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The question still remains…. Do you believe?

By on November 10th, 2013 in Member Post 17 Comments »

 Watching the game on Saturday I pondered it over again and again.  Looking back on the misery of 2012 season and the pain the program endured in its quick downward spiral, I tried not to lose focus. My twelve year old son pointed out the positives of this team and I quickly countered with the negatives.  I was doing my best to keep it real.  As it turns out… he was more right than me. Surprise! Therefore, I think it’s important to clear the air…

First and foremost I am so very proud of this team.  Auburn came in to the 2013 season with an outside hope of attaining a 6-6 or 7-5 record.  And look at them now.

The prognosticators, with me among them, thought that AU would lose to the SEC elite.  The games with LSU, Ole Miss, TA&M, UGA, and bama were sure losses.  Games with MSU, ARK, and Tennessee were doubtful.  As the season progressed it was noticeable that this team probably didn’t believe much in itself either because it simply wasn’t very good.  Like a rusty piece of machinery that hadn’t been operated in decades it was lethargic, and unwieldy. It was hard to believe that we won a National Championship in 2010. AU squeaked through the opening games with Washington State and Mississippi State. But still the team chugged along.  Like the tin man… all it needed was the right coaching… and lubricant.

Then the torrential downpour game with LSU in Baton Rouge and the progress we had noticed taking place seemed to be lost in the flood. From where I sat it appeared that the wheels had fallen off.  AU was dominated from the start to the finish. But even with the loss, something phenomenal appeared to be happening.  AU didn’t quit.  AU kept slugging. It made me think that the saying “it’s a new day” actually seemed to mean something instead of another flashy, empty media slogan.  Auburn, with its head coach leading… kept fighting.  In a game that should have been a 28 point loss, AU pulled within two touchdowns to make it respectable. I think valuable lessons were learned that day.

Then Ole Miss came to town… with a tough Oxford squad that had beaten Texas at home.  But it had suffered one loss which came to bama the week before. AU and Ole Miss tied up and punched it out. The game went down to the wire for all intensive purposes.  And Auburn pulled out a tough, physical victory. Suddenly, AU was 5-1 going into College Station to face Texas A&M. It was then I asked the question:  do you believe? 

I realize that it might seem silly to think AU stood a chance in the home of the 12th man, but I asked the question any way. The fight I had seen AU develop in Baton Rouge I expected to see on this day.  And see it we all did.  The year before the Aggies had decimated Auburn in Jordan Hare before halftime. But this year, Auburn battled and fought.  Down and back up again.  Behind and ahead.  Auburn came through and beat Johnny Football and the Aggies at home in probably one of the toughest venues in the Southeastern Conference.  I was hooked!

7-1 and with a new light ahead AU rolled in to Fayetteville.  AU was able to battle Murphy on the road and once again pull out a victory. In the perfect upset game, Bret Bielema blows the ambush that SEC scheduling had naturally set up to provide him with the signature win he needed to provide him at least a three year contract.  He ran his mouth and earned the ire of Gus Malzahn who is an Arkansas native.  Still, AU played to the ability of its opponent and won. 

That brings us to the next team that had an equally natural set up for a near ambush… Tennessee and its coach Butch Davis. While their fans may be classless, the program is definitely one of the up and coming teams in the SEC I believe. Playing at home in front of its home crowd Tennessee actually had already had what many considered the signature win against a highly ranked South Carolina squad and a near upset of Georgia to whom it lost in over-time. 

Again, Tennessee is a team that plays better at home.  It was ranked 109th in passing, 48th in rushing, 88th in overall offense, and 94th in overall defense.

Coming into the game, Auburn was ranked 108th in passing, 3rd in rushing, 18th overall in offense, and 22nd overall defense.

While the passing grades might confuse some, any AU fan would be able to explain that the philosophy of Gus Malzahn is to run first and pass only to open up the run. I think this remained true against the Vols.

When the game started, Auburn’s defense opened flat.  Tennessee was able to drive the field and score a field goal. The mere fact that AU kept them out of the end zone was a minor victory in and of itself.  Auburn’s offense took possession and subsequently punted. The good news was that UT didn’t fare any better in its next possession and punted.  Based upon good special teams play from AU, it started in Tennessee territory. In two plays AU scored with a 22 yard pass from Marshall to Uzomah that appeared flawless and seem to answer critics that Marshall was unskilled as a passer hitting Uzomah in step on a wheel route. However Tennessee’s special teams blocked the extra point try.  This proved to be the Vols only impact on special teams.

