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From the Ivory Tower

By on September 15th, 2008 in Football Comments Off
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 …..I’m on vacation in kinda-sorta sunny Florida this week, and spent much of the MSU game messing with a failing laptop. Luckily, we brought my wife’s Thinkpad on the trip, too. Otherwise, I’d have to be silent on the net, for an entire week! 

…..Much has vitriol has been spouted on the internet since Saturday, about Auburn’s anemic offensive showing against Mississippi State, last Saturday night. I think a little perspective is in order. To be sure, Auburn’s offensive performance was disturbing, but remember, we won. And we put up basically a median performance, compared to last year’s average yardage and turnover numbers. We’re playing a totally new offensive scheme, with new quarterbacks. There WILL be some bumps! To expect otherwise, is to be naive. 

…..I’ll probably be concerned about depth in the secondary till the last whistle in January. But, for now, wow! We’ve got better coverage skills all around, and killer speed, at all four starting positions. I don’t think there’s EVER been a deeper front seven, in Auburn history. 

…..There has been much outcry for a better red-zone package out of the Tigers, from all corners. Folks, our lone scholarship fullback is out with a knee. Of our three non-rookie scholarship tight ends, one has trimmed down to play wide receiver (Trott), one is now a major factor at defensive end (McKenzie), and one is hurt (Slusher). How are we going to go jumbo, with that situation? I do think Kodi Burns needs to be involved with the goal-line offense. 

…..Chris Todd has made a couple of bad throws right to defenders, in the first three games. So has Burns, in his opportunities. If you’ll recall, Pat Sullivan, Jeff Burger, Reggie Slack, Stan White, Pat Nix, Dameyune Craig, Ben Leard, Jason Campbell, and pretty much ALL beloved Auburn quarterbacks have had problems when they first started. Whether we go with Burns, Todd, or a mix of the two, one MUST realize that they will hardly look like Heisman candidates in their first year in the system. In the MSU game, Todd made one sure turnover throw that should have been picked off, and made one bad pitch-handoff, that was fumbled away. Par for the course, for a rookie. There was a certain lineman that got a major distance flag three plays in a row. THAT sort of thing is what grounded our offense more than suspect quarterbacking. 

…..While I’d much rather be out on the roof enjoying another margarita with the full moon, I’m here exhorting ALL Auburn fans to get behind the Tigers and get ready for LSU! We need to get loud at this game, and stay focused! 

Grades for MSU 

Defensive Line: A. Auburn has at least seven guys here, that have needed a double-team block, to stop. Even when they make a mistake, the strength and athleticism is there to recover. There was one play on 3rd and long where MSU ran a draw. Gabe McKenzie went WAY outside on the rush, only to see Ducre cut inside the guard/tackle gap. McKenzie reversed direction instantly, went back inside (shoving the tackle to the ground), and hammered Ducre. It was astounding! All eight of the top two-deep guys made some BIG plays! Much was made, pregame, about how MSU would try to wear on Auburn’s undersized linebackers, with big tailbacks. In reality, first contact on most MSU running plays was by a defensive lineman. Great job! 

Linebackers: A. For guys supposedly too small to get it done against a BIG SEC team, these guys were NASTY. Holes were filled nigh flawlessly. There were no broken tackles against our linebackers. When they were called on to cover screen routes, the lanes were smothered. 

Secondary: A-. Even here, in our thinnest defensive area, things were done pretty well. Guys ran around a little too open underneath, but there weren’t hardly any yards after the catch. Walt McFadden showed GREAT recovery speed, and an abilty to make plays on the ball. The safeties made great plays, too. The tight end passes that SO concerned me going in, were shut down. If there was a flaw, it was corners getting run off the ball a little too much. We could stand to be a little more aggressive cracking back down on those hitch and stop routes. 

Punting: A-. The average yards per punt was down to 40.2, this game, but 3 of eight were downed inside the 20 yard line, with only one touchback. We’d like to see a little more consistency, this wasn’t bad, at all. MSU’s dangerous returner, Derrick Pegues, was held to 5.2 yards per return. 

Punt Returns: A-. Some might complain at the conservatism, but Robert Dunn earned this grade with his brain. There were a lot of fair catches, but they were all executed successfully, with no turnovers. MSU kicked to the sideline, or away from Dunn. On the two returns he did get, he was still over ten yards per return, at 11.0. 

Kick Returns: A. Only one for the Tigers, and Tristan Davis took it upfield for 35 yards and good field position. 

Kickoffs: C. Wes Byrum did all of these, and wasn’t terribly impressive, with a 61 yard average, and one kicked out of bounds at a critical time. 

Placekicking: D. Can’t miss TWO chip shots in a tight game! Wind was a factor… 

Offensive line: D-. While there were some good blocks here and there, at times this line resembled the keystone cops. Guys, you can’t just grab a lineman by the neck and rope him down. Especially not on the corner, right in front of the line judge. The false starts MUST stop. 

Receivers: B. Blocking was inconsistent, as were routes. There was a distinct lack of crispness, and guys just rounding things off, like they were pretty sure that the ball wasn’t coming to them. Letter grade up, though, for several AWESOME catches in traffic by Montez Billings! 

Running Backs: C. Blocking was reasonably solid, as were the carries and catches. Can’t fumble twice, though. We’ve GOT to get that fixed! 

Quarterback: C-. There were some BAD throws, but also some good ones. You have to hand it to Chris Todd, for keeping from going totally to Hell, when things weren’t working. Worst play: the toss-fumble to Mario Fannin with the game on the line. WHY are we pitching the ball, trying to run the clock out with a lead? (That’s on Franklin, I think…) 

…..I think most of the problems are fixable. We need a better red-zone package, and we’ve GOT to hold onto the ball! If we can avoid turnovers against LSU, I think the defense and special teams can win the game. 

…..War Eagle, everybody! Let’s get ready for LSU!

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