Tag Archives: Tommy Tuberville

Big Improvement on the Plains Starts with Defense

2015 was a big disappointment for the Auburn faithful. The team that was picked to win the conference at SEC Media days finished the season with a 7-6 record overall and went 2-6 in SEC play. That landed them last in the West.

If the 2016 season is to be a successful one for the Auburn Tigers, then a number of things are going to have to come together for them. It is a must that they improve on both sides of the ball. The Tigers are also going to have to navigate, what is considered by many, one the most brutal schedules in all of college football.

Auburn opens with the second-ranked team in the country, as voted in the USA Today Coaches Poll, Clemson. That’s just for starters. Texas A&M and LSU will also come calling in the month of September. At least these games will be played in the friendly confines of Jordan-Hare Stadium.

The road games include Mississippi State, Ole Miss, Georgia, and Alabama. Ouch!

Oh yeah! The Arkansas Razorbacks come to the Plains in October. Vanderbilt makes its first trip to Auburn since 2007. And don’t write off the Commodores. They are playing some very good defense under head coach, and defensive coordinator, Derek Mason.

Now, let’s check what’s going on with the Tigers as they seek to improve enough to become a contender in the SEC West again.

First, defense.

It was defense that used to be Auburn’s calling card. From Shug Jordan, to Pat Dye, to Tommy Tuberville, Auburn fielded some of the best defenses in the SEC and in the country. Under Jordan, the 1957 unit yielded a mere 28 points. That’s 2.8 points per game. They recorded six shutouts in that National Championship season. Players like lineman Zeke Smith and linebacker Jackie Burkett led that sterling aggregation of defenders.

Dye’s best group was in 1988. Tracy Rocker, a tackle, and Benji Roland, a nose guard, were both All-Americans that year. Auburn won the SEC. The defense gave up only 7.7 points per game. That was first in the country and no SEC defense has allowed fewer points per game since then.

The 2004 Tiger defense was Tuberville’s most formidable. They yielded but 11.3 points per game. That, also, was tops in college football. Gene Chizik, later to become the head coach on the Plains, was the coordinator. And who can forget such names as Carlos Rogers, Junior Rosegreen, and Travis Williams, who is now coaching linebackers at Auburn?

Defense wins championships and defense will be the strength of the 2016 Auburn Tiger team from the looks of things. The starters comprise an all five-star line, which could be three deep at every position.

Click here to get a good idea of what coach Rodney Garner has to work with.

What about the offense? If it is to be more productive than it was in 2015, the wide receivers are going to have to step up and make much more of a contribution. Former Tiger, Kodi Burns, is now the position coach and he has some excellent young talent to work with.

Here is an update on his group.

Who is going to be Auburn’s starting quarterback? That is the question Tiger fans and those all across the college football landscape are asking as we fast approach the start of the 2016 season. In my humble opinion, Sean White will take the first snap when Auburn faces Clemson on September 3. Yet, much of the talk during fall practice has been about John Franklin III. We have heard about his strong throwing arm, but he must continue to hone his accuracy skills. His speed is another thing that the JUCO transfer has going for him.

This article from AL.com expands upon that subject.

Speed. Franklin might not even be the fastest player on Auburn’s team.

Take a look at defensive back Javaris Davis, right here.

Improvement, big improvement. Yes, you will see it, on both sides of the ball, when Auburn takes the field the first in Saturday in September. And, I think a great many “experts” are going to be surprised. Count on it!

E-mail Bird at [email protected] or follow him on Twitter @Autull.

SEC Links: Coaches, Dawgs and Cats

Kevin Sumlin probably has as much heat on him as any coach in the SEC this year. Questions, both on and off the field, have been swirling around him and the program like a Texas tornado this offseason. In spite of winning 36 games over the past four years, the pressure to win more continues to mount. And on top of that, he lost his father back in March.

Sumlin recently sat down with Pete Thamel, of Sports Illustrated, and candidly spoke on these and other topics, such as Johnny Manziel.

The Aggie coach is doing everything he can to improve his team by hiring Noel Mazzone away from UCLA to be his offensive coordinator, and making changes to the strength and conditioning program. There is a new athletic director, Scott Woodward from Washington, and, of course, Kyle Field was completely renovated prior to the 2015 season, and is now one of the great show palaces in all of college football.

There is no doubt that there is elite talent at A&M, it’s just a matter of pulling all of these moving parts together into one cohesive unit. Can that be done? Yes. Will that be done? It remains to be seen.

Brandon Adams, a contributor to SEC Country, thinks the Aggies could be poised to make huge strides upward in 2016. Strides that could carry them to the top of the SEC West.

Say what? Yes, Trevor Knight might work out for them at quarterback. And yes, Myles Garrett is a beast, but it’s going to take more than him to get the defense turned around and stop yielding points in bunches. The D has been the Aggies’ Achilles heel during Sumlin’s tenure and it must improve dramatically in order for them to even approach the pinnacle of the toughest division in all of college football.

I remain of the opinion that Texas A&M will finish behind Alabama, LSU, Ole Miss, Auburn, and Arkansas in the West. That leaves them ahead of only Mississippi State. Something is a wee bit off kilter in College Station and I don’t think all the pieces will fit so snugly together this fall.

Everyone is optimistic in May. Prove it in September. That opportunity will present itself on the opening weekend of the season when the Aggies go head-to-head with the UCLA Bruins, in College Station, on September 3.

Pressure. There’s that word again. Kirby Smart says he is feeling the pressure of the entire state of Georgia on him as he approaches his first fall as the head coach of the Georgia Bulldogs.

“Let’s be honest. Georgia, if you get the best players in this state, you should be winning championships,” says Smart, who hasn’t slowed down since he returned to his alma mater in January.

