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Plainslinks talks pace

Will Auburn reach it again?

Go plaid. Like most Auburn fans, I think, once the shock wore off I was fine with the foot coming off of the offense’s gas pedal last Thursday: there are certain situations where it’s just not worth risking a 20-second three-and-out, and Starkville on a Thursday night when the D has been on the field for the first 15 snaps of the second half is one of them.

But I’ll also be seriously disappointed if the Auburn offense doesn’t make a full-time return to Dr. Gustav’s preferred tempo soon. As in, Saturday. As stout as the defense may have looked against Mississippi State, there can’t be any illusions here: this is an offense-first football team. The offense is its strength. And coaching from a low-risk, tempo-conservative standpoint plays away from that strength; the best Auburn has looked under Chizik (viz. the State and Tennessee wins from a year ago) has been when playing to that strength as fully as possible.

Fortunately, it sounds like the Starkville slowdown will indeed be a one-time thing, or at least not the thing we see against Clemson:

“Yeah, we did go slower,” [Malzahn] said. “Couple factors: We were on the road, we’ve got a new quarterback. I wanted to make sure our communication was good. And the fact that we got a lead, and we wanted to be smart and whatever gives us the best chance to win the game” …

“We’re going to do what we do,” he said. “We still want to play fast and score points. But you’ve got to give Mississippi State some credit on that, too.”

Burns and Adams both express some surprise over the State tempo and hope for something faster in a Bitter story on Auburn’s tempo here; I’d give it a read. Of course, I’d expect a faster pace this weekend if for no other reason than for a guy whose entire philosophy is based around tempo, Malzahn can’t have been too happy a camper to see his offense slowed down. Jay Tate’s take:

I believe the decision to ease back on the Tigers’ offensive pace came from the top. That may irritate Malzahn. That may mean nothing to him. He doesn’t talk about stuff like that. I’m just saying that as an impartial observer, too many offensive people seemed surprised by that happening last week. That makes me think something changed. That something, in my opinion, was the head coach’s opinion about the best course of action at MSU.

I asked Bitter about Malzahn’s response in his chat today; he seconded the feeling that since Auburn had won, he sense any “animosity” … but added it might have been a problem if Auburn had lost.

The point: it’s not a big deal now, but it could be if Chizik keeps pushing the override button. Fortunately, there’s no reason to think he will this Saturday.

More from the beat. A handful of other things:

— According to Trooper Taylor, Trovon Reed’s finally going to see the field Saturday.

— I don’t worry about whether a practice was good or not in fall camp, but I do enjoy hearing that Auburn had a productive outing on Wednesday night.

— Sounds like Ladarious Phillips could be on his way to a redshirt. That we’re not even getting “he’s really improving, could be back soon” comments is a suspiciously Nosa Egaue-like sign.

— The Carolina game will be in 3D. For the one of you who has a 3D set.

Super Trooper. By this point, most Auburn fans have a pretty clear picture of Trooper Taylor’s background, I think. But it’s always good to hear a little more of it, as we do in this Auburn Villager story about Taylor’s efforts on behalf of the local United Way:

“What if you were in that situation where you couldn’t afford to feed your kids?” he asked. “Put yourself in that situation. I’ve been there, I’ve done that, I’ve seen it.”

Taylor’s mother was Hispanic, and he still describes her as his role model. He recalls the time she took the family to the beach near their hometown of Cuero, Texas. When the kids got ready to leave, she pulled out trash bags and told them to start picking up the litter, even though they didn’t even bring a picnic.

“She told us the Taylors would always leave a place better than we found it, and I’ve always remembered that,” Taylor recalled.

The family lived in a three-bedroom house, with eight girls in one bedroom and eight boys in another. They had trunks instead of closets, and their father made beds out of wooden pallets stacked almost to the ceiling.

Read the rest.

So, so awesome. I’m assuming everyone here has wondered if one of our eagles might ever just fly right out of the stadium during its pregame flight. In this great piece on “Eagle practice” from the AUfficial site, it turns out we’re not the only ones to worry:

Those 90 seconds, when all eyes are on Spirit, the beautiful Bald Eagle, or Nova, the majestic Golden, are not nearly as fun for Crowe or Hudson as they are for the Auburn faithful.

“That 90 seconds is horrible,” Crowe said. “We got 87,000 people expecting a wild eagle to land on the 50-yard line. There’s nothing holding that bird back except its trust in its training” …

While the pre-game flights might seem almost routine to fans at the game, Crowe and Hudson don’t take the expected result for granted. Crowe recalls one game when Nova, a Golden Eagle, flew outside the bowl of the stadium before turning back toward the bait. In the fall of 2003, Spirit left the stadium during a practice– and landed near Plainsman Park. Crowe scrambled to get the telemetry gear out and track the prized eagle’s location.

“We went down there and there were people already there saying ‘your eagle is out there,'” Crowe said. “We didn’t have any problem finding her.”

Well, that’s reassuring at least. I still think that would be the worst possible omen for the game, though.

Power pollin’. Auburn checks in at a somewhat surprising fourth place in this week’s SEC Power Poll, a hair ahead of Arkansas and LSU. I guess playing actual SEC competition (well, competition that is not Vandy) helps.

Volleyball! Auburn opens up its SEC season this weekend on the road at LSU Friday and Arkansas Sunday; the Bayou Bengals are ranked and (I think) the West favorite, so a good showing there could portend some good things. To their credit, the Auburn volleyballers have their sights set high, as in, “first-ever NCAA berth” high:

While the SEC is not traditionally known as a powerhouse volleyball conference, the last couple of years its programs have started to test Big Ten and Pac-10 teams.

“The SEC now is deep,” head coach Wade Benson said. “The SEC used to be a one or two team kind of deal. Florida, Tennessee, that was it.”

Benson said it will probably take 20 wins — and 10 to 12 conference wins — this season to make the NCAA Tournament

After winning the C of C Classic in Charleston, S.C., last weekend, Auburn sits at No. 52 in the season’s first RPI rankings. Though it’s still very early in the season, this puts the Tigers in good position to crack the NCAA Tournament field of 64 for the first time in program history.

The non-conference tournaments gave Auburn’s 22-player roster a chance to get comfortable with one another.

“Everyone’s learning who’s good for what and who’s good under pressure,” Crouch said.

Benson said a loss to LSU on Friday wouldn’t necessarily hurt his team, and that he’s more worried about the second game of the Tigers’ first SEC road trip in Fayetteville, Ark., on Sunday.

“It’s a long season, so you don’t want to get too up or too down,” Benson said. “If we lose to LSU, they’re a top-25 team. Whatever. We’re still a top-64 team. But you lose to Arkansas, who right now is not a top-64 RPI team, then people are starting to wonder about you.”

Make it happen, Tigers.

Etc. Acid relives the 1998 Peach Bowl against Clemson … Rob Pate’s Clemson preview is up.

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