Auburn Review 2011

AU Review

 

Howdy folks!  I trust you all had a good weekend!  Well, here it is – the write up that you’ve all been waiting for!  But, I don’t mean since this past Saturday – I mean for the past 52 Saturdays.  I don’t mean from three days ago – I mean from three hundred sixty some odd days ago.  NEVER AGAIN!  As long of a wait as it has been for us fans, I promise you it’s been a much longer wait for the Bama players.  In December of last year, players were greeted with posters of Cam Newton celebrating at Bryant Denny with a headline at the top that said “NEVER AGAIN!”  At bowl practices – “Never Again!”  During their fourth quarter program – “Never Again!”  At all the spring practices – “Never Again!”  Posted at daily workouts – “Never Again!”  And, finally, the mantra for the entire season – NEVER AGAIN!  After watching the game Saturday, I have to say that “never” is an awfully long time but I sure can’t see it happening “again” for a very long time.  As you all know, Saturday was a big time recruiting weekend for Auburn and you know the recruits were blown away by what they saw…by Alabama, of course!  This likely will be a year where that silly 25 scholarship limit will impact us because we just don’t have enough supply for the demand!  Damn you Houston Nutt (for when he signed like 37 kids to schollies, we were all done for)!  Down years in Florida, Tennessee, Auburn and both schools in Mississippi mean an embarrassment of riches for us in recruiting.  With this being the case, Never Again becomes almost prophetic for the long term future it would seem!  ROLL TIDE!

 

So much to cover, it’s hard to know where to begin other than, well, the beginning.  As Auburn ran out of their tunnel thru puffs of smoke, I couldn’t help but wonder if that’s where there football team has gone – up in smoke.  This year’s AU squad bears little to no resemblance of last year’s crew.  Perhaps the smoke was a part of the smoke and mirrors approach that has led them to the cluster that it is today.  It makes me giggle that the team theme song that they enter the stadium to “All I Do is Win” by DJ Khaled because as they took the field you heard “I got money on my mind, I can’t never get enough…”  Subtle. 

 

So, pretty much from the opening montage, I was having a good time and, of course, it would only get better!  Even Verne was on his game as he actually knew where he was on Saturday, even if he doesn’t understand what the dead of winter actually means.  (Note to Verne: All of the leaves fall off the trees by late November so ALL of the trees look dead, dumbass.  I imagined Verne driving down the road to his house exclaiming “My God, Updyke has poisoned ALL of the trees everywhere!!”)  At any rate, with the exception of the usual Verne drivel and a couple of gift wrapped AU touchdowns, Saturday was a perfect Saturday of college football.  An embarrassing performance by AU, a convincing win by Bama, a convincing Heisman performance and a shot at the national title – what more can a Bama fan want?  Oh, yeah, maybe we might ask for another trick play…as in “RUN ANOTHER TRICK PLAY, BITCH!” (more on this in a moment)……but with that…and a ROLL TIDE…it’s on to the Notes!

 

 

 

OFFENSE

 

In my W2W4 (thank you to several of you for the compliments) before the game, I had a feeling the game would go like it did.  Offensively, we said that AU should get pounded on the ground.  They did.  We said if AU committed to stopping the run, we’d be able to throw deep on them.  We did.  We said Trent would get a large number of touches and would have a Heisman performance.  He did.  We said we’d push AU back to their goal line in the second half by pounding on them with the running game.  We did.  All in all, we witnessed very few surprises on offense.  We’ve previously mentioned that in big games, Bama likes to throw first and run second.  While it certainly was a surprise that Trent only had four touches in the first quarter, AJ’s 11 for 12 start in the passing game clearly showed that’s what the AU defense was giving us.  Of course, later in the game, Trent clearly made up for it with a ton of touches and carnage (poor Chris Davis).

 

One fascinating thing that Danielson (who I love – he is a straight shooter and typically is dead on with his analysis) pointed out was the tremendous amount of movement with the Bama tight ends.  We’d heard that Bama would be utilizing the TEs against LSU but that never seemed to materialize.  In this game, the TEs flip flopped more times than Urban Meyer behind a podium.  They’d start as WRs and shift down onto the line.  They’d start on the line and shift out as WRs.  Smelley was a WR, TE, H back and fullback – it’s no wonder they completely lost him in the secondary.  As Danielson said, it looks so simple but the movement and the usage of the TEs really makes it hard to align properly.  The Patriots are doing this with Hernandez and Gronkowski and they are changing the way offense is played in the NFL.  Alabama has been able to gain a numbers advantage at the point of attack thru most of the season and it’s because of the use and movement of their TEs.  McElwain gets much maligned but, remember, he doesn’t have total control of the offense.  Those that think Mac does have total control have been sipping a little too much spiked Saban-ade.  However, the design of the play to Smelley was gorgeous.  Play action, flow to the right while Smelley leaks out and up into green, green open pasture with only the aromatic cow patties around him to trip over.  Gorgeous.  Our play action game was really outstanding.  Great plan and design by J-Mac…

 

Strike a Pose:  Honestly, Trent Richardson is one bad mofo.  I have so many notes of just “WOW.”  Whether he was picking up a blitzing Tiger on the flea flicker (maybe the best play he made all day) or he was carrying a literal 8 pack of Aubies for 10 yards, Saturday was Trent’s day.  Seriously.  If you still have the game, go to early in the third quarter with 3rd and 4 at the AU 28.  Trent is untouched for the first six yards and then carries 8 Tigers for another 10 yards.  Sick.  The 35 yard run earlier in that drive showed his speed and strength as he punished #12 and cause Chris Davis to whiff.  Another fun run was a 5 yard gain from our own 5 in the third quarter.  He hits the pile and the entire pile moves three yards.  On the day, 27 carries for a career high 203 yards and one TD catch.  There wasn’t anything he didn’t do Saturday.  Heck, he even toweled off the OL and TEs on the sidelines.  Strike that pose, dawg!!

