I don’t get myself sometimes. For most things in my life, I am generally a positive person. I don’t understand why, at least this year, I only seem to see the negatives in Auburn football. This week is no exception. I watched the game in an empty house, and I’m quite glad that was the case, otherwise my 4 year old might have learned some colorful new language. I don’t think I have ever been so disappointed after a double digit win in my life.
What was it? Do I think we are better than we played? Do I hate the Hogs that much? Do I hate Bret Bielima that much? Am I still feeling the aftereffects of last year? I don’t know. Perhaps there is some residual hatred remaining in my psyche from when I was living in Arkansas, and I was hoping that we would stomp all over the Hogs like doormats. Perhaps I wanted to see Bret Bielima pay the ultimate price for all his pathetic whining and griping about the HUNH offense, which didn’t happen. Or perhaps it was just plain old disappointment stemming from the fact that I KNOW this is a much better football team that what showed up Saturday. I honestly am at a loss.
What I saw Saturday was a very Vanilla performance. I watched every minute of the game, and for the most part, we did not beat Arkansas at all. They beat themselves. Our defense came up with a couple of big stops when they were needed, from the goal line stand to stopping them in the red zone with turnovers, to shutting them down on 4th down, but that does not excuse the piss poor play the other 90% of the time. Most of the game, I felt like I was watching last year’s team. I kept scanning the sidelines expecting to see Brian VanGorder pacing around, stroking his 1970’s porn star moustache, getting paid hundreds of thousands of dollars to call wimpy, soft coverage and give up pass plays every time the other team needed one.
What the hell happened? All year I have been so high on the defense, particularly the secondary. They have looked light years better than they did at any time last year. Playing physical, tackling like Ray Lewis, bumping hard on tight coverage, batting down passes, reading the QB and jumping routes, the list goes on and on. This game they just flat out sucked. Same thing with the LB’s. While they definitely haven’t been the best group this year, they are considerably better than last year. Saturday the middle was wide open over and over again, they were losing contain constantly, and the zone was essentially worthless. Every time Arky dropped back to pass, I visibly cringed and expected the worst. Most of the time, the worst happened. Thank God Brandon Allen sucks and missed tons of throws, and thank God their receivers had some key drops. The game would have gone very differently had Arky executed at all.
As it stands, they did not. They turned it over twice in the red zone, they failed to punch it in from the 2 yard line, and dropped quite a few passes that should have been caught and kept drives alive. What I saw Saturday was a horrendous defensive regression, comparable to last year. The difference in the game was the turnovers and Arkansas’s poor execution.
How was the offense? Adequate is the best word I can come up with. The game plan was extremely Vanilla. We threw the ball 10 times, completing 9. The only incompletion was yet another drop by Sammie Coates. It amazes me how Marshall can hit him dead in the face perfectly and he drops it, and then a few plays later Marshall underthrows him on a deep ball and he makes a play that Jerry Rice would have been proud of. Despite that, Marshall looked more consistent throwing the ball then I have seen him all year, albeit it was only on 10 throws. His only screwup was the fumble that he was lucky enough to recover by himself.
Tre Mason was a hero. I can’t believe how much better he looks this year than last. I also can’t believe that despite how good he is, he seems to be getting little to no national attention. Some NFL team is going to probably draft him low, and get a STEAL. Mark my words: Tre Mason WILL play at the next level, and he will be good.
Saturday night he was nothing short of amazing. He ran for 4 TD’s, (eat your heart out Al Bundy), and was pretty much Auburn’s entire offense. The OL, while not being as dominating as they have been recently, did a good job opening holes, and Mason is reading gaps and being patient like an NFL veteran. You can just see his maturity in the replays. He is patient and cerebral with his running, and quite simply brutal once he decides to mix it up. Tre Mason won the game Saturday night. Every RB in FBS should take a look at his performance and try to emulate it.
