Anonymous Flickr Auburn Fan mocks my handicap…
By J. Henderson
I promise I’ll soon shut-up about my expatriate acclimation, but allow me to say that while running out to the new neighborhood grocery store with my young’n just before kickoff to buy the Fritos we forgot earlier at Wal-Mart, and hearing the Texas Tech game (they won big) playing over the intercom, but then having my Dad call, holding the phone up for me to hear the eagle fly, fly, fly, me trying to keep the phone on my shoulder while holding young’n's hand in the check out line, and then hearing the tinny, apocalyptic “hell, yeah, hell, yeah dun, dun, dun, dun, dun”-style pre-pre-game video as she said “Look Daddy, Auburn colors” to the M&M’s I just poured out for her before we hopped back in the van, well, allow me to say that I almost broke down.
It was all XM last night. The first I saw of anything that happened yesterday on Pat Dye Field was this wee-hour morning, I was the 45th view of Plainsgmail’s YouTubed ESPN 40 sec. highlight clip.
Listen to Holtz gush over Robert Dunn (and James? Jane?) — do you think The Auburner got to him? (They did make this, right?)
And speaking of The Auburner, then I found their highlight video. And it made me very happy.
Amazing, and thank you.
But now, knowing that I only heard, knowing that I wasn’t sweating my way back home through the steamy kudzu shouts of victory up Bragg Ave. after the game (oh mercy), but thousands of miles away in a computer chair, allow me my thoughts on Week One.
I think it says something, a good something, that a first game 34-0 shutout of any team, even (or especially) one bearing the psychic “remember what they did to… what if… ” gravitas of this year’s La. Monroe (though I was the first to predict a loss almost literally impossible because of said gravitas) at first seemed so disappointing, inauspicious even.
However, from my pathetic vantage point I don’t there is as much cause for gloomish alarm regarding the offense as text messages from the front (thank you Russell) made out. I won’t run through the stats and such (but a little something interesting was Rod Bramblett’s comment that by scoring his touchdown, Robert Dunn broke the nation’s longest no-punt-return-for-TD drought, it was our first punt return for a touchdown since 1996, seems almost impossible — and while we’re on the subject of Dunn, though my dreamy “watch for this” regarding a Todd to Smith shuffle pass to the right for a touchdown almost seemed / sounded to come true at some point in the 3rd quarter, I say we go ahead and award Jerry the Leonard Postosties Smart Pill Award for the entire year for his just before kickoff prognostication:
4. Robert Dunn is going to break a punt return this year.
Here’s the obvious:
Tony Franklin is obviously to be taken seriously when he waxes strategic on his spread wearing down defenses as we obviously got better in the second half, thanks perhaps to the much improved performance of the offensive line possibly resulting from, as Will notes, and Quentin Riggins reported, a lively exhortation from Tony the Tiger … we obviously should get the ball to Fannin more (guaranteed and instant five yard gain from first point of contact with defender), Ben Tate is obviously awesome, Antonio Coleman will obviously, tragically kill a man before December, and Paul Rhoads should obviously be pleased — his first coached play as Auburn’s defensive coordinator resulted in a touchdown, the first point’s of ’08.
As for the quarterback situation, it’s obviously as I, and most everyone, suspected, and as the handwriting on the wall said all along — total Voltron-style.
I, for one, don’t think this is a bad thing. I never have. Perhaps I don’t know anything, not one thing, but I can’t help but think that as long as (or especially if) Chrodi Torns (or, if you prefer, Khrisodi Burn-Stodd) is fine with it, it’s actually a good thing. I don’t think the purported, and yeah, logical, psychological benefits of lone leaderdom negate the potential for similar benefits / results from a dual-threat tandem. Nor do I buy into the idea, batted around by Q and the gang early in last night’s radio broadcast, that the revolving doorness of it all might be the source of Chrodi Torns’ seemingly stymied grooves. That might fly if Burns and Todd were switching places on every down, but surely not every series — wouldn’t a QB’s specialized biorhythms simply interpret the extra breathers as a sustained drive by the other team or a long CBS-style TV timeout? In fact, as my man Stan White countered, the system, as implemented last night, might theoretically enhance said (said said said) biorhythms, infusing them with the dopamine of competition. Or something. I don’t know. I just don’t think the quarterback rotation had much of anything to do with the early, very ’07-style offensive ineffectuality. I think that’s mistaking a symptom for the cause. I just think that, instead of one first-time-starting quarterbacks struggling in a a season opener, we saw two.
I don’t think that will last long.
My continued hopes however, oh yes, they last, they go on… because if the loitering hurricanes, the new coordinators, and the new offensive system haven’t seemed familiar enough to flood your veins with pangs of the eternal pangs and dreams of ’04, please to enjoy not only Will’s great recap of yesterday (and Jerry’s too! great!), but his included recap of 2004′s season opener against… La. Monroe.
Disclaimer: this is not by any stretch a prediction. But. Four years ago, I wrote this about an Auburn opening against… LAMO:
On the one hand, you’ve got a workmanlike shutout of (let’s face it) one of the worst football teams in the country. To their great credit, Louisiana Monroe’s players didn’t show a lot of give-up on Saturday, but they also didn’t show a whole lot of ability. Auburn substituted all the way into the scout team by the fourth quarter, and the closest LA-MO ever got to scoring was a couple of missed field goals. On the other hand…
Look, it’s obvious that the AU coaches went into this game intending to show future opponents absolutely nothing of use, and it’s safe to say that they succeeded. “Vanilla” doesn’t begin to describe the blandness of the formations and plays displayed on Saturday. Try “tasteless and odorless,” or maybe “invisible.”
… With that understood, there are still worries. Either La-Mo’s defensive line has gotten a lot better since last October (entirely possible; they were big and quick, easily the best-looking athletes as a group that the Indians fielded), or Hugh Nall still has a lot of work to do up front. Run blocking was hit-and-miss (sometimes literally), and pass blocking was downright bad a lot of the time. And don’t get me started on the reappearance of last year’s bugaboo, the dreaded slanting defenders. More than once, a friend sitting nearby said, “It’s a good thing they suck, or we’d be in trouble.”
I would also be remiss if I didn’t admit that Jason Campbell’s play was not encouraging. Whether by habit, design, or just happenstance, Campbell is still locking in on his first guy and not seeing open receivers down the field, he’s throwing behind the receiver too often, and his two turnovers were flat-out awful, the kind of stuff you expect from a freshman, not a fifth-year senior.
Sounds kind of familiar, doesn’t it?
Now, once again–not a prediction, or anything remotely like it. I’m not expecting, anticipating, or even wildly dreaming about a 2004-ish run for this team. But it’s still comforting, in an odd and nostalgic kind of way, that the best Auburn season in recent history also started against LAMO, and not with a bang, but with a “What the–?”
Now, in other news, I don’t know if you’ve heard, but Bama is back.