Unnecessary Hoarseness

by J. Henderson

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Auburn fans grip the wheel and steer with deliberation on their way to church this morning, breathing slowly and deeply, as if they just missed a Mack truck they should have seen but didn’t because they were hard rocking out to Guns ‘n’ Roses, or R33SE, in the rear view.

No one forgot their Bibles, no one left them at home, no one left them in the car. Every head is bowed and every eye closed for every prayer, grateful, and the voices strain through the hymns with what should have been unnecessary hoarseness. The preachers mount their pulpits, shake their heads, and scan the sanctuaries with a smile.

“Well, that was something, wasn’t it…”

The frat houses and dorms soak not with the anticipated musk of conquest but rather the quiet mocha of relief. The kids wake up with tender smiles and cuddle. Swig not the Budweiser dregs for breakfast this Sunday, my friends, rather brunch together with wholesome grains and warm cheeses, share with one another and laugh nervously but proudly, and press on in the faith, for next week will likely be more of the same, and we need our strength. We need each other.

Yes, thank you, Lord, for Auburn football.

A humid mist began to swirl half an hour before kickoff and lingered through today’s late services.

The wind is whipping the banners of victory with slow but steady legitimacy. The undulant angel hair of Toomer’s is not as lustrous as we anticipated but still… it is there.

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Some I-AA no names blasphemed the most shocking upset in years against Big 10 god Michigan. East Carolina apparently shredded ESPN’s memo outlining their role as America’s agreed-upon sacrificial freebie to traumatized Virginia Tech and took the Hokies all the way to the end.

Georgia Tech interpreted the name of media kings Notre Dame literally and made them their lady.

We all laughed and smiled but, while a Big 12 opponent is far from a patsy, revolution was in the air all the way down to the Plains.

It was obvious from the Tiger’s first possession that victory would require a surge of Auburn Drama ™.

Coached by what has to be an up-and-coming coach in former Appalachian State player (yes, that Appalachian State) Ron Prince, Kansas State came to play and will likely beat the hell out of many teams this year. Not once before yesterday did I hear any mention of Kansas State’s 2006 defeat of defending National Champs Texas. Now it is the hook we hang our hopes upon. Go Wildcats, 11-1, please. Though your fans were less than friendly, though you played dirty, and though you leave the field even at half-time in that ridiculous discipline diamond, go Wildcats, go for it.

Brad Lester was missed more acutely than any would’ve hoped; Tate’s flashes of brilliance from last year dwindled drastically save for one good run, and Lester’s cutting speed could’ve likely done something with Borges’ up-the-middle conservatism. As tough and tank-ish as he is, the running for #44 was uphill only, thanks to the stark inexperience of our offensive line, or the roughshod abandon of K-State’s defense, or both.

Along these same lines – it took him 8 minutes to complete his first pass – Cox was punished all night long. He has an uncanny, romantic knack to evoke, in just 60 minutes, longing for Kodi “The Future” Burns simultaneous with “Oh Captain, my Captain” devotion and loyalty.

“Brandon’s a man,” said tight-end Gabe McKenzie, scorer of Auburn’s first and only offensive touchdown, a 3-yard pass from Cox that finally, with 2:01 left in the game, put the Tigers in the lead.

They held on to and even added to it in the final seconds, when defensive end Antonio Coleman scampered 34 yards and into the in-zone with a ball forced loose from K-State’s giant quarterback by a jarring sack from Quentin Groves, arguably yesterday’s MVP. (That hit will undoubtedly make next year’s pre-game chill-reel, if they don’t decide to splice it into this year’s montage, which debuted last night on our impressive new scoreboard. The video is great, the best yet. *** UPDATE – the hit has already been spliced in.)

“He took it last year,” McKenzie continued. “He just gets back up and comes back to the huddle. He’s a leader.”

He is a leader. He is the leader of an Auburn offense which has over the past season or so developed a persona that borrows heavily from the Rocky Balboa school of strategy – absorb the opponent’s blows with your face until they flinch in confusion, in bewilderment. Then strike. Then play football. Then win the game.

A visiting team has to assume that Auburn is playing to win and only when they raise their hands to scratch their heads in puzzlement at our seeming ambivalence to scoring does Auburn seem to come alