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Afterthoughts: Hope is a Wonderful Thing….

By on September 3rd, 2013 in Member Post 3 Comments »

Yet another season of Auburn football is upon us.  The Plains are abuzz with talk of things like the Gus Bus, a fresh Toomer’s Corner tradition, and a newly resolved Quarterback controversy.  The season officially began a few days ago when our beloved Tigers began the year with a win over Mike Leach’s team, (which I do not view as a pushover by any means), and that has brought us all something that I, personally have had none of for about two years now:

Hope.

What I saw in the Auburn football team Saturday night brought me something that a Gene Chizik lead team completely drained out of me over the last two years.  What I saw Saturday night was a team that, despite quite a few shortcomings, BELIEVES that they can win.  I still maintain that a 6 win season this year is great for us.  I’m OK with that.  But honestly, I don’t give a two tenths of a rat’s rear end about wins this year.  This year is about one thing to me: 

HOPE. 

I want to see a team that is better than last year’s.  I want to see kids out there playing hard, disciplined football and making us all proud.  I want to see improvements in fundamentals, attitude, and scheming.

Saturday night, I saw ALL of that.

Saturday night, I saw a complete Auburn football team that gives me great hope for the future.  Are we going to challenge Bama for supremacy this year?  No way in hell.  But you know what?  We damn sure will in the future if this keeps up.

I’d like to add a few individual breakdowns of key areas.  We’ll break it down into threes:

THE GOOD;

The secondary is so much better it was just unreal.  They were tight on receivers all night, breaking up passes, being physical, and making that poor opposing quarterback have nightmares about Auburn DB’s.  Last year, every time our opponents dropped back to pass, I visibly cringed and prepared myself for how horrible it would inevitably be.  Saturday night, as I watched the secondary make play after play after play, I began to believe.  We intercepted more passes in ONE GAME that night then we did ALL of last year.  And most importantly of all, when the game was on the line in the 4th quarter, our entire secondary turned into a bunch of Darelle Revis clones, effectively shutting down the pass.  When Tre Mason fumbled the ball, the defense (ESPECIALLY the secondary), came right back into the game and said with authority “WE DON’T THINK SO, BOYS.”  Would that have happened last year?  I think not.  It’s like they left last year and came back better.  Of course, everyone here knows how vocal I was in my undying, eternal hatred of Gene Chizik’s horrible, pathetic, (insert string of 4 letter words that would make any longshoreman cringe), defensive scheme.   Ellis Johnson has fixed that problem and things will only get better.  There were times where it looked like Mike Leach had him totally out-schemed, but that’s not an overly bad thing.  That’s like getting dunked over by Michael Jordan, there aren’t many people that can out-scheme the Mad Genius, just like there aren’t many people that can stuff a basketball back in Michael Jordan’s face.  The point is, the defense this year looks WORLDS better, except in one key area, which will be brought up later.

THE BAD:

As good as the defense was, the offense was not up to par.  While they definitely were not bad, there is a LOT of improvement that needs to happen.  Even Gus admitted this in the post game interview.  For one thing, our receivers seem to have no idea how to catch a football.  Some of the problem was 1st game jitters, I’m sure, some of the problem was Nick Marshall’s lack of touch and experience.  Someone has to tell him that he doesn’t have to throw a 5 yard pass as hard as he can.  I expect Marshall to get better, but if he doesn’t, it’s Wallace time.  I was seeing a lot of balls sailing over heads, lots of drops, lots of bad throws.  The playcalling was WAY better than last year, (of course that’s not saying much, because my 4 year old could have called a better offense than SL), but the execution wasn’t quite there.  Gus was right, improvements are needed or we will lose to ASU next week.  Film will be looked at, things will be worked on in practice, and they will get better.  Despite all the shortcomings, there were flashes of brilliance.  They got better as the game went on, the OL looked MUCH better than last year, and the running game is solid.  A few tweaks here and there, and this will be a good offense.  Once again, the difference between last year and this year is the HOPE I feel now.  I don’t feel hopeless.  I feel like the future is bright.  I feel like this team can win.

THE UGLY:

Undoubtedly the WORST component of the night was the linebacker play.  Our LB’s are HORRIBLE.  Jake Holland WON the starting job in practice, and the fact that he is so bad is scary, because he is supposedly the best of the bunch.  They were out of position, taking bad angles, missing tackles, getting run over, basically everything that they could do wrong, they did wrong.  Most of the time, pass completions by the opposing team were due to LB’s screwing up.  This, to me, is the most glaring weakness we have, and if I were an opposing offensive coordinator, I would be drawing up a thousand plays to create LB/WR matchups for when it was time to play Auburn.  This is an area that HAS to improve.  I hope they get better, and I don’t blame the coaches.  Not yet.  They have to work with what they’ve got, and right now the cupboard is bare.  Nevertheless, I feel that they at least have a chance to be adequate, once they get some work in.  But Saturday night’s performace was the most glaring failure of LB play I’ve seen in a long time.  They look just as bad as they did last year, which doesn’t give me a warm fuzzy.

CONCLUSION:

The game is over, and right now I give the team a C plus.  We are an average football team right now, but that is not a bad thing.  If you look deep, you can see the effect this new coaching staff is having.  That, more than anything, is what gives me hope.  There is no more of the playing favorites that was Gene Chizik’s horrible personnel management.  There is more discipline.  There is more work.  There are better fundamentals.  There is better conditioning.  And most importantly, there is a belief in their leader, Coach Malzhan.  Some of you might be upset at only a C plus.  But……think of where we were last year.  Think of the horrible, profanity laced squawking that peppered my rantings……er……columns then.  There is your difference.  This year, there is improvement.  There is discipline.  There is talent.  And above all, there is HOPE.

In my eyes, after last year, a C plus ain’t so bad, is it? 

3 Comments

  1. wde1988 wde1988 says:

    Capt V, I liked the write up.

    If you want to catch up with Mean Gene… he is on Sirius Radio as a commentator. The comment I heard today while he was defending the ND QB… was fans have a short memory.

    LOL.

    Yeah. We do. But what we don’t forget is the money paid and the result produced. We watched a NC caliber team go to 3-8 right before our eyes. I hold no one else responsible except maybe the players for their individual actions.

    Lot of folks squawking about “negative” comments. Personally, I don’t see them as negative. I see them as realistic. I think you put a positive spin on the truth and I got no problem with that.

    AU has a huge talent gap between us and most of the SEC. I am not sure how this happened. Let’s hope Malzahn’s intensity along with Rodney Garner can change that into something more paletable.

    I think our first test will come with MSU. Can AU hang with an SEC defense? I don’t know. I personally watched this team unravel in Starkvegas last year. I haven’t been that violently ill since… what a long ride home.

    I guess the watch word is one game at a time…

    WDE

  2. zotus zotus says:

    No doubt, in my mind, that CTT and his protégé CGC disappointed many a hopeful-turned-realistic Auburn fan. Their failings as head coaches while at Auburn were numerous and well documented.

    Some failings they shared, some were peculiarly their own. The result of their stewardship of the Auburn program, however, was — in the end — the same: They both left the Auburn football team decimated and in extremely dire straits.

    I share the hope that CGM will have what it takes to pull Auburn’s ox out of the ditch … but, I also am realistic enough to know that it will take him some time to get this PROGRAM (not one team team every 5 or 6 years) back to where every Auburn fan — that I know — wants it to be.

    Couple things keep nagging me about Gus though:

    1. Why, do you suppose, Gus didn’t throw his full weight behind the other AU coaches who wanted to offer a scholarship to Jordan Matthews? (Phillip Marshall says that Matthews wanted to play at Auburn but Auburn couldn’t find room for a WR who turned out to be a probable first round NFL draft pick.)

