Monday, November 03, 2008

Annus Horribilis

By any sane reckoning, Auburn will finally win another game this Saturday. By any reasonable reckoning, it will probably be the last game the Tigers win this year. I'd most certainly prefer the latter to be an inaccurate prediction, but based on this team's continued slump, it's just hard to see how things are going to turn out differently. It's a horrible year, and one that's getting worse by the week.

As if it weren't obvious from the record and the numbers, this is a pretty bad football team, almost as bad as the talent-starved and snakebitten 1998 squad that finished 3-8 (and even that team beat Ole Miss). Even the defense that started out gangbusters has lapsed into mediocrity, thanks in no small part to an avalanche of injuries, but you also have to think that they've just been relied to on save the offense far too many times as well.

While the offense showed occasional signs of life in Oxford, its limitations are still painfully clear. Kodi Burns has a ton of heart and a lot of talent, but let's face it, Tony Franklin was right when he noted that Burns gets too excited and makes too many mistakes in crucial situations. Saturday was easily Burns' most productive game as a Tiger, but those three awful interceptions doomed any chance of getting a win. But then again, Burns is now being "coached" by a guy who took an eventual first-round NFL starter and wrecked him so badly that people wondered whether the guy would ever play again.

Chris Slaughter had a great individual game, and Tommy Trott continued to improve catching the ball, but the rest of the receiving corps was once again missing in action. And let's not even talk about the blocking, or rather the lack thereof. Auburn's running game has shuddered to a near-complete halt (I would have said complete halt if not for the single great play on Ben Tate's touchdown).

It's also clear that every defense the Tigers play knows exactly what Auburn is going to do before they do it, especially in the running game. AU can't run inside, can't run to the outside, and can't even run a screen without having three defenders around the ball at all times. This is not a surprise, or at least it shouldn't be. The last time Steve Ensminger was in charge of the offense, the same thing happened; Georgia Tech's defenders in 2003 were calling out the plays from the line of scrimmage. I wouldn't be surprised if Ole Miss was doing the same thing over five years later.

It's very little consolation at this point to think that Ensminger only has three games left to screw over Auburn University. Then again, I wrote that five years ago, too, and look where we are now.

A brief respite, and then the annus horribilis will rumble on to its finish. Where we go from there is, I think, anybody's guess.


tigerbuckeye said...

Will...I just returned to Sandestin from Oxford...and I must admit I had a great time in the Square....and I now refer to my travels throughout the south watching the Auburn Tigers as "The Trail of Tears"...War Eagle anydamnway....Jolly Roger Jay PS...Jimmy Buffett's friend "Captain Tony" just died, so lets all go listen to The Last Mango in Paris." FINS UP.

AubTigerman said...

A Sad...
sad situation. One that I still feel lies more with the coaching (esp. Nall/Ensminger) than with the talent level and injuries list. Instead of looking forward to making bowl reservations, Iam now looking forward to the announcement of NEW offensive coaches. At least I hope that is on the horizon !

Doophy said...

Couldn't agree more w/ Aubtigerman. Lots of the mistakes I keep seeing come down to coaching - or a lack thereof. Missed blocks, dropped passes, just a lot of sloppy play. It may be that the players are just disheartened, but that comes back to coaching.

Despite the rumors, and not that it amounts to a hill of beans, but I don't think Tubby should go... yet. I think he does deserve a mulligan, but I think the AD, president, board and God himself (if he's available) need to convince Tubby of the double-noose around his neck personified by Nall and Ensminger.

Joe Blow said...

Worse every week? I'm not so sure about that. I was much more pleased with Auburn's play this week than last. I think everyone needs to remember that Burns is just a true sophomore. Most of his limited time on the field has been running the ball. He's making the same mistakes that 9 out of 10 young QBs make. Maybe he will get it under control in the next two years, maybe he won't.

Auburn's problem with play calling has to do with how the line up. You can tell exactly what they're going to do by what formation they're in. It was the same under Borges, minus the 2004 season. It was also the same under Franklin. I think this has more to do with the head coach than the OC. I would like to see several of Tuberville's assistants canned, and Borges (do anything to get him back) given full control over the offense. Full control is key.