Picking up where we left off …
— Kentucky contracts Tennessee Syndrome on their first drive of the second half–9-yard run on their first first down, “tricky” pass on their next first down that falls incomplete and sets up 3rd-and-long–and punts Auburn down to the 5. As expected, the capital-A capital-O Auburn Offense that we so enjoyed those first several games comes out to start the second half: Tate for 5, Tate for 4, Burns for 19, Tate for 2, Todd to Adams–hey-o!–for 9, Tate for 8, Tate for 2, McCalebb for 2, Todd to Adams–again!–for 11. That’s 62 yards in 9 plays to the Kentucky 33, and if Todd is going to keep making those type of throws to Adams, this half should be a lot more fun than the last one.
— Dammit Todd, it’s not going to be more fun at all with the type of throws he makes on 2nd, 3rd and 4th down: the first is a home-run ball at Fannin the ‘Cat safety is just begging for–only a collision with his teammate keeps it from being a pick, the second is a misfire over an open Smith’s head that would have set up 3rd-and-very-short at least, and the third is a fastball that whizzes over an open Adams’ head. Three chances to pick up a critical first down from 5 yards away, three terrible throws. Where have you gone, SuperTodd? A nation of Auburn fans turns its lonely worried eyes to you.
(As for whether Auburn should have kicked here: I’m assuming Chizik and Co. were worried about the wind playing havoc with what would have been a long kick–even with the wind behind them, I believe–and they’d been moving the ball so well to that point 4th-and-5 didn’t exactly look unmakeable. Was it the right decision? No, don’t think so. Was it an understandable decision? Yeah. Am I bothered by it? Not particularly.)
— Kentucky gains one first down and then gets shut down again. Their punter, though, buries his second straight inside the Auburn 5. Punk. But hey, 14-7 midway through the third quarter, special teams and defense carrying Auburn despite the offensive struggles–this is just the kind of game Tigers head coach Tommy Tuberville lives for.
(Wait, who’s the coach now? And he hired who as his offensive coordinator? And it’s still 14-7 in the third quarter against Kentucky, with one of those TDs coming on a field goal block? Yeah, right. Pull the other one, it’s got bells on.)
— As Auburn takes over, Eric Collins asserts that Kentucky has to get moving offensively, because “it’s only a matter of time” before Auburn’s offense gets moving. Eric, your little pregame tongue-bathing of the offense didn’t seem to do much for us–could you try not jinxing us this half? Please?
— And hey, Eric, while you’re at it, could you please tell your ESPN overlords to quit running replays over entire Auburn plays so that we can actually see why Ben Tate was just tackled for a two-yard gain FOR THE LOVE OF GOD. [/chrisfarley]
— Burns throws a neat little I’m-running-ha-ha-no-I’m-not swing to Zachery for 15, and after five plays Auburn has moved from their own 3 to the 37 and face 3rd-and-5. Todd’s flushed to the right but has plenty of time to set himself and fire downfield … five yards short of a wide, wide open Fannin. A replay from field level shows just how bad a throw this is: there’s no one standing in Todd’s field of vision, not a soul between himself and Fannin, all the time he needs, and the ball just doesn’t get there. This is four straight incompletions, three of them on third and fourth down, the last three all on Todd. Sorry, man, but this isn’t good enough.
— Kentucky brings Will Fidler in to quarterback, and Auburn is so frightened of Will Fidler’s cannon-like arm and gunslinging reputation they back 10 yards off of Kentucky’s receivers and allow a throw into the flat for Cobb that picks up 12 yards quicker than you can say IT’S WILL FREAKING FIDLER COME ON.
— So Kentucky has 3rd-and-9 on Auburn’s 45 a few plays later, and Eric Collins says “third downs have been a disaster for Kentucky. They haven’t converted yet today” just as Fidler connects on a short pass that turns into 10 yards when both Thorpe and Stevens miss the tackle. Eric, I’m begging you: just stop talking. We’ll let Brock call the game by himself from here. A one-man booth will work just fine. Trust me: they do it with soccer games in England all the time.
— Auburn stiffens and forces a 48-yard field goal attempt from Lones Seiber … no good! And Auburn will head into the …
— … having scored 7 offensive points and still ahead by a touchdown. Here’s a prediction (which I did make at the time, honest): either Auburn’s offense will wake up and Kentucky will shrivel and this will be a 14-17 point win, or Auburn’s offense will not wake up and the defense will finally crack and Kentucky will win by a possession. I don’t see an in-between. C’mon, Auburn.
— After an Auburn first down at their own 43, Darvin Adams commits a personal foul to move the ball back to the 28. After a five-yard first down gain from Tate, McCain false starts. Penalties: that’s what a struggling offense needs! Auburn is officially in trouble here.
— Well, hey, whaddya know: 3rd-and-7, and not only does Todd complete a pass, Adams breaks a tackle and takes off for 37 yards. Adams has redeemed himself! Oh wait. he just committed a needless block-in-the-back to ruin a 5-yard gain by Tate and set up 1st-and-16. Redemption still forthcoming.
