Picking up where we left off …
— Dude, Wendi Nix owns her glasses in a way a certain Ms. Andrews never will.
— Just before the second-half kickoff, we can see that McCalebb has MOM written across one of his wristbands. Aw, that’s sweet. NOW GO KILL THEM, ONTERIO.
— No, Bob Davie, tempo is not the “only difference” between an offense that regularly lined up under center and in a traditional pistol vs. one that hasn’t taken a snap under center all year. It’s a good thing he’s not supposed to be some kind of football “expert” broadcasting games on national television, huh?
— Auburn starts the half with an easy-looking 3rd-and-5 conversion from Todd to Adams (sparking another round of regrets about last year, when the offense could make tying its shoelaces look difficult), but from there it’s a rough series for the Tiger running backs: Smith gets bulldozed back into Tate for a five-yard loss on first down, Tate appears to misread his hole on second down and goes nowhere, and then the senior gets flat owned on a third-down blitz pickup. “Very poor job” from Tate says Davie, and for once I agree with him.
— At least the punt team appears to have their issues ironed out: Durst’s been booming them, but when WVU tries their first return of the night here, Washington is inside the returner’s jersey before he can make his first move. It’s quite the far cry from the unit’s clown car performance against Miss. St.; if Boulware can work the same kind of magic on the kickoff team next week, Auburn’s special teams will really be in business.
— Auburn’s defense: definitely not in business. WVU’s already picked up two first downs when Auburn’s entire team bites on a double pass from Brown to Bradley Starks to a wide-open Jock Sanders … well, the entire team except for Bates, who barrels ahead at Sanders and finds out why it’s not a good idea to barrel at anyone that tiny when Sanders leaves him in the dust for another 15 yards. Gain of 32. Devine is in the end zone three plays later to the surprise of no one. 28-20 and what the hell happened to those halftime adjustments, Auburn, HUH?
— WVU’s freshman kicker, naturally intimidated by the overwhelming musk Byrum’s been leaving all over this field this game, honks the extra point. But don’t worry, ‘Eers, those sorts of things never come back to haunt anyone in a game like this. By the time the whistle blows you won’t even remember that BWAHAHAHAHAHA!
Sorry. I tried to keep a straight face there. (He missed the extra point! Tee hee hee!)
— Lutzenkirchen sets a Guinness World Record on the ensuing kickoff. It’s true! Unfortunately, it’s for World’s Most Obvious Block in the Back.
— Todd finally gets one of these swing passes to Fannin, and he makes a dude miss … tiptoes past two more gets a block GONE! SEE YA! 80-plus yards for the Auburn TOUCHDOWN! Byrum shows the rookie how it’s done and we’re tied, 27-27. (Jones: “Back to a one-point game, when we come back.” I wish I was making that up.) In case you forgot: Mario Fannin owns your face. Seriously, we have got to get this guy the ball more often.
Replay shows that it was Jay Freaking Wisner who got the block that turned a nice long gain into a sweet-ass touchdown. Remind me to go spend some tourism dollars in Bozeman, Montana some time.
— Ok, so the last thing Auburn’s defense needs is to give up yet another clock-killing, stamina-exhausting, depth-testing momentum-swapping drive … which is why watching Brown escape for a conversion on 3rd-and-5 and then complete a 13-yard pass on 3rd-and-10 is so much fun. On a little (and seeing as how the two players involved are Devine and Sanders, I do mean “little”) hook-and-ladder play late in the drive, you can see the toll it’s taking, as poor Bynes and Stevens–who’ve been on the field for every defensive snap of the game–can only sort of trot after Devine and make little attempt to get off their blocks. Blanc tracks back to help Washington with the tackle (after only 7 yards, somehow), but it’s so hard to see this drive ending well.
— Fortunately, a) I suck at seeing the future b) Jeff Mullen sucks at noticing things like “hey, their front seven is totally gassed.” 2nd-and-5 on the Auburn 11, with less room to maneuver in the secondary because of, you know, being at the 11, and Mullen decides that now is the time to have Brown attempt two consecutive straight dropback passes. Coverage is excellent on both, Dee Ford and Jake Ricks provide just enough pressure to make Brown uneasy, and the result is back-to-back incompletions. Auburn somehow escapes with only a field goal given up after a 14-play, 52-yard drive that took (goodness gracious) 6:55 off the clock. 30-27, ‘Eers.
So hooray for the stop, but the only thing that could possibly keep this defense afloat in the fourth quarter after a drive like that would be an unprecedented, sudden avalanche of ‘Eer turnovers, and what are the odds on that?
— 3rd-and-4 for Auburn, and here’s Chris Todd deep in the pocket, throwing off his back foot, and somehow finding Adams (who else?), who goes smartly to ground to make a tough catch. 15 yards, first down. This is easily both the best quarterback play and individual receiver play Auburn has seen since at least Cox/Aromashadu in ‘05 and possibly since the year before that. Not an exaggeration.