 

The Run:  Bama is calling this the “Defining Moment” and maybe it is for the AU game.  I submit to you guys that the run Trent had against Ole Miss was his defining Heisman run.  But, this 57 yarder was sick, too.  The first 15 yards were virtually an open sprint as Warmack and Smelley cleared a huge path.  Once he got hemmed to the sidelines, the focus turned to his Aubie toss as Trent swatted away Thorpe with ease (I thought I saw a puddy caaaaaaaaaat).  But, watch closer.  On his cut/Aubie toss, two other Tigers had a bead on him.  Instead of hitting Trent, Chris Davis and another Tiger crushed each other in a comedic attempt to tackle T-Rich and that allowed Trent to burst another 30 yards.  The final cut was yet another Aubie toss as he flung #6 off of him like dandruff off a T-town Menswear suit.  Simply an amazing run by an amazing athlete.

 

The BEAST:  One carry.  One stiff arm sending #38’s face to the turf.  One more whiff by Davis.  One quick 15 yard TD.  He.  Is.  Jalston. Fowler.  BOOM!

 

Anything You Can Do I Can Do Better:  Anyone else notice this?  It was almost like Nick was playing mind games with Malzahn a few times during the game.  Ohhh, you want a sugar huddle.  On the Fowler TD, we did a “sugar huddle” like AU unsuccessfully tried several times.  Of course, ours went for a TD.  Ohh, you want a trick play with lineman?  We’ll split Barrett Jones out in the slot and have him draw everyone’s attention while we slip Williams into the end zone uncovered.  THAT is how you run a slicky tricky, bitch!

 

Finally:  We finally gave the ball to a WR on the speed sweep.  I’d been begging all year for this and we finally did it!  Of course, Maze slipped down and gained only one yard.  Sigh.

 

Apropos:  Wasn’t it apropos that a kid named Smelley would have a big day in the big cow pasture?  I mean, who writes this stuff?  What a tremendous, tremendous game Mr Smelley had.  Blocking.  Catching.  Running.  Amazing.  Perhaps his best play was a simple run after the catch during the first quarter.  He caught a screen and appeared to be in trouble but some slick running and determination got us a crucial first down on a third down.  That play continued the drive that led to the flea flicker TD, of course.

 

Where’d WHO go?:  Poor Chris Davis.  Every time there was a big Bama play, Davis was involved.  On the flea flicker, the senior Maze didn’t do a good sell job at all on the run so he was covered up easily.  However, Kenny Bell sold the run and Davis bit hard.  One missed step and Bell was 10 yards behind Davis faster than a Pat Dye cough.  If you look on the end zone view, Michael Williams puts up the TD signal with Bell at the 10 and the ball still in flight.  Sweet play!

 

What the…..?:  I counted four times that I had to go back to figure out who the big guy was that was pulling out in front of Trent.  Warmack, Steen and McCullough are the usual guys.  Vlachos has pulled several times this season as well.  But, this big dude was not any of those guys.  For maybe the second time or first time all season (I’m old and my memory gets fuzzy), big Barrett Jones was out in front pulling from his Tackle position.  This is very unusual and he was very effective doing it.  Of course, he’s better suited for G, so it’s not a surprise that he was effective – just kinda weird to see a big tackle pulling….

 

DEFENSE

 

What can you say?  Total and complete domination.  Malzahn supposedly threw the kitchen sink at us Saturday and it was comical.  In fact, at the 5:43 mark in the first quarter, Scott Cochran can clearly be heard screaming “Run another trick play, bitch!”  As I pointed out above, Saban even seemed to mock some of the “trickeration” that Guz and Co tried.  Nothing worked.  Auburn’s O got worked instead.  LSU and Alabama play a man’s game in the trenches.  If you don’t have some strength up front, you are going to get drop kicked all day long by our beasties.  Bama spent as much time in AUs backfield as Kiel Frazier did – probably more so.  Dyer led them in rushing with 43 yards.  Moseley led them in passing with 62 yards.  Thru three quarters, Auburn had 44 yards of total offense and TWO first downs.  This is what you call complete and total domination.  DOMINATE is one of Saban’s credos.  Remember what he said on his first day?  We’ll work to dominate our in state opponent every single day we are here.  Dominate indeed…

 

Back Breaker:  With Alabama holding onto a 13 point lead, Milliner intercepted another woeful pass from Moseley and began weaving his way to the end zone.  Upshaw had a crazy good block on Reed that nearly sent him back to Louisiana and Milliner was able to do the rest.  Ironically, Trooper Taylor was woofing at Dre two plays earlier and then this happened.  Game.  Set.  Match.

 

But Wait, There’s More:  Milliner actually stood out during the entire game.  He was solid in run support and shed a couple of blocks to make some really tough open field tackles.  Milliner was a man among boys (no Syracuse basketball jokes, please).  But, then, our entire team was really men among boys…

 

The Tell:  I don’t know what it is about this offense and the Florida offense but Nick & Smart read it like a book.  Maybe they were the two who read Chizik’s book.  Anyway, each time AU would motion their speed sweep guy, one of our safties/DBs would fly up into the area they were running to.  It was comical how easily we shut this down.  Candy from a baby Gussy.

 

Nutcracker:  BTW, anyone see the Kristi Malzahn rant?  My God!  That woman is a lunatic!  Here it is:  http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Jg8sRYr7ars .  Chickie with an attitude – it’s no wonder Gus is a little distracted.  He’s trying to get his nuts out of her mason jar!  Wow…Kristi, SHUT UP!