Again, AU kicked off to UT and they drove the field scoring another field goal and thereby tying the game.  On AU’s next possession, it fumbled the ball away killing a 44 yard drive. UT got the ball and put together the only touchdown drive it had all day.  UT kicked the ball back to AU and the next drive took two plays and 75 yards for another AU rushing TD.  AU had answered the bell and continued to answer the bell for the rest of the game.  From there on out AU was in control.  AU went on to win handily 55-23. Even with two turnovers and sloppy play, with one of the turnovers for a pick six… AU never looked back.

Auburn is about to enter “Amen Corner” with our remaining two games with UGA and bama.  If AU wins out – AU plays for the SEC championship and possibly has a chance to play for the National Championship.  What more could we ask for? But it’s called “amen” corner for a reason… it’s the toughest part of our schedule. Always has been.

I want to state for the record, regardless what happens in these remaining two games of the season, I am happy with the progress of this Auburn team.  This season is a success by any measure. I believe that Malzahn should be considered for coach of the year honors considering the turnaround of this team.  Accordingly, next year seems extremely bright.  That said, this year still has games to be played and AU control’s its own destiny.  

It’s time to focus on the University of Georgia.  Murray is the all time passer in the SEC. He is the best.  And UGA is a different team with Gurley as running back.  With him back on the roster I know AU will have its hands full in Jordan Hare.  I expect nothing less than the “Oldest Rivalry in the South” to live up to its name.  Expect a shoot out of tremendous proportions.   I truly believe this game will last 60 minutes and come down to the last possession.  

Isn’t it funny how college football is so unpredictable?  UGA was expected to compete for the National Title.  And it’s now their role to play spoiler for Auburn and try to salvage their season.

Make no mistake: Auburn’s strength is its offense.  I think Auburn is hitting on all cylinders at the right time.  AU needs to come into this game and put the pedal to the metal and knock the dawgs out early.   Because I for one believe that Mark Richt will have the dawgs ready to play.  Todd Grantham, UGA’s defensive coordinator, will have the tools to try to lock down the read option and take away Marshall’s ability to run. Expect UGA to load the box.  It will then be up to AU’s offensive line, quarter back and it’s receiving corps to blow this game open. 

But it should be pointed out that against UT our receivers were not a sure thing. And Marshall was below 50% with 3 of 7 for a total of 35 yards passing with a TD on the day.  Still, Marshall hit every mark.  I think it was receiver’s just not catching the ball.  The one where he hit Savage in the groin on a third down attempt to keep a drive alive couldn’t have been better thrown. But the one for the screen that was taken back for six points… well, that was a poor read by Marshall against a substandard defense. Even with our offense this week during practice, there are areas that AU must improve in coming into the Georgia game. 

But it’s Ellis Johnson’s defense that specifically has me worried. We are as porous on defense as a sieve is to water. For example, Tennessee was able to garner 354 yards on Auburn.  True AU was able to keep them out of the end zone two of three times they visited the red zone. Still UT got 128 yards through the air and another 226 on the ground. 

Our defensive line took nearly a whole quarter before it ever registered a sack. That means that for 15 minutes AU’s front four got whipped at the line of scrimmage.  That is unacceptable. The teams we face in the next couple of weeks have offensive lines that are as good as OR many times better than UT’s.   AU’s front four must do more.

I believe that the Achilles heel of AU’s defense is our linebacker corps.  Even with Holland on the side line our LBs whiffed time and time again with Frost and McKinnsey. Our success will depend solely on this group’s ability to plug running lanes and covering their receivers.  But more importantly on their ability to execute an open field tackle.

If AU can’t corral Gurley and UGA’s ability to run the ball – then the last two games are in jeopardy because bama thrives on the run just as much if not more.  AU must shut him down and hold Murray in check with the pass. Murray gets sloppy when he has to dust himself off so our front four must play one of the best games in their careers.

Make no mistake both games are winnable.  But as we have already insinuated, AU must focus on the bulldogs first until that game is in the books.  Once it has closed the deal, AU can finally exercise the final demon from the season it’s trying to forget 2012.

So once again friend, I ask the question: do you believe?  Do you believe in Auburn?  Do you think this squad, the same squad from 2012, has the intestinal fortitude necessary to battle the biggest demons from the forgettable season?  I do.  Still. As football fans and alumni I think we sometime forget that fate can be fickle. I think Charles Dickens said it best…

“It was the best of times, it was the worst of times, it was the age of wisdom, it was the age of foolishness, it was the epoch of belief, it was the epoch of incredulity, it was the season of Light, it was the season of Darkness, it was the spring of hope, it was the winter of despair…”

I will leave you with this:  this team is capable.  Things are coming together at the right time.  I don’t think it could be any more exciting… and I am thankful Auburn is in control of its own destiny.  Regardless what happens… I believe in Auburn.

