Picking up where we left off …
— Hey, nice to see the methodical, five-yards-at-a-time version of the Auburn offense build on its appearance at the end of the first half start the second with a similar drive. Three first downs in it’s 2nd-and-4 on the BSU 27, Fannin could not possibly be more open on a swing pass … and Todd wings it high. Fannin gets his fingers to it but has to watch it sail away harmlessly as Trott and Zachery pulverize the only defenders standing between Fannin and the endzone. This is what’s kind of scary from Auburn’s opponent’s point-of-view: I swear that this offense could still be much, much sharper than it is, especially on this particular play, which has been SuperTodd’s only confirmed kryptonite to date.
As open as this was, though, I wonder if our genius coordinator will return to getting Fannin the ball on the sideline? Do you think that might happen? Do you think he notices things like that and makes those kinds of mental notes? I think he does, but I’m not sure.
— ESPN decides to flash a “Auburn Hurry-Up Offense” graphic with shots of Malzahn, the play-clock, and the offense all on the screen at once as Rathbun and Archer dither about Dr. Gustav’s ludicrous speed tempo. Because Auburn has a keen sense of irony, they stall, run the play-clock down to 4 seconds, then fail miserably to pull off a screen. Once ESPN chose this play as the time to pull up the graphic, that was inevitable, wasn’t it?
— The run-blocking in the first half was a letdown, but you won’t catch me saying a cross word about the line’s pass protection–on 2nd-and-15 a max-protect scheme (and a nifty move by our QB to go across the pocket into open space) gives Todd enough time to read David Sedaris’s latest essay for Esquire, if he likes. Instead, he chooses to fire on the trot to Darvin Adams, who’s worked himself open at the goal line, and it’s a TOUCHDOWN! Oh, QB-receiver rapport, it’s so nice to have you around again. 40-10.
One negative: Zachery and Adams do a choreographed low-fivin’ dance-and-pose that could easily draw a flag from the more tight-buttocked officials of the world. I don’t mind the celebratin’, but let’s not try that at Knoxville, please.
— Well, I figured Auburn’s first-string defense would get one series and then hit the bench … but when that one series is a long BSU drive ending in a long Page run for a touchdown, I’m a lot less sure. 40-17.
The touchdown, by the way, was yet another successful zone read where our defensive end (Goggans in this case) crashes down uselessly after the running back while the quarterback keeps and sprints into wide open spaces. I don’t know if Goggans has been coached to do this with the expectation that the linebacker (Freeman, in this case) will clean up, but whatever’s going on, BSU’s gashed us more than once with it and we all know how much trouble Auburn’s had with the play in their two meetings with West Virginia. It’s not like this is something exotic–Auburn’s been running it ourselves for two years and probably 2/3rds of D-I is running some variation on it. The good news is that it won’t be a problem vs. Tennessee’s pro sets, but at some point Roof needs to fix this.
— See, Malzahn calls for the zone read himself on Auburn’s very next drive. Although I wish he hadn’t when Todd decides to keep–in the third quarter! of a 40-17 game! against Ball St.!–and gets tackled by a pair of linebackers. Attention Chris: at this stage of the game, just give the ball to the running back plzkthx.
— Hey, look at that, a sideline screen to Fannin. Hey, look at that, he’s got bushels of space and a 36-yard TOUCHDOWN. 47-17, and for God’s sake, feed this guy double-digit touches this Saturday. Two other notes about this play: one, it’s not the typical swing to Fannin as in this case the other receivers on the side clear out and the blocking is done by onrushing offensive lineman (who nail their blocks perfectly). Two: Lutzenkirchen, blocking downfield, pretty much erases his guy. Whoever’s teaching blocking technique with the receivers and TEs–I’m assuming this is Trooper–has done a ridiculously good job.
— Three-and-out and I suspect that is the last you will see of the first-team defense. Not enough to completely wash out the rotten-milk taste of that last drive (two touchdowns given up to an offense this hapless isn’t a positive), but we all knew Auburn wasn’t going to be on top of their game tonight.