 

Jesse’s Girls:  It may not show on the stat sheet but Jesse’s got himself a top game performance.  Nearly every single play had #54 bursting thru the line and wreaking havoc along the AU line.  He was unblockable.  Given a month to get healthy, he could be the game changer we need in New Orleans.  “I’ll be watching him with these eyes…”

 

Cousin Vinnie:  Called into duty due to Mark Barron’s neck/ribs injury, Vinnie Sunseri had himself a huge game.  He made four solo tackles where he was in space against Frazier, Dyer and McCaleb.  Each time, Vinnie stood tall and brought his guy down.  He played a fantastic game.  Incidentally, not to toot my horn here, but we told you Vinnie was a player back when he played in the Under Armour All Star Game.  That game and the Army All American game are fast approaching and I encourage those of you who follow recruiting to tune in and watch the future.  We also spotted DePriest in that UA All Star game but I digress.

 

Find a Happy Place:  Twice during the game, I had to look at my buddy and just laugh.  Reed got the ball on a reverse and he just flat out falls down in fear of Jerrell Harris.  Later, Moseley was in the pocket and Upshaw rushed by and breathed on him.  Moseley cowered down and flopped into the fetal position.  “Find a happy place” from Dumb and Dumber came to mind.  For AU, there was no happy place on Saturday.

 

No Soup For You:  Auburn had unsuccessfully used a sugar huddle on third and short earlier so it was vexing when they went with it again.  To make matters worse, they lined up Dyer in the wildcat a full six yards behind the line of scrimmage on fourth and 1.  Bama caved in the line and Dyer predictably lost two yards.  Silly Gussy, tricks are for kids!

 

Lutzen-breakin:  I thought we were going to have to get a CSI team out there to look for Lutzenkirchen’s leg after Milliner popped him.  WHACK!   #43 was limping the rest of the game and was a non-factor.  BTW – on the season, Smelley has more catches, TDs and yards than AU’s TE.

 

SPECIAL TEAMS

 

You know, outside of the kickoff return, it was a decent day.  Listen, I still have confidence in Shelley.  He’s 15 of 18, minus the ridiculous attempt he was asked to make against LSU, and that’s pretty dang solid.  Foster is Australian for shank but Shelley ain’t smelley.  Meanwhile, the much made fun of Cody “Dammit I ain’t Barbara” Mandell had his best game of the season.  Punts of 39, 44, and 38 all resulted in fair catches for an outstanding net punting game.  Foster even had two touchbacks.  I’m still disappointed in the kick and punt return game as it was as strength early and hasn’t been heard from lately.  I’d like the return to return, please…

 

The kick coverage obviously continues to be woeful.  Dreadful.  Painful  Hell, Nick actually sent Shelley in there to kick a grounder when he got so upset with the coverage team.  What I wouldn’t give for a kicker who can blast the ball thru the end zone – then it wouldn’t matter.  I hate to say I told you so but the W2W4 told you they’d likely break one.  Well, LSU’s return game is much, much better than AU’s, so you do the math.  Gotta fix this some year soon.

 

EXTRA POINTS

 

I’ll throw some stat funage at you at the end of this little rant but I just have to get this in.  As I alluded to above, there is NOTHING to indicate that the balance of power in the state won’t be colored Crimson for the next few years.  Alabama continues to bring in 4 and 5 star studs while AU tries to convince kids that it’s more fun to play at AU.  Looking along the AU sidelines, they didn’t appear to be having too much fun to me.  Factor in AU’s certain upheaval on the defensive side of the ball (and perhaps the offensive side of the ball if Gus can get a quickie divorce) and the general lack of talent at QB and the offensive line and you have domin-Saban.  Saban-ation.  Whatever you want to call it.  NEVER AGAIN looks to hold true for quite a few years. 

 

Now we turn our heads (and cough?) to this weekend’s games.  Obviously it would be helpful to have Oklahoma win the Bedlam game and for Dabo and Clemson to win against Va Tech.  The key game is the OU game and that’s the one we need to watch.  There IS a sentiment to keep two SEC schools from playing each other and, while that sentiment is not held in the coaches polls, there may be a few voters who slip Bama down and move Ok State up.  Right now, there is a wide chasm between the two, so it would take a near reversal of the voters for this to happen.  But.  It’s out there.  I will counter that the LSU v Alabama game was the second highest rated college football game since 1989 and you KNOW the TV people will want to have that matchup once again.  ESPN continues to say LSU and Alabama are clearly the two best teams in the country and I think, in the end, the voters & the BCS will get it right.

 

As for the Heisman, it’s a two man race.  Luck v Richardson.  To me, it’s a no brainer unless the anti-SEC sentiment rears its ugly head here.  Trent has done his work against the best the country has to offer.  Luck has worked against the worst defenses in the country.  But, Luck came back to school when he could have gone pro – we’ll see if voters factor that in.  I have a sneaky suspicion Trent will be the bridesmaid in this competition as the voters may vote for Bama in the polls but Luck in the Heisman.

 

Here is some statistical fun for you all – ROLL TIDE!

 

  • For the season, Alabama’s 48 penalties trail only Navy (26) and San Jose State (40), and Army (44), and Army has yet to play Navy

 

  • The Crimson Tide finished the regular season by leading the nation in pass-efficiency defense (83.97 rating), pass defense (116.33 yards per game), rushing defense (74.92), scoring defense (8.83 points), and total defense (191.25 yards per game).

 

Here are the second-best teams in each category.

  • Pass-efficiency defense: South Carolina 92.42 (Note: the only four teams with a rating below 100 are all in the SEC, with LSU and Georgia third and fourth, and Penn State fifth at 100.04).
  • Pass defense: South Carolina 133,0
  • Rushing defense: Florida State 81.83
  • Scoring defense: LSU 10.58
  • Total defense: LSU 248.42 (a difference of 57.17 yards).

 

Defensive numbers vs. national championship teams

2011: Rushing: 74.9; Passing: 116.3; Pass efficiency: 83.97; Total: 191.3; Scoring: 8.8; Turnovers: 1.5; Third downs: 25.0; TFL: 7.0; 1st downs: 10.5.