Bingo!

How are Georgia fans and a new puppy similar? You can’t get either of them to stop whining.

And whine they will if Smart does not win the East soon. Yes, they are on a honeymoon that is hot and heavy, as we speak, but if the Dawgs don’t find themselves in Atlanta on the first Saturday of December, soon, that whining will become a deafening howl.

I have the Bulldogs penciled in as second in the division in 2016. If they do, somehow, manage to dethrone the already-anointed Tennessee Volunteers, then the honeymoon will transition into a full- blown love fest unseen since the early eighties.

But wait! What’s this? Is that a cat that I see sneaking up on those Dawgs?

Jay Clemons, of SEC Country, along with Kirk Herbstreit, see the Kentucky Wildcats as having a coming out party of their own. Clemons actually calls for the Cats to claw the Dawgs into submission on November 5.

Now, what was that I was saying about honeymoons and love fests? If that does transpire, in Lexington, that deafening howling will commence.

I do think Kentucky will continue to improve, and make a lower tier bowl game, but I do not see them toppling Georgia or Tennessee. Florida is a better possibility, but that game is in Gainesville. I’ll take the Big Blue to beat Southern Miss, New Mexico State, South Carolina, Vanderbilt, Mississippi State, Missouri, and Austin Peay. In the last game of the season, Louisville will be favored to down the Wildcats, in Louisville, but I believe Kentucky has a very good shot in that one.

We began this thing with coaches and now let’s end it with coaches. Edward Aschoff, of ESPN, presents his list of the five best coaches in the SEC of the past ten years.

I’m with him on Saban, Meyer, Spurrier and Les, but I’ll quibble with Fulmer for the sake of argument.

First man on his “just missed the cut” is Gene Chizik. I do love Chiz and I will be forever grateful for him bringing home a crystal football to Auburn, but the 3-9 season, in 2012, simply won’t allow that. I would take Gus over Chiz. And I thought Tommy Tuberville was a damn good football coach when he was on the Plains.

How about Derek Dooley? Just kidding!

James Franklin did a remarkable job at Vanderbilt. And sure, Freeze, Mullen, Pinkel, and Richt all deserve careful consideration.

Ok, I can see The Great Pumpkin (as the AJC’s Jeff Shultz was want to call Fulmer) as one of the top five.

That’s another edition of SEC Links in the books.

Adios!

Auburn: To Be Or Not To Be… Consistent

The 2015 regular season is now in the books for the Auburn Tigers. It was a disappointing one, but the problems and inconsistencies did not begin on September 5, 2015, when Auburn played Louisville in the Chick-fil-a Kickoff Game. They began, at a minimum, on November 8, 2014, when Auburn played Texas A&M at home. At least that’s when the problems reared their ugly head.

Since that fateful afternoon on The Plains the Tigers’ record stands at 7-10. The SEC record is far, far worse. It stands at 2-9. 2-9!!! Chew on that for a moment. Two and NINE.

Prior to kickoff on January 6, 2014, when Auburn was about to play Florida State for the final BCS National Championship,  everything appeared to be bright and “Rose-y”.

Since then, and in the aftermath of The Tigers’ gallant, but sobering, loss in the 2015 Iron Bowl… not so much.

Even the most pessimistic of Auburn fans could not see coming what has, since, transpired.

That would be a 14-11 overall record and 6-10 in the SEC.

I have mentioned before, in this slot, that the 2015 edition of the Auburn Tigers is not ‘2012 Deux’. Obviously. But let’s hope they respond to adversity as the 2012 team did in 2013.

The 2015 group that left EVERYTHING on the field this past Saturday is to be commended for a great effort against what appears to be the best team in the country. The “best team in the country?” did have able assistance from an acutely inept Tom Ritter SEC officiating crew. No holding calls? Seriously? Look at the tape.

That’s not the first time that Ritter and his gang of blind mice have been accused of being less than efficient. The groans and complaints on Mr. Magoo’s gang resonate loudly, from Columbia to Gainesville to Baton Rogue to Knoxville, each and EVERY autumn.

http://www.foxsports.com/college-football/story/alabama-tennessee-sec-officiating-replay-review-102514

But that is not the point. Alabama was the better team and they deserved to win. Good for them.

And Florida, don’t think that you have a snowball’s chance in the bowels of Hades in the SEC Championship Game, you don’t. Not that you haven’t overachieved and had an SEC East best season, you  have.

But there is not a remote possibility the the SEC powers-that-be are going to stand by twiddling their thumbs and allow their best shot at a Natty go by the wayside. They won’t.

Alabama has a very, very good football team and has every opportunity to become a great one. They could. They should beat the Gators, handily, under any circumstances.

But you can bet that if, somehow, the SEC Championship Game turned out to be a nail-biter, that the crimson and white could very well get close, and/or, questionable calls.

No, this is not sour grapes. This is the reality in which Auburn and the other twelve SEC participants live. I have watched it with my own eyes for the past fifty-five years. “If you need a yard against Alabama, you’d better get three.” That, according to Pat Dye.

And, let me reiterate, The University of Alabama has an excellent football team and I consider them the premier program in the country. They have the most talent and the best head coach in college football today.

I congratulate them on that and I wish them good luck in the future.

I digress.

Let’s get back to the Auburn Tigers and the reality of the universe in which the Tiger faithful live here on December 1, 2015.

But first we will take a look at the Auburn program since Pat Dye retired in 1992. (And Dye’s record in HIS final two years were 5-5-1 in 1991 and 5-6 in 1992).

