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A Big Win That Felt Like Something Else

By on September 24th, 2018 in Football, News 33 Comments »

If there’s been a less satisfying 31-point win in the history of Auburn, football it was before my time. As fans filed out of Jordan-Hare Stadium Saturday following Auburn’s 34–3 win over Arkansas, it felt like something of a loss—or at least a really bad tie if you remember those days.

Against the 119th-ranked defense in the country, Gus Malzahn’s offense was held to 225 yards. Its average starting field position was the Arkansas 49-yard line. It managed only 17 offensive points through three quarters.

Breaking down this Auburn team through four games is simple. It’s playing with an elite defense, improving special teams and one of the worst offensive lines in the SEC. Because of this, the running game has been pedestrian, and Jarrett Stidham has struggled.

Kudos to former Heisman Trophy winner Tim Tebow who nailed the scouting report on Stidham prior to the LSU game. “When the line starts to give, he becomes very average,” said Tebow during an SEC Network broadcast . “His feet start to shuffle, and he struggles with the downfield pass.”

Offensive lines are like the stock market, they tend to go up or down as the season progresses. Last year, the protection got better every week, and we saw the result. Right now, Chip Lindsey is still trying to find the pieces. If there is a silver lining, it’s Auburn’s schedule over the next month.

It’s no cake walk for sure, but with games against Southern Miss, at Mississippi St., Tennessee and at Ole Miss coming up, Auburn has time to fix things. The defense should play well enough to get them to 7–1 when Texas A&M comes to town on November 3rd.

The real shame is that lost in all the offensive talk is a defense that’s playing about as good as any in the country. If Auburn can just improve incrementally in the coming weeks, it should arrive at Amen Corner in good shape. Time will tell…

If I’m Auburn officials, the crowds showing up for games have to be a concern. On Saturday, close to 40 percent of the seats on the east side upper deck were empty. There were plenty of open ones as well on the west side.

You could chalk it up to playing a bad Arkansas team and coming off a loss, but the results were nearly as bad a week earlier against LSU. There’s no arguing that not having Alabama or Georgia for a home game is having an effect on season ticket sales. But there are other factors.

Tailgating restrictions and adding more pay-to-park spaces are causing issues. Less than friendly University employees make you feel like something of a criminal by imposing strict rules for setting up and enjoying your Saturday.

Throw in the convenience of big screen televisions and air conditioning at home, and you begin to see why people are punting on a day spent in Auburn. The University’s past administration was largely viewed as inept at running the game day experience. Here’s to hoping the new leaders do a better job of making people feel welcomed…

I know SEC league officials frown on coaches saying anything publicly about officiating, but enough is enough. Teams are going to have bad calls go their way. It’s part of the game. This year, things have gone to a new level for Auburn. It’s time for Malzahn to speak out, take the league fine and show the players and fans he has their back.

Saturday’s questionable block in the back didn’t affect the outcome, but it easily could have. I can’t remember a year when SEC officiating has been so bad. It’s time for them to be held accountable and not just in a Monday morning conference call. Coaches need to speak out until the issues are fixed…

I had a moment inside Jordan-Hare Stadium that made me feel my age. Welcoming back former players on the field prior to kickoff, Lionel James was welcomed to the field with polite applause. How could one of the great Auburn running backs get such a lukewarm reception?

Then it hit me. Most in attendance probably had no recollection of his playing days in the early 1980’s. That makes me sad and feel really old. If you don’t know him, hit up Google and type in “Little Train Auburn”. He was pretty special. Ask Bo Jackson.

Until next time…


  1. uglyjoe says:

    I had to explain to my group who Lionel James was…….we were in the east upper deck; we could have set up our tailgate tents, but it was nice to stretch out.

  2. Sullivan013 Sullivan013 says:

    ‘Little Train’ was very special. As the bridge between the Cribbs and Brooks era until Bo Jackson arrived, he was a fundamental part of the Auburn offense who really had to make his own yards against some really tough situations – and did regardless. A very special player.