— Just so Fannin doesn’t start getting any ideas about Todd making things easy for him, Todd throws his worst ball of the night, missing a wide-open Fannin down the seam by five yards. Fannin likely would have scored, making this two potential TDs of his Todd has misfired on. Maybe SuperTodd is jealous that Fannin already has the team’s “SuperName” nickname on lock-down and it’s one of those Freudian no-accidents accidents? Let’s have them split a milkshake or something.
(Also: it’s still the third quarter, I know, but you’re up 30. Is it necessary to keep bombing away and proving how dangerous Mr. Fannin is? Shouldn’t we keep our weapons secret?)
— Third down, Deangelo Benton gets the first pass thrown at him since Week 1, but he starts looking upfield before bringing it in and it bounces off his hands. It’s harsh, but we’ve seen Benton pop up near the ends of passes twice now, and the results have been one badly run route and a drop. It’s hard to look at that evidence and not think he’s still a work in progress.
— BSU gets the ball back, and yes, our second-string is now on the field, and yes, they’re playing as badly as we’d feared. One third-down screen sees MiQuale Lewis avoid tackles by (in order) Demond Washington, D’Antoine Hood, and T’Sharvan Bell. I won’t detail the carnage, but I think 13 plays, 67 yards, BSU 3-for-3 on third-down conversions, and a Card touchdown pretty well sums it up. 47-24.
Then again, how mad can you be when one of the tackles on the drive was made by a player named Ikeem Means who even I will confess to having never heard of before? (For the record: he’s a freshman walk-on from Wetumpka who had enough of a profile to earn his own page from ESPN’s recruiting service. We may see him again someday.)
— There is one highlight on the drive: Antoine Carter, back on the field, stopping just before a 3rd-and-1 to wave his arms and get all 153 remaining fans FIRED UP. I’m sure 151 of them were.
— Neil Caudle is in the game, and we all know Caudle’s reputation as a smart kid with an SEC-caliber arm and better-than-you’d-think athleticism who just can’t keep from throwing interceptions. He drops back for his first pass of the season, and I’m sure he’s about to show us all just how wrong that reputation is.
Or, you know, he might not. Field goal BSU (after the first-team D returns for the stop), 47-27.
— Another guy who’s just confirmed his reputation in the dying moments of this game: Lutzenkirchen, who on third down reaches up and spears a high, hard Caudle throw like a bear snagging a salmon. Those are the sort of hands you can build on, folks, except that you wouldn’t really want to build anything on them because Lutz will need to use them … nevermind. The point is that if Lutzenkirchen keeps blocking and catching the way he has this second half, he’s looking at three years of a starting role beginning next fall.
— And, well, if I can’t say Caudle encouraged me that he’ll be able to throw like Todd, he does at least confirm that he’ll be able to run a lot better when he keeps on the zone read (there it is again), flies into open space, breaks a Keystone Cops tackle attempt by two BSU backups, and scores a 52-yard TOUCHDOWN leagues more surprising than even your average 52-yard touchdown.
— We’re now into OK-let’s-get-out-of-here mode, when the only vaguely interesting is seeing which previously anonymous player might make a play that makes him stand out. Redshirt freshman linebacker Watson Downs obliges by hitting a Cardinal standing stock-still out-of-bounds and drawing the single dumbest penalty of Auburn’s season to-date. I don’t want to be too harsh on a walk-on seeing the first PT of his career, but as those old Head and Shoulders commericals say, you neverg et a second chance to make a ifrst impression.
— Dee Ford gets his first sack of the year after coming close a half-dozen times–good for him–and that’s your ball game. Archer says Auburn won thanks to their defensive success in “sudden-change” situations. Dave, get a new hobby horse before the next time we do this. That one’s all creaky.
— War Eagle. Now let’s do better next week.
Freaking sweet photo by Van Emst.