Terry Bowden

1993  11-0

1994  9-1-1

1995  8-4

1996  8-4

1997  9-3

1998  1-5

(Bill Oliver went 2-3 after Bowden’s departure in the ’98 season)

Tommy Tuberville

1999  5-6

2000  9-4

2001  7-5

2002  9-4

2003  8-5

2004  13-0

2005  9-3

2006  11-2

2007  9-4

2008  5-7

Gene Chizik

2009  8-5

2010  14-0

2011  8-5

2012  3-9

Gus Malzahn

2013  12-2

2014  8-5

2015  6-6 ( to this point)

So, what’s the take on all that?

There have been some good years, some very good years, some great years, and some phenomenal years (’93, ’04 & 2014). But the one thing that stands out to me is inconsistency. Auburn simply has not been able to put together consistent stretch runs as it did, however briefly, during the Pat Dye Era when they won 4 SEC Championships from 1983-1989. ’87-’89 saw them win three-in-a-row.

Up and down and mediocre has BEEN the consistent theme.

Auburn is going to have to somehow develop that consistency that has eluded them over the past twenty plus seasons. How do they do that?

Well, you start with recruiting. Recruiting has been quite good for the past five or six classes but it does appear that they have whiffed on a few prospects that were hoped to be dynamic and impactful players. And two of those players were quarterbacks, Kiehl Frazier and Jeremy Johnson.

That hurts. It really hurts.

Again, I’ve quoted this before, Pat Dye (yes, quoting him again and with good reason) once said that, “It all starts at quarterback.” It does. And missing, for whatever reason, on that critical position has been, IMHO, one of THE most damning issues Auburn has had in attempting to put together a great program that wins consistently.

Certainly there have been other issues such as developing players, injuries, and just plain bad luck, but much of the problem in 2011, 2012, and 2015 was the play at the quarterback position. And Auburn is, at some point, going to have to recruit AND develop quarterbacks and not keep bringing in JUCO talent. The best they have done, lately, is with Cam Newton and Nick Marshall… JUCO players.

So what about defense?

I think Auburn has their man in Will Muschamp. The defense has begun to really turn it around under his leadership. They are communicating much better. They are tackling much better. And they are playing with that ferocious intensity that you would have expected them to develop under Muschamp.

The defense really got after it in the Alabama game. The overall effort in the Iron Bowl was superb. I think the team really grew up this past Saturday. Now, going into bowl season, they truly have something to build on as they approach the 2016 season.

2016 will be a pivotal year. Make no mistake about it. Gus Malzahn, and his staff, might or might not be coaching for their jobs in the next campaign. I hope they are not. But if the team does not show marked improvement next season there will be weeping and wailing and gnashing of teeth. Of that, you can be sure.

6-6. 2-6 in conference play. Last place in the division. What team would you have attributed those stats to prior to the 2015 season? Vanderbilt? Kentucky? Mississippi State? It sure as hell would not have been the Auburn Tigers.

But, I have faith in Gus Malzahn. I have faith in Will Muschamp (No, I don’t believe he’s going anywhere). And,  I have faith in the players that will return in 2016. They became men in the Iron Bowl.

Also, there is some great looking talent coming in the next recruiting class. That group may wind up as another top ten class.

I can see the pieces falling in place for Auburn, much as they did prior to the 1993 and 2004 seasons.

No, I’m not suggesting that the 2016 Auburn Tigers will go undefeated. But next season could go a long way in propelling the program toward consistency that is long, LONG overdue.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Auburn vs. Ole Miss: Glancing Back and Peering Forward

My first recollection of an Auburn vs. Ole Miss game is the Liberty Bowl of 1965. The two teams had not met since 1953. This was the first time the Liberty Bowl was played in Memphis. It was held in Philadelphia from it’s inception in 1959 through the 1963 season. In 1964 the game was played in Atlantic City.

Ole Miss escaped that 1965 game with a 13-7 win. Tailback Tom Bryan scored Auburn’s only touchdown on a 44-yard scamper. He was named the game’s Most Valuable Player and its Outstanding Offensive Back. The Tigers’ Robert Fulghum was selected as the Outstanding Defensive Back.

IMG_23831973 was the season that I attended my initial Auburn-Ole Miss brawl. And that it was, a defensive battle.

The game took place on October 6th of that year. That was the day old Cliff Hare Stadium was dedicated as Jordan- Hare Stadium.

Coach Jordan was, of course, humble in his receiving this honor and his Tigers responded with a 14-7 victory.

Halfback Rick Neel broke a 7-7 tie with a 33-yard touchdown burst with just over one minute remaining in the game.

One of the most exciting games of the series occurred on January 2, 1971 in the Gator Bowl. Auburn was led by junior quarterback, Pat Sullivan. Ole Miss also had a decent signal caller heading up their offense that day. His name was Archie Manning.

Auburn broke out of the gates with a vengeance by rolling to a 21-0 lead before the Rebels roared back to cut the lead to 21-14 at halftime.

The teams battled fiercely for the remainder of the game, several Gator Bowl stats were broken, with Auburn finally securing a 35-28 win.

And, probably, THE most exciting game of the series took place in Oxford in 2014. Click below:

Now, for those of you who love numbers and history, here are some more. The last six Auburn coaches’ records versus Ole Miss:

Shug Jordan, 4-3

Doug Barfield, 2-0

Pat Dye, 4-1

Terry Bowden, 6-0

Tommy Tuberville, 7-3

Gene Chizik, 3-1

Gus Malzahn, 2-0

The meetings between the two schools had been sporadic until divisions were created in 1992. Auburn leads the series with a 29-10-0 record against the Rebels.

The first time the schools met on the gridiron was in Birmingham in 1928 with the Tigers taking the win, 19-0.

The largest margin of victory came in 1985 when Bo Jackson ran for 240 yards on 38 carries to lead Auburn to a 41-0 victory.

The longest winning streak stands at nine, with Auburn taking games interspersed between 1971-1991.

Auburn vs. Ole Miss 2015

Last year’s contest was an elimination game, of sorts, and the same holds true for Ole Miss this year. The Rebs control their own destiny but if they lose they can more-than-likely kiss any chance to win the SEC West goodbye.

The 2015 Auburn Tiger football season is at a critical juncture. The same could have been, and probably was, said about last Saturday’s tough loss in Fayetteville. It rings ever more true with each succeeding game.

If Auburn fails to win, then any chance of a very good bowl game will disappear with the breeze which will waft away from Jordan-Hare Stadium around mid-afternoon this coming Saturday.

IMG_2329The Rebels had an impressive, 23-3, win against Texas A&M last Saturday night at Vaught-Hemingway Stadium.

Quarterback Chad Kelly had a big night throwing for 241 yards and two touchdowns. Laquon Treadwell was on the receiving end of five of those passes. They totaled 102 yards.

Laremy Tunsil, star left tackle on the Ole Miss O line, returned to the lineup after completing a seven-game NCAA suspension for receiving illegal benefits. It appeared to have rejuvenated their ground attack as they rushed for 230 yards. They only ran for 40 yards the week before at Memphis.

I’m not going to rehash the details of Auburn’s excruciating loss, in four overtimes, at Arkansas last week. If the Tigers hadn’t dropped eight passes and two interceptions it would have been, truly, a different story. Hey! It would have been a different story if Tiger receivers had caught only HALF of those whiffs. SIGH.

But take heart Auburn fans! Redshirt freshman quarterback, Sean White, is getting better each week and it appears he could be a star for the Tigers sooner than later.

Here is a look at some of his numbers.

White completed 19 of 32 passes, in the Arkansas game, for 254 yards and zero interceptions. Add back only half of the eight drops and you have a completion percentage of .719, and many, many more yards. Probably well over 300 and, possibly near 400.

On the season he has thrown 97 passes and completed 62 for 805 yards. That’s over 200 yards per game. He has one interception. That came in the Miss State game.

And  hopefully it’s going to get even better for the young QB.

Now, forget the numbers. The thing that impresses me most about Sean is his competitive spirit, his confidence, and his leadership. The kid LOVES to play and he gives it 110%.

He comin’!

Peyton Barber. Another baller. The guy really has a nose for the end zone. He found it four times against the Razorbacks. And he’s rushing for 110 yards per game.

And… AND… Carl Lawson practiced for the first time Tuesday! Will he play Saturday? We don’t know yet, but that is very encouraging!

Also, Auburn’s defense played better. After garnering 14 first quarter points, Arkansas scored only 10 points in the last three quarters of regulation play.

If defensive coordinator, Will Muschamp, can get similar results as those this Saturday, the Tigers will have a solid chance at winning the football game.

So, Auburn is playing to get better. They’re playing for pride. They’re playing for the opportunity to continue toward a 9-3 regular season record and a very good bowl game.

Ole Miss is playing for an opportunity to continue toward an SEC West Championship and, potentially, a College Football Playoff berth.

This is a HUGE game for both teams. A loss, for either squad, effectively ends the realization of lofty post-season goals.

Auburn has not committed a turnover in its past three games. That is a very good thing. If the Tigers can again protect the football, improve on both offense and defense, and get its expected high level of play from special teams, they have a good chance to win.

This game should be a Battle Royale. I expect Auburn and Ole Miss to come out breathing fire and leave everything on the field.IMG_0546

It should come down to the fourth quarter and whoever wants it most should win.

Here’s how I see it.

Ole Miss, trailing 21-20 late, gets a long TD pass from Kelly to Treadwell. 27-21, Black Bears.

Auburn, in an effort to salvage its season, gets a kickoff return of 87 yards from Rudy Ford. This puts the ball at the Rebel 13.

White hits Kamryn Pettway, coming out of the backfield, for a 12-yard gain.

Peyton Barber hammers it in from the one. The PAT is good. Auburn up.

Blake Countess then intercepts a late pass from Kelly and Auburn holds on for a 28-27 win!

You heard it here first!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Steve Spurrier, Tommy Tuberville and Charlie Strong: Who are Three Coaches I’d Have Dinner With

It was a slow weekend in college football. There was nothing scheduled that I would consider to be a true marquee football game. As I sat and watched some exciting but lack luster football, the smell of simmering pot roast filled my house. The thought of food makes me think about food and the smell of food makes me think about food. I love food.

Sometimes the company you have at the table is as good or better than the meal itself. In the spirit of college football, I began thinking about 3 coaches that I would like to have a meal with and here they are.

Steve Spurrier

The meal is a no brainer as I meet The Old Ball Coach at Arby’s. You know what they say, it’s good mood food and Spurrier always puts me in a good mood. See? Arby’s and Spurrier are a match made in heaven.

Personally, i’m a medium roast beef and curly fry type of guy. As for Spurrier, none of us know what the man orders at Arby’s, but he’ll have to get his own curly fries, because i’m not sharing. I would love to hear The Old Ball Coach tell stories as we drench our beef in horsey sauce. As for what I would talk about? Well, as a Mizzou fan, my dinner conversation would bring Nihilist Arby’s to life. As Spurrier rides off into the sun set, i’m left to contemplate what lies ahead for Mizzou. I’ll let Nihilist Arby’s sum up the attitude of Mizzou football fans with this gem:

Enjoy Arby’s!

Tommy Tuberville

Tuberville, party of two, your table is ready. Two men enter, but only one man leaves. That is the nature of dinner with Tuberville.

The trick with dinner with Tuberville is actually eating a full meal with the man. As luck would have it, I am the man for the meal. You see, I am a notoriously fast eater. I basically unhinge my jaw and shovel it in. In my world, meals come “shovel ready.” While most Tuberville dinner companions could confidently get through the appetizer course, I believe that I could go all the way with Tuberville and experience dessert.

If for some reason Tuberville does sneak out the backdoor in the middle of dinner, I know that Ryan Gosling is just around the corner. Crap, that’s not Gosling?

Courtesy of USA Today

Charlie Strong

I guess you’ve heard by now. For just a quarter a day, the price of a cup of coffee, you can help feed Charlie Strong and his coaching staff.

It’s tough to say when Charlie’s last meal was but I hope he shows some humility and takes it easy on my bank account. Unlike Tuberville, Strong is all but guaranteed to stick around for the entire meal and, unlike Spurrier, i’m guessing he’ll be in the mood for more than just curly fries.

Considering that Texas is starting to win again, I would splurge and take him to Chipotle. Because at this point in the season, Strong is worth the whole burrito.

E-mail Seth at [email protected] or follow him on Twitter @SMerenbloom.

Auburn vs. LSU: Game. Set. Match.

The only time I’ve ever cried after an Auburn loss came on October 11, 1980. Now I’ve cried tears of joy after an Auburn win, most notably would be January 10, 2011 when the Tigers nipped Oregon, 22-19, on a last second field goal from the foot of Wes Byrum. The other would be following Chris Davis’ 109 yard run on November 30, 2013 in Jordan-Hare Stadium. That was night of the renowned “Kick Six”, as all of you well know.

Auburn punt returner Chris Davis runs back a short field goal attempt for a game-winning touchdown last year against Alabama that became known widely as the "Kick Six." (USA Today Sports)
Auburn punt returner Chris Davis runs back a short field goal attempt for a game-winning touchdown last year against Alabama that became known widely as the “Kick Six.” (USA Today Sports)

October 11, 1980 was the first time I had the pleasure of listening to to Auburn play LSU in Death Valley at night. I had tuned in to, seemingly, countless LSU games from Tiger Stadium over the years. Most of these games I listened to with my daddy. Some of those were from the back seat of our 1963 Plymouth Fury as we made our way home from, what was then, Cliff Hare Stadium in Auburn.

But on that evening in 1980 I was listening to the Tigers vs. Tigers matchup on my stereo radio from our living room in Burnsville, AL.

I was the pastor of the Shady Grove Baptist Church back then and my Sunday duties, obviously, would not allow me to make the trek the Baton Rouge that Saturday.

Auburn entered the game with a 3-1 record while the Bayou Bengals stood at 3-2.

There were  several controversial calls that went against Auburn on that misty evening in the Red Stick, and I was attempting to maintain my religion as my frustration continued to build.

LSU lead, 7-3, at intermission. They maintained their lead, 14-10, after three stanzas.

Both teams scored a touchdown in the fourth quarter to make the score 21-17 LSU.

James Brooks ran for well over 200 yards that night and I could picture him gashing the other Tigers’ defense.

As the game wore on and time tick, tick, ticked away, LSU had the ball with an opportunity to run out the clock. But they didn’t. Auburn’s defense was savage and they forced a punt with very little time remaining.

James Brooks was back to receive the kick. LSU was mired deep in their own territory. The snap, the kick… BLOCKED! BLOCKED!

Auburn recovered  the ball at LSU’s 10 yard line!!!

My hopes soared at the prospect of a victory I could now smell!

On the first play from scrimmage a blue and white clad Auburn receiver was WIDE OPEN in the end zone… DROPPED!

That’ was ok, we had three more downs, and James Brooks at our disposal, and I knew the men from the Plains would get it done.

It was now fourth down. I don’t remember if the quarterback was Joe Sullivan or Charlie Thomas, but whoever it was threw another pass into the end zone and it was… INTERCEPTED! AND it was almost run back for a touchdown.

Game. Set. Match.LSUvAuburn

I could hear the roar of the crowd blaring through the speakers from Death Valley, and now I truly understood that term.

I had been standing and cheering and jumping up and down in our living room; and now I crumpled to my knees, covered my face with my hands… and wept… profusely.

I simply refused to believe what my ears had just heard. NO! NO! NO! It can’t be!

It was.

Final score, LSU 21, Auburn 17.

That was only the beginning of the “Voodoo” my beloved Tigers have been the victim of from that venerable old venue.

I know how the Ole Miss fans felt when Billy Cannon ran that punt back, 89 yards, for a touchdown in 1959 on Halloween night. As an aside, most people don’t know that Ole Miss dominated that game and were stopped on the LSU one yard line as time expired. BRUTAL!

As I stated, just above, Auburn has been victimized or “Voodoo-ized” several times in Tiger Stadium.

In my column’s primer for last year’s game, I recounted the story of my first visit to Tiger Stadium. It was on October 8, 1988, the “Earthquake” game. I’m not going to re-tell that story again and put myself through the hell of that memory. You may if you like. Just click here!

But… I will mention that a drunk, female LSU student got nose to nose with my dear wife, Melodye, that fateful evening and screamed “GO TIGERS!!!!” repeatedly, as our wounds were still fresh and raw. I will also mention that our children, Luke (10) and Leah (5), were with us; and I suspect that had they not been, that the nameless coed might have received a severe, old-fashioned butt-whipping, or at least a tongue-lashing, on that hot and humid night.

Oh! But there’s more!

September 16, 1995. My son and I made our second trip to Louisiana to take in an Auburn-LSU clash. This was the night of the famed “Phantom whistle”. Auburn quarterback, Patrick Nix stood, defenseless, in the end zone as he, and many us us sitting in those north end zone stands, heard a whistle. Nix was tackled and LSU was awarded two points for a safety.