— A couple of solid Tate runs push the ball across midfield, but on second down Todd keeps on the zone read (bad enough) before trying to juke his way to the corner (even worse). No gain. McCalebb lets a blitzer in on third down for the incompletion, and fourth down is … well, I’m not sure exactly what it is, but it looks like Auburn is preparing to have Todd try a pooch kick before Zachery takes off and runs a comeback route along the sideline. It mostly works–Zachery’s got his man behind him and beat–but he slips coming out of his cut and Todd’s pass is well short.
Turnover on downs. Dammit. For what must be the 18th time this game, Auburn will have to come up with a stop or the game is probably done.
— 2nd-and-10 for the ‘Eers, Brown puts a little too much on a little flip to Devine, tipped … PICKED! Ricks! Scooped it out of the air! Returned to the WVU 19! I swear, Auburn’s been tougher to get rid of than zombie cockroaches than game. Too bad Devine dragged Ricks down from behind–we could have had a Ricks Pick-Six and said it five times fast for good measure.
— 3rd-and-8 Auburn, still out near the 20. Todd, a rope; Adams, in the end zone … TOUCHDOWN! Touchdown, Todd to Adams, and the Tigers have the lead, 34-30! Someone stick those two on a banner somewhere, pronto. Doesn’t have to be a giant banner, doesn’t have to be in a conspicuous place, but if this doesn’t deserve a banner of some kind, I don’t know what does.
— And all of a sudden, momentum is all Auburn’s–big stop on the kickoff return! Devine bottled up on first down! A nervous drop by Arnett on the swing pass! It’s 3rd-and-8, the crowd is going bonkers, and there’s no way WVU picks up this first down!
*10 yards’ worth of QB scramble later*: Damn you, Jarrett Brown. Damn you. Damn. You.
— Before you blink it’s 2nd-and-10 ‘Eers on Auburn’s 29 (even after a 1st-down holding call). Josh Bynes fills a hole and tackles Devine for a one-yard gain on one of those plays that doesn’t mean much in the box score–it’s just a routine linebacker tackle after a gain of one. But the way Devine’s run roughshod tonight, just holding him to a yard is a massive deal, especially when it forces a third-and-long, because you know what might happen on third-and-long?
— Jarrett Brown might throw a PICK! Right to McFadden! An early flag means we can’t get excited about the return, but for the first time all night, Auburn will have both the lead and the ball … and now, impossibly, it’s West Virginia who has to come up with a stop or concede the victory.
On replay: I have no idea what on earth Brown is doing here. Horrendous pass. What I meant to say was that I love you, Jarrett Brown. Love you. Love. You.
— 3rd-and-4 on Auburn’s own 9 after the penalty: Todd to Smith, 7 yards, move the chains. 3rd-and-8 three plays later: Todd to Trott, 9 yards, move the chains. Tate on first down for 16 yards, facemask penalty for 15 more, and I said move … those … chains! The drive ends up stalling at the WVU 39, but given the circumstances it’s as big as any that have ended in points.
— Saturn V on for the punt–just don’t kick it in the end zone, Durst.
I said don’t, dammit.
— 2nd-and-10, Washington comes free on a blitz, STEVENS! He’s got it! He picked it off! He’s in the end zone! AAAAHHHHHH TOUCHDOWN AUBURN! Yeaaaaaaaahhhhh!
It’s 41-30 and that, ladies and gents, is very likely your ballgame right there. Full credit to Stevens for reaching out and tapping the ball to himself, but don’t forget about a) Roof, whose blitz forced Brown to make a decision quicker than he wanted to b) Washington, who not only timed that blitz perfectly but blocked Brown out of the play to make sure Stevens got into the end zone. Well done, guys.
— Jay Jacobs, getting’ his celebrate on, as well he should.
— Shots of West Virginia fans looking dejected: gold, pure gold.
— ‘Eers need two scores in four minutes, and after some of these throws here in the second half I don’t think Brown’s up to the task. Feelin’ good.
— Uh-oh: Brown had the misfortune of landing underneath Nick Fairley and is hurt and out. I really don’t think backup Geno Smith is up to the task. That he falls over under a light tap from Coleman on his first drop back doesn’t seem like a good sign. Feelin’ bad about Brown, but about winning the game: feelin’ even better.
— 4th-and-3, Bynes with the pick and there it is! It‘s over! 3 Auburn wins and how many losses? How many? Oh man oh man oh man, my future children are going to be so angry when I explain to them that I have to shuffle off this mortal coil four years early because I dared to watch this game, but they’ll be even angrier when I confess that it’s been so, so worth it.
— There’s a little bit of late-game sound and fury from WVU’s offense signifying not much … but there’s the whistle. 41-30 is your final, and Auburn’s not just 3-0, they’re 3-0 against the spread, too. Not shabby, Gene, not shabby.
Bring on the SEC. War Eagle!