Last Saturday really sucked. During our third-quarter rally, I call my Dad’s cellphone. Mom picks up. “Your father’s not watching this one anymore.” I have injured my foot on the coffee table from leaping into the air after Ben Tate’s out-of-nowhere buck sweep for an instant touchdown, followed by the haymaker-for-haymaker reverse to Zachery that set up another plunging score. “Tell him to put it on! We scored two touchdowns on four straight running plays!” She hands the phone to him, just as we plunge the dagger into our own orange-and-blue hearts on that long kickoff return. I deflate. My foot throbs but no longer with sweet victory. “OK, maybe you shouldn’t turn it on after all.” “Yeah,” he replies.
It was pretty awful, especially given the week before. I was pumped to see what the Auburn Tigers were really capable of, having been tested in all dimensions and found to be — if not merely adequate — awesome. I really hate to give the credit to Arkansas, a team that has — unjustifiably, football deities, unjustly — had Auburn’s number for the past few years. Especially this year, when they futz about for five games and then somehow come at us like a whirlwind of tire irons from snap number one. What the hell? That defense had no business doing what it did to anyone, much less Auburn.
No, I think that this team is still too thin to outplay themselves when the Auburn Tigers won’t get out of the Auburn Tigers’ way. The fumbles, the overthrows, the sacks — the scarcity of those kind of mistakes may have been breaking news at the beginning of the season, but it was expected once we were done with Tennessee. And for all three to rear their heads like a hydra in a single game against a team who inexplicably played miles above its five-game level? This is what that looks like:
The loss sucks, and we did it to ourselves, but we’re still who we are.
So run the numbers, Magruder
If you say so. Here are the charts, beginning with Arkansas ’08 and Arkansas ’09:
OK, so it’s bad. Looks as awful as last year — perhaps worse. But there is that uptick in the third quarter … which to me is evidence that when Auburn was not overthrowing receivers or putting the ball on the ground, we were still capable of moving the ball with a vengeance. We were on track to make this game competitive once we did what we do (before, you know, that fumble on the 2-yard line.)
That being said, I wonder if there isn’t a weakness in Gus Malzahn’s offensive scheme. Last Saturday, it seemed that all we needed was a couple of quick slants to get the linebackers uneasy and we would have running room. But I didn’t see an awful lot of that. Got to wondering, if your offense is predicated on the long ball and the running game, what is to stop the defense from pushing all the coverage deep and stacking the line of scrimmage? If Auburn isn’t going to hit the short routes and the intermediates … why cover them? Sure, I’m not pulling down six figures to design an offense and call a game that I only see half of on television, but you have to wonder — especially when two defensive coaches have “laid awake all night” trying to get a handle on the Malzahn hammerspread and both have had success. Remains to be seen what the Tigers can do once our heads are back in the game.
For some commentary on the defense, we can turn to the UT-UGA game, which is as brutal a woodshedding as I’ve seen:
Leads me to believe that Crompton’s epic fourth quarter versus Auburn was not an aberration, and not entirely due to a tired defense running soft coverages. J-Cromp seems to have found a rhythm — pass the opium, giant caterpillar. But that is encouraging (for this year, if not for next year) because it takes a little heat off our defense in my opinion.
Next is the master chart for this season to date:
Next is the game-by-game chart of this season to date, now with handy second-half indicators:
And lastly, Pythagoras vs. Malzahn:
Been a busy week, so that is all I have until after the Kentucky game. Hopefully our boys will get their heads screwed back on straight and we’ll be back in action. War Damn Eagle!