    Prior to Bo, we had some absolute busts as running backs. I remember a 240 lb freshman (whose name escapes me) with blazing speed and power show up for a couple of games in 1980, only to cough up the ball every time an opposing defensive player hit him.

    But Lionel James was there every game and every down. A really stalwart player who gave his all on every single play. He would take down charging defensive ends who easily out weighed him by 100 lbs or more.

    • “Little Train” was a joy to watch and a real fan favorite. I too am dismayed that more people do not seem to remember him.

  3. ATL_AU_FAN ATL_AU_FAN says:

    I recall Acid stating on the Game Thread that Auburn needed to bring the heat and, on defense and special teams, handled that pretty well. But no one brought the heat on Saturday like Mother Nature. Maybe it is just me and maybe it is because I’m getting older but that is one of the hottest days I’ve ever spent in Auburn.
    I also wonder if the heat played some small part of fans not showing for an SEC game. Maybe playing Arkansas isn’t as intense since Bret is gone.
    Tailgating around us was far less populated than normal also. Sure, the die-hards such as us were there but the two sites on either side of us were empty.

    • AubTigerman AubTigerman says:

      The LSU game was one of the hottest I've spent at Auburn especially watching the game in the mid day sun. But Saturday at out tailgate on the other side of campus from y'all, we had a fairly nice breezy day.

      The crowd could have been better and the heat at LSU game may have made some fans decide to catch it on TV. But I was surprised that in both SEC games the east upperdeck corners where there is usually visitor seating were empty. Arkansas doesn't travel as well as others but I really was surprised that LSU fans didn't show up in force.

    • Acid Reign Acid Reign says:

      …..I’m a night shift guy, in an un-airconditioned space. The past week has, indeed been miserable. It hasn’t dropped below 75 degrees, even in the wee hours of the morning, in the Tragic City, this past week. I can only imagine how bad it has been, in the sun.

  4. Rebel Yell says:

    For some reason which I have yet to figure out, AU is consistently inconsistent! I thought with Stidham coming back with another year of experience, we’d have a good team this year, even if the schedule was brutal. If Malzahn, Chip, and Coach Grimes don’t figure out this O-Line out quick, I’m afraid this year might get to look like 2012! performance Saturday night was miserable

  5. fasttimes says:

    Auburn since they fired T-ville

    2009 – 8-5 (Chiz w/ Gus)
    2010 – won NC (mostly with T-ville players plus CAM)(Chiz w/ Gus)
    2011 – 8-5 (Chiz w/ Gus)
    2012 – 3-9 (arguably the worst Auburn season in history) (Chiz
    2013 – lose in the NC game (Gus)
    2014 – 8-5(Gus)
    2015 – 7-6(Gus)
    2016 – 8-5(Gus)
    2017 – 10 – 4 (lost seccg in spectacular fashion after beating the tar out of the same team 3 weeks prior)

    it really is like the team is bipolar..

    • Can’t argue with the record but it could be amended to say :
      – 1 SEC Championship (Gus)
      – 2 SEC West Championships (Gus)
      And :
      – 1 SEC Championship (Chiz w/Gus)
      – 1 West title (Chiz w/Gus)

      • I love Auburn but I would say “bipolar” pretty much describes Auburn’s football history. Up and down.

        • AubTigerman AubTigerman says:

          I would agree with "bipolar" to generally describe Auburn football. Except for the 1980's when Pat Dye's teams dominated the SEC. In 9 seasons his Tigers won 4 SEC Championships and came close to winning another with the '86 team that finished with a 10-2 record.

      • fasttimes says:

        true, but i don’t consider the “west” titles much of anything. i mean, id rather win the west than not, but i wouldn’t hang a banner over it (i know all schools do though)

        i thought noting the the NC games implied an SEC champ. only bama get to the NC game with out winning their conference (or even division)

    • neonbets says:

      Auburn in 10 seasons w/ T-ville 85-40
      Auburn in 9.333 seasons since it fired T-ville 81-42 and very little difference in seasonal volatility. [Higher highs post T-ville and one lower low. But all in all–very similar volatility.]