Do you?

As always, War Eagle!  And beat those damned dirty dawgs!

17 Comments

  1. KungFuPanda9 KungFuPanda9 says:

    I must take issue with two points in your article.

    1.”Then the torrential downpour game with LSU in Baton Rouge and the progress we had noticed taking place seemed to be lost in the flood. From where I sat it appeared that the wheels had fallen off. AU was dominated from the start to the finish.”

    We were not dominated. Yes, we had two very unfortunate brain farts that resulted in two LSU touchdowns. But these were unusual events that are not likely to happen. Most especially, the muffed punt exchange that resulted in giving LSU the ball around the ten yard line. The ball was wet and the kicker was not used to handling a wet ball. The other turnover was also the result of handling a wet ball.

    However, the statistics prove that we outplayed LSU in the second half. This means that had we not suffered those two turnovers we would have been tied in that game. The margin of victory was 14 points. And we had the momentum at the end. LSU was gassed while our guys were energized and strong on both offense and defense.

    2.”But it’s Ellis Johnson’s defense that specifically has me worried. We are as porous on defense as a sieve is to water. For example, Tennessee was able to garner 354 yards on Auburn. True AU was able to keep them out of the end zone two of three times they visited the red zone.”

    Here you contradict yourself. Either the defense is porous or they were able to keep Tennessee out of the end zone. Which is it? Just because a team makes yards does not equate to them being able to score points. It is this very fact which makes Auburn’s defense valuable. Yes, they give ground between the twenties. But they also prevent the other team from scoring in the red zone. That is a strength, not a weakness.

    You did see them corrall Johnny Manziel in his stadium, right? Sack elusive QBs. Stuff goal line runs from the one-yard line TWICE against Arkansas. Intercept passes. Create turnovers. Force three and outs.

    I will concede the defense does not look like a big beefy shutdown defense that prevents anybody from making a first down. However, they are a shifty, fast defense that prevents teams from scoring. One stat I have seen is that Auburn has only allowed two touchdowns in the fourth quarter. Two, all season.

    We will be playing two good teams at home against Georgia and Alabama. We beat Texas A&M. In my opinion, we played LSU even. We beat Ole Miss who may finish 9-3. Auburn has shown they are a top-tier team who can beat other top-tier SEC teams.

    Yes, I believe.

    • Tiger on the mountain Tiger on the mountain says:

      Wurd.

    • wde1988 wde1988 says:

      “We played LSU even”. Really? Damn score board must have been broke then.

      You can try to take a moral victory if that’s what you want in just about everything in life I guess. But I don’t see anything wrong in admiting that your team was the lesser team. Sometimes you just got to admit the other guy was better and suck it up in order to grow. I think this fact was evident in that game to just about anybody not wearing the blue and orange sunglasses that LSU was the better team the last week in September.

      I don’t give much stock to moral victories. If you wanted to reformulate your assertion, perhaps you could ask – would that be true if we played them today? My answer would be – I don’t know.

      And it should be pointed out that if that’s the tactic to argue our way into the NC game… if it should come to that… well, I suspect we will have fun watching someone else play for the prize. And rightfully so. Moral victories mean squat.

      My comments about our defense is that it is a work in progress. If you recall I said UT’s passing was 109th; their run game was 48th; they were 88th in scoring. That was demonstrated on the field on Saturday.

      You ask me “Either the defense is porous or they were able to keep Tennessee out of the end zone. Which is it?”

      My opinion is that UT’s ranking in the FBS is well documented. They are near the bottom of the FBS for a reason. Mostly inexperience and it showed. Take your pick at the statistic…it was evident in the score.

      I don’t think AU will be that lucky in the last two games.

      I think our defense is pourous because we give up yardage between the 20 yard lines. I think we play sloppy at times. Our defensive line goes through spurts of play. Our LBs are inexperienced. And our DBs watch the receiver instead of watching the ball. And everyone on the squad sometimes forgets how to tackle as was evidenced on Saturday. I think if we pull the same type of poor skills and preparation against UGA or bama and the out come of the game will be drastically different.

      UGA is 19th in passing, 57th in rushing and 31st in scoring. Keep in mind that they dropped in their ranking with Gurley on the side line – not to mention thier big time receivers. And I should point out that UGA’s defense is 77th.