Trailing 12-6, Nix threw into that same end zone on the game’s last play. INTERCEPTED!

Game. Set. Match.LSU Auburn Football

Later, Auburn head coach, Terry Bowden said that he outsmarted himself on that last play and ran that slant instead of a fade, which would have almost certainly been completed and Auburn would have emerged victorious.

And even to this day, whenever one of us “outsmarts” ourself, say taking an alternate route or shortcut, which does NOT turn out to be the wise move, we say we “Bowden ’95-ed”.

How about 2005 when OUR Tigers beat the snot out of THEIR Tigers, “physically” (as former Auburn coach, Doug Barfield, used to say when AU whipped their opponent everywhere except on the scoreboard)?

Auburn pounded LSU on October 22 of that year. Kenny Irons ran RAMPANT over THEIR Tigers for well over 200 yards, just as James Brooks had done, 25 years prior. Unfortunately, AU’s highly reliable place-kicker, John Vaughn, was one for six on field goals.

Auburn lost, in the midst of swirling winds in overtime, 20-17, as the final field goal attempt hit the right upright and bounced, harmlessly, to the turf of Death Valley.

Game. Set. Match.

More! Do you want more?

Two years later Auburn travels to Baton Rouge and plays the home team off their feet, as head coach Tommy Tuberville’s teams could do back then.

Auburn scored a TD and led, 24-23, with 3:21 remaining; and for some reason squibbed the ensuing kickoff and LSU set up shop at their own 42 yard line.

They  began the march toward the visitors goal line but time was fast running out.

The clock was under 40 seconds, with LSU at the Auburn 22 yard line. They appeared to be setting up for a field goal. BUT Les Miles, inexplicably, eschewed the 39 yard attempt and Matt Flynn lofted a pass in the direction of wideout Demetrius Byrd, who was covered, in the end zone with one tick left on the clock.

Byrd later claimed he never saw the ball but it, somehow, stuck in his arms as he fell to the purple and gold painted grass.

Game. Set. Match.LSU Football

#!%#>([email protected] VOODOO!!!!!!!!!

And, FINALLY!

Two years ago, first year head coach, Gus Malzahn, took his 2-0 Tigers into the monsoon ravaged Red Stick. They fell behind, 21-0, in the first half.

LSU’s second touchdown came when Auburn punter, Steven Clark, mishandled a wet ball and the punt was blocked.

How long, oh lord?

But… But… BUT!!! This edition of the Auburn Tigers exhibited great resiliency and played with tremendous effort in the second half. They lost, 35-21, but used that second half intensity as a springboard to win the rest of their games enroute to the BCS National Championship Game in Pasadena, CA.

So, that brings us to the 2015 square-off between these two teams of Tigers.

What on earth could possibly transpire Saturday AFTERNOON on the Bayou? Yes, it’s a 2:30 CDT kickoff on CBS.

Auburn hasn’t won in Tiger Stadium since 1999.  Sixteen LONG years. Motivation, you think?

I almost don’t want to look. Auburn ‘s trips down I-85 to I-65 to I-10 have been plenteously painful.

Les, or More, Miles pulled another rabbit form his hat, this past Saturday, as LSU thwarted Mississippi State, 21-19. The Cowbellers missed a 52 yard filed goal as time expired in Starkville. SIGH.

I don’t know what to make of the 2015 Auburn Tigers. They have looked ragged but right. They’re 2-0!

Obviously, quarterback Jeremy Johnson needs to get his act together, and I think Malzahn and Rhett Lashlee will “coach him up” and get him ready.

I expect that the coaching staff will also utilize their first two games as great teaching tools and the talented Tigers will play well.

Will that be well enough to win? I don’t know. But if this team does not play with the same fire and intensity that the 2013 team did, then I will be sorely surprised.

I think this will be, yet another, of those crazy games from Tiger Stadium. But, again, it will NOT take place at night.

In a turn of fortune, Auburn drives the length of the field and Jeremy Johnson scores on a zone read, from the one yard line, with less than a minute to play. The defense holds on, this time, and the AUBURN Tigers come away with a VERY hard fought victory.

Auburn 24, LSU 21

Game. Set. Match.auburn-football

The Pipeline – August 29, 2015: A Firing, some Fines, and a new Television Deal

1. Illinois Fires Tim Beckman Seven Days before Season Opener

Our top news story in this week’s Pipeline comes from the University of Illinois.  (Never thought you’d read that, did you?)  Yes, the Illini have attracted national attention, at least for a couple days.

Head coach Tim Beckman was fired Friday afternoon just seven days before Illinois opens its season against Kent State.  Director of Athletics Mike Thomas dismissed Beckman due to the findings of an external investigation into the mistreatment of players.

Beckman is alleged to have deterred the reporting of player injuries, and pressured players to avoid or postpone medical treatment and play through injuries.  There are also some questions as to whether or not seniors were treated fairly with respect to their scholarship status during the spring semester once they were done playing.  He has, of course, denied that the allegations are accurate, setting the stage for a future lawsuit.

These are very serious accusations.  And there must have been quite a lot of damning evidence to substantiate these claims for Thomas to can Beckman so close to the season opener.

Bill Cubit will take over for the 2015 as interim head coach.  He joined the Illini coaching staff in 2013 as offensive coordinator.

The issue of player safety became real for us last fall when Brady Hoke and the Michigan training staff failed miserably in protecting quarterback Shane Morris.  Excuse the video quality, but you should hear how Mike Patrick and Ed Cunningham brought this to a live audience.  Now that a coach has been fired for mismanaging his players, it’s officially a hot button issue.

2. Fining College Football Players?

On Wednesday, Virginia Tech defensive coordinator Bud Foster said some things he shouldn’t have about the possibility of fining players.  Athletic director Whit Babcock was quick to shut the idea down, saying Tech would be doing no such thing.