      If Auburn is bipolar post T-ville, it was also bipolar w/ T-ville.

      As AubTigerman stated, the only consistent period for Auburn was that stretch in the 80s with Pat Dye, who was an impressive 99-39 –albeit during ‘bama’s post-Bear-Bryant-Bear Market years.

      Interesting trivia: Fairley was signed in ’07 and originally recruited as an OG/Athlete (some also viewed him as a tight-end). He made the switch full time to defense in junior college.

  6. Enjoyed the post Jay. Always good to get your perspective. So glad to be reading your column once again.

  7. meathead530 says:

    Surely the offense will find their rhythm. It happened last year at the Arkansas game. Hopefully it will be ready at the next SEC game.

  8. Acid Reign Acid Reign says:

    …..Little Train! I followed this guy well into his career with the San Diego Chargers, and the “Air Corelle” offense. James led the entire NFL in receptions, around 1985! San Diego move the ball on EVERYBODY, because Dan Fouts could just dump it off to James, and he’d pick up the first down, or bust a huge play. Amazing times.

  9. Acid Reign Acid Reign says:

    …..On a related note, I really enjoyed watching Minnesota take down the Patriots, last night. The secret weapon for the Lions was a healthy Kerryon Johnson. Protected Matt Stafford on passing downs. Was sneaky good on the few running plays he was called on for. Was a weapon out of the backfield. War Eagle!

  10. Acid Reign Acid Reign says:

    …..As to actually attending Auburn games, they have made it harder and harder. Parking continues to get worse. I can’t wear my fanny-pack into the stadium, anymore. They even charge for A-Day, the last few years. Nice job, officials, driving us to stay home and watch it on the big screen!

  11. Zach Taylor Zach Taylor says:

    Better watch out with those facts, Jay, or you will get labeled "Negative Nancy" and get 50-something comments about how everything is going to be A-OK and then have everyone question your knowledge of the game, your fandome and your qualifications on rooting for Auburn…

    • neonbets says:

      Shoot Zach, I was a part of that barrage. Thankfully nobody reads my blabber…nonetheless, I truly am sorry you had to suffer through all that. For my part, I was just venting in general. And, while we disagree on some things, you always take a strong stand–critics be damned. I really respect that. You make it fun to get riled up over college football. AND you’re a helluva writer. Please accept both my respect and my apologies.


      Sean White was terribly overrated.

    • No apologies should be necessary. Zach said his piece and we said ours.
      What’s that old saying, “if you can’t stand the heat get out of the kitchen”?

    • Acid Reign Acid Reign says:

      …..I don’t have a problem with a reasoned critique of what a player can and can’t do. I draw the line at calling a kid names, but I haven’t seen that, here. These are college kids, yes, but they are out there in the public eye, competing. Some win, some lose. If they lose, I don’t think it’s wrong to examine why they lose.

    • Zach Taylor Zach Taylor says:

      It’s all good my dudes. I just want people to be informed. We are all on the same side.

    • jbellison56 says:

      It's not the facts that brings ire it's the way they're presented. Jay like Phillip Marshall tells the truth but he's also balanced. None of that "You've been Gus'd" crap. Instead in this article after pointing out the offensive woes, Jay says, "Auburn has time to fix things" and "Lost in all the offensive talk is a defense that’s playing about as good as any in the country. If Auburn can just improve incrementally in the coming weeks, it should arrive at Amen Corner in good shape. Time will tell." – Big difference.

      • Zach Taylor Zach Taylor says:

        That may be true. I’m also not paid to be biased.

        • jbellison56 says:

          Oh, now I understand, Jay Coulter is paid to be biased. Thanks for clearing that up for me.

