Monday, October 13, 2008

Monday knee-jerk can't get it together

No overarching theme this week, no words of comfort or anger or disillusionment. This loss hurt, and hurt badly, but it wasn't a surprise. Vanderbilt was the game where Auburn was going to show, one way or another, what they were this season, and that's exactly what they did. Asking Steve Ensminger to take over the Offense of the Apocalypse was never going to change that.

So instead you're just getting a collection of scattered thoughts, a list of things that crossed the ol' noggin as Meltdown 2008 continues:

1. I wish Chris Todd all the best. I wish his time at Auburn was working out better for him. I wish he was healthy. I wish he didn't seem so imminently headed towards yet another transfer in a career chockful of them. But I don't want to see him take another snap ahead of Kodi Burns this season.

Auburn ran 61 offensive plays over the course of 14 possessions against Arkansas. By my estimation, Burns was the quarterback for 44 of those plays and Todd for 17. On the 44 plays Burns took the snap on, Auburn averaged 4.36 yards a play, scored one touchdown, had two interceptions, and had two drops by receivers, one of which was in the end zone. Over Todd's 17 plays, Auburn averaged .06 yards a snap (they only gained one yard total) and also suffered one interception.

The possession comparison probably makes things even clearer. Over the seven possessions Burns both began and finished, Auburn averaged a gain of 28.6 yards, and that includes the last-gasp eight-yard drive at the end of the game. Over the six possessions Todd started and completed, Auburn averaged .17 yards a possession. (I'm not counting the shared possession which Burns finished with a quarterback draw for a touchdown.) Although one of them ended with an interception deep in Arkansas territory and another with the fateful turnover-on-downs at the 5, the three drives belonging wholly to Burns before the last-gasp drive covered 50, 48, and 76 yards. The 48-yard drive came the possession after Todd had just thrown the ugliest interception of the season--the spirit of Evil Brandon cackled maniacally somewhere--and featured Burns's laser-dart down the seam to Trott for 33 yards. The drive ended with Byrum's missed field goal. Burns's reward was to watch Todd return to the field and lead a drive that went three-and-out and covered negative-22 yards.

And now, Burns's reward for having so decisively won the QB "battle" in this game is apparently to have a lightly-regarded true freshman step up to take Todd's place so the battle can continue.

I try not to criticize Auburn's coaching staff, I really do, unless a decision they've made just makes no sense to me. But this treatment of Kodi Burns just does not make sense. At all. I have tried to understand it. I cannot.

2. Likewise, remember how angry we all were at Tony Franklin for not shifting to a heavy set inside the 10-yard line when it came time to push into end zone? On first-and-goal from the 5 with the game on the line and three timeouts to play with, Auburn lined up in the spread against one of the worst rush defenses in all of college football and had Kodi Burns throw three passes, two of them fades to the corner that NFL quarterbacks regularly struggle with. This, also, makes no sense to me.

3. I guess that was improvement, Wes, but I'd honestly rather you made the 33-yarder and missed the 45-yarder. Same number of points, I know, but the boost the team gets from the latter isn't as great as the letdown from the former.

4. Auburn is just running out of bodies defensively. We said at the very beginning of the season that we could not afford to have any injuries in the secondary. Now both of those original starting corners (remember Aairon Savage?) are out. Defensive end was another sore spot; Goggans is now hobbled and Carter missed the game entirely. Blackmon was limited. Marks was limited. And then the offense left them on the field again, and again, and again against a team with decent offensive options coached by Bobby Petrino.

In other words: the defense is blameless. I don't care how many yards they gave up. Give them credit for the two post-interception field goals, and Arkansas finished the game having scored 19 net points. 19 points allowed in these beat-up circumstances should be enough to win a football game at home.

5. The JCCW's complete breakdown of Auburn's scoring would actually read as follows: 14 points special teams, 6 points defense, 2 points Hog charity, 0 points offense. I know it's not entirely fair to the offense to give them no credit for punching in after the kickoff strip and obviously it's just bad luck Byrum missed the FG opportunity the offense gave him while connecting after the defense's efforts ... but yeah. Auburn's longest scoring drive was 24 yards. I'd rather give guys like Tristan Davis, Neiko Thorpe, Josh Bynes--outstanding again--and Chris Evans the credit for those points. They deserve it.

6. Speaking of credit where it's due, welcome back, Saturn V. 46.6 net yards per punt is some mighty fine puntin' and no doubt about it. Between Durst and the rebirth of Davis on the kick return team, we're back to having a special teams again, almost.

7. What on earth was Petrino thinking with that safety? Auburn driving for a touchdown from the Hog 45 or so seemed a hell of a lot less likely to me than driving for a FG from Auburn's own 35 or so (they ended up on the 38).

8. This can't really be stressed enough: the Auburn defense, Auburn special teams, and Hog charity accounted for 22 points, Arkansas scored only 25 themselves, and Auburn lost. I do think there's a tiny bit of reason to hope that Auburn's offense will get better over the course of the bye week, but is there any reason to think the offense will get as much help again as it did this week? I'm not sure there is. Auburn's not likely to get quite that many bounces in one game again. Sigh.

Actually, this is 2008, isn't it? Let's try that again ...


Three Stars. The aforementioned Messrs. Durst, Bynes, and Davis.

Three Opportunities for Improvement. 1. The aforementioned miss by Mr. Byrum 2. Yeah, like Acid said, the pass rush could have been better. 1 sack for two yards doesn't really cut it. I don't really blame the position-switchin' likes of Gabe McKenzie, but where was our new sack artiste Zach Clayton? 3. Whoever decided that my ESPN GamePlan couldn't show the Vandy-Miss. St. game on a different channel from the Auburn-Arkansas game, meaning I got to "watch" the first few drives of the game, including Davis's return, on the Auburn Gametracker. Boo.

Three Numbers of Importance. 2-5: Auburn's penalties and yardage. So at least we've got that going for us. Other than that, well, you've got Durst's punting net and the Burns/Todd stuff already, so you should be good.

Your bottom line: Thank everything holy for a bye week. Mostly so the players can recuperate, of course.

But also because after wallowing in the same unholy concoction of dread, anger, disappointment, and then dread again for the past three Saturdays, I suspect we Auburn fans could use the break, too.


Iggy said...

Good post, Jerry, and I continue to enjoy your blog very much. I have to take issue with the notion that the defense was blameless in this loss. Arkansas pushed us around more than any team we've played, and it started at the beginning of the game and never really stopped. We managed no pass rush and failed to get off blocks time and time again on running plays. The 2 interceptions were more the result of bad decisions by Casey Dick (one with a lucky bounce) than any stellar play by our defense.

That said, the defense was a thing of beauty compared to the offense, which is several unfortunate turns beyond lost at this point.

Acid Reign said...

.....Good stuff. I'm agonizing over it, too. I blew off my 30th anniversary high school reunion to attend that game, and I STILL don't regret it. I'm as die-hard an Auburn guy as any!

.....You get your wish about the QB situation, as do I, according to my breaking news feed. Tubs spoke in town to the Bham QB club, and says Kodi is the man, for the rest of the season.

jrsuicide said...

having watched that game in person in the stands with my old man, surronded by angry auburn fans, and getting wet in the cold night air from the light rain in the 4th quarter i couldn't help but think, i can't believe this is really happening. and losing to Petrino just added salt to the wound. as both a Falcons fan and an Auburn fan i wanted this game bad.

Burns should be the man from here on out. if he gets hurt then i say give Caudle a shot. don't burn Trotter's seems pointless now. and Todd sadly should go ahead and start looking for DII schools in need a rainbow tossing QBs.



You are, no doubt, the wisest Auburn fan to ever post to a website.

I've said for years that Tubbs needed to bring a "fan" on Sunday's to tell him what a "fan" saw on Saturday.

I always wanted to be that "fan" (a.k.a. consultant).

After reading your two posts, I support you taking on this role for us Auburn fans.

Great Job!

harry said...

i can't believe people are already calling for auburn to put in trotter or caudle. really? burn trotter's redshirt or put in a guy who obviously isn't that good if he couldn't compete with kodi or chris in the summer. many talk like what we saw out of kodi saturday is the best we will ever see. how long did jason campbell struggle before he got good? and did anyone ever stop to think that changing the qb isn't the cure-all for an offense? just stick with kodi and let's play for next year.

Jerry Hinnen said...

To all: thanks for stopping by and glad you enjoy the blog.

Iggy: Fair enough. Maybe they weren't perfect and I know "blameless" is a strong word, but I thunk it just comes down to how you see the Hog offense. I thought they had a lot of potential and were due to put it together one of these weeks; it's too bad it happened against Auburn, but I think it had more to do with good Hog play than bad Auburn defending, particularly when Auburn's so hobbled.

Acid: thanks for the heads-up. Response tomorrow.

Harry: Your point that Trotter's obviously not going to help us out a whole lot if he couldn't even hang with Burns and Todd in practice is a good one. I concur.

Bosphorus said...

Great post and great site. Yes, KB should be the man. I hope to see what happens when he is and knows he is and gets a whole game to be it. Whatever should be made of the calls on the goal line against Arky, if KB hits one of them and we win, think how different the narrative line would be today: Burns and Offense take first steps...

Anonymous said...

Jerry, I love your blog. It is always insightful and well written.

For those who are gnashing their teeth at the thought of letting Tuberville go, I'd just like to set forth a few brief arguments.

First, with respect to his winning record. I think you take that one magical year away (2004) and the results are extremely ho-hum. One 11-win season and a bunch of 7 to 9 win seasons. Big deal.

And for those who argue "well, you can't take that 2004 season away from him" I have to say this -- didn't Terry Bowden have an undefeated season (and a better won-loss percentage too, for that matter). I don't think anybody wants TB back, so why are Tuberville's results so admirable?

Well, he does bring in high-character players, and in my opinion, that does count for a lot. But that bonus is somewhat dulled by his own propensity for throwing coordinators (and players on occasion) under the bus to save his own hide.

So that gets us to the last thing. Tuberville is, as Phillip Marshall says "always at his best when his back is against the wall." I ask you if this is what you want: a coach who decides to get his bottom in gear and work hard only every few years, only at those points where his complacency has led to such complete disaster that half the fan base is calling for his head. The fans reach this point when the games are no fun to watch. It's okay to lose. Nobody wins them all. But when Tuberville gets fat and happy and quits preparing, his teams look like they've never practiced before. And that is frustrating. In 2003 I watched the Virginia Tech fan with a buddy who is an Alabama fan. He said something that day that has stuck with me ever since. He said, "the real problem with this team is not the losing, but that there have been practically zero times during this game when you could cheer for a single offensive play. It was the same way when they played USC last week -- there was nothing to cheer for." And I think it's been that way over a great many of Tubs losses as his SEC record has slipped from 8-0 in 2004 to 7-1, 6-2, 5-3, to likely much worse this year: they are so poorly prepared offensively that there is NOTHING to cheer for.

So to me, it comes down to this. Would you hire a manager to help you run your business if you had to threaten to fire him every so often to get him to start working hard again?

I think if the powers that be try to make a move again, the fan base needs to get the heck out of the way and hope that the University ponies up the money necessary to get a better coach. And to be honest, it would take somebody pretty awesome to keep the coach-bot on the other side of the state from tilting momentum irreversibly. Although I doubt the powers that be would do it, I think offering a big fat check to a guy like Butch Davis is the only way we stay relevant with the coach-bot on the other side of the state.

Too lazy to sign up for a google account right now, so this post will have to be anonymous.

Mike in Knoxville

Anonymous said...

I meant the "Georgia" Tech game in 2003, not the Virginia Tech game. Sorry for the failure to proofread until too late.

Jerry Hinnen said...

Mike, you raise some good points. You're right that Tubby can't live off of 2004 forever. But you also don't mention the six straight Iron Bowl wins, which is a pretty big check mark in Tubby's favor for both myself and a lot of other Auburn fans.

The problems are, as you point out, the overall decline in Auburn's record since 2004 and the putrid offense. These are big problems. But I also think Tubby's done enough to deserve a chance to fix them if he can. There's a middle ground here between "Off with his head" and "How can you talk about firing Tubby," and that's the middle ground I hope the powers-that-be pursue.

Thanks for sharing.