      And bama, well they are 57th in passing, 27th in rushing and 13th in scoring. Their most impressive statistic is their defense… they are #1 which ultimately is how they are retaining their title up to this point in the season.

      Both games are rivalry games. Both games have been blow outs the last two years. You point out that we beat Texas A&M… that had a defense ranked 89th (again, below UGA or bama). If AU comes in flat to either game or if we have a, how did you say it, a brain fart, well, you do the math. I don’t care how good our offense is… it won’t matter.

      WDE

      • Third Generation Tiger Third Generation Tiger says:

        I hope the the defensive coaching staff really turns up the heat on their players for the next three weeks. No off week, just 4 hours of hell, 6 days a week.

        • wde1988 wde1988 says:

          Considering what’s at stake… you and me too!

          WDE

      • KungFuPanda9 KungFuPanda9 says:

        wde1988, our defense is the second best in the SEC for red zone defense. That means we don’t let teams score. That is most important. Who cares if the other guys run up and down the field? We limit their scoring.

        Our defense starts out loose and slowly tightens up as the game progresses. In the end, we have only allowed two TDs in the fourth quarter. Therefore, watch the score. As long as we keep it within 14 points at the half, we will win.

        Common opponent: LSU. The UGA/LSU game was played right down to the wire at home for the Dawgs. Our game with LSU was marred by two flukey turnovers which are not events likely to occur. We scored more TDs in the second half of the LSU game than LSU did in their own stadium.

        I believe Auburn wins this game as long as we protect the football. Our special teams are a decided advantage, as well as our fourth quarter physical conditioning. And don’t forget our defensive propensity to keep opponents out of the end zone in the fourth quarter.

        • wde1988 wde1988 says:

          In a national ranking ESPN has our defense as 22nd in the FBS. And while I know folks want to beat the SEC drum and use that as a standard of measure… let’s just remember who we have played that is ranked.

          LSU, Ole Miss, and A&M. That’s it.

          “Our defense starts out loose and slowly tightens up as the game progresses. In the end, we have only allowed two TDs in the fourth quarter. Therefore, watch the score. As long as we keep it within 14 points at the half, we will win.”

          The facts with the LSU game are public record. AU was down 21-0 early in the 2nd QTR. AU finally scored in the 3rd but LSU answered again…making it 28-7. AU scored late in the 3rd QTR making it 28-14. LSU answered again…. making the game 35-14. AU scored late in the 4th… making it 35-21.

          Again… you want to argue about two turnovers… I will be willing to overlook them, but it won’t change the outcome of the game.

          Since we are talking past each other let’s talk after UGA and bama. The key thing to remember is AU’s statistics… we are 108th passing, 3rd rushing, 18th in points scored, and 22nd in points against. It will take AU’s best game to beat the remaining two teams on the schedule. I think it can happen for Auburn… but again, that’s why I pointed out our Achilles heel… the defense.

          Pat Dye pointed out a long time ago… defense is what wins championships. Without improvement… that’s not going to happen.

          • DaZeD DaZeD says:

            You give a lot of credence to Gurley in being an added dimension for the UGA offense. I believe Gurley will get his 125 yards on the ground…we surrendered that to a couple of RBs already this season (arky, ut). I also think Murray will get his 225 through the air…we also endured that several times as well. If we limit this to occurring between the 20s…and then use the last 30 yards of the field (redzone/inzone) to our strength, then we limit what teams can do, hence our amazing scoring defense/4th quarter scoring defense this season.

            I recall the UGA @ UT game and would like to point out that UGA’s defense could not stop UT from putting up 28 points in the 2nd half…while UT held UGA to 14. Had the UT running-back not fumbled the ball going into the endzone in OT…its likely UGA would be 5-4 now instead of 6-3. Gurley and Murray cannot compensate for the porous UGA defense…they’re not missing any starters on defense (then @ UT or now). I don’t see UGA stopping our offense unless we stop it ourselves with TOs and allow UGA’s defense to score points. Protect the ball, continue with what got us here, and I believe the onus will be on UGA to come in and match us score for score…I don’t think they can. Yes, I do believe and have argued this since mid-September that there’s something special about this group of players.

            Making the BCS in Pasadena is unrealistic, as our fate is in the hands of voting coaches who don’t watch games in order to make judgements (based solely on box-scores). I’ll take what this season yields and consider us already playing with house money at 9-1. My faith is in our coaches and thats who I’m backing to see us through this. Our players have said time and again that their strength is derived in their own faith in all their coaches…who make them believe they can succeed.

