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The Outback Bowl recap, half the first

We'll get there. Eventually.

Seven-and-a-half months now Auburn’s Outback Bowl victory has sat on my DVR*, undisturbed, pristine. Basically, I’ve kept it behind a slim sheet of mental glass reading “BREAK IN EVENT OF FOOTBALL DESPERATION.”

And today, I’m here to tell you, I’m desperate. I’ve read my Phil Steele cover-to-cover**. I’ve started leaving on ESPNU, ESPN Classic, etc. game re-airs in the afternoons. I’m checking and re-checking every news source I follow for Auburn football. I’m ready. But the game’s still almost a month away.

So it’s time to watch the Outback Bowl again. Any new WBE readers new to the recap thing we do here, I guess here is the primer. If you need a refresher on the details of the game, click here. Let’s do this:


— Naturally, the bowl named for the company with a desert for a logo is going to be played in a monsoon. Despite previous efforts to combat the elements in Tampa (if you want to call what Auburn did that day an “effort”), I think this version of Auburn is OK with that.

— Your commenters for the day are ESPN’s usual Big Ten nooner team of play-by-play man Dave Pasch, color guy Chris Spielman, and old fart Bob “Taco” Griese. It takes approximately 120 seconds of broadcast time before Griese responds to Pasch’s description of Auburn’s offensive renaissance with a bewildered “Northwestern? Oh, I mean, uh, Auburn,” before essentially regurgitating what Pasch just said word for word. Hang in there, folks, we’ll get through this together.


— Byrum starts the game with a touchback, just like he did all year, every time, I’m not going to remember it differently no matter what you tell me. As he takes the field, Spielman says NU’s Mike Kafka is the best quarterback in the Big Ten. Somewhere, Daryl Clark and the physical manifestation of Terrelle Pryor’s recruiting profile share a beer and a shake of the head.

— 3rd-and-5, Pasch tells us NU is 10th in the country in 3rd-down conversion rate, Auburn’s been iffy defending short passing attacks all year, so this probably won’t end TIPPED … MCFADDEN … PICKED! First down, on the Northwestern 31!  Credit here goes to Antoine Carter–it’s a three-man rush and the other two rushing linemen get doubled, leaving Carter to absolutely smoke the right tackle with an inside move and force Kafka to throw too quickly. Carter is going to just wreck fools this season, I’m promising you. The SEC has no idea what’s coming with that guy.

— Chizik celebrates by handing out fives to the defense like a madman. Was he always like that, or did Taylor just rub off on him?

— 3rd-and-10 for Auburn, Todd throws it low and behind Adams and the ball is wet, he catches it anyway because he’s Adams. 1st-and-15, buck sweep with Tate down to the 1, replay shows he might have scored but we don’t care because the Wildcat is out there and there’s no time and Burns takes the snap and he’s IN! TOUCHDOWN! 7-0. After Auburn’s last couple of somnabulant starts in their early New Year’s games, this is very, very refreshing.

— Aaaaaand here’s the Northwestern offense we were promised: underneath for 5, Kafka rush for 4, plunge for 1, Meyer-style triple option shovel pass for 7, underneath for 19 after Stevens lets this Dunsmore guy get away from him. (If this were a novel, we would call this “foreshadowing.”) A Bynes offsides penalty (yes, Bynes–he showed blitz, lost his balance, and fell into the guard, hooray) helps turn 3rd-and-7 into 4th-and-1, and of course there’s a three-yard dink for a first down at the Auburn 28. Mmmm, crippling mental errors. Now I remember why we gave up so many points.

— Another 3rd-and-short conversion. Yawn. 1st down, to the end zone … too deep. Hey, on the coverage, we’ve got a D’Antoine Hood sighting! How ya doin’ buddy? I bet a big game here could set you up for a lot of playing time come 2010, you know. Yeah, I’m totally serious. And not ironic.