2009: Rushing: 78.1; Passing: 166.0; Pass efficiency: 87.6; Total: 244.1; Scoring: 11.7; Turnovers: 2.2; Third downs: 30.0; TFL: 7.0; 1st downs: 13.4.

1992: Rushing: 55.0; Passing: 139.2; Pass efficiency: 83.9; Total: 194.16; Scoring: 9.1; Turnovers: 3.2; Third downs: 22.4; TFL: 5.4; 1st downs: 11.3.

 

Richardson 2011 vs. Ingram 2009

Ingram 2009

Opponent, rushing yards, receiving yards, offensive yards, TDs

Virginia Tech 150, 35, 185, 2

Fla. International 56, 47, 103, 1

North Texas 91, 38, 129, 2

Arkansas 50, 21,71, 2

Kentucky 140, 6, 146, 2

Ole Miss 172, 48, 220, 1

South Carolina 246, 0, 246, 1

Tennessee 99, 0, 99, 0

LSU 144, 0, 144, 0

Miss. State 149, 9, 158, 2

Tenn.-Chatt. 102, 0, 102, 2

Auburn 30, 21, 51, 0

Total 1429, 225, 1654, 15

Averages 119.1, 18.8, 137.8, 1.25

Season 118.4, 23.9, 142.3, 1.4

 

Richardson 2011

Opponent, rushing yards, receiving yards, total yards, TDs

Kent State 37, 16, 53, 3

Penn State 111, 19, 130, 2

North Texas 167, 1, 168, 3

Arkansas 126, 85 211, 1

Florida 181, 32, 213, 2

Vanderbilt 107, 1, 108, 1

Ole Miss 183, 30, 213, 4

Tennessee 77, 33, 103, 2

LSU 89, 80, 169, 0

Miss. State 127, 26, 153, 1

Ga. Southern 175, 4, 179, 3

Auburn 203, 5, 208, 1

Totals 1583, 327, 1910, 23

Averages 131.9, 27.2, 159.2, 1.92

 

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Georgia Southern Review 2011

 

Ga Southern Review

I apologize that there was no MississippiState write up.  You’d assume that the MSU game simply wasn’t worthy of a write up (which quite honestly is fairly true) but that’s not the only reason there was no write up.  You see, I have been going to various doctors in order to get some help.  Sadly, there appeared to be no help for me.  In fact none of the local docs around here could do anything about my condition.  Finally, a doctor from Eugene, Oregon put me on the right track.  Then we got a consult from a gentleman located in Ames, Iowa and that nearly fixed the issue entirely.  But, once I visited with the last two doctors on my list (one in Waco, Texas and one in Los Angeles), I was finally cured.  That’s right, it took assistance from doctors from Oregon, IowaState, Baylor and USC to finally find a way to remove my head from my ass.  Oh what a relief it is!  New Orleans here we come!!!

I think I may have mentioned in my last write up that I was about as despondent about the LSU loss as I have been about ANY Alabama football game in a long, long time.  While I knew that, logically, there was every reason to believe that we still had opportunities to get into the championship game, I just knew we’d get overlooked because, quite honestly, we had our chance already.  If we had just beaten LSU, none of the rest would matter.  Sadly, that didn’t happen.  Well, whodathunk that we’d sit here today with a better chance of being in the BCS championship game than LSU has.  Beat AU and we are in.  LSU has to beat Arky & then a much improved UGA team before their ticket will be punched for the big game.  What a strange and goofy college football world we live in.  But, as Frasier Crane once responded when asked why men get to date younger women while women cannot date younger men, “Honey, I don’t make the rules – I just enjoy them.”  I guess that’s all we can do as Bama fans now – just enjoy the rules and grin our way to New Orleans.

So, with Alabama’s fortunes turning Friday night when IowaState beat OklahomaState, the expectation for last Saturday afternoon was that Bama would come out guns a blazin’.  Hey – the BCS is right there for the taking!  Let’s go!  Well, that was the expectation of many, but not me.  The triple option offense (a la Ga Tech, Navy and Air Force) is quite a handful to stop.  And, Ga State’s usage of the option keeps the clock running and limits possessions so my guess was that the score wasn’t going to quite be what we were looking for or hoping for.  Little did I know Ga Southern would rack up over 300 yards of rushing offense and post the most points against our defense this season.  Wowzers.  Let’s be honest, though.  Cecil Hurt nailed it when he said Ga Southern and Ga State might look the same off the rack but, when you get them home, you realize they are entirely different animals.  Additionally, I think whoever scheduled Ga Southern before AU should have their head examined.  Not only is their offense totally unique and difficult to prepare for, they cut block like crazy.  What is a cut block?  A cut block is when an opponent targets your knees in an effort to get you on the ground.  You can play winning football with smaller players this way and Ga Southern hasn’t won six national championships by accident.  Thankfully, that game is over and we rested some key players (though not all our key players – more later) and now we are ready for revenge.  NEVER AGAIN!  Grilled eagle, anyone????  On to the Notes!

OFFENSE

 

Did you know we didn’t punt all day long?  Every possession ended with a place kicker coming on for either an extra point or a FG.  Weird, huh?  It seemed like we struggled at times with the pace or rhythm of the running game and we certainly made a mind numbing amount of stupid penalties (in the 11th game of the season????) during the game.  But, when you looked up, we had racked up nearly 500 yards of offense and never punted.  Credit, gasp, AJ McCarron for some HUGE plays during the game.  Maybe he’s slowly gaining confidence in himself and in the coaching staff.  As Jack Palance once said, “Confidence is sexy, don’t you think?”  Yeah, Jack, I think it is!  Hopefully AJ will be a very sexy man on Saturday against AU, too…

The one disappointment (besides the wide array of stupid, stupid penalties) was that Trent carried the ball 32 times against Ga Southern.  By contrast, he carried the ball 18 times against LSU.  Think about that.  At any rate, Trent posted some big time stats.  Whoo hoo.  In my opinion, Fowler should have been used far earlier than with six minutes to go in the fourth quarter.  With the AU game coming up and Lacy still suffering from turf toe, I simply don’t understand why Fowler and even Blake Sims didn’t get a few touches.  Thirty two carries.  Against a AA opponent.  Folks, that’s not good!  And, did you notice Trent gimping off the field to the sidelines in the 4th quarter?  Apparently he was cramping b/c he dropped to the ground as soon as he got to the sidelines and the staff began working on his calves.  That’s SCARY!  It’s disappointing to me that we had to blow the doors off of our Lamborghini in what should have amounted to a school zone.

