Monday, October 09, 2006

Well, That Sucked

Last Friday, I swapped emails with an old classmate about the upcoming game. "Think they'll blitz the hell out of this kid tomorrow?" he asked.

"I doubt it," I replied. "Auburn's been burned really badly by Arkansas running misdirection in the past. I imagine they'll back off of overpursuit on defense. I'd guess the game plan is to get an early lead, take away the running game, make them try and come back throwing the ball."

At least I was right about the second part. Problem was, that turned out to be Arkansas' game plan. The much bigger problem, of course, was that it worked to perfection.

Suffice to say, it was an ugly day for Auburn. Very little went right. A few scattered observations:

1. The offensive line was downright offensive. Losing a starting center is never a good thing, but all the pass protection breakdowns on the ends were even worse. For all the good press he's received over the last couple of years, Hugh Nall has not produced a consistently-performing line, even during the undefeated run of 2004; by the last two or three games, defense had it figured out, but Nall never adjusted his schemes. Based on the last three games of this year, it looks to me like that catch-up process has been accelerated. It doesn't help things any that Auburn has not recruited well on the o-line for a few years now. I take a back seat to nobody in my admiration for Joe Cope, but AU still shouldn't have to be starting walk-ons up front.

2. It's obvious now that the Auburn offense is suffering greatly from a diminished receiver corps. Losing three 1,000-yard receivers to graduation appears to have been a crippling blow. Yes, there's been some improvement since the first of the year, particularly on the part of Rodgeriqus Smith, but by and large the wideouts are not getting open. Give Arkansas' defense all the credit in the world, they deserve it, but the Hogs do not have a great secondary. They were still able to cause way too many coverage sacks on Saturday. With AU's passing threat neutralized, Arkansas was able to key on stopping the run in the first half, and after that the rest was just commentary.

3. The defense was lousy. No excuses. Bad tackling, overpursuit, dumb mistakes, you name it. For lack of a better explaination, I'd almost say the AU D has lost its mojo. It's doubtful that Auburn will play against two better running backs than Darren McFadden and
Felix Jones this year, but that's cold comfort at this point.

4. Driving home, I was struck by how similar this team's play has been to Georgia's 2004 squad. Both teams clearly thought their game against LSU was the season: win it, and the rest of the year is a cakewalk. Didn't turn out that way. Complacency kills in the SEC, and for all their successes, complacency has always been a hallmark of the current Auburn staff.

There are pieces to be picked up, and given the history of the team and that same staff, there's some reason for hope, but right now things look pretty bleak. As good as Arkansas played on Saturday--and make no mistake, they were real, real good--they're still about the fourth- or fifth-best team on the Auburn schedule. The answers are going to have to come very, very soon if AU is going to salvage the remainder of this season.

UPDATE: The JCCW says exactly what I was thinking regarding Tuberville, but didn't actually write.


Lein Shory said...

Given all that could have been done better, I'm still left thinking that this team is maybe just not all that great. The victory over LSU, while impressive, looks a little less so after their second loss. And beyond that win, when have they looked that great this year? It's pretty painful watching Cox standing back there searching for someone to throw to. And opposing teams have been blowing holes through that defense (the line or the secondary, take your pick) since the end of the LSU game. Should they have won this game? Very likely. Are they the best in the SEC, or as good as the 2004 team? "We'll see" for the former, and I'd say "definitely not" for the latter.

s1c said...

If you can't beat a high school offense you ain't going very far in the SEC.

Wegl Fan said...

To add to the comments on JCCW. Walking away from the stadium Saturday, I told my wife that it was a real shame that the appearance of the team over the course of the last week has been that they were more worried about how the BCS voting is going to play out instead of how to beat Arkansas. And that was coming from the Tommy himself. If they had worried about the small stuff (like preparing to win the game at hand) and less about the big stuff (like the BCS) then perphaps they would be able to continue to worry about the BCS. As it stands now, they should probably be worrying about making it through the rest of the season.

Oh well, seems like deja vu all over again.

War Eagle