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@kennysmith does the Outback Bowl

Let's Pompano Juke forever.

The last game of the 2009 Auburn football season was on New Year’s Day, a bowl date that seemed inconceivable 365 days ago. The team finished the regular season 7-5, full of inconsistencies, effort and potential. They’re young, thin and have struggled, excelled and shown the future is bright.

And since they’re battle against Northwestern in the Outback Bowl in Tampa, Fla. was the last of the year I’m going to lean on this Twitter feed crutch one last time. The Twitter posts are in the blockquotes, the post-game thoughts are in the normal style. On with it:

Walter McFadden, (say it with me) HERO, starts my 2010 off right. Interception!

Hey look kids, Big Ben Tate! My AUM grad, Bama post-grad friend has just proclaimed this will get ugly, quick.

TOUCHDOWN AUBURN! Kodi Burns scores and the Tigers lead 7-0.

Neiko Thorpe lives up to expectations on a nice open field stop. Happy New Year guy.

NU throws on fourth-and-1. They came to tie!

Granted Northwestern does all the things that Auburn’s defense struggles with, but still. Come on guys.

Neiko Thorpe with another big play! Go Neiko!


That’s 100 yards of awesome, there. McFadden has been a fan-favorite and a reporter-favorite and by all accounts is a young man who deserves his success. He’s going to get a chance at the NFL and I’m eager to see him succeed.

That must surely be a team record …. we’ll find out momentarily.

McFadden’s return (Officially a 100-yarder) broke the previous Outback Bowl record (Bama’s Dwayne Rudd, 1997).

Get Tim McGraw off the screen. In addition to being Tim McGraw, he let NU score.

When I think big time college football I think “Don’t Take the Girl.” Yeesh.

Evil Todd. (Don’t say anything bad, self. Don’t say anything bad.)

I love Todd. He’s become the ultimate redemption story and tale of persistence. Hopefully he’s taught the fans a lot, and his effort early in the Iron Bowl was the most inspired beautiful thing I’ve ever seen in a game. But still, when he gets inconsistent it can be frustrating.

Northwestern’s offense is like the killer rabbit in Monty Python. You don’t think it can hurt you, then it gouges your throat.

I’m told they are handing out Bloomin’ Onions and steaks in the press box. Better than hot dogs. And the working media love it.

Wide left, our third best defense. (1. AC 2. Walter McF.)

Ziemba just committed murder. OMG! Totally worth his upcoming false start.

It never came, that obligatory and contractually obligated penalty of his, but there is something outstanding about watching a 308-pound man out in space killing a skinny defensive back.

Kodi Burns’ offseason assignment: blocking fundamentals.

That’s a catch!

Nuts and bolts, nuts and bolts we got screwed.

TOUCHDOWN AUBURN! Todd pump fakes and delivers to Quindarrius Carr!

Wes Byrum, form tackling your dreams. (But why must he?)

Wonder why NU doesn’t want to kick to our returners. Hmm …

Ben (Best running back in the s)Tate says you can not tackle him.

Super Mario!

Finally saw the receiver pass, and Kodi Burns throws his best pass of the year. And it is intercepted.

Walt McFadden. HERO.

Walter McFadden is cramping so that you don’t have to.

Darren Receiver Eater Bates with a big stop. Three more, fellas!

INTERCEPTION! All your hopes are crushed, dehydrated and BELONG TO US!

Why is Mike Leach talking to ESPN? (I mean, considering they were basically complicit in his firing.)

Tim McGraw now has the fourth (or ninth?) ESPN bumper music for the year. So much for Kenny Chesney and DMB.

Evil Todd (the good Evil) to Darvin Adams, FIRST DOWN!


Darvin Adams mailbox in Canton, Miss. simply says “The Man.” He’s proving it today, too.

Heck of an interception. NU earned that one.

Auburn coaches know Kodi Burns will NEVER throw the ball again when Cam Newton gets to campus. Hence this hurrah.

(Mario Fannin) doesn’t seem as comfortable with the seam routes for some reason.

Or anything especially vertical. But we don’t seem to have good luck connecting with him there either.

Demond Washington should be celebrating a touchdown right now.

I’ve got a fever, and the only cure is more Tommy Trott.

Neiko Thorpe is coming of age today, friends.

AC! We’re gonna miss you, sir.

Ugh. 21-14 after an ugly touchdown gift.

Todd sacked. At least he tucked it up for the coverage sack.

Once again the defense is exhausted. Once again the offense produces three and outs. I’ve seen this before.

Here’s where we can legitimately complain about the Roof defense: This shouldn’t happen 13 games in.

This in reference to that horrible display of tackling on the quarter-mile screen pass. If you take out every Arkansas game ever played I don’t know where you’d find such a poor defensive play as that one in post-Barfield Auburn history. Fortunately things improved just enough as you will soon see, but first …

Gus Malzahn is now having his regularly scheduled play calling inexplicability.

Every bugaboo of the season is beginning to rear its head.

Fifth interception! Northwestern you are LSU, circa 1994.

Next year we have a 6’6″, 245-lb quarterback. #tomorrowisonlyadayaway

Darvin Adams is the most unsung player on this team. #justsaying

Kodi Burns with a big down-the-middle catch.

TOUCHDOWN AUBURN! Ben Tate gets the send off he deserves. (Now let’s hook up Trott.)

Darvin Adams’ 12 catches is an Auburn bowl record. His 60 catches on the season is Tigers’ single-season record.

Check that guy for stick’um.

Terrell Zachery! T-Zach, the keeper of your heart, destroyer of defenders’ angles.

TOUCHDOWN AUBURN! Ben Tate! And then he dunks the ball, gets flagged, gets a lecture and looks to the NFL.

Dear Announcer: Gene Chizik played at Florida, not at Auburn. Might want to study up on the media guide.

