— Hey hey, we’ve got our second ex-Three Dave sighting of Auburn’s season as this a.m.’s game is brought to you by “the SEC Network,” i.e. ESPN’s turn as the designated driver for the JP/Lincoln/Raycom early-morning joyrides. And the SEC Network’s morning play-by-play guy: Dave Neal, who was never half as bad as the other two Daves.
Of course, having a decent play-by-play guy doesn’t mean that when he describes the Auburn-Ole Miss series–which went unplayed for years and years and I would argue ranks at the very bottom of Auburn’s five SEC West games on the “I want to beat those guys so bad”+ historicalness combo scale*–as “an old-fashioned SEC rivalry,” that it’s true.
— Much of color man Andre Ware’s pregame schpiel is about how Auburn and Ole Miss are in buckets on either side of a pulley–Rebels goin’ up (career-highs for Snead! McCluster going apenuts! big wins!), Tigers’ goin’ down (Todd hasn’t thrown for a TD pass in weeks! Lost to Kentucky! Blown out by LSU!). At the time, there was nothing you could bo but nod. On this rewatch, though … ho ho ho, does irony rule the world with an iron-y fist, or what?
–Nice kickoff by Hull, and Ole Miss return man Jesse Grandy decides to bring it out despite catching it four yards deep with his momentum going back deeper into the end zone. I don’t know if HOLY CRAP WHAT A HIT GET THE BALL GET THE BALL AUBURN SURELY YOU DIDN’T NOT GET THE BALL YOU DIDN’T DID YOU AAAAARRRRRGGGGGGHHHHHH. The story of Auburn’s special teams this year: they make a tremendous play, and I still feel like kicking a hole into the cabinet under the sink when they’re done. Gulley and Adams had the best shot at the recovery but got in each other’s way, with Jason King also getting a great look and letting it squirm away.
Incidentally, King is being given credit for the hit by Neal and Ware despite the fact it was Chris Humphries who was responsible. The same Chris Humphries who recovered Mario Fannin’s punt muff and never had his name called on by the TV people then, either. Keep at it, Chris: they’ll give you the credit you deserve one day.
— OK, so Ole Miss at least has to start at their own 7. TheHumphries hit has the crowd into it. And Auburn can’t make any excuses about depth or fatigue at the very start of the game. Let’s see what happens here.I’m actually kind of feeling confident, I don’t know why.[10 plays, 94 yards, 7 points, and not so much as an Ole Miss third-down later …]
Shoot me. Seriously, shoot me. OK, don’t shoot me. Yet. Let me think about it. Another drive like this one, yeah, then shoot me. I don’t know. Maybe shoot me now.
— OK, well, we know one side of the ball hasn’t taken any strides sincel ast week. How ’bout you, offense? You’ll even get to start on the 40 after Josh Shene booted it so far out-of-bounds I think some kid in the front row got a souvenir.
Hey, screen to Fannin for 18. Not a bad start, even if Fannin catches a break when his fumble bounces out-of-bounds. (Ahem.) And a wide, wide open play-action dump-off to Smith on the next play, good for 17 more. Well. Well well well.
— Oops: Trott gets caught holding (this looks like an awful call at first, but sure enough Trott has a handful of jersey on the outside his guy’s shoulder pads) and even after a slick QB draw by Todd, it’s 3rd-and-4. This is where Auburn has had so much difficulty throwing theb all the last three weeks and, comparitively, a ton of success running the draw. I’m begging you, Gus: run a draw here. Run. A. Draw. Draw!
Straight drop-back pass, Smith covered in the flat, lofted pass is way too tough to bring in, 4th down. Sigh.
— Byrum’s kick is a hell of a lot shakier-looking than most of his have been this year, but it’s still good. 7-3. Well, it’s a better start than the last few weeks’.