Lack of Confidence?  On our first possession, facing a third and 8 from the Ga Southern 18, we went with a Trent run instead of a pass.  Very conservative and, to me, it underlined the lack of confidence the staff suddenly has in AJ.

It’s Good:  I’ll be alone in this opinion but, hey, nothing new there, right?  Everyone has this perception that our entire kicking game has gone in the crapper.  I’d submit that Shelley should not be a part of that discussion.  Shelley missed one kick and it was from 49 yards out against LSU.  Cade is in a slump.  Shelley?  Not so much.  I think the kid is ok.  He drilled his first opportunity against Ga Southern and, if he trots out to kick a game winner, I bet you he makes it.  Cade?  Eh….(more in a second)

TE or WR?   Numerous times against Ga Southern, Bama used a two TE formation.  In fact, we’ve been banging away with 2 and 3 TEs all year.  But, Saturday, we shifted them out into WR positions, thereby giving a 4 WR look with two TEs.  This presents some formation issues for the D and is an ingenious way to get a heavy blocking presence on the flanks.

Clutch:  AJ was faced with several third and longs against Ga Southern thanks to penalties and whiffs by Vlachos at the line of scrimmage.  Each time, AJ delivered the mail whether it was a huge pass to Brandon Gibson, a patient TD strike to Smelley or a beautiful square in to Maze.  AJ delivered time and time again and hopefully gained a bit of the confidence that seemed to be lost during the LSU game.

Get Your Ga Southern Backpacks Here:  Dude.  Did anyone see the little Ga Southern guy that jumped on Lacy’s back two yards deep in the backfield?  Lacy’s shoulders were even square to the sideline when the guy hopped aboard and, eight yards later, it looked like the Ga Southern kid put a quarter in and went for a ride.  As Kramer would say, “Giddy up!!!!”

Rise Above:  I have never, ever seen this play in all the years I have watched football.  In a goal line set, Trent carried the ball off the left side into a mass of humanity.  Suddenly, after about five yards, you saw Trent’s helmet rise.  Then you saw his neck rise up.  Then you saw his shoulder pads and, finally, you could almost see his number as he was easily and literally head and shoulders above his competition.  The weird thing was that he hovered above everyone and CONTINUED TO GAIN YARDS!  OMG, as the kids say!  Honestly, this was the coolest thing I’ve seen on the football field.  It was like he levitated himself down the field on the wings of…..Eagles!  (Ga So’s mascot)

All Wheel Drive:  The drive where we made the score 24-7 in the second quarter was a painful glimpse at the difference between the talent of Alabama and Ga Southern.  Whether it was Richardson or Lacy, we constantly battered the Eagles down the field and usually four defenders at a time.  After the backpack carry reference above, Lacy’s next carry found himself covered up with five Eagle defenders.  Five yards later, he mercifully went down, scattering the five Ga Southern boys like bowling pins.  Trent finished the onslaught but pushing a wall of defenders into the end zone with ease.  Wow.

Beast:  Jalston Fowler is a man.  That is all…

Blitzkrieg:  In our spread formations, look for the opposition to employ lots and lots of blitzes coming off our slot receivers.  Ga Southern had a tremendous amount of success with this.  Watch against AU as they employ the same tactic.

Swimsuit Competition:  In this BCS mess (which I used to call BS until we found a way to back door our way into the championship game), style matters.  Beauty is in the eye of the score watcher and, with that in mind, it was no surprise that with a minute left, Nick called for a play action throw to Brad Smelley for the final margin.  If not for the BCS and the need for style points, I think Saban kneels the ball there.  But, knowing the voters look more favorably on 45-21 than 38-21, Nick dialed up the play action throw for a TD with a minute remaining.  Sad.  But true.  And necessary.

DEFENSE

 

Three.  Hundy.  Rushing.  Ouch.  The cruelest cut of all was the FB that raced 82 yards for a TD.  That little man blew thru our D like they were statues on the Walk of Champions and only Lester had a chance to bring him down.  Lester was giving chase and he was barely gaining any ground on the ball carrier.  Then, #22 for the Eagles appeared on the scene, blowing past EVERYONE as thought they were standing still.  His block on Lester assured that the Eagles would score the TD.  Wow.  That was a tremendous amount of speed on display.  The blocking was superb almost all day long and, as we rotated guys you’ve never heard of (Pagan & Ivory to name a couple) on the DL, you found out that guys like Josh Chapman and Nick Gentry are pretty invaluable.  Jesse Williams was out b/c of food poisoning, as well.  What a long, long day in the trenches for us.

Dead Legs:  Think of ANY impressive plays you saw from the defense.  Recall any?  Sure, Menzie had a pass breakup. Dial and Square each had tackles for loss.  But, Nico Johnson, Hightower, Dre and Lester made seemingly no plays at all.  In watching the tape on Hightower, he seemed like he had dead legs.  Honestly, the vast majority of the group looked tired.  Hopefully they were saving up for AU but after tough trench warfare against LSU and MSU, I simply don’t think they had the legs or the drive to go toe to toe with another physical football team.