On Thursday a list of all finable offenses is spotted outside the Tech locker room.  A picture is taken.  The picture makes its way around the internet.  And Foster’s words are legitimized, proving that there was a plan in place to fine Hokie players for misbehavior.

Then, Cincinnati head coach Tommy Tuberville seconds Foster’s motion.  The AD in this case, UC’s Mike Bohn does not squash his coach’s idea, but instead agrees with him.

There’s some confusion about whether this is legal.  NCAA rules state that taking money from a student’s scholarship is impermissible.  However, there is supposedly some language in these financial aid contracts which states the school may subtract aid if the violations go against department policy or the student code of conduct.

I’m no legal eagle.  I’ll let the lawyers decide what exactly the contracts allow schools to do with players’ financial aid.  I can say that this will undoubtedly add another convoluted layer to the already complicated cake that is the controversy over compensating college athletes.

3. Pac-12 Network on DirecTV

As our own Mike Wilson wrote last week, west coast football fans might be able to relax soon.  After years of not carrying the Pac-12 Network on their cable package, DirecTV will finally give fans out west what they want.

DirecTV, which was recently bought by AT&T, began testing on Friday that appears to be the first step towards bringing the Pac-12 Network to their customers’ television sets.

Imagine the frustration of paying for sports packages you’re not interested in while your favorite conference’s network is unavailable to you.  This is what some fans have been dealing with since the Pac-12 Network’s inception in 2012.

Luckily for them it seems to be coming to an end just in time for the 2015 season.

4. Sarkisian Apologizes for “Inappropriate” Behavior

Steve Sarkisian addressed the media on Tuesday concerning his “inappropriate” behavior at a USC donor event last Saturday.  Apparently, he had too much to drink and had taken some pills he was prescribed.

The press conference was short, but notably odd.

There were unnecessarily personal questions about specifically what medication Sarkisian was referring to in his statement.  Rightfully, he declined to disclose that information.

When asked if he had a drinking problem, Sarkisian said, “No, I don’t believe so, but through Pat [Haden] and the University, I’m going to find that out.”

“I don’t know if I even need rehab,” Sarkisian said.  “That’s part of the process, and I credit Pat Haden for this, that he has put things in place for me to have meetings to figure that out.”

He was quick to ‘swear off’ drinking for the rest of the season, and clarified that while there was never any alcohol in the players’ locker room, it will now be completely banned from all USC football facilities.

The USC players had their coach do a set of down-ups, just as they would have had to do for breaking team rules.

The team has moved on and so should the media.  This was a big mistake, but it was not an accurate reflection of Sarkisian’s character.

5. Vernon Adams Wins Oregon’s Starting QB Job

Anyone who was following the quarterback battle at Oregon knew there was a good chance Vernon Adams would end up winning the job.  The Ducks’ week one depth chart was released on Friday, and sure enough Adams was at the top.

This is news mostly because it wasn’t news to those of us who were paying attention.

Adams is a graduate transfer student who played three seasons at Eastern Washington.  He put up the type of numbers you see from Oregon quarterbacks, throwing for 10,438 yards and 110 touchdowns while with the Eagles.  With Marcus Mariota gone to the NFL and the rest of the team in place, the Ducks needed a new quarterback who could step in and preform immediately.  In Adams, they’ve got just that.

USA Today Sports
USA Today Sports

Interestingly, Adams will make his first start against his alma mater next weekend when the Ducks host the Eagles.  That’s right, just three weeks after graduating from Eastern Washington he will take the field against his former team.

Ahh, what a glorious loophole in the NCAA’s transfer rules.

