I fully support Cam Newton’s Heisman campaign. I am glad our AUfficial site has Cam2Newton.com. The Superman t-shirts are entirely deserved (and would look great on you or a loved one). He amazes in a way no Auburn player has amazed since Bo. Barring injury, he should win the Heisman Trophy, a statement–a fact–so obvious an overwhelming majority of college football fans who don’t root for Auburn would agree with it. He is the best player in college football, and if you want to pin Auburn’s 8-0 record down to one single factor, it is the confluence of his seismic talent with the equally seismic talent of his offensive coordinator. 526 total yards against LSU begins at the intersection of God2illa and Gustav.
But it doesn’t end there. It continues with Mike Dyer and Onterio McCalebb. It continues with Nick Fairley, playing at the highest level at which I can remember an Auburn defender playing. It continues with with hands of Darvin Adams and the elusiveness of Terrell Zachery. It continues with their blocking and the blocking of Kodi Burns and Emory Blake; McCalebb’s touchdown run belongs to them even before it belongs to himself.
But most of all, it continues with–left to right–Lee Ziemba, Mike Berry, Ryan Pugh, and Byron Isom. How many games have they started by now? More importantly, how many have they started together?
I don’t know. But Saturday was the greatest of all of them. Their team ran for 440 yards against the best defensive line in the SEC. That line knew what was coming: the inverted veer, the buck sweep, Newton into the middle, again and again and again. It did not matter in the slightest. Ziemba and Berry and Pugh and Isom threw them around like so many blocking dummies. Again, and again, and again. Malzahn and Newton are driving the sled. But what makes it go are the four horses to which it’s been harnessed, the four horses that have been pulling Auburn forward for years. Saturday, they pulled Auburn further than they ever have before.
Maybe I should say “five” instead. Brandon Mosley has been outstanding at right tackle, the handful of penalties notwithstanding; you don’t put up the kind of numbers Auburn is putting up with four excellent linemen and guy who’s only OK. We should also take a moment to praise Jeff Grimes, the biggest unknown on Chizik’s staff when hired and frankly a guy we wished had been Stacy Searels. This season, both Grimes and Searels had the opportunity to put together lines of tremendous experience and great talent; Searels has had to juggle and tweak and bench while Grimes’s charges have made Auburn the No. 3 rushing team in the country, tops among any team not running the triple option. Which coach has been the better this season is not even an argument.
But what makes Auburn’s running game not just good, not just special, but dominant, unstoppable, championship-caliber–whatever adjective you can think of applies after yesterday–is Ziemba and Berry and Pugh and Isom. Individually, they’ve each been remarkable. The four of them together … well, they’ve been dominant, unstoppable, championship-caliber. 440 yards rushing against LSU, folks. That’s how good they’ve been.
And the AUfficial photo gallery from their greatest performance, a performance that even LSU fans are calling “one of the best performances for an offensive line in the last 10 years of college football,” doesn’t feature one picture of any one of them.
That’s the way it goes for the offensive line, even on a day like yesterday. But that doesn’t mean the day–as glorious, as thrilling, as exhilarating as any this football team has experienced in a long, long time–wasn’t theirs. They let Cam borrow it from to time. But it belonged to the four horses up front.
Other assorted observations
— In some ways, I feel like beating Arkansas and LSU was the easy part. Focusing on Ole Miss in the middle of Newton’s Heisman ascension, the team’s BCS ascension, the already-building hype for the Iron Bowl to End All Iron Bowls … that is going to be hard. Auburn can win in Oxford, even without being at the very top of their game. But if they aren’t, they can sure as hell lose in Oxford, too. Gene Chizik has earned a lot of his paycheck already this season. But he’s going to earn an even bigger chunk of it this week and the next few.
— Auburn averaged 7.7 yards a play yesterday without completing a pass longer than 17 yards. That’s just ridiculous.
— The Mrs. WBE during the game: “It seems like Auburn’s defense just has those two good players.” I sighed and admitted that wasn’t inaccurate. But both Fairley and Bynes are so, so good that as long as the rest of the defense is just OK, Auburn will be all right on that side of the ball.
LSU’s offense is such a mess on so many levels, I can’t say I feel like any huge strides were taken yesterday; the safeties were still totally lackluster in run support, chances for truly big plays (Bates’ tackle of Jefferson, Thorpe’s dropped pick) still went begging, the defensive ends are still mostly MIA. (Carter and Eguae combined for one solo tackle, two assists–at least Carter’s came behind the LOS–and one QB hurry. At this point, I’d kind of like to see what Lemonier could do playing starter’s snaps.) But there also weren’t the kind of massive breakdowns we saw against Arkansas and Kentucky. There were enough tackles, enough coverage, enough pressure. They were OK. And Fairley was Fairley, Bynes was Bynes, and everything was all right.