— For those of you begging for a more aggressive coverage scheme from Ted Roof the way I’ve been begging for third-down draws from Dr. Gustav, we’re both S.O.L.: Ole Miss begins their ensuing drive by throwing a quick out to Shay Hodge, who’s being covered by an Auburn corner (McFadden) lined up seven yards off the line-of-scrimmage. Defending this play if the Rebels execute is impossible. I understand why Auburn has to play like this, but I don’t blame anyone for gnashing their teeth over it, either.
— Maybe the Rebels just won’t execute? Snead gets his Snead on on 2nd and 3rd down, first gifting Thorpe with a possible pick-six (dropped) and then throwing the ball straight into the hands of Bynes (also dropped). On the one hand: CATCH THE BALL. On the other: that’s a hell of a lot better than that last drive.
— 3rd-and-3 for Auburn on their 42, and dammit here’s another 3rd-and-short throw … though to be fair, this one works out, with Burns running a nifty-looking little out route into the flat and hauling in the pass for the first. That’s Todd’ second completion of the drive; he looks approximately one bajillion times more comfortable than he did just two weeks ago.
Ware says that Burns “is really becoming a good receiver for this Auburn offense.” The catch is Burns’ third of the year.
— Tate runs for 10 on 2nd-and-11; here’s your opportunity to show how much you’ve improved since blowing this very situation last week, Auburn. That’s now how you do it: Tate stuffed on third down. Hurry up, going for it on 4th. Todd in shotgun, handoff: Tate stuffed again. Ole Miss ball. Excuse me while I rip my fingernails off my hands one-by-one.
On replay: 3rd-and-1 is on Tate. He’s got enough room in the middle of the line to pound forward for the first, but tries to bounce outside anyway. 4th down, I don’t have a problem with lining up in the shotgun: remember, we tried lining up under center twice in short-yardage against Arkansas and turned it over–you guessed it–twice. But why is Mike Berry pulling from left guard on this play? The linebacker is right up on the line-of-scrimmage–we don’t have time to pull people around. And sure enough, Berry si still blocking air and Tate is tckled by the LB who just shot the gap Berry vacated. Epic, epic FAIL.
— It’s 2nd down Ole Miss at midfield, and this is the Etheridge injury. Watching it a couple of days after the fact has done nothing to lessen the horror: the impact, the unnatural way Etheridge’s body settles on top of Scott with a series of .. I don’t know, they’re not jerks, maybe just movements that tell you something has gone horribly wrong in Etheridge’s systems, the total stillness from him afterwards, the off-putting (though understandable) announcer chatter before they realize what’s happening. Auburn could have wound up winning this game 50-49 on a last-second Hail Mary, and this would still be the last time I would ever watch it.
— McCluster picks up 25 yards on three carries once we come back to action. So naturally Snead drops back on 2nd- and 3rd-down from the Auburn 26 … both are incomplete. The second-down pass is nicely tipped by Adam Herring straight into the arms of Daren Bates … dropped. Again. That’s four sure turnovers Auburn’s somehow managed not to come up with. You know, I know Chizik said the players learned a lot on their anthropology field trip to the Sacred Indian Burial Grounds, but I’m starting to wonder if maybe it wasn’t such a good idea.
— Shene from 44 … misses! His first of the year! One touchdown and Auburn would actually be in the lead.
— Oh, right, nevermind, this is Replacement Auburn we’re talking about here: illegal motion by Zachery to negate 13-yard run, Tate 3-yard run, Trott drop of certain first-down pass, no-one’s-open check down to Tate for 1. Here comes Durst. I don’t know which is more frustrating: to move the ball a bit and then fail to gain a yard on third and fourth down, or to not move the ball at all because you’re committing penalties and dropping passes. It’s a tie! Everyone’s a winner! Or the opposite of that!
— Ole Miss converts a 4th-and-1 on Auburn’s 43 and they’re in business. But the Tigers catch a break on 3rd-and-6: a wide-open Grandy drops his own sure first down pass. The Rebels go for it on fourth down, and some terrific downfield coverage (along with a well-timed leap from Coleman) forces Snead to scramble, and before long Ricks and Carter bring him down. Oh hell yes!