No, Announcer, I imagine NU is going for it because they are down by 14. Why, ESPN, why

Headline: “Meyer hid ER visit to protect family, Gators” Is he hanging out with Tiger?

Headline: “Bowden tribute at Gator Bowl includes new car” Because he needs to drive. Or: Like so many he’s given to players. Hiyo.

Hey, where’s Eltoro anyway? Lonely thoughts upon giving up fourth-and-6.

Walt McFadden, HERO. We’re gonna miss that guy.

Northwestern scores. Question: How do you force five interceptions and still find yourself in a one-score game?

Special teams kick block squad once again saves the day. The unsung unit of the year, right there. Consider what they’ve done.

War Hands Team!

Auburn, for the third game in a row, blew a 14 point lead. Northwestern, down by eight, tried an onside kick, but that’s the first thing that worked for the Tigers in some time in this game as the boys in blue fell on the ball. And then Ben Tate fumbled the ball, turning it over to the guys in purple. Many people see this as a karmic comeuppance for his showboating early. While that was unfortunate, I can’t view it that way.

War Hands Team!

This drive feels like the last drive of the Iron Bowl.

Walt McFadden, *points microphone to crowd so you may belt out* Hero.

Dear @ESPN No Auburn fan, or none of the three Northwestern fans, cares about Purdue basketball. Sincerely, Your Audience.

I stand corrected. I found two Auburn fans that actually had a rooting interest in that basketball game.

I suppose you call that a hustle penalty?

Huge sack that probably cleans up the whole situation, but Nic Fairley grabbed a handful of grill on fourth down, setting up …

Touchdown Northwestern. 35-33, with a two point conversion pending.

Tie ball game. Trickeration. Reverse pass; Malzahn approves.

New question: How do you force five interceptions and have a tie game? You are the 2009 Auburn Tigers. Come on guys!

Also, why doesn’t a referee call a holding penalty against a Northwestern player, ever? Moving on.

Demond Washington, did I not just tell you to WRAP UP THE BALL!?!?!?

A fumbled kickoff later and NU has the ball, the clock and the opportunity to escape with a win. Argh.

Now’s the time, Big Blue.


Walter McFadden, better than your neighbor’s boy, seems to be OK.

He got hurt, again. He fought off cramps earlier in the game but stayed in the game just because he’s tough. And also because there was no one else.

It was around this time that I got into a disagreement with a Florida sportswriter who rhetorically asked why Auburn traded Tommy Tuberville “for this.” I questioned his long term memory. He said that last year’s team was “infinitely more prepared than this.”

I pointed out that last year’s “infinitely better prepared team” lost to Vandy for the first time since Eisenhower. (That still hurts.)

Big Ben Tate, first down, chains and setting up the score.

Auburn kicks the overtime field goal, so Northwestern takes over and this game has gone ludicrous, given the yards and plays and there can’t be anything left in the defense, alternatively bending and resilient as they’ve been. Even still.

My kingdom for Brother Oliver.

Did the world just stop on that fumble? Seriously. Everyone stopped moving.

This referee lives at 13 Mockingbird Lane, Chicago, IL.

Dear Announcer: The absence of defense does not constitute “What a game.” It constitutes bad defense. (Five picks notwithstanding.)

Yes, I understand the limitations of this defense with respect to roster depth, injuries, new schemes and so forth. And they’ve hung tough more than anyone could reasonable expect. However, I just wonder what this type of offense could do if supported by the caliber of defense Auburn is accustomed to fielding.

Is that the slowest whistle you’ve ever heard? Seriously, who brought these officials?

SACK! FUMBLE! (pending review) Someone get the number of my future child’s namesake.

RT @edsbs Kafka was down. His unfair, absurd, and pointless Trial continues.

When did this become the Holiday Bowl?

Demos is Latin for WIDE. And we roughed the kicker.

Gene Chizik should really be in the ref’s grill during this lull.

Is this an ACC crew? #explainsalot

Fake field goal is FOILED. WAR DAMN EAGLE. Ugliest, happiest, win ever.

Said it earlier and it needs to be said one more time: Neiko Thorpe came of age today.

Congratulations and goodbye (we’ll miss ya) to Tate, AC, McFadden, Trott, Todd and the rest of a hardluck, never-quit senior team.

It was an exhausting, four-hour, 38-35 victory. In a TWER column at the beginning of the season I wrote:

(T)he offense will someday stumble. Somewhere a blitz will be missed and Todd will have to run for his life. He will be chased down.

Meanwhile the defense will tenderize the field with the dreams of an opposing quarterback and later blow a horrible coverage. In some games they will hold and in some games the ball will take the wrong bounce.

But despite their successes and their setbacks, this team may grow to earn the fans’ approval all the same. When you recall the past few seasons, that is refreshing.

Some people closer to the team than casual fans have even suggested that this might be one of those squads that we will come to love based on their heart and effort, more so than the wins and losses.

I didn’t expect that to be so accurate, but that’s the season we saw, those are the guys we cheered and that we’ll remember, because they gave us all of this:

The two plays that start at 1:30 mark feature a few of McFadden’s amazing efforts.

Check out the block that Chris Todd throws just after the 3:55 mark. That’s the play of the year, the microcosm of the season and it typifies what we’ve come to admire about these young men.

Not because of them, but because of what it has taught them and all of us, I believe in Auburn and love it.

Now hurry up and get here, next fall.

War Eagle!

Kenny graduated from Auburn at the turn of the century. He worked in newsrooms across the region and then earned a master’s degree at UAB. He met and married a Yankee, who declared her Auburn allegiance at her first home game. She’s now on the faculty at Auburn. He’s finishing his PhD at Alabama and teaches at Samford University. See him online at www.kennysmith.org and @kennysmith.

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