    2. Why, do you suppose, Gus didn’t didn’t throw his full weight behind going hard after Russell Wilson to follow Cam Newton as Auburn’s QB in 2011? (Yes, I remember AU came in 2nd for Wilson … but, in a 2-horse race, that’s also coming in last place. And, a very timid race run by Auburn, at that.)

    I’ve got some notion about possible reasons Gus may have had to take a public pass on these 2 guys ( while the proven state of Auburn’s talent at WR & QB when the decision was on the table was sub-par at best) … and, none of them good for Gus, by my lights.

    Well anyway, WDE … keep hope alive!

  3. Col.Angus Col.Angus says:

    I agree with much of your assessment, although I am not as down on the offense as much as most people. It was a decidedly average performance, with some really bright highlights unfortunately offset by some ugly lowlights.

    I was really excited to see the Cerberus of Mason/Artis-Payne/Grant devouring yardage and showing lots of speed and vision. The offensive line looked much improved….not great, but much improved. They opened up holes for the running backs and kept Marshall OFF his back. I was also impressed with Marshall’s poise….well maybe not impressed, but happy to see he showed some poise and pocket presence. Marshall has miles to go before I will count on him to win a game, but for a first start in front of 80K+ folks in prime time, he did ok. The most important thing your QB can do for you, is to protect the ball. Marshall did that. So even though he showed he needs to improve his passing touch, he did play a decent team and was able to walk away without a turnover and a win. He ain’t Cam Newton, but then again I was never expecting him to be.

    What I did’t like seeing was the horrendous play calling when we got into field goal range. We moved the ball well with Mason and Grant and then when we got into scoring position we started getting cute with flea flickers and reverses. I didn’t understand it…mainly because it put the pressure back on Marshall to make a play in long yardage situations, which he had not exhibited an ability to do. Those plays stalled drives and put us in long field goal or punt situations. Not smart. Plus Gus showed a lot of playbook that he didn’t need to. We didn’t need to use a flea flicker to beat WSU and the mere fact we were moving the ball and not watching the backfield get swamped was exciting enough.

    For the defense I was pleased with how the DB’s played on the whole. On plays down the field, they mostly held their own. They got burned a few times, but thats going to happen. The main thing was they were defending and not chasing, which is what we have been doing for years now. Montravious Adams, showed every reason why every team in the SEC wanted him. I haven’t seen an Auburn defender that disruptive since Nick Fairley or Aundray Bruce. He will be a difference maker for us if he can keep that type of effort up.

    I agree the LB play was horrific…in fact, our defensive scheme was horrific. I liked the aggressive attitude of putting a bunch of guys on the line and then doing a bunch of stunts, BUT Coach Johnson was very slow in adapting to Leach taking total advantage of the fact we had nobody covering the middle of the field. If you are going to put the Mike in there for run support and not pass coverage out of the dime set, they should have had McKinzy in there instead of Holland and Frost. He also needed to drop some ends into coverage to take away the slants as well. It was frustrating to watch because the DB’s don’t have a chance to defend those passes without putting themselves in position to get burned downfield. That being said, I’m going to withhold judgement on the 4-2-5 scheme until I can see it without being in the Dime for most of the game.

    On the whole I think it was a great game. I say that because we had some really great performances and some great learning opportunities…and we won. It was great because we didn’t look like that team from last year….aside from the LB play. It was great because I could enjoy the game without covering my eyes and cursing into a pillow. It was great because I saw an Auburn team compete and get after their opponent, something I didn’t see much of at all last year. The timidity was gone….hallelejah!!.
    Of course we all wanted the nightmare of 2012 to dissolve in one gigantic thrashing of a PAC-12 bottom feeder, but the fact is we still have a long way to go to get back to respectability. Unlike last year, I think this team will get a lot better in the weeks ahead and we may even see some legends begin to develop. But right now its too early to tell for sure….but you are right, now I have hope.