Alignments:  It was really impressive to watch us try to play chess with our alignments.  We were in a 3-4, then a 4-3.  We gave a 5-2 look.  We played our LBs back close to the safeties.  We played them up to the line of scrimmage.  We shifted one MLB up close to the line of scrimmage and kept one back in a rover type look.  We were all over the place in our alignments and, while some was effective, the main times we were able to make plays were simply the times we beat a man in a one on one match up.  Ga Southern audibled to the right play every single time.  Fourteen years of coaching this option attack means fourteen years of knowledge on how to attack each front.  Each audible resulted in them outnumbering us to the outside.  Very impressive.

What Happened:  On the long run, Pagan was playing DE and he just stood there.  That was pretty much the story.  His responsibility was the dive play and he was standing still trying to figure out who had the ball.  Swope broke into the second line where Nico got blocked and Dre was simply too slow (as he was all day) to get to the spot.  Our last hope was Mark Barron, who also got blocked.  Then it was a foot race that they surprisingly won with their back AND their WR who tossed Lester out of the way with ease.

Nose to Nose:  The key to a 3-4 look is the nose tackle.  Think Terrance Cody.  With our top three NTs out, we were left with Brandon Ivory.  Ivory spent most of his day as roadkill in the middle of the line.

Red Barron:  There was one guy who showed up on tape all day long for Alabama.  Be thankful that Mark hurt himself against AU last year (well, sorta, I mean he would have picked off that Cam TD pass at the beginning of the third quarter if he’d been healthy) because otherwise we’d have to wait until Sunday to see him play.  Instead, Barron brings a first round talent and a head hunter attitude to every Alabama game and, while the rest of the D was sleep walking, Barron was head hunting.  Dude is a stud.

SPECIAL TEAMS

 

Whether it was the blocked kick for a TD, a nice return by Maze or a touchback by Cade Foster, it was a good day for most of the special teams.  The bad news was that Will Lowery tore his ACL on one kickoff and, of course, Ga Southern housed a kickoff return for a TD.  Sigh.  Another massive kick return.  I think the only answer is find some kid with a howitzer attached to his leg b/c if the other team returns the ball against us, they’ve got a chance.  I’d been blowing this off but it’s a full on epidemic problem now.  AU has a couple of guys that can take it to the house themselves so I’m officially worried here.  But, again, to the good, we didn’t even have to punt so Cody “Barbara” Mandell should be well rested for the game.

Touchback:  Did anyone see the crowd of people who swarmed around Cade after the touchback?  I thought that was really cool.  You could almost hear Cade saying, “They like me, they really, really like me!”  The team is trying hard to rally against this much maligned kicker.

Well Struck:  Yep.  Cade missed another FG attempt.  That’s the bad or, as it’s become lately, the expected.  However, I give you folks the light at the end of the tunnel.  Between the touchback and this FG attempt, Cade struck the ball the best he’s struck it all year.  I laughed and said “that FG would have been no good from 60 yards” but the fact is that he struck the ball beautifully.  Yes, folks, “I’m telling you there’s a chance!”  Hey may make another FG just yet…

EXTRA POINTS

 

I’m cutting it short b/c you are tired and I’m ready for Turkey Day festivities.  I wish each and every one of you a very Happy Thanksgiving.  I’m thankful for so many things and one of those things is your readership.  I appreciate all of the kind words and feedback over the couple of years that I’ve done that.  Your feedback is always welcome (good, bad or ugly) and it tickles me to know that some of you actually eagerly anticipate this coming out.  I apologize it’s been a little slow over the last couple of weeks.  Like our D, I, too, need to step it up a notch!!!    J

I will do my very best to send out a W2W4 for the AU game.  I have a few thoughts on the game and I’ll share them at that time. 

Again, happy Thanksgiving to you and your families….I hope it’s Turkey today and Eagle on Saturday!

Here are some stats that folks are keeping an eye on.  Enjoy!

Courtesy of BamaOnline:

Here’s a quick update on two things Alabama fans are watching closely this season.

Defensive numbers vs. national championship teams

2011: Rushing: 74.6; Passing: 121.3; Pass efficiency: 84.79; Total: 195.9; Scoring: 8.4; Turnovers: 1.5; Third downs: 25.0; TFL: 7.1; 1st downs: 10.6.

2009: Rushing: 78.1; Passing: 166.0; Pass efficiency: 87.6; Total: 244.1; Scoring: 11.7; Turnovers: 2.2; Third downs: 30.0; TFL: 7.0; 1st downs: 13.4.

1992: Rushing: 55.0; Passing: 139.2; Pass efficiency: 83.9; Total: 194.16; Scoring: 9.1; Turnovers: 3.2; Third downs: 22.4; TFL: 5.4; 1st downs: 11.3.

Richardson 2011 vs. Ingram 2009

Ingram 2009

Opponent, rushing yards, receiving yards, offensive yards, TDs

Virginia Tech 150, 35, 185, 2

Fla. International 56, 47, 103, 1

North Texas 91, 38, 129, 2

Arkansas 50, 21,71, 2

Kentucky 140, 6, 146, 2

Ole Miss 172, 48, 220, 1

South Carolina 246, 0, 246, 1

Tennessee 99, 0, 99, 0

LSU 144, 0, 144, 0

Miss.State 149, 9, 158, 2

Tenn.-Chatt. 102, 0, 102, 2

Total 1,399, 204, 1603, 15

Averages 127.2, 18.5, 145.7, 1.4

Season 118.4, 23.9, 142.3, 1.4

Richardson 2011

Opponent, rushing yards, receiving yards, total yards, TDs

KentState 37, 16, 53, 3

PennState 111, 19, 130, 2

North Texas 167, 1, 168, 3

Arkansas 126, 85 211, 1

Florida 181, 32, 213, 2

Vanderbilt 107, 1, 108, 1

Ole Miss 183, 30, 213, 4

Tennessee 77, 33, 103, 2

LSU 89, 80, 169, 0

Miss.State 127, 26, 153, 1

Ga. Southern 175, 4, 179, 3

Totals 1380, 322, 1702, 22

Averages 125.5, 29.3, 154.7, 2.0

LSU Review 2011

 