College Football Playoff – Round One – Auburn vs. Ole Miss

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It’s on!!! The College Football Playoff committee released it’s first poll last night and the Auburn Tigers find themselves locked into the number three spot. Yes, it’s on! If Auburn wins the remaining games on their schedule they WILL participate in the playoff. The schedule is brutal, we have discussed that here before, but it can be done.
The strength of schedule is an important component in deciding which teams finish where. The stronger one’s schedule, the greater the opportunity to advance and entrench oneself in a favorable position. Auburn is in a VERY favorable position.
Now the REAL fun begins.
November should be about as interesting a month of college football as we have EVER seen. This thing is beginning to shape up like March Madness.
Saturday’s game vs. Ole Miss pits your number three Auburn Tigers and you number four Ole Miss Rebels. This is an elimination game. Mathematically that is not the case but realistically it is the case.
If that don’t get your fire started then your wood’s wet!!!
My wife, Melodye, and I will begin our trek to Oxford bright and early on Friday morning. We will set up camp in downtown Memphis and make the commute, Saturday, to northern Mississippi. It will be All Saint’s Day Eve there on the banks of the Big Muddy.
That should provide a terrific jump start to a memorable weekend!
I have been beyond fortunate to have experienced countless such weekends centered around college football and my beloved Auburn Tigers. Considering the opponent this weekend is the Ole Miss Rebels, I would like to take a look back at a few of the games pitting these two SEC West division foes.
A fitting place to start would be the 1965 Liberty Bowl game. It was the first time the game was played in Memphis after six years in the City of Brotherly Love, Philadelphia. Despite the heroics of the game’s MVP, quarterback Tom Bryan, the Tigers fell by a score of 13-7.
One of the most memorable and exciting games between these two squads came in the Gator Bowl following my freshman year at Auburn, 1970. Auburn was led by junior quarterback Pat Sullivan, and Ole Miss legend, Archie Manning, was under center for the Rebels. The Tigers jumped out to a quick 21-0 lead but the Rebels fought back to pull within seven at the intermission. The high scoring game ended with the Tigers pulling out a 35-28 win.
The first game I ever attended in the series was on October 6, 1973. It was an historic day on the plains of east Alabama. Auburn’s Cliff Hare Stadium was renamed Jordan-Hare Stadium in honor of longtime head coach Ralph “Shug” Jordan. With less than two minutes remaining in the game, halfback Rick Neel scored on a 33 yard run to give the home team the victory.
In 1985, soon-to-be Heisman trophy winner, Bo Jackson, ran for 240 yards and three touchdowns propelling the Tigers to a 41-0 demolition of the visiting Ole Miss team. Auburn wound up with 606 total yards that day while the visitors could manage only NINE.
The 1995 game wasn’t close as Auburn won 46-13. BUT Ole Miss had a new head coach. He was the former defensive coordinator of the Texas A&M Aggies, Tommy Tuberville. You know the rest of the story.
On October 30, 2004 the undefeated Auburn Tigers traveled to Oxford, Mississippi. They had played nine straight games without a break, and now Auburn head coach, Tommy Tuberville said, “We were running on fumes.” In spite of that, Auburn, led by senior quarterback Jason Campbell, pulled out a tough 35-14 win by scoring 28 second half points. And on that night, the Tigers clinched the SEC West division title. They went on to become SEC and Sugar Bowl Champions and were, arguably, the best team in the country.
Enough of the past. The future is now. The College Football Playoff committee has released its historic first top 25 poll. They have spoken and it is my opinion that they got it right…
1. Mississippi State
2. Florida State
3. Auburn
4. Ole Miss
It was the bold and proper move to place the Rebels at number four. They have a played a typically brutal SEC West schedule and they defeated the number six ranked Alabama Crimson Tide. Hotty Toddy!
That brings us to the de facto elimination game pitting number three against number four.
It appears that it will be unseasonably cold Saturday night in the land of Faulkner and Grisham. The winds will be howling and the Tigers will be growling. After spending all day in The Grove, the fans fervor will be at a fever pitch. The home team’s faithful is being exhorted to wear red. Miss LeCroy and I will counter with navy blue attire.
Good friends, Gus Malzahn and Hugh Freeze will concoct a Strange Brew (RIP Jack Bruce of Cream) on this All Saint’s Day evening. This one promises to be a true donnybrook.
Auburn 31, Ole Miss 23
Survive and advance.

10 Years Ago: The 2004 Tigers, Auburn’s Best?

 
Last Saturday Auburn honored it’s 2004 football team on it’s tenth anniversary. This was a great football team. They won the SEC going away and should have played for a national championship. Officially they finished second in both polls after they defeated Virginia Tech, 16-13, in the Sugar Bowl. But was this team the greatest to ever take the field at Auburn?
There certainly have been quite a few great football teams at Auburn. The 1913 team went 8-0 and gave up only 13 points all season. They were recognized by Billingsley as the National Champions. The 1957 team, National Champions according to the AP voters, had a 10-0 record and gave up only 28 points that year. The 1983 unit finished the season 11-1 with a 9-7 victory over Michigan in the Sugar Bowl. They were proclaimed National Champions by the New York Times, Rothman and the College Football Researchers Association. The 2010 team defeated Oregon, 22-19, in the BCS National Championship Game which culminated a 14-0 season.
And how about last year’s Auburn Tigers? This team came absolutely out of nowhere to win the SEC Championship. Who woulda thunk it? Seriously, did even the most dyed-in-the-wool, orange and blue Kool-Aid drinking, War Eagle screaming, optimistic Auburn fan think that the 2013 Tigers had even a remote chance at winning the SEC and play for the BCS National Championship? I had them at 9-3 and third in the West Division… TOPS!
All of the aforementioned teams were superb. They all deserve their rightful places as SEC and, in the minds of many, National Champions. But which group of Tigers is the best in school history?
A compelling argument can and should be made for Auburn’s 2004 team. First let’s take a look at the scores:
Auburn 31 LA-Monroe 0
Auburn 43 Mississippi State 14
Auburn 10 LSU 9
Auburn 33 The Citadel 3
Auburn 34 Tennessee 10
Auburn 52 LA Tech 7
Auburn 38 Arkansas 20
Auburn 42 Kentucky 10
Auburn 35 Ole Miss 14
Auburn 24 Georgia 6
Auburn 21 Alabama 13
Auburn 38 Tennessee 28 (SEC Championship Game)
Auburn 16 Virginia Tech 13 (Sugar Bowl)
Auburn averaged 32.1 points per game, first in the SEC, and their opponents averaged 11.3 points per game. That is a 20.8 average margin of victory which put the Tigers first in the SEC in that department.The 11.3 points allowed per game was first in all of college football. As a matter-of-fact the Tiger defense DID NOT ALLOW A RUSHING TOUCHDOWN UNTIL THE NINTH GAME OF THE SEASON! That same defense gave up an average of only 237.4 total yards per game.
In 2004 Auburn defeated FOUR teams that were ranked in the top ten when they played the Tigers. Southern Cal and Oklahoma, who played in the BCS National Championship Game, came up against only three teams ranked in the top ten, when they played them, COMBINED.
Auburn had four players (Ronnie Brown, Carnell “Cadillac” Williams, Carlos Rogers and Jason Campbell) selected in the first round of the NFL Draft off of the 2004 squad. Rogers was named the winner of the Jim Thorpe Award which is given to the best defensive back in the country.
1913, 1957, 1983, 2004, 2010 and 2013. In every one of these years Auburn achieved excellence on the gridiron. But last Saturday, September 6th, the 2004 Auburn Tigers were recognized for their accomplishments. The view from here is-that outstanding group of players and coaches, led by head coach Tommy Tuberville, was the greatest to ever wear the burnt orange and navy blue.