You may remember Eric Blackerby, or more importantly, you may remember the shirt he wore in the Wynfrey Hotel lobby at SEC Media Days last year. It simply read "I HATE AUBURN."If you're wondering, it didn't bother me. He's an Alabama fan. In the spirit of rivalry, he's supposed to "hate" Auburn. We can't say this for everyone, but I don't think he means HATE hate, but more of, like a said, a hate in the sense of rivalry. I'm sure he doesn't approve of Updyke's actions or wishes any other negative actions towards Auburn as a whole. He probably just wants to see Auburn lose at athletic events. Probably...
Either way, the shirt prompted a response from Coach Nick Saban: "I would tell him it's not personal, that it really isn't personal. That is not really the way that we should respect the opponents that we have."
That prompted a pretty quick-witted response from Blackerby: "It's like I went to church and God told me He didn't approve." Well, that's kind of sad, but it is what it is.
The one simple statement on one simple t-shirt ending up being one of the biggest stories from Media Days last year (which shows you what Media Days as turned into), so I thought it would be funny to play off that story, specifically Saban's response, and give reporters something similar to fill their headlines, especially since this year's Media Days was even more of a snoozer.
There were some pretty major changes to Auburn's roster and coaching staff leading up to their match-up with Virginia in the Chick-fil-A Bowl, and as I proposed in my game preview, that ended up not being such a bad thing. The Chizik-led defense was more aggressive and got better as the game went on, McCalebb and Mason showed that they can play too, and Malzahn, on his way out, let his foot off the brake. The Tigers played like they were having fun, and sometimes changes are needed for that to happen, especially after the struggles they had this season.
After a few of Virginia's drives, I was beginning to think that maybe Ted Roof wasn't the problem. We definitely saw a few new looks and new sense of urgency on the defensive side of the ball, but too many times there were Virginia receivers left wide open. There was almost no pressure on the quarterback, which gave him plenty of time to throw to the best and what seemed like the only receiver on the team, Kris Burd. It's amazing what even a mediocre quarterback can do if they have no fear of being sacked. We saw that all year. That needs to improve before next season. It wasn't until Auburn took control of the game in the 2nd quarter that I felt like they weren't going to score every time they got the ball.
Better, but still not good enough. The defense actually did okay given how they had played most of the season. Trent Richardson really only had two runs of any significant length. AJ McCarron didn't beat the secondary deep, besides the flea flicker to score the first touchdown.
Still, though, the defense gave up way too many 3rd down conversions to win a football game. When you let the second best team in the nation continue drives over and over, things aren't going to turn out too good.
Tackling was much better, and there was the sack-fumble-touchdown in the 2nd quarter that got the crowd back in it for a little while. With the right leadership, and the experience gained this season, these youngsters could turn out very good.
As you probably don't know, I normally post my game reviews on Monday, but with it being Iron Bowl week I wanted to get this one out of the way to move on to bigger and better things. Well, that and I really don't want to have to think about this one too much longer.
The day started with a very nice on-field presentation to honor Samford's Head Coach and one of Auburn's three Heisman winners, Pat Sullivan. I did not get misty. I did NOT get misty. Ok, just a little. When I saw the players lift their helmets in respect of what Coach Sullivan accomplished during his time at Auburn, it was like watching the end of Rudy. I about lost it.
As great as those moments were, the warm and fuzzy feelings went away pretty quickly. For the first three quarters, Auburn continued to struggle on offense, and the defense gave up a few wide open plays to the Bulldogs. In fairness, they did hold Samford to just over 100 yards in the first half, and the Bulldogs' lone touchdown came after a terrible late hit call on a third down stop.
The kickoff return team is a punching bag. In 2009, the special teams were not very good, almost to the point that some fans wanted Jay Boulware fired. Last season, they were the most improved unit on the team, and to begin this year, they were just as good. Field goals and punts have remained the most consistent units on the team (which is better than some teams can say), and punt returns still follow the same "just catch the ball" routine, but kick off returns have become downright dangerous.
Tre Mason showed huge promise with a return for a touchdown earlier this season, but since then, especially in the last three or four games, it seems that Auburn can't get a guy past the 20 yard line with his head still attached. Have opposing coaches found a huge seam in the blocking schemes that they continue to exploit? I have no idea, but I have never seen anything like this. It's one thing to just not be very good at returning the kick for many yards, but to have the returner absolutely obliterated every time is totally different.
Welcome back, Emory Blake. I believe the most telling stat of the game was that in the time that Blake was out with his injury, no Auburn receiver had more than two catches in a game. Blake had four in the first half. The problem Auburn had during his absence was that there was rarely anyone open, which definitely attributed to Barrett Trotter losing the starting job.
Although Emory isn't the flashiest or the fastest guy on the field, there is no denying that Auburn is a much, much better team when he's on the field. He gets open, he scores touchdowns, and when he's not doing that, he's drawing a double team which opens up another receiver (see: Quindarius Carr's bomb of a touchdown).
In terms of points, it was Arkansas all over again. The 45 points that LSU scored did not represent the Auburn defense's performance at all. Besides the two deep balls, Auburn held the LSU offense in check for most of the first half. The major problem was, you guessed it, penalties. Each of LSU's three touchdowns in the first half came on drives that were extended by penalties. Some were stupid, some were bad luck, but either way they still happened and gave LSU new life. You can't do that on the road when you need a miracle to win anyway.
In the second half, LSU benefited from Auburn's first fumble of the season, and a pick-6. In four plays, they added 14 points and the game was pretty much over. The LSU offense is nothing special. They just take advantage of the easy situations that their defense gives them. When the other team can't score, they play loose, go all out and create easy opportunities for their offense to score. Before the game was out of hand, the Auburn defense petty much stopped the LSU offense, but they can't be expected to do it all day, especially in Tiger Stadium.
Give the defense some. I'm not positive, but I'm pretty sure that in each one of my reviews, I have always talked about the offense first. Well, it's the defense's time to be at the top of the page. As I mentioned, Florida's offense struggled while shuffling between three quarterbacks, two being true freshmen, but the Auburn defense definitely played their best game of the season. Not since 1988 has an Auburn team held a Florida team from scoring a touchdown. They also kept the Gators under 200 total yards. Steve Spurrier would have left the team in Auburn.
Ever since the South Carolina game, the Auburn defense has carried the team while the offense has struggled. Although Arkansas scored 38 points on the Tigers, you could still see improvement. They appear to have learned to tackle overnight which has carried over to the rest of their game. Maybe it wasn't Ted Roof's fault. Maybe the kids have grown up and now know what Roof has been telling them to do all along.