        • Jason Wright says:

          Zach just put your big boy pants on and move on.

          • Zach Taylor Zach Taylor says:

            I’m 5 foot 4. No such thing as big boy pants haha.

            Also, that comment was loaded with sarcasm. It was directed at Marshall, first
            Second, I’m not paid because I’m not good enough of a writer to be paid.

  12. zotus zotus says:

    Jay, if you go back a couple clicks further (in the early 80’s) than Lionel & Bo, you might remember a game that may challenge last Saturday’s Arkansas game for the hottest September football game ever at JHS.

    Auburn & the UT Vols began playing each other (in September) on a consistent basis in 1956, and continued doing so right up through 1991. SEC realignment, sadly, put an end of all that. It’s hard to believe the arrogance of it all now, but there where 3 teams that the SEC allowed to dictate that Auburn had to play Auburn’s home games in Birmingham: Tennessee, Ga Tech, and, of course, Alabama.

    The 2nd game the UT Vols ever played in Auburn AL was played in the afternoon blazing sun on 09/27/1980. The most miserable I’ve ever been at an Auburn football game. The sun was unbearable and the 42-0 score didn’t help.

    The first Auburn-Tenn game I ever saw was played on the most beautiful fall-like September day I’ve ever seen in Birmingham on September 27, 1958. The 13-0 score did more than balance out what came down the pike exactly 22 years later. Most dominating Auburn defensive performance I’ve ever seen. Shut out a very good Tenn Vol football team. The best part: Tennessee didn’t make a single first down. The Vols finished with minus-49 yards rushing and minius-30 yards total offense. Yes indeed, for you youngsters out there: the Tigers from Lee County have been playing a pretty good brand of college football a pretty long time prior to the dawn of the 21st Century.

    Jay, it’s been said that a lot of young folks act as if history started the year they were born. If that’s true, it’s good to see that your site is among those that is doing its part in remembering the old Auburn greats. Lionel James was indeed special. Ask Bo. Or, ask another man who saw him play. WDE!

    • Acid Reign Acid Reign says:

      …..That 1980 game was the worst! I was in the Auburn band. We sweltered, in those wool uniforms! The students pelted the vols with tons of oranges, as they came into the stadium. (The visitor entrance used to be right under the student section, in the southeast corner of the end zone.) Case after case of oranges. It fired the vols up, and they pasted us. Worst Auburn loss of my lifetime, till various debacles in 2012…

      …..Nothing was learned, from that game. The students did the same dadgum thing, when Nebraska visited 2 years later, with corncobs. Nebraska put a 41-3 beating on Auburn!

      • zotus zotus says:

        Talk about your cruel & unusual punishment. Had to have been tough sitting up there with the band, as a captive audience, in the Barfield era. 🙂

        But, ol’ Doug will always have 1979. Big wins over Tech in ATL and UGA in Athens. We’ll not mention (ahem) the Wake Forest game.

        Then came 1980 and Zero-for-the-SEC.

        Then came an old-school football coach, who decided it was about time to leave Wyoming and head back to the SEC.

  13. Tiger4Life says:

    If your OLine isn’t the best in pass protection– the COACHES need to adapt! Roll Stidham out…ALWAYS have a safety valve to dump off to…Shorter slant routes…Teach the receivers to look for the ball quicker…
    I see Stidham in the shotgun take two steps back– NO ONE IS CLOSE TO BEING OPEN (they probably haven’t finished running their route) and he is ALREADY running for his life…
    Also, if we are going to be a run/play action team… then we are going to have to make some first downs running the ball, and the QB is going to have to keep it once in a while to penalize the defense for keying on our RB’s…
    You know its true– when we had a special offense, our defense wasn’t special. Now we have a special defense, and offense- not so much (be nice to have BOTH AT THE SAME TIME!)

  14. […] speaking of buzz, or lack thereof, has anyone heard of or read about Auburn’s almost total lack of offense against Arkansas? That was really difficult to watch. […]

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