— Look, no one’s got more sympathy for Mario Fannin than I do. But enough is enough. That fumble might not have led directly to points, but it flipped the field position that Auburn had worked so hard to dig themselves out of right back to LSU. And a few backed-up drives later, the double-pass finally forced Auburn to pay. That touchdown was on Mario. If Dyer–who, by the by, ran for 100 yards on just 15 carries–is healthy, there’s just no reason to let Mario to carry the ball anymore. The risks are too great for the reward.
— Hey, remember when we were all furious because Auburn only beat Mississippi State by three on a Thursday night in Starkville? Yeah, that anger makes a whole heck of a lot of sense in retrospect.
— A friend of mine said after the game that this season was even more fun than 2004. I can’t go that far, personally; if it feels that way, it’s probably because (the LSU game excluded) the 2004 team just crushed people, whereas this team feels the need to play down to the wire each and every week. Not to mention that we all love watching offense, and as breathtakingly efficient as the ’04 group was, this offense has substantially more flair for the spectacular. (It also has God2illa.)
But I’ll say this: as things stand today, this season is more thrilling. This season is, truthfully, more memorable. After the season we endured only two years ago, and that so many of these players endured only two years ago, and how many doubts this staff and this program has faced ever since, this season is even more satisfying.
That could all change in Oxford this week. But as of today? That’s how I see it. That’s what this Auburn team has made me feel.
Photo by Van Emst.
Jerry: If the team feels anything like how I feel today, then we will most definitely not be at the top of our game come Saturday. I was worthless today. I spent pretty much the entire day watching “the run” and various other highlights from the season. You are absolutely spot on, saying that this season is more memorable than 04. It’s because of the amazing amount of teamwork and chemistry that this team displays. The Michael Dyer run in which the entire team pushed him forward for about 7 more yards with the entire LSU defense piled on him…That is a microcosm of the entire season. War Damn Eagle.
I know if Auburn wins out they will be in the BCS title game, but I just cannot understand how Boise St. is ranked above Auburn in every poll. It’s a failure of the sports writers, coaches, etc.
Well said, Jerry. You definitely always have a way of putting the source of success into perspective.
Keep those holes open, boys. I can promise you that the guys with the football will do the rest.
It truly is GREAT to be an AUBURN TIGER!
For me the most satisfying thing about this year is the knowledge that if this team accomplishes everything that is asked, they will undoubtedly get a chance to play for the (call it meaningless if you want but we all know we still care) title. As soon in 2004 as it became apparent that those Tigers were going take care of any obstacle they could meet on the field, it was also plainly obvious that this wouldn’t be enough. The one sliver of hope I had was watching Oregon State kinda-threaten-but-you-still-basically-knew-they-wouldn’t-pull-it-off USC on a tiny TV in the Supper Club on our bye week.
It’s still a long road but at least we know where this one leads.
You are so right Carl, erm Jerry…
It kills me to hear the talking heads say Cam is carrying AU…
I acknowledge he is probably the greatest AU player since Bo, and may
He is that good…
That said, the AU offense is so much more than Cam,
and it does all start with the “O” Line…
AU is no. 1 in the BCS….
Whoever would have thunk that…
A great time to be an AU Tiger…
Good to see you remember the little people now that you are nationwide…
” It continues with their blocking and the blocking of Kodi Burns and Emory Blake; McCalebb’s touchdown run belongs to them even before it belongs to himself.”
This is what I’ve been waiting for cam to say in a postgame interview. He praises almost everyone, but this group has been left out.
I feel the same way. The more we win, the more nervous I get about the ole miss and the Georgia games. The stakes are way too high to take anyone for granted now.
Justin / AubOrange says
I was wondering halfway through why there wasn’t a picture of the O-Line at the top. But then ‘Oh, there isn’t one.’
Excellently put. I will say this, though: Neiko was wearing a cast trying to make that interception, and Bates was injured on his attempt at Jefferson, so I can’t blame either of them for their missed opportunities. And I wouldn’t be calling for Lemonier just yet, because whatever this D-line is doing, it’s working, and I don’t want to change a thing.
tigertracker — Yeah, we’ve got to have the best downfield blocking for a non-option team ever. All those swing passes don’t just work for no reason. I wish we could let Kodi run a series at QB against Chattanooga or something, just to pat him on the back. I guess he wouldn’t really know the playbook seeing as he hasn’t practiced quarterback in two years… Then again, he knows where his spot is supposed to be going, so he could just throw it to whoever his backup is all drive…
Right on with the plaudits for the offensive line. The best unit ever to play for Auburn? Cam Newton certainly makes them look good, but the reverse is true, too, I think.
You got that right, Wes. I wanted to go to sleep tonight dreaming of crystal footballs, but 2006 just called me and said “Not before Auburn beats Houston Nutt. Not before Auburn beats Georgia.”
What Wes said.
This week is the potential letdown game of all letdown games. Coming off those two exhausting games vs. Arky and LSU, enjoying the new heights of national attention and Heisman hype, No. 1 in the BCS standings, playing a team that’s improving every week, on the road, in the SEC … man, oh, man. SO. MUCH. AT. STAKE.
This just in….
Quick clarification. What did WBE mean about being angry over the miss state score? Being mad at the conservative gameplan or the turnovers? I’m confused.
I told anyone that would listen, and alot of others, that the real story of the night was our O line. They were unbelievable.
Lastly, this Saturday is why Houston freaking Nutt and his loophole cheating qb live for. Heck, it’s the only reason nutt keeps getting jobs. It’s the potential of sneaking up on that one unsuspecting foe. Please team be focused and whip Ole Miss soundly!
Van P in Illinois says
Take the intense combination of feelings we got watching the Iron Bowl in 2004– really the only game AU struggled to win, at least in the first half– and multiply that by just about every meaningful game we’ve played thus far this year. That, along with Cam’s spectacular-ness, is why this year has been in many ways more compelling than 2004 was.
I dunno if you guys visit collegefootballnews.com (I have been for years), but I remember this article that Pete Fiutak wrote in reaction to the hiring of Chizik. Here are some of the quotes:
“I’m always in favor of not making a knee-jerk reaction to a coaching hire because you just never know. However, the hiring of Chizik is bizarre at best, devastating at worst, and will be scrutinized and analyzed in every which way over the next few years.”
“It’s the equivalent of a 53-foot shot in the middle of the first quarter of a basketball game. Even if it goes in, there’s still no excuse for taking this dumb a shot.”
“If he couldn’t win in the Big 12 North, the Fredo of the Big 12 divisions, then why is he going to suddenly blossom into a superstar in a division with Saban, Les Miles, Houston Nutt and Bobby Petrino?”
“Sorry Auburn fans…this might not be a fun decade.”
Feels good, doesn’t it?
I’m trying so hard to be humble right now. To remember the early games this year and the frustration and how we all just needed to remember our preseason expectations because the way these guys were playing…they are just destined to lose one. No more! I made up my mind before the LSU game that I am calling our offense unstoppable. I could always be proved wrong, and will eat crow if it comes to that, but dang it our offense is on FIRE. Yes, emotions affect these young men alot. Our guys are tired, beat up, worn out, and exhausted beyond belief, but I can hear “Hard Fighting Soldiers” playing ever so faintly in the back of my mind. These guys have the mindset that if one man gets down the everyone else steps it up. We have been building toward this all season. A crescendo is forming. We don’t want to peak early, but I don’t think we will. These boys are hungry. Bynes is hungry, Ziemba and crew are hungry, FAIRLEY IS HUNGRY and we are gonna CURB STOMP everyone from here on out. RUN THEM INTO THE GROUND TIGERS! ALL OF THEM!
Nice write up. But throw under appreciated Eric Smith’s name in there somewhere and it would be even better.
You have to metion RB Eric Smith’s blocking.
Did anyone see that confrontation on the sideline between Fannin and Malzahn after Fannin had fumbled the ball away (yet again)? TV was showing Fannin actually poking his OC in the chest, which struck us as being unacceptable conduct towards a coach.
We assumed we’d seen the last of Mario, but he came back and got at least one more carry later in the game. We figured maybe it wasn’t as bad as it looked?
“I can only count on what I earn.” We haven’t earned anything but a decent bowl bid. Keep working Tigers. We’ll keep cheering. War Damn Eagle!
Danielson was saying that Fannin was saying “don’t give up on me” or something like that. Malzahn looked like he was giving uncomfortable “sorry but your position has been eliminated” news to a 20 year employee with 5 kids. Mario did redeem himself a bit, later. But good God, what have you done to your future NFL chances with all this fumbling this year? I’m guessing a position change is in the future.
I missed the Moseley penalties but my personal opinion is this article should read 5 Horses (I realize that ruins the metaphor, heh). And yeah, H-backs and WRs have been monstrous, too. Let’s just hope it continues!
I love that Skip Bayless picked LSU because our offense and defenses lines were too “leaky”.
Foy Onion says
Amen, Jerry. I am enjoying every second of this amazing convergence of offensive ability in Auburn. As an Auburn man, I am trying to be humble right now. I’ve had to bite my toungue and slap my hands away from the keyboard at times not to reply to some of the stupid crap bama fans are saying. I prefer to let this team keep proving them wrong.
Its Monday morning and it’s great to be an Auburn Tiger! War Damn Eagle!
This is an evolving team…..not the same team that struggled at times against Miss State in Cam’s first real SEC game. What thrills me the most is that Gus has decided to use all of Cam’s talents. Just a few games ago, a run by Cam was almost a last resort….now he is the focus of the running attack but it’s certainly false to call him a “one man team” because the threat posed by Mc and Dyer to go all the way, makes it difficult for defenses to just focus on Cam
Alex P in Smyrna G says
Eric Smith needs to be getting Mario’s carries. Hell put TZack in there at RB. He looks good with the ball on the end-around.
Mike Dyer looks scarier every week…
Alex you are correct. E Smith needs some love. He has some of the best hands on the team, is a great blocker, and was a tailback in highschool. Give him 2 or 3 carries a game and a pass out in the flats. The rest of the time he can roadgrade for the other guys.
James walker says
the way I look at all of this is that we will have at least two more close ones! I just really think cam newton reminds me of tim tebow when his teams makes a mistake he gets in the face and say it’s never over till it’s over! and he gets all the guys to say we can and not will we. our defense if you haven’t noticed every week is getting better and better and the guys that need to step up have and keep doing it better and better. Everyone talks bout oh were on a high horse yes we are! but look at what chizik said I don’t care if we are 8-0 or 0-8 every game is played like everything rides on this! and if you don’t think all of them are saying ” they are waiting for us to slip up” let’s not give them a reason let’s blow every team. Cam I don’t think will have a bad game because he doesn’t just pass. he runs and the only way is (knock on wood) he gets injured or has a bum knee or ankle and even then I don’t think he will let that get to him! he’s a closer he’s our superman, leader and brother! this is our year war damn eagle! every week is a job and were going work
Newspaper stories and mention on television is great, but as a former (didn’t say old) offensive lineman, I’ll guess the best feeling those five guys got was on the final drive on Saturday. Nothing is more satisfying for an offensive lineman than to be walking to the line of scrimmage on 3rd and 6 in the fourth quarter knowing that a first down ends the game and you look at the guys across the line of scrimmage from you and they won’t look at you. Right then and there, you know you whipped their asses up and down the field all day and you know, before 86,000 in the stadium and a million plus at home know, that the game is over.
Not only does Eric Smith destroy people with his down field blocking, but he also lays people out on kick coverage. I agree with you guys to give E Smith some more carries. He deserves it. The O-Line is one of the main reasons I thought we were going to be great this year.
War Damn Eagle!
Your comments about Bynes and Fairley point out something that is very important – NO ONE has been able to run up the middle on Auburn all year. Seems like every single decent run as been outside the tackle box. If you are going to have to be strong at only one thing on a Defense at the expense of some others – stop the run up the middle. I think that is purposeful. In the off season, you know this staff new they had some deficits to deal with on Defense…what to do?
I’m telling you guys… this team is built to wax Alabama. Everyone wants to point at Auburn defense and say that Alabama can score on them, but what Alabama hangs their hat on is the one thing Auburn does very well. Please, please, please, call the Inside Zone and Outside Zone over and over against Auburn. Then once “Cash and Carry” have 13 yards on 11 carries and Gustav has punched it in for a quick 21 in the first quarter, put the ball in Opie’s hands for the rest of the game. Calling Mr. 90! Calling Mr. 90, please report to the Backfield, STAT!
You’re correct, guys, that I should have mentioned Eric Smith. He’s done yeoman’s work this year. And I should have pointed out again — though I’ve pointed it out before — that just because Fannin shouldn’t be taking handoffs doesn’t mean I want him off the field entirely. He’s also an outstanding blocker, and we all know what he can do as a receiver.
Sean: I’ll definitely take your word on that. Really enjoyed that comment.
I’ve enjoyed all of them, though. Nice thread, guys.
Boy, I miss your work WBE. I’ve been making a conscious effort to stay off the blogs at work and you being part-time now makes it a little easier.
All excellent points, as well but I’d definitely like to emphasize AU64’s point. Defenses have to respect McCallebb no doubt. Go back and look at Newton’s run against South Carolina, O-Mac took half the defense with him on the fake. Now Newton’s got all eyes on him.