Picking up where we left off …
— Ole Miss kicks off. When all was said and done, the first half only produced 17 points and a handful of big plays. I wonder if we’ll have anything exciting happen during this third quarter?
— We sure won’t on these first two possessions, as both teams go three-and-out. The most interesting thing that happens is Ben Tate drawing a flag for grabbing a facemask as part of his stiff-arm, a rule that’s been on the books since time immemorial and has been totally ignored for just as long … until, of course, right now when Auburn does it.
— So Auburn’s got the ball back, first-down play-action, Todd deep over the middle … caught! Zachery bodied off the Ole Miss corner and made the toughest catch an Auburn wideout has made in weeks. (Not a lot of competition for that honor, of course.) You have to wonder: was Zachery really more open on that kind of route than Auburn’s receivers have been the last couple of weeks, or has Todd just been screamed at by Malzahn to THROW THE DAMN BALL so often that he’s finally doing it?
— Tate for a rugged 11 on the next play, and before we can even work up the anger at the offensive line for a red zone false start, Burns is dropping back, Trott’s open … TOUCHDOWN, AUBURN! 17-7! Say this for Burns: there just aren’t that many players athletic enough to hop backwards off of one foot and throw an accurate all-arm pass to the back of the end zone.Not many at all, and Auburn’s lucky to have one of them.
(Of course, as Bob Davie would tell us, that he’s about as accurate hopping backwards off of one foot as he is planting and throwing off of two is why he’s not the starter. So it goes.)
— Ole Miss’s turn, first play Snead useslessly short-hops an out route. He’s really been off today, and a throw like that … wait, is that ball still live? McFadden collected it with one hand, he’s running the other way with it, there hasn’t been a whistle GO MCFADDEN! GO! TOUCHDOWN! MAYBE POSSIBLY!
OK, we can’t really celebrate until we have a look at the replay, because the chances this doesn’t get reviewed are somewhere between nil and Gary Danielson endorsing Iowa for the BCS Championship game. Aaaaaand … it didn’t hit the ground. At least I don’t think so–bounced right off of Markeith Summers’s fingertips. But judging from the overturn of the Rebels’ first-half pick, the replay official is letting the Great Gazoo handle all decisions in the replay booth, so who knows what’s going to happen here.
Penn Wagers is on the field … TOUCHDOWN FOR REALZ! Oh man, what a play by McFadden, and a shout-out to Carter for pancaking Jevan Snead when he had the chance. Very, very lucky bounce for Auburn, but the Rebels also can’t expect to get the breaks when their QB is throwing simple passes into the almost-dirt. 24-7, and Auburn’s suddenly working with an actual cushion.
— The Toro tackles for no gain on second down and does his first-swinging celebration thing, followed by a replay in which a cute blonde in the background is so fired up she’s mimicking The Toro on the sideline, shaker in hand. Sweetie, whoever you are, that was freaking awesome.
Another laughably obvious hold on the Rebels brings back a third-down conversion, they punt, and Auburn’s got the ball again.
— Travante Stallworth makes a nice run for 14 yards, going out-of-bounds near midfield, and after a first down you know Auburn’s goign to hurry and here’s Tate and HE’S GOT THE CORNER. Gone! See ya! Ben Tate, TOUCHDOWN! It’s 31-7 Auburn! It’s a 24-point lead! Auburn’s back! WOOOOOOOOOO WOOOOOOOOO WOOOOOOOOOO YEAAAAAAHHHHHHHH!
Man, this game is sweet. So sweet. The way Snead and the Ole Miss offense are playing, the only thing that’s going to make the fourth quarter interesting at all is some sort of lightning-quick long touchdown. Hell, it might take two of them, and even I can see Auburn giving up one, what are the odds of two?
— Kickoff … NO. Get him! Seize him, you fools!
Sigh. Siiiiiiiigh. We all knew a TD was coming on a kick return eventually. The only hope is that that one will get it out of Auburn’s system, and at least it came in a 24-point game in the third quarter rather than in the 4th quarter of a tight game.
— At least the special teams respond, kind of, as Washington returns to the Auburn 41. C’mon, offense, great field position to re-seize the momentum. Or, you know, go three-and-out with an ugly, mystifying throwaway on 3rd-and-7. You could do that, too.
— Ole Miss takes over inside their 20, and just as Dave Neal is saying how the Rebels’ offense has been “stuck in the mud” I’m thinking “that was a hell of a jinx for a team with Dexter McCluster,” and sure enough, McCluster’s got the ball, and there … he … goes. Touchdown, Rebels. Unbelievable. It hasn’t even been 2 minutes of game time since Tate scored, and they’re an extra point away from being within 10. Auburn, please, please don’t blow this.
— Well HELL YEAH a blocked extra point is a good start towards not-blowing it! Go, Washington! 2 points! I swear I’m going to have my neck checked for whiplash symptoms afterward. Huge, huge play: that makes McCluster’s score a 4-point TD, basically a field goal with an extra point tacked on to reduced the lead to 13 instead of 14 … but it’s still two TDs. Whew.
— There are still 6 minutes left in this quarter. There is sane, and there is this quarter, which is in-.
— Todd’s sacked on 3rd-and-8, three-and-out. Look, offense, I’m not going to hold anything against you when you’ve already put more points on the board against Ole Miss than any other team they’ve faced this season. But our team could really use a first down next possession, OK? Could. Really. Use. A. First. Down.