            War Eagle!

          • wde1988 wde1988 says:

            Dazed,

            Yes, I do give credence to this UGA team.

            No idea whom I am talking too but in 2006 coming home from deployment I went to the AU – UGA game…. with a then highly ranked AU playing a upset minded UGA team. They beat us by 17 if I remember correctly. Brandon Cox had a terrible day.

            About your “pasadena is unrealistic” comment… I will disagree. There are many things at play right now in college football. If you don’t think that AU stands a chance… I need to ask you – do you listen to Sirus? People are noticing AU big time. I think if AU wins out… and wins the SEC… we will have just as much claim as any other team considering our conference.

            WDE

  2. BigDaddyAU says:

    You can point out all the statistics that you want but in the end what matters is the scoreboard. This team has found a way to win and I believe that as long as they play hard they will continue that trend.

    BTW, the LSU game..Auburn LOST..but they DID outplay them from the middle of the 2nd quarter on. Auburn had made their mistakes up until then, but no one watching that game at the end would say LSU was outplaying Auburn. I’ll side with Todd Blackledge, and Les Miles, who said that they were outplayed in the second half. Auburn just couldn’t over come the early mistakes. And no I don’t claim a moral victory. Just stating the obvious.

    • wde1988 wde1988 says:

      Totally agree. The score board is the final statistic that counts.

      WDE

      • KungFuPanda9 KungFuPanda9 says:

        Now you are showing you have no understanding of statistics. You might mean results. But statistically there is a significant amount of data which can be gained by specifying first half performance or second half performance.

        Auburn outscored LSU in the second half. The first half was marred by a couple of unusual turnovers.

        The results, i.e., final score, was caused by a numbr of factors. One of the main causes of the final score was the fact that our punter fumbled a snap close to the goal line. LSU then had an easy run into the end zone for a score.

        Is such an event likely to happen? No. Therefore, in order to make that statistic useful, one must put it into context. Simply judging a team’s performance by looking at the score fails to take into account that one of the causes of the loss was due to a fluke, an event not likely to happen. We do not often flub the punter’s snap right in front of the goal line.

        • wde1988 wde1988 says:

          Good lord. You are still on about losing to LSU?

          Put it in any context you want… It won’t change the outcome of the game!

          If it makes you feel better… you can post on here anytime you want that we really won! Moral victory be damned. I promise I won’t say a thing.

          But forgive me if I question your sense of reality.

          WDE

          • KungFuPanda9 KungFuPanda9 says:

            I never posted that we won, nor implied any such thing. INo moral victory.

            I was pointing out that we outplayed LSU in the second half.

            This proves that you have no idea that what I was doing was using our second half performance to predict our second half performance in future games. Quantitative analysis can be used to predict outcomes. Stock brokers use this routinely. Football odds makers use this routinely. But it is clear you have no idea of the concept. You only look at the final score as though that could tell you anything.

          • wde1988 wde1988 says:

            KFP9,

            Ok. I thought we went over this already? We outplayed LSU in the second half.

            But this is what I particular love about your statement…

            “This proves that you have no idea that what I was doing was using our second half performance to predict our second half performance in future games. Quantitative analysis can be used to predict outcomes.”

            Not that your way of winning someone over to your point of view is invalid or valid for that matter… let’s just say it doesn’t impress me.

            The first part of your assertion here… “I was doing was using our second half performance to predict our second half performance in future game”.

            So, are you saying that because of the LSU game… that you could predict what AU’s performance would be in the Georgia game? Really???

            AU was up by 20 points at the start of the fourth quarter… only to have Georgia come back and go ahead by one point with 1 minute 49 seconds left in the game. Does your quantative analysis do that?

            Did your quantitative analysis predict the miracle pass too?

            You might need to take that show on the road.

            WDE

  3. sparkey sparkey says:

    How about this folks, we’re 9-1. At worst, we’re going to finish 9-3 in the regular season and we look better than any of us thought we would. The way we beat Tennessee in their own stadium was dominant. Stop and and smell the roses folks. Damn. I can’t understand the way people are acting right now and I’m out of Vicodin. Damn.

    • wde1988 wde1988 says:

      If that were to happen… I would be upset considering the accomplishments to date. This team has potential… personally, I don’t think they have touched their reserve yet.

      AU had issues in Tennessee regardless of the outcome. Our defense was sloppy. And at times, so was our offense. All I am saying is we can’t afford for AU to allow UGA to run and throw at will. And our offense can’t afford to give UGA a short field. Ultimately it will be our defense that wins the game.

      WDE