— 3rd-and-goal, blitz, McFadden one-on-one … PICKED! AGAIN! HE’S GONE! 100 freaking yards! Holy crap, man. It’s too early in the a.m. for this much excitement. Or rather, it was. (But not really.)

Three other things about this play: 1. The Auburn crowd there is out in force; huge roar as McFadden took off the other way 2. He gets flagged for a weak-arse unsportsmanlike penalty for a handful of innocuous dance steps on the way to the end zone; this year, that’s 7 points off the board, you arseholes 3. That was the 17th play of Northwestern’s drive. 17 plays, and the result is 7 points for Auburn. I’d have punched a hole through every wall within reach if I’d been a ‘Cat fan.

But hey, in the end, it’s 14-0 Auburn. With all due respect to the ‘Cat offense, it looks like there’s not going to be all that much drama in this one, huh? Smooth sailing, nothing nail-biting or heart-stopping at all.

— Hey, guys, remember “man-beaters”, i.e. a collection of pass routes used to beat man coverage? NU apparently runs one for another third-down conversion (and to move across midfield), so we get our first–but very far from last, if I recall correctly–mention of them. Thanks, Spielman!

— Oh heavens. Bell lets his man behind him, clearly expecting safety help, there is no such safety help, dead-simple 39-yard NU touchdown. 14-7. Expectation of no drama: retracted.

— A blown-up reverse on the Wildcat leads to a three-and-out on Auburn’s first possession since what feels like the previous Tuesday. Gosh, I wonder if being on the field for 10 straight minutes, getting 90 seconds of rest, then going back on the field will have any detrimental effects for the World’s Thinnest Defense? Naaaah. I’m sure they’ll be fine. Besides, there’s a break right now for the start of the …


— A series of completed passes takes NU down to the Auburn 31. Sigh. “We can see a big part of Ted Roof’s gameplan,” Spielman says. “Bringing pressure, and blitzing.” Second down, Auburn rushes four down lineman, incomplete. Third down, Auburn rushes four down lineman, incomplete. Yes, a big part. ‘Cat kicker Stefan Demos misses a 48-yarder, and Auburn’s honestly pretty lucky to be up by 7 at this stage; they’ve punted once on two possessions, NU never on three.

— Adams takes a neat-looking swing and zips 26 yards across midfield. Tate for 6, so it’s 2nd-and-4, and Auburn’s always great at passing on short-yardage, right? Second down, deep throw, incomplete. Third down, pressure, Todd scrambles, incomplete. Fourth down, quick-kick formation, throw to Adams, low … he’s got it. Wait … what? The umpire runs in and says it bounced. Replay says … a good catch, easily. We go to commercial, but I’ll bet … something big … ah! my collection of Arrested Development DVDs! I’ll be them they overturn that.

WHAT?!?! Why is Northwestern’s offense on the field?! They called it incomplete? This is what my cousins and I, playing a certain card game around our grandparents, called “bull-spadooky.” Whatever, I’m keeping my DVDs. It’s not my fault they’re incompetent. (That said: if Todd doesn’t throw the pass at Adams’ ankles, we’re not having this conversation.)

— Three-and-out for Northwestern, at least. Good series for Roof, there: Ricks has shifted over to cover the option-shovel guy and stuffs him for a loss; on second down a series of defensive audibles tricks NU into a false start; and on third down Kafka’s got nowhere to go but underneath the sticks and across the field. Well-called, well-executed. I’m enjoying it while I can.

— Speed option to Tate for 14 yards. How an option play ever works where the quarterback is as much a threat to run as Joe Paterno is remains a mystery.

— 2nd-and-1, Todd, pump fake, goes deep … TOUCHDOWN! QUINDARIUS CARR! 21-7! Ahhhhhh, breathing room feels so good. Carr got away with a bit of a push-off. OK, a lot of a push-off. Spielman, though, says the defender “let himself get pushed off.” That’s the spirit! You’re forgiven, Chris! You’re forgiven, refs! Forgiveness for all! Even Carr, who goes up for the hip bump with Todd and slips to the turf just as he prepares for the bump, leaving Todd to just jump in the air and bend over at the waist for no reason. Look: I think even Carr and Todd would tell you this is some seriously hysterical stuff here. How is this not a gif somewhere?