— False start on Trott, 2nd-and-21. Someone comes on, no one comes off, substitution infraction, 2nd-and-26. Eventually it’s 4th-and-23 … illegal formation on the punt team (more on this in a moment). Your grand total for this one drive, folks: 6 penalties, 41 yards. That’s a kind of more than you’d like to see for an entire game. And ohbytheway Durst’s punt traveled all of 25 yards, meaning that for the second time tonight Durst has downed a ball dead on the 20 despite punting at midfield.
Man, I hope Auburn gets an early kickoff on the road next week. They just make so many mistakes with these late kickoffs at home.
— Well, we all knew this was coming eventually, didn’t we? The middle of the line starts getting caved again and here we go: Locke for 20, this Alphonso Smith guy for 15, QB draw for 8, a smattering of other successful plays, 3rd-and-2 on Auburn’s 17. Locke u pthe middle … Etheridge! Tackle for loss! Huge 4th-and-3 now, Fidler throws …
… and you know, this is why playing a true freshman at safety hurts. Bates springs forward towards Fidler’s intended receiver, who’s running a little (and I mean little) middle curl, dives at the ball, and misses. The receiver turns and picks up 7. Next year, Bates will either react just a hair quicker and knock the ball away, or play it safe and wrap the guy up and possibly stop him short of the sticks; this year, though, he does neither, and it’s first-and-goal ‘Cats.
— Flag down on a Randall Cobb run for 5. Illegal formation; they pick it up. Replay shows that the ‘Cats have the quarterback and two running backs in the backfield and neither wideout anywhere near the line of scrimmage. “Boy, I don’t know,” Huard says. Well, we do: there was no reason to pick up this flag. And while we’re at it, on Auburn’s punt? 4 guys in the backfield, every other player on the unit on the line. It’s one thing to maybe see a pass interference that’s not really there or not see a hold in the middle of the line. It’s another to not be able to count.
— Fidler on a QB keeper, touchdown. 14-14. Sigh.
— OK, so Auburn’s defense has just gotten shredded, the effects of spending a big chunk of time on the field in the first half might be catching up to them, we all know they’re thinner than thinnerson to begin with–it’s pretty simple. Auburn makes a couple of first downs on this drive or they’re in serious, serious trouble. We’ve got to have this, offense.
Result: Burns for 3, underneath to Smith for 2, throwaway out-of-bounds under minimal pressure and with Adams covered but available at the sticks, punt. And here comes the stomach acid.
— 2nd-and-6, Cobb over right tackle … and there he goes. Thorpe pushes him out at the 4. 61 yards. 1st-and-goal.
Though in theory I know that Auburn’s offense is capable of driving down and scoring to either win the game (if the defense can force a field goal attempt) or tie it, we haven’t seen any evidence this game they’re capable of that sort of thing. I wish I could stop myself from feeling like the game is over already.
— The illegal formation flags: those are bad calls, but minor penalties. The touchdown Cobb scores here, though, with the Kentucky receiver visibly holding on to McFadden’s jersey as Cobb strides past him into the end zone? Not so minor. Auburn has not played well and I wouldn’t dare say they deserve to win or anything–Kentucky being up 21-14 with 3:17 to play has a hundred times more to do with Auburn and Kentucky than the officials, without question–but this is two straight weeks where if you tally up all the 50/50 calls, Auburn’s been on the wrong end of more than 50 percent of them. A little luck in this department is in order soon, please.
— Auburn will start at the 20 after a touchback. All three timeouts left, Malzahn will be able to run the ball if he wants. And does: Todd on the QB draw for 10. Tate around left end for a big gain, 18 yards. 8 more on the next play. 2nd-and-2 on the Kentucky 44. Come on, Auburn. They haven’t stopped you all half. You’ve stopped yourselves. Make it happen.
1. Rush for a yard
2. False start
3. Line up for a trick play that looks like it will easily pick up the first, but false start again
4. Fail to catch a well-thrown, catchable ball that would have been good for the first
5. Have the right tackle get shoved into Todd’s face, forcing an all-arm, no-hoper balloon ball into double coverage.
That’s your game, folks.
(And this sequence is mostly on the offensive line: Adams drop(ish) hurt like hell, but McCain’s false start was a killer, we have it on pretty good authority that Pugh moved on the trick play and I thought Berry took a slight step forward as well, and then on 4th down McCain lets the pocket collapse. These guys played about as well as anyone on Auburn’s side did all night, but they didn’t exactly rise to the occasion here.)
— Locke picks up a first down, and it’s Victory Formation time for the Wildcats. For Auburn, it’s Figure Out What The Hell Has Gone Wrong With The Passing Game Formation time.
(No, I don’t know what this formation looks like, so don’t ask. You want metaphors that make sense, yousobs*)
–OK, some good news, for serious: expectations aren’t going to be this high again. So the disappointment isn’t going to be this sharp again. This is as bad as it’s going to get this year, Auburn fans, and compared to 2008, this ain’t nothing. We’re all right.
War Eagle always, folks.