— OK, so Auburn has another chance to either take the lead or at least pull within a point … and I swear, before it even gets started, Todd’s pass is batted down and intercepted just before it hits the ground. Part of me wants to say You see? THEY’RE catching balls that hit them in the hands, but I also know that that pass could have fallen down anywhere and just happened to fall down where the Rebels could catch it. You know, Chizik said that field trip to the recycling center to learn how to safely smash old mirrors would teach the team a valuable lesson about the environment, but I’m still not sure it was worth it.
On the field, the officials are reviewing the play, and the way the ball falls I think it hits the ground, but there’s no way looking at these videos there’s indisputable evidence. Frankly, I don’t know why it’s taking so long when ARE YOU SERIOUS? OVERTURNED? Wow. Wow wow. I heard Auburn stopped at the horseshoe factory to learn about horseshoe manufacturing on the way back from the mirror-smashing trip; do you think that might be paying off?
— Tate can’t quite pick up 3rd-and-14 (now you call the draw, Gus?), but a good Durst punt means Ole Miss takes over at their own 13 instead of Auburn’s 40 and after the long review and change-of-possession timeout. Yeah, I think that’s just a bit better situation for the defense.
— Still, the Rebels have a 3rd-and-2 at midfield. Too bad for them their center decides to snap the ball before Snead is ready, before anyone’s ready, even before the receivers are set. Result: Snead is tattooed by a couple of Auburn defenders as he desperately throws the ball away. Tee hee hee.
— Field stil lgot flipped, though, and Auburn starts at their own 10. 3rd-and-2 on their own 18, play-action, Todd goes deep because why try to just pick up a critical first down when you can overthrow a guy by … Zachery! He’s got it! 42 yards! And that was an absolutely perfect pass. Save one early miss to Zachery on an open bomb, Todd’s been money today. Welcome back, SuperTodd. We missed you. Oh man did we miss you.
— Tate for 9, hurry-up, Tate for 3, hurry-up, Todd to Adams … wide open! TOUCHDOWN! 10-7 Auburn! A lead. Over Ole Miss. I’ll be damned.
— Auburn might not even be done this half: Branden Bolden decided the best way to “block” Coleman was to grab hold of the front of his jersey and throw him down like WWE-style in direct view of the ref. I swear, he couldn’t get the flag out of his pocket fast enough. So it’s 3rd-and-17, and if/when Auburn forces a punt here, they could really grab some momentum before the break.
— Dammit: Snead breaks free and runs for 20 yards. Oh well. With a QB as mobile as Snead we all knew there were going to be a handful of break-your-TV 3rd-down conversions with his legs. Still, though, 3rd-and-seventeen? Dammit, I say.
— This drive started with more than 5 minutes on the clock: how is it running out of time? The Rebels had 1st-and-10 on Auburn’s 35, but after an incompletion, false start, and run for minus-one (McCluster tripped over nothing; this is where the “rabbit’s foot processing plant field trip” joke would go if I wasn’t in a hurry) Ole Miss is staring at 3rd-and-16 and only about 25 seconds left. They’ve run the ball a few plays, but still, they must have been really snailing it to the line to run that kind of time off.
Anyways: on 3rd down McFadden breaks up what looks like a first-down completion by jarring the ball loose with his helmet (it might be a fumble, but who cares as long as Auburn doesn’t allow the 4th-and-16 conversion) and Snead’s pass has no chance on 4th. Auburn takes over with 8 seconds left and will head into the half ahead 10-7.
Still a long way to go, but it’s been three weeks and seven halves since Auburn played that well for two quarters back-to-back. Nice to have you back, Tigers.
*Auburn’s played Ole Miss only 33 times. By contrast, despite the fact that Arkansas didn’t join the SEC until 1992, Auburn’s already played the Hogs 18 times. Rebels-Tigers just doesn’t have that much history behind it.