A Year of Catastrophe, a Year of Hope.
It’s definitely time to ring in a new year!
War Eagle, everybody! A dreadful year in Auburn athletics is finally drawing to a close! It sure doesn’t seem like a year ago we were gearing up for a big bowl win over Virginia, and two years ago we were following a Heisman Trophy winner to the national championship game. Signs are pointing to better times, though, with a fairly positive December.
The Tigers have a new head football coach who is generating a lot of excitement with his defensive hires of late. With the latest addition, secondary coach Melvin Smith, the Tigers have a ridiculous 68 years of coaching experience on the defensive side of the ball. I’ll be shocked if Auburn doesn’t get that points per game against stat down under 24 points per game, with the talent the Tigers have coming back.
New Auburn women’s basketball coach Terri William-Flournoy has hit the ground running, and the Lady Tigers are off to a 10-2 start. Fast starts and February-March slides are nothing new to Auburn fans in this sport, but a look at some of the scores gives the hope that this team means business, and will continue to win. Five of Auburn’s wins have been by 20 points or more, including a 71-49 beating of a pretty good Temple team. Unfortunately, the men’s team seems to be business as usual again this season. It’s been ten years since Cliff Ellis took an Auburn team to the NCAA tournament.
I’m not going to spend this post rehashing all of the bad things that happened over the year. There were too many, too often. Instead, I’ll try and pick out a few positives. Auburn signed another very good football class, many of whom didn’t have a chance to play this past season. Those who played and excelled included fullback Jay Prosch and cornerback Joshua Holsey. Avery Young, Patrick Miller, Cassanova McKinzy, and quarterback Jonathan Wallace also made major contributions, and soldiered on under terrible conditions.
Auburn won the SEC Championship in Soccer, and an Equestrian national title. On the men’s tennis team, Daniel Cochrane and Andreas Mies won the national ITA All American Doubles Title. Even in the worst year for major Auburn sports I can remember, Auburn is still the home of champions!
At Auburn’s A-Day game, three new statues of Auburn’s Heisman Trophy winners were unveiled on the east side of the stadium exterior, along with a bust of John Heisman, one of Auburn’s early football coaches. Optimism abounded, as a crisp A-Day performance by Auburn’s starters seemed to indicate another great year was on the way. Little did we suspect what awaited.
I remain very optimistic that Auburn will have success early and often once again with Coach Gus Malzhan running the show. Folks forget that Auburn started very fast in 2009, when Malzhan was left to run his thing. When things started changing in 2009 was when Chris Todd’s arm started bothering him, around the time of the Tennessee game. The Auburn defense was gassed at the end of that one, and the Tigers gave up 16 points in the 4th quarter to the Vols.
The Tigers sputtered against Arkansas so much that we started seeing limitations put on the offense. They would no longer “hurry up” till they had knocked out one first down on a drive. The same philosophy held true in 2010, but the key factor was that Cam Newton and that bunch were seldom stopped on 3rd down. Auburn played 14 games in 2010, and were not stopped on 3rd and 1 or less, the whole season.
In 2011, Auburn roared out of the gate with 42 points against Utah State, 41 against Mississippi State, and 21 in the first half against Clemson. Then the hurry up was gone. The Tigers started milking the offensive play clock down to less than ten seconds, for the rest of the year. Auburn’s offensive numbers plummeted, and blow-out losses ensued to Arkansas, LSU, Georgia and Alabama. Gus Malzhan took a half million dollar a year pay cut to leave this situation.
This season, I’d expect the hurry-up to be back. Auburn has the depth in the defensive front and secondary to rotate a lot of players, and defensive fatigue should not be as big a concern as it was the past few years. And the Tigers should have multiple capable ball carriers and receivers to rotate, also. The biggest question for next season for the Auburn football team is whether the coaches can produce a quarterback capable of opening up the throttle on the Malzhan machine.
This blog has had a tough year, too. After a great run with SB Nation, a change was made, and we had to fumble through the process of handling the technical end of running a website on our own. A lot of it wasn’t pretty, as we had pages that wouldn’t load for some users, registration problems, spam problems, and bandwidth problems. I am exceptionally grateful for those folks who stuck it out with us, despite irritating difficulties. This website would not be what it currently is without the efforts of AubTigerman and web designer Steven Morgan. They’ve kept things improving and moving forward during the past few months. And I’m deeply indebted to Jay and the team for keeping me around! We’re still all Auburn fans to the core, and a bad year will NOT keep us down! I’ve really enjoyed the new writers we’ve had here the past few months. They’ve done a fine job under difficult circumstances. A big salute goes to Derrick Roberts, Bill Sewell (myauburn), and Sullivan013.
I hope each and every one reading this had a great and wonderful Christmas, and a Happy New Year to all! War Eagle!