— 29-yard punt return (hooray) gives Ole Miss first down at Auburn’s 46. To plays later, they’ve got 2nd-and-1 at Auburn’s 26. Oh heavens. Be still, my troubled heart.
— Incomplete on play-action toss to the end zone, 3rd-and-1. Handoff to Bolden, Freeman strings it out, Coleman strings it out, Bolden reaches … fumble? FUMBLE! Bates has it! Auburn ball!
Oh man. Oh man oh man oh man. Great play by Thorpe to knock it free, great play by the football gods to keep the ball in play. 13-point lead or not, it feels Auburn is hanging by a thread in this game, but at least they are hanging onto that thread like … like … a team that really, really wants to keep hanging onto it. There’s an intensity to the hang. That much, I’m enjoying.
— Yet another gift: Adams fails to come back to the ball on an out, so it’s nearly picked, but instead it bounces straight up into the air for an easy Adams catch and 19 yards. The Great Gazoo didn’t just overturn that first-half interception call, he overturned Auburn’s last month’s worth of luck.
Until now: Auburn rushes forward, the umpire spots the ball and backs off, and when Auburn snaps it Wagers blows the play dead and calls a five-yard penatly for snapping before the officials were ready. Nevermind that 1. the umpire was ready and clearly expected Wagers to be ready 2. OK, so Wagers isn’t ready, but how the hell is Auburn supposed to know that when he’s standing behind the quarterback? Either the umpire should have waited until Wagers signaled the OK, or Wagers should have recognized that the umpire allowed the ball to be snapped and waved off the penalty. This is a miscommunication between the two officials and it’s Auburn who pays five yards for it.
In a word: horsecrap. In a few more: undiluted, pure, pristine, one-hundred-percent, total, utter, genuine, absolute, unfiltered horsecrap.
— Finally. The Auburn offense has finally gotten itself going again–the pass to Adams, another 12-yarder to Adams, a third-and-short completion to Fannin–and already the sense of doom isn’t quite so pervading. 3rd-and-5 from the Ole Miss 35, and after Todd’s last coupel of throws I’m finally willing to feel OK with him throwing on this down-and-distance … so, naturally, here comes Burns to run a busted play that results in a hopeless throwaway. This, Gus, I don’t get.
— Todd in on 4th-and-5, and here’s the pooch-punt formation: away it goes, and holy crap it just rolled out of bounds inside the 1. Andre Ware says of Auburn’s series of bounces that “when it rains it pours,” and this is one time I think that cliche is entirely appropriate.
— OK, Auburn, time to shut the door here, get the ball back in great field position and let the offense ice the game with a score.
Or, let Snead complete a 12-yard pass along the sideline to Shay Hodge and turn it into 43 freaking yards by overrunning the tackle, Bates. Two plays, and the field is already flipped. Dammit.
— At least that’s as much as Ole Miss can manage: Coleman tackles for loss on first down and flushes Snead on third down. This time the scramble only nets a couple, and Ole Mis punts the ball back to Auburn. Remaining possessions for the Rebels can be counted on one hand now–getting nothing out of that one was big.
— From the 14, Auburn turns to Fannin and flips the field themselves: 13 yards on first down, then 21 yards on first down. Tigers now at midfield, and unless there’s some sort of horrible, inexplicable brainlock sack/turnover on Todd’s part coming, the Auburn offense will be able to pin the Rebels deep again. And Todd’s been so solid today–what are the odds of that?
— TODD! AAAARRRGGGGHHHHH WHY WHY WHY? For God’s sake, man, just eat the ball. There’s an extremely limited number of ways the Rebels can get back into this game, and that unfortunately happens to be one of them. Horrible, horrible play, reminiscent of Dan Cobb’s no-look pick with time winding down in 2001 against La. Tech. Just be thankful, Chris, that a score here won’t tie things up.
— Also be thankful, of course, that Auburn has Antonio Coleman. It’s already 3rd-and-17–tackle for loss by McFadden, then Stevens blows up a swing–when AC torches Bradley Sowell; Sowell holds him, 3rd-and-26. Fourth down, Coleman just runs right past him; sack, fumble, 4th-and-32, punt. Incredible defensive sequence for Auburn there, and if Auburn can get so much as a first down, Ole Miss will really be up against it.
— Auburn goes three-and-out after a second-down sack, so even though they abandoned the hurry-up and ran two minutes off the clock, that could have gone better. But weirdly, the Rebels don’t seem to be in hurry-up mode just yet–they run McCluster, they throw short, in-bounds passes, they run some time off the clock before snapping … and even though they’ve got 1st-and-10 on the Auburn 23 after a Stevens PI flag, there’s less than 3:30 left. Auburn’s basically an onsides kick recovery away from winning this game even in the worst-case scenario for this possession.
— It won’t come to that: Snead adds one final flourish to his crapsterpiece of a performance, throwing straight to McFadden, and it’s PICKED! McFadden smartly hits the turf, and barring absolute disaster, Auburn’s going to win this game. The Auburn defense was just massive down the stretch: three times in the final 20 minutes the Rebels started a drive in Auburn territory, and three times they came away with nothing. So money.
— Stallworth cuts forward smartly for a first down–OK, this kid has earned a couple more touches down this season’s stretch run–and that’s it! Auburn wins! 6-3 now, 7-3 next week! Most importantly: that Auburn we saw to start the year wasn’t gone for good. It just took a little vacation.
War Damn Eagle, guys.