— So, after 13 games, how much has Auburn’s kickoff coverage improved? Wes Byrum makes a touchdown-saving tackle at the NU 40. Sigh. At least he gets an enthusiastic slap on the butt from Chizik. And at least the ‘Cats go three-and-out for a second straight possession. Looks like Auburn’s got that offens figured out. Plus they’re up 14. I’m sure it’s nothing but smooth sailing from here. Yep, nothing to worry about.

— Oh man. Ben Tate looks for some running room along the edge after faking a reverse, finds nothing, cuts back inside, and breaks about 18 tackles to earn 11 of the hardest yards you will ever see. I wish I could show you it, but of course it’s only a random first-half play in Auburn’s own half of the field, so it’s not even close to making the highlight packages. Anyways, then Tate just turns around and picks up 6 more on the next play. What a running back, man.

— Tate picks up another first down, across midfield, but it’s nullified by a tripping call on Bart Eddins. It’s his first play on the field after Isom had to come off, and he’s got his guy blocked, but decides for no reason to swing his leg up around the defender’s hip and then leglock his ankle, bringing him down. W.T. F. 15 yards, instead of 1st and 10 on the NU 42 or so, it’s 2nd-and-14 on Auburn’s 43. Two plays later Auburn punts. Did I mention how much I love the crippling mental errors?

— Durst gives us a slow roller inside the 5 to remember him by. Thanks, Saturn V.

— Northwestern plays it conservative–even for Northwestern–and punts, for all of 18 yards, but Auburn will start on their side of the field. Pass backwards to Burns on first down, here comes the pass forward, deep to Fannin … picked. Sigh. At least there won’t be any time for Northwestern to do anything with it.

[1 minutes, eight seconds, five passes, five completions, and 90 freaking yards later]

DAMMIT TO HELL, AUBURN. Great position to go up 28-7 … and now we’re going into the locker room at 21-14. Possibly. And McFadden’s hurt; he just got burned for 28 yards, and NU’s on the 4. Swell.

— Kafka, into the end zone … PICKED! Again! T’Sharvan Bell! Auburn escapes … again. That’s three picks for Kafka, two of them in the end zone, two of them leading to Auburn scores. And yet … man, how close was this game to getting blown wide open? Auburn kneels to go to the locker room up 21-7, and I think both teams have to be happy with the score.

Except for Northwestern, now that I think about it. They probably shouldn’t be happy.

— A humorously soggy Chizik talks to a humorously soggy Rob Stone on his way off the field. “We’re bending a little bit,” he says, looking appropriately sheepish. Gives credit to the NU safety on the trick play, and he’s not wrong … though if you’ve got a receiver who’s just a little more aggressive going towards the ball than Fannin, I bet it’s a completion.


— I’d totally forgotten about this: Chris Fowler asks Mike Leach what he thinks about Adam James. “I think he’s lazy,” Leach says. Miss you, Cap’n.

Back tomorrow with the second half and overtime, or as I’m already thinking of it, The Longest Post in War Blog Eagle History, Ever.

*I don’t want to be a shill, but seriously, my DirecTV DVR seemingly has quadruple the memory of our old Comcast DVR. The Mrs. WBE and I used to run out of space on the regular and win up deleting things we actually wanted to keep on the regular; we’ve had DirecTV for a year and we still haven’t managed to take up more than 70 percent of the space on the new one yet, despite the fact I’ve still got every minute of the U.S. World Cup run hanging around. So, anyone who’s making a TV decision and wondering which way to go: you’re a bit more informed now.

**Not every word, obviously. But the last couple of summarizing sentences for each unit on each team and the concluding”Forecast,” yeah. Not that I had a prayer of retaining information like, say, how experienced North Texas’s offensive line is.

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