LSU Review

Wow.  It’s been a busy week here at the ole ranch, and between work, play and the PennState coverage (hey – did you hear Joe Paterno got fired?), it’s been difficult to get around to doing an LSU write up.  If you are looking for cutesy references to songs, women, or penile implants then you’ve come to the wrong place this week.  Yep – I’ve been pretty bummed out.  To be perfectly honest with you all, Saturday night was the first time in a very long time that I found myself too disappointed for words.  Yeah, I hear ya, last year’s Auburn game was incredibly crappy but Alabama wasn’t playing for the West, the SEC or National Championship.  Saturday night, everything was on the line.  Bama had the home field advantage and what most say Nick’s very best team that he’s had since coming to the Capstone, so everything lined up to a big Bama win and another run at a National Championship.

Well, a funny thing happened on the way to championship number fourteen.  Nick Saban turned into a desperate version of Les Miles while “The Mad Hatter” became a stoic, by the book coach of the #1 team in the country.  WTF?  It was like we were living in an alternate universe where home field advantage went to the visitors, Nick became Les (sans the hat, of course), and kickers were more important than the Honey Badger and T-Rich combined.  Yep.  In my wildest dreams, I could not have given you a scenario where we would outgain LSU, pick off two Lee passes, convert more third downs and still lose the game.  How in the name of Bryant Denny did it happen????  Well, I don’t think you are going to like my answers.

If you are a Bammer, a pure outright homer and if you are looking for sunshine to be pumped up your backside, it won’t be happening here.  I’m a straight guy (so I won’t be pumping anything up your backside) and a straight shooter.  There were three areas where Alabama lost the game in my opinion:  coaching, physical mistakes and mental mistakes.  Physical and mental mistakes are simply a part of the game and stuff happens so, honestly, at the end of the day, you have to say coaching lost the game for us Saturday night.

Coaching

I know, I know – this is blasphemy territory, right?  The great Nicktator has no peers in the coaching world, right?  Hell, he has his own statue right there next to Stallings and Bryant so believe me when I tell you that I know this is an unpopular sentiment.  But, while unpopular may mean going against the grain (like firing Paterno), unpopular doesn’t mean it’s wrong. 

  1. Offensive plan:  Honestly.  Two weeks of preparation and game planning resulted in…what exactly?  Can you tell me what the plan of attack was?  It’s like they ran out of ideas sometime in the first quarter and then had nothing else to offer up.  Were we play calling by spinning the Wheel of Misfortune?  The blocking schemes were ineffective even though we outmanned the Tigers up front by 40 pounds per player on average.  The passing game seemed to be something along the lines of chuck, duck and pray.  We expected a five wide hurry up look but preferred a power downhill running game and we got neither.  OT was a cluster.  Awful.
  2. Substitutions:  In the last two critical games at Bryant Denny (AU and LSU), Alabama has committed 12 men in the huddle penalties at least six different times.  Inexcusable.  It’s like the Alabama coaching staff has a widespread panic along the sidelines – I thought the LSU guys were supposed the ones getting high!
  3. Kicking Panic:  As we wrote in the W2W4, Cade Foster wasn’t inspiring any confidence in me coming into the game.  So, when he missed two kicks, Saban panicked, sending in Jeremy Shelley for a 49 yard attempt.  For the last two years, Foster has attempted all of these long kicks and there’s a reason for that – Shelley simply doesn’t have the leg.  So, when Shelley trotted out there for a 49 yarder, I nearly threw up.  We KNOW he doesn’t have the leg for it.  Shelley knew he didn’t have the leg for it.  So, the result was predictable.  In order for him to drive it that far, he’d have to kick it lower and, thus, it was blocked.  This, simply put, was a stupid decision.
  4. Red zone panic:  Every time we reached the red zone, we went backwards.  Sacks, illegal substitution penalties, lost yardage on runs and two trick plays blew us up inside the red zone.  Did you know Trent didn’t have a single carry from the 25 on in?  After sledgehammering the ball to the LSU 28 with Richardson, we called the ill fated wildcat throw from Maze.  After a TV timeout due to an LSU injury, we chose that point in time to line up in a formation we hadn’t shown, put a receiver in motion who is never, ever in motion in the wildcat, and put the ball in the hands of a wide receiver who had a badly sprained ankle.  Instead of riding your big horse inside the red zone, we once again inexplicably went with a trick play that blew up in our faces.  Our MO has been to pound our opponents into submission and, after three quarters of a very physical game, it appeared that we were finally establishing ourselves at the line of scrimmage.  Instead of pounding with #3, we got cute and, as a result, we lost the game.  Yes, I know, it was a tough call.  Could have gone either way.  I hear you.  My point is that it was a stupid, stupid, stupid play call.  It wreaked of desperation.  It’s simply not our style.  Nick panicked and tried to go all Les Miles on Les Miles.  Sigh.

Physical Errors

In every game there are going to be physical errors.  It happens.  With a Nick Saban coached team, though, you don’t expect to see as many as what we saw Saturday night.  Now, again, these things happen.  But, I wanted to point out several plays that could have made all the difference in the world.