I can gather that Gus figured he didn’t need much to beat Arky, and he was right. We didn’t run but 6 or 7 plays the whole first half, and Arky could not stop any of it. The only time we failed to score is when we stopped ourselves with dumb penalties or the inevitable momentary lapse in playcalling that seems to happen every game with Gus. Then, in the end, Gus got conservative and stopped trying to get first downs. He kept giving Arkansas the ball back, despite how poorly the defense was playing and how much they had been on the field. That was a HUGE mistake. Thankfully, the Arkansas offensive miscues bailed him out, but I was furious watching our 4th quarter offense. I didn’t care about the failure to score, but I was blazing mad at Gus seeming to be perfectly happy giving up, running predictable plays up the middle, and coming up with nothing but 3 and outs when Arkansas clearly had the momentum. Against a better team, that would have been pure death. But once again, Arkansas’s sucking bailed out poor strategy.
I’ve read some people on here saying that Gus was Vanilla on purpose. I read some people saying that it is impossible to keep a team playing at a high level every game of the year. Balderdash and poppycock. Nick Saban does it every year with the turds. They don’t have games like this. They play fundamentally sound football 13 games a year every year. They never forget how to tackle. They never blow gap discipline. No matter how good or bad their opponent is, they are always ready to play. This week, for the first time all year, Auburn did not look ready to play. That, perhaps, was the most disappointing aspect of the night for me.
Next week, we have Tennessee. They are bad as well, and we should beat them no problem. But, I honestly believe if we play like we did against Arkansas, it will be a big fat ‘L’. In 2 weeks we have Georgia. Georgia is starting to get healthy again, and should be much better when they play us then they have been for a solid month. Quite simply, we had better get it together and fast.
Last year we were 3-9. The turnaround this year has been nothing short of incredible. One bad game does not make a bad year. All I am saying is what I saw Saturday scares me. Were we nothing more than a flash in the pan? I’d like to believe not, and I don’t think one bad game can be served up as an example of us having a lucky year. We have beaten too many good teams to be a flash in the pan. But right now, Auburn controls its own destiny. We win out, we win the West. Nobody is giving us a chance in hell against the Updykes, and I can’t say that I blame them. Honestly, I hope it continues right up until the game itself. I’d love nothing more than to stomp all over the turds’ perfect season and drop a big steamer on their BCSNC hopes.
But what I saw Saturday scared the hell out of me defensively. We play defense like that, there is no way in hell we ever beat Georgia. Aaron Murray will NOT miss the throws that Brandon Allen did. Neither will AJ McCarron. We play like that we lose to anybody worth a damn. Why is that so unacceptable to me? Because I KNOW WE ARE BETTER THAN THAT. I’ve seen it. All damn year. When I see a regression like that I am disgusted. It’s like watching your kid, who you know is a genius, get F’s in school and smoke pot. You KNOW he/she is capable of so much more, and makes you sick to see them being an epic failure because you KNOW they shouldn’t be.
I don’t want to hear damn excuses. I want to see sound football, execution, and physicality. Every time I donate money to the university, I am responsible for an amount, however miniscule, of the seven figure salary paid to the head coach. I am in no way saying that he hasn’t earned it this year. He’s earned it ten thousand times over with this turnaround. If he’s not SEC coach of the year, something is severely wrong. But a failure of the magnitude I saw on Saturday is unacceptable, and something I have every right in the world to bitch about.
I expect things to be better this week. I expect a win in Knoxville. Despite Saturday, one bad performance does not a year make. I am still on board and still happy with Gus. Even if we lose the next 4 games this year, he’s still done way more than I even dreamed. I’m proud of the team and proud of the staff. I can’t wait to see where we are in 2 or 3 years. The future looks nothing but bright for Auburn football! Even though I tend to see bad things a lot easier than good ones, I still believe. I know it’s hard for some of you to buy, but it’s the truth. I have seen what this team is capable of, though, and I KNOW we can win the SEC this year. That is why I’m so critical…….it’s BECAUSE Gus has done such a great job. He’s made me a believer, and a bad performance against a bad team is something that makes me upset.
Gus, you’ve done an amazing job this year. We are all happy. Every fan should be happy no matter what, even if we lose out. But……we don’t have to. I guess all I’m saying to Gus is this:
Don’t get conservative. Don’t run it up the damn middle. GO FOR IT!! We’ve come this far, we might as well finish the job. This team can do it. If the King of Negative Nancies on Trackemtigers believes it, anyone should!!