Sunday, November 12, 2006

The End Of All That

What can I say about the 2006 Auburn-Georgia game that hasn't already been said about Krakatoa? As epic apocalypses go, this one was a doozy. It had everything: bad defense, back kick protection, and more turnovers than a Pepperidge Farm factory. The best thing I can say about this one is, there were so many big plays going against the Tigers, there's no way all of them could have made it to the overnight highlight reels. Say what you will about Tommy Tuberville, but when he lays an egg, brother, he doesn't fool around.

As far as what to take away from the debacle, I don't think it's any great revelation to point out that Auburn just hasn't recruited well at wide receiver and in the interiors of both lines. The loss of three thousand-yard receivers to graduation after 2005 turned out to be far more damaging to Al Borges' offense than the departure of the famed 2004 backfield. With only a couple of productive receivers on the field (neither of them being mistaken for speed demons) and weak pass protection up front, AU's air attack is a shadow if its former self, even when Brandon Cox is on his game. When he's off, or injured (and he was likely both on Saturday), well, you saw what can happen.

Tommy Tuberville said after the game that he, personally, had messed up the defensive game plan, which didn't come as a great surprise to anybody who recalled similar disasters against Arkansas in 2002 and Alabama in 2001. As a rule, when Tuberville leans in over his DC's shoulder and puts in a very aggresive package, you can pretty much bet the bank that overpursuit will be the rule of the day. Give the coach his due for taking responsibility up front, but this defense has been going backwards for a month now, and not because of faulty game planning. Regardless of who came up with the schemes for this particular game, the breakdowns in fundamentals are far more troubling to me than any lapse in strategy. You can fix a bad strategy at halftime. You can't fix bad tackling until next spring, and then maybe.

Of course, while everything was going wrong for Auburn, everything was simultaneously going right for Georgia. A true freshman quarterback who'd thrown three times as many interceptions as touchdowns suddenly couldn't miss, and the palms of a receiving corps that couldn't catch syphillis in Bangkok suddenly started secreting Crazy Glue. Mark Richt's offense was abused in Jordan-Hare two years ago, but Richt paid back the favor in spades this time around. You didn't have to be an offensive genius to look at Auburn's defensive tendencies and figure out that draws and counters work great (heck, you just have to watch films of the Arkansas game), but give all the credit where it's due: Georgia shook off its midseason funk with a vengeance.

As the JCCW pointed out after the Arkansas game, this is what you tend to get with a Tuberville team. On balance, he's going to win a couple that he shouldn't, and he's going to completely screw the pooch once or twice a year. That's the pattern, and with the entirely-notable exception of 2004, it hasn't changed much during Tuberville's entire tenure. Does the latest televised embarrasment mean I want him to be fired (again)? Hell, no. Tuberville proved his point since late 2003, and I'm not climing on the run-him-off bandwagon again.

Now, do I expect a lot better than what we saw yesterday? Hell, yes.

I tried yesterday to recall the last time Auburn lost a close game. The best I could do was overtime in Baton Rouge last year. Before that, you'd have to go back to the Ole Miss game in '03. Everything else that's been remotely close has been a win. That's actually a heck of a record, and a solid testament to a team that does know how to win in the clutch. The bad side, of course, is that all the rest of the losses never got to the "clutch" part--they were mostly over by halftime.

If nothing else, Saturday's putrid result will add quite a bit of spice to a pre-UAT-game week that was looking decidedly dull about 36 hours ago. It's another of Tuberville's tendencies to come out strong immediately after a bad loss, and it would be, er, good if he could manage as much this weekend. And if nothing else, nobody around Auburn is going to lose any sleep over the BCS standings for the rest of the year...


The Auburner said...

I don’t really see what’s so prolific about comments like “…this is what you tend to get with a Tuberville team. On balance, he's going to win a couple that he shouldn't, and he's going to completely screw the pooch once or twice a year.”

It seems like the same could be said of practically every coach who has lead a top team in the existence of sports.

Anyways, I enjoy your blog. Keep up the fantastic work.


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Anonymous said...

Geez, two days before the Iron Bowl and no posts!!