From the Upper Deck: A Solid Start For Those Click-Clacking Tigers
Everyone was thinking it. Could Auburn live up to the expectations? Could they handle the season opening jitters? Not since 1990 had an Auburn team been ranked so high coming into a season.
As fans tailgated around Jordan-Hare Stadium yesteday, the subject always managed to come up. “Hey man, how have you been? Are these your kids? Really? Wow they’ve grown since I last saw them. Do you want a beer? Well what do you think? Can we handle it tonight? Can we get it done this time?”
That conversation took place thousands of times around campus Saturday afternoon.
The Auburn defense answered that question quickly, setting the tone with three sacks in Washington State’s first three pass attempts. It looked like Stanley McClover and T.J. Jackson were still playing against the Tide. From there, Kenny Irons and John Vaughn took over, leading Auburn to a convincing 40-14 season opening win against Washingtion State.
So overall, how did the Tigers perform? Here are some random thoughts:
The Auburn defense is fast – really fast. This group is without question the fastest defenseTommy Tuberville has put on the field. The Cougar offense was no slouch. They were in the top 10 in total offense last season and returned three of their key components. Playing with another new defensive coordinator and a lot of new faces, Auburn’s defense held All Pac-10 receiver Jason Hill to 15 yards on four catches. Quarterback Alex Brink spent the night doing his best Brody Croyle impression – at one point being pulled in the third quarter….
Player of the Game: Will Herring (With apologies to Kenny Irons and John Vaughn).Will Herring had the game of his life, starting at linebacker for the first time in his career. Herring played as advertised, with three solo tackles and a huge interception. But what he’ll be remembered for most was his execution of a Tommy Tuberville called fake punt that changed the momentum of the game.
“The momentum was switching quickly. They had scored, they had held us to three-and-out,” Tuberville said. “I could feel the momentum change. When I saw they were lined up perfect, I took a big swallow knowing it was going to be run. It went perfect.”…
Kenny Irons is every bit as talented as Carnell Williams and Ronnie Brown. Irons looked to be in mid-season form and was much too fast and physical for the WSU defense. With Notre Dame quarterback Brady Quinn struggling (maybe not statistically) against Georgia Tech and Oklahoma running back Adrian Peterson having a so-so night against UAB, Irons has to be the early Heisman leader. OK, yes I’m hyping it and it’s early. But hey, somebody’s got to push him.
For the record, Irons had 223 yards of total offense; 183 yards on the ground with runs of 42 yards and 58 yards (for a TD). Irons got the attention of the Cougars coaching staff. “Irons is as good a back as I’ve seen,” WSU coach Bill Doba said. Pretty strong words for a guy who coaches in the same conference that Reggie Bush played in.
Brad Lester is almost as good as Kenny Irons. Auburn has had some great duos in its history; Cribbs and Brooks, Jackon and Fullwood; Williams and Brown – now add one more. Brad Lester has established himself as running back 1A. There is virtually no drop off when bringing him in for Irons. That should help the Tigers as they bring these new receivers along. Give props to the offensive line who opened up huge holes for all the backs to run. There’s no question Auburn can grind it out on the ground if they have to.
Tristan Davis should be returning punts. Davis averaged 37 yards on two kickoff returns. Man, he’s lightening fast. I’d have to give him a shot at returning punts.
We’ll never confuse Tre Smith with Bo over the top. I love Tre Smith. He’s been at Auburn as long as some of my friends who never graduated. He will always be part of Auburn lore because of that Alabama game. But when he went “Bo over the Top” late in the game and missed the goal line by two yards, he provided the laugh of the night. We still love you man.
John Vaughn may be an All-American before he’s finished. There’s no better story in all of college football than John Vaughn. The maligned kicker for most of last season for his meltdown at LSU has quietly made himself into one of the top kickers in the country. His four field goals in the first half allowed Auburn to work the kinks out in its offense and get on track while still holding the lead. Let’s hope he kills those demons in two weeks.
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