray!
--Man, that rocked. 2008 can't get here fast enough. War ... Damn ... Eagle, everyone.

More post-2007 fallout soon, I think. But I always think that.


Aubiece said...

One more Frisbee for Brandon...
I'll miss the Good Brandon for sure... and Evil Brandon is gone

Great Blog!

War Damn Eagle Jerry!

Sullivan013 said...

You know, I felt a strange euphoria on the 3rd and 12 in overtime. I can't explain it any better than it was in the body languange of Brandon Cox when he turned his head to check the marker. Something in his demeanor told me he would get the first down or die on the field.

When it was 4th down and a yard, I knew we had the game. 4th and 1 with this crew? I'll take that any day of the week and twice on Saturdays. If there was one play to remember this tough young man by, it was that one: With the game on the line, and one hard yard to go.

War Eagle, Brandon. Thank you for your grit, determination and courage. In future years, I'll cheer louder for you than any other returning player when you are introduced on the field before homecoming.

Others might have more talent and speed, but none played with more guts and determination.

Rod said...

Hey J,
I enjoyed the Motley comments. Did he actually hold the ball on field goals? I never noticed. His position should be listed as Coin Flip Specialist. Tuberville is the only coach I've ever heard of that has one player just for coin flips. That's genius, though. One less thing for the QB or other star player to think about. We're going to have to find a new Coin Flip Specialist for next year. I'm guessing... SO WR #85, 5'7" 161 lb Nick Padgett. Just a guess.

Richard said...

Brought it all back, you did. Great way to end a rollercoaster season, eh? A mixed farewell to 2007. Can't wait till ya get here 2008!

War Eagle!


Richard said...

BTW, I'm sure you've noticed we have a new DC. Seems like a great choice by Tubbs. Expectations are going way up for 2008. Can't wait!

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