Monday, September 18, 2006

Glory, Glory

On the rare modern occasions of a true defensive struggle, television commentators and the profoundly stupid (sorry for the redundancy) will often opine, "Oh, it was so boring. Nobody scored the whole game."

What idiocy. What ignorance.

As I've noted once before, there is nothing like the tension in a low-scoring ball game. When any one play can be the difference in the game, you live on the edge of your seat for three excruciating hours. And what a game!

I haven't seen a football game like that since I was a kid, and there weren't many of its caliber even back then. There hasn't been that much combined speed and power in Jordan-Hare Stadium since the epic Auburn-Florida games of the mid-1980's, and this one was every bit as physical as any of those--and then some. A lot of people have aptly compared AU-LSU '06 to a heavyweight prize fight. Every play was a slugfest running at hypersonic speed. Both sides were superbly conditioned, well prepared, and utterly determined to win. Neither side deserved to lose.

Unlike the exercise in futility down in the Orange Bowl a couple of weeks ago, this wasn't a couple of good defenses playing a couple of sorry, fraudulent offenses--this was two outstanding teams on both sides of the ball going strength against strength for the duration. The two breeds of Tigers had amassed a combined 164 points in their previous four games--LSU alone had scored 90 over two games.

Saturday's result: One touchdown. One field goal. One hell of a football game, and no shame to be had on either side.

I heard a couple of talk radio yahoos in Atlanta talking about how Auburn "needed to reassess their offense" after the LSU game. Considering that LSU almost certainly has the best defense AU will see this year, that was a pretty dumb comment, but to give the benefit of the doubt, if you weren't at the game, you literally couldn't see why the Bengals were able to bring so much pressure up front. Thanks to the camera angles from Can't Broadcast Sports, you couldn't see the incredible play of LSU's defensive secondary. The back four were playing lights-out man coverage for the duration, allowing the front seven to mass in the box. Thanks to their play, Auburn was outmanned up front until the second half, when Al Borges brought in a second tight end to counter the pressure.

Appropriately for such an old-school Pat Dye game, the difference came down to running the ball. Auburn could only run for a little, but LSU couldn't run at all. The Tiger defense just devoured LSU's rightly-touted trio of behemoth running backs. LSU's only notable rush from scrimmage was Jemarcus Russell's fumbled scramble, and it only went 12 yards. AU's monumental 75-yard scoring drive ate up most of the third quarter, and the Tigers' six-minute advantage in time of possession was the real key to the ball game. You can talk all you want about his accuracy or lack thereof, but if Russell had another six minutes to play with the ball, I think he'd have finally found the end zone.

After being humiliated by Kenny Irons on their home field last year, LSU's defense was clearly keying on Irons all day long. Credit to Irons for still gaining 70 of the toughest yards he'll ever get, and credit as well to Borges for picking the right times to use Irons as a decoy, most notably the touchdown-setting-up pass to fullback Carl Stewart. Brandon Cox got the stuffing beaten out of him in the first half, and still went the distance with a fire and determination that won't be forgotten by his teammates.

Regarding the increasing whining from the bayou over the waved-off interference call in the fourth quarter, I can but say: grow up. As SMQ insightfully pointed out, that ball was not going to be caught, whether Zack Gilbert had laid a pinky on Early Doucet or not--Eric Brock was in front of both of them and would tip the ball away regardless. There's no such thing as interference on an uncatchable ball.

But really, the "controversy" is an unworthy distraction from the harsh beauty of the football game. It was a glorious, too-rare exhibition of power football and passion to win. The Auburn-LSU rivalry has become pretty nasty as the stakes have risen this last decade, but I didn't see anything but handshakes and backslaps in the stands after the clock ran out. With the exceptions of the utterly wasted and hopelessly stupid, everybody in the stadium could appreciate the grandeur of what they'd just witnessed.

It was a privilege to be at that game. Revel in it, regardless of which side you were on, or even if you were on neither side. There will not be many more like it in our lifetimes.


Gerry Daniel said...

The appreciation for a great defensive effort in college football gets lost in today's focus on flash and scoring points. The intensity of the play in the Auburn - LSU game was off the charts. I can't tell you how the rest of the season will go for either team, but I am comfortable with saying that the two defenses on the field on Saturday are not only the two best defenses in the SEC but those are the two best defenses in the country. Both teams have very good offenses and plenty of weapons, but the level of play from the defenses refused to let either offense get any momentum.

Defense, field position, and special teams - that is the difference maker when two great tams collide. Auburn and LSU did not disappoint. The game was hard hitting but cleanly played, both schools should be proud of the men that represented them on the field on 9/18/2006 in Auburn, AL. Great players, well coached, laying it on the line. College football at its best.

autgrfan said...

What an aswesome game. I've seen a lot of great SEC games, but this one was the best. Thanks to all of the classy AU fans that kept their composure prior to the game, especially given the particularly obnoxious way the LSU fans taunted us for several days. I arrived on The Plains on Thursday evening (RV), and the LSU fans were relentless. Give them credit, they travel well and they do believe in their Tigers. I personally didn't see any AU fans mouthing back. Even after the game, the AU faithful were nothing but respectful of the LSU fans and team. It's hard to believe how you couldn't be after that kind of slugfest.
One funny thing I saw on my way back to RV land (walking East on Donahue): there were a few Auburn fans passing out freshly cooked corn dogs to the LSU faithful as they passed. And in typical fashion, the LSU fans were greatful and happy to be enjoying their manna. Priceless.

Jinnmabe said...

After that game, even with one loss, I'd not drop LSU any in the polls, but that's just me. You think Notre Dame got whipped by Michigan, they're lucky they don't have to play Auburn or LSU. You were right, it's a shame one of those teams had to lose. Of course, of all the amazing matchups of last week, the LSU-Auburn game was the only one not shown in my area. #3 vs #6? Nah, not important. Bastards.