  1. Hanks in the end zone:  AJ aired one out to the end zone and the ball hit Hanks in the hand between a couple of defenders.  Tough catch?  You bet.  Catchable?  You bet.  Gawd I miss Julio.
  2. Bell in the end zone:  Credit Mr Bell for making a ridiculously phenomenal move just to get to the ball thrown to the end zone in the first place.  AJ probably should have never thrown the pass as it was into double coverage, so the shear fact that Bell got his hands on the ball was a minor miracle.  However.  He did make the move.  He did get both hands on the football.  The ball was incomplete.  Gawd I miss Julio.
  3. Trent on the circle route:  What a tremendous play call to get Trent out of the backfield and down the sidelines as he was matched up on a linebacker in coverage.  This was Secretariat against Gus the kicking mule as Trent raced free down the sidelines.  Unfortunately, AJ missed a wide open Trent and the big gainer was not to be.
  4. Maze on the punt:  After throwing the interception at the 1, we were set to get the ball back in excellent field position.  Unfortunately, Wing booted a low line drive and as Maze turned to chase it down, he stopped.  The result was a 72 yard punt and it also resulted in me feeling that we were not destined to win this game.  Folks, it didn’t hit a guide wire.  I think when he turned to chase the punt his ankle tweaked on him.  Honestly, he shouldn’t have been back there.  Crushing blow right there kids.  Crushing blow.
  5. Find a happy place:  When you are struggling just to elevate the damn ball on a FG, the last thing you want to do is make it tougher for your kicker(s).  AJ’s curl into the fetal position in overtime was unforgivable.  This sack made a slightly possible FG become the impossible and was the final nail into the Bama coffin.  Throw the damn thing away.  Run back towards the line of scrimmage.  FIGHT!  Anything but plop your scared ass on the turf.  Pitiful.

Mental Mistakes

  1. Josh Chapman’s block in the back:  It was blatant.  It was obvious.  It was the right call.  It was also unnecessary.  Chapman didn’t need to do this and there was nothing subtle or close about it.  It was just a bad play.
  2. Blown coverage:  LSU’s only big play was a blown coverage against Russell Shepherd.  Thankfully, the ball was thrown behind him and that allowed Milliner to come over and tackle him.  Not sure who’s responsibility he was but that big play cost us three critical points.
  3. Lacy bouncing outside:  Did we mention that LSU has some sick speed on D?  Bouncing the run outside isn’t really the way to go.  Even if Maze hadn’t fallen down on the inside reverse, he would have been thrown for a loss anyway.  And when Eddie Lacy bounced outside and turned a 1 yard loss into a six yard loss, he made a long FG even more  difficult. 

The list below details the negative plays that cost us time and time again.  Think about these.  If we had not had just one of these, perhaps a FG is good and we win the game.  When you look at this list, you just get angry, sad and disappointed in the outcome.  It’s why writing this review is so painful.

Key mistakes:

First quarter
1. 5-yard loss on first down leads to long field-goal attempt (missed).
2. Substitution penalty and 6-yard loss lead to long field-goal attempt (missed).

Second quarter
3. Senior wide receiver Marquis Maze tripped on reverse for 6-yard loss and sack lead to long field-goal attempt (blocked).
4. McCarron doesn’t see wide-open senior Brandon Gibson, leads to field-goal attempt (Good, 3-0).

Third quarter
5. Three-and-out (punt).
6. Three-and-out (field goal, 6-3).
7. McCarron interception.

Fourth quarter
8. Maze interception.
9. 6-yard loss followed by 3-yard loss lead to punt.
10. Time expired.

Overtime
11. Substitution penalty, two incompletions and a sack lead to long field-goal attempt (missed).

Extra Points

Sorry this write up is devoid of my usual good humor and good cheer – it’s just not a lot of fun to relive Saturday night’s game.  I’ve long said that I sincerely thank Mike Dubose and Mike Shula for curing me of caring too much about a game in which 18 year old kids chase a funny shaped ball called a “pigskin.”  Life is just too short to have a day, a week, a month or a season be dictated by the results of football games.  Mike & Mike got us used to losing and made us understand it was a very real possibility each and every Saturday.  But, Saturday was different.  Honestly, this defense is better than any I’ve seen in a long time.  I think this defense could easily have us in the running for the NFC West or AFC South.  I’m not kidding.  This is a team perfectly constructed to win a championship this season and, after working thru the pain I detailed above, you have to know that Saturday night was a helluva missed opportunity.  Win that game and you can make plans for New Orleans.  Lose that game and….

So as I ready for the Mississippi State game this evening, I realize that I now must also pay close attention to the Oregon v Stanford game tonight and the Oklahoma v Oklahoma State game in a couple of weeks.  If Stanford and OklahomaState lose, then Alabama will find itself perfectly situated for a rematch with LSU in New Orleans.  Additionally, should those crazy Cajuns stumble against Arkansas (seemingly a yearly occurrence for the Hat), then Alabama will find itself in Atlanta in the SEC Championship game by virtue of a three way tie with LSU, Arkansas and Bama.  Alabama would assuredly be the highest ranked BCS team between the three and, therefore, would be stomping the brains out of some really bad SEC East team in Atlanta.  So, there are two very real possibilities for Alabama to still be in the hunt for #14.

This is where I have tremendous difficulty, though.  We shouldn’t be hoping and wishing for the Quack Attack to crap on the Stanford Tree.  We shouldn’t care about the Bedlam game between two schools in the middle of nowhere Oklahoma, but now we have to.  Woo Pig?  Yep.  We’re officially fans of the Razorbacks, too.  GO BACON!  Clearly, there’s still a path for Alabama to get to New Orleans and while we haven’t been booted from the train, we are clinging to the caboose.  So, it’s not unthinkable that Alabama could still find its way into the National Championship game but, after Saturday night, I’m just not convinced we deserve to.  We came.  We saw.  We imploded.  From the players to the coaches to, possibly, the referees (depending on your take of the catch/interception play) – we screwed the pooch Saturday night and now we have to hope others can take care of the business that we couldn’t finish.  And, if it’s a rematch you want, remember it will be in New Orleans and we’ll get to play a team that, after two weeks of offensive preparation, we developed little in the way of a game plan.  Will an extra two or three weeks make a difference?  Hopefully we may get to find out…