The 2009 Auburn Tigers: The Official Team of Oxymorons, Inc. In the wake of the Outback Bowl, JRS referred to it as–and pardon the asterisk-French, but it’s way too on-the-nose to ignore or alter–“the sh*tt*est great game I’m ever seen.”
Which it absolutely was. And what’s maybe most interesting about that is that this is the second straight game that’s felt like ended with Auburn fans being pulled in two totally separate directions, after the simultaneous bouts of crushing disappointment and bursting pride that accompanied the Iron Bowl. I didn’t think I’d ever compare watching Auburn football to sitting through a pretentious European art film or reading Sylvia Plath, but like those forms of “entertainment” these past two (or even three) games have let us read whatever we want into them. I’d never say the season as a whole had any ambivalence to it–if you think 8-5 with wins over four teams with winning records is anything but a huge step in the right direction, you’re just wrong–but the end of it sure did.
Other blAUgosphere reactions worth reading:
— Will (who busts out the old-school U2 reference for the best post title on the subject) also sounds the split personality alarm:
Auburn’s Outback Bowl team in the opening hours of 2010 was what Auburn had been in the 2009 season: inconsistent. Transition years are almost always like that. Players and coaches haven’t had years together to develop rapport; the majority of the team was recruited by entirely different coaches for two or three entirely different schemes. Making things worse, it’s a very unusual first year when the new head coach isn’t there precisely because the team is coming off at least one really bad season.
In the bowl, the Tigers ranged from explosively good to can’t-stand-to-look bad, with heaping helpings of merely mediocre in between–all in the same game. Just about everything we’d seen over the course of the season was repeated, from the dazzling effectiveness of Gus Malzahn’s offense when it’s clicking to the infuriating rash of self-defeating penalties. Bowl games in general, given the month-long break between games, are notorious for being sloppy, but both Auburn and Northwestern seemed determined to set new records for on-field buffoonery in Tampa.
In a way, the only thing really consistent about this team was its inconsistency.
Like Will, I can more than live with that this year if next year the scale tilts in favor of the Tiger’s better instincts.
— Jay ranks the game behind only the 42-41 shootout win over Florida St. in terms of pure excitement. He also notes that between the bowl win and the Newton commitment, Auburn has some serious program momentum–and if I don’t think the Northwestern win will end up really being as critical for Auburn’s future as the recruiting class that Newton just joined, he’s damn right that things are looking crazy bright right at this moment.
— Acid hands out his usual report card, always worth a read. One thing I’ll disagree with both him and Will on, though: as fantastic as Tate was this season, I maintain Auburn’s not going to miss him that much next season. Tailback is probably the position where the transition from high school to college ball is the smoothest and Auburn’s going to have one (and possibly even two) of the best freshmen in the country. Add him (or them) into a mix that includes talents like Fannin, Smith (maybe), and Aycock, and I fully expect that this staff will be able to find someone who can carry the ball at something close to Tate’s level.
One other thing. I said yesterday I thought the roughing-the-kicker flag on Bell was, infuriating though it may have been, the correct call. But friend-of-the-blog and former I-AA kicker Justin suggested in the comments that the incidental nature of the contact did indeed call for a five-yarder, and here’s Phillip Marshall’s take on it:
An absolutely atrocious call. Horrible. And it could have cost Auburn the game. If you get a chance, watch it. T’Sharvan Bell is a yard or more in front of the holder. The kicker kicks the ball, then takes a hop forward into Bell. I asked a friend of mine who is an official and he agreed it was clear. There should have been no call. The game should have ended right there.
Being the sort who can admit I probably don’t know the letter of the law as well as these gentlemen, the previous defense of the officials is retracted: the call was crap and the zebras should have been hung from the pirate mast by their jock straps … especially since I didn’t realize that Northwestern was called for zero holding penalties after 78 pass attempts.
Hoops Report. The Auburn men put up 95 points in an easy win against a truly horrible Georgia Southern team, but aside from the fleeting hope that Brendon Knox can carry over some of his activity and confidence from scrimmages like this one into SEC play, there’s nothing to see there. The real game to watch this weekend was the women’s SEC debut against Miss. St., which unfortunately saw the visiting Bulldogs outscore Auburn 29-13 over the final 13 minutes to take a 73-58 win. There’s not really much to analyze, honestly–the Bulldogs shot better from the field overall, from the three-point line, and from the charity stripe. Auburn owned the glass, but that’s just too much of a shooting advantage to overcome, and it’s probably not going to change unless Alli Smalley can start hitting some shots–she went 0-of-7 from deep, and until those start going down, you’re going to see a lot of collapsed defenses around KeKe Carrier.
The men play Beard-Eaves’ final nonconference game ever tonight, and naturally the A.D. found a truly big-name opponent to mark the occasion: West Georgia. (A D-II school, for the record.)
Newtonian physics. John of The Sleeper Team postulates that Auburn’s newest prize jewel of the 2010 recruiting class is the subject of Matt Christopher‘s final, posthumous book … and more importantly, breaks down what Newton’s arrival means for the rest of the QBs on Auburn’s roster. His conclusions–alarm bells for Caudle, a warning shot to Rollison, not much of import for Moseley or Trotter–are ones I’ll readily agree with.
Elsewhere, PPL gets some quality holiday ‘shopping done on the subject.
Lastly, this just in: LSUFreek is one of the true geniuses of our time.