For the Auburn Tigers, Saturday, September 17, 2011 was THE DAY NOTHING WORKED.
And thus here we are, your intrepid Wishbone columnists, doing our first ever column following an Auburn loss. Yes, that’s hard for us to believe, too—but it’s true. We started this feature the week before last year’s Clemson game, and now we have come full circle. Our first loss.
But, anyway—back to the topic at hand: For Auburn on Saturday, NOTHING WORKED.
Tre Mason? No big kick returns.
Trovon Reed? His punt returns were not great, and he made one really bad decision to catch a punt that surely would have gone through the end zone for a touchback and attempt (very unsuccessfully) to return it. (In his defense, it could be argued that he thought he caught the ball in the field of play and was carried by momentum back into the end zone, and thus feared giving up a safety.)
Barrett Trotter? It was his worst game; admittedly, though, he hasn’t yet compiled a large body of work to judge him by.
Mike Dyer? He appeared to be doing pretty darned well—when he was in the game. But…he was missing for long stretches. What was up with that? More in a bit.
The linebackers? Don’t get us started. Or, rather, wait a few paragraphs.
The ever-reliable Gus? He seemed to be making very…odd…decisions on key plays, the most egregious of which was the third and 2 play in the second quarter, which in hindsight seems to have been the fulcrum about which the entire game turned.
The always-resilient Auburn defense in general? Umm… yeah. About that. Clearly, Bynes, Fairley, and Washington were the greatest talents ever to play on defense at Auburn, because they made this defense last year look… well, okay, and occasionally very good. Without them… not so much.
Okay, well, at least there’s the perpetual bright light this season of Cody Parkey, who nailed another field goal—he’s yet to miss—and did fine with the kickoffs. But other than him…!
So let’s hold our collective noses for a couple of minutes and talk specifics.
The Defense—or Lack Thereof.
Here’s a shocking news update for you: This Auburn team is very bad on defense.
In the modern era, there have been several very poor Auburn teams in general, but in every case, those teams had at least a decent defense. Even the woeful 1992, 1998, 1999, and 2008 squads, each of whom would have struggled to score many points against the local day-care center, had a decent-enough defense. If this year’s team could go back in time and borrow the defensive units of any one of those years’ teams, it would be in contention to win 8-10 games at minimum.
So what we’re seeing this year is something of a new development: an Auburn team that can’t play defense.
When the good lord sent Pat Dye to us in 1981 in answer to years and years of fervent prayers, that great prophet of the gridiron proclaimed that DEFENSE would be the rock upon which he would build our house. And he did. And for all these years after his retirement, we’ve always continued to lean on that rock.