Despite the absolutely gorgeous early fall weather on Saturday, I walked away from Jordan-Hare with the beginnings of a nasty head cold that really came into its own by Sunday, so this one is going to be short and sweet.
Tommy Tuberville was clearly looking to show nothing new to either Georgia or Alabama against Ole Miss, and I have to guess that he succeeded. The offense was back to unflavored yogurt, the defense rarely broke out of a standard cover-two with a four-man rush. And for the most part, it worked. Ole Miss was stymied for all but two drives, earning only a field goal on the night, and AU rolled up over 400 yards of offense--but still couldn't get many points on the board. I can't recall ever seeing Auburn dominate a game so thoroughly while still managing to struggle in scoring, and as a side-effect, keeping an outmanned opponent in the game into the final period.
The defense played well all around; the stars this week were Antonio Coleman and Tray Blackmon. Coleman is having something of a "David Pollack Year" in 2007. His success reminds me a lot of Pollack's sophomore season of 2002, when Pollack was able to wreak havoc thanks in no small part to the constant double-teaming of his Georgia teammate and eventual first-rounder Johnathan Sullivan. This time around, Coleman is reaping the benefits of the miasma of fear and accompanying double-teams generated by senior end Quentin Groves, and he's making the most of it. Coleman's blowing up (real good) of that attempted reverse in the second half was a signature play in a season full of highlights for the big sophomore. Blackmon's speed and instincts continue to be dazzling, and he put on a defensive how-to against Ole Miss. Will Muschamp has to be licking his chops at the thought of having these guys and most of their teammates around for another season or two.
I did think UM's quarterback Seth Adams played well, considering how close he was being to losing life and limb for most of the night. Auburn gave him the short pass for most of the game, and he made some nice quick throws to take advantage. As the end of Ole Miss's late attempt at a scoring drive proved, Adams was clearly the best option Ed Orgeron has at QB right now. "Yaw-Yaw" jokes aside, I knew the game was over as soon as Brent Schaeffer hopped onto the field. Schaeffer is the Nuke LaLoosh of SEC football: million-dollar talent and a fifty-cent head. When he tossed up that last interception into the end zone, it was hard to resist jumping up and yelling, "AFLAC!" (Honesty compels me to admit that I did not in fact resist doing so.)
Offensively, beyond yet another textbook Brandon Cox drive for a late touchdown, it was a pretty boring night for Auburn. The chains moved up and down the field, but just about every time the Tigers threatened, a mistake or a penalty would kill the drive (this game did feature the first no-contact pass interference call I've ever seen--is there a rule against using The Force to break up a pass now?). All in all it was a pretty lackadaisical display, and that goes for the crowd as well as the team. That had to be the quietest home conference game at night that I've attended. After Auburn methodically punched in the first score and held UM to several three-and-outs, the home fans mentally checked out and so did most of the team's intensity (and brother, if you think this was bad, just wait until next week). There were some nice plays. Pass protection was good, Brad Lester had another fine night, Rod Smith continues to shine, and Montez Billings had a nothing-short-of-heroic catch on third down late in the game, but Ole Miss '07 isn't going to go down as anything more than a timecard punch when the history of Auburn offense is rewritten.
So, that was it, a workaday win against probably the worst team in the SEC. The only real question coming out of it is whether Orgeron will survive to Yaw-Yaw for another season on the Ole Miss sideline. Next week's game promises to make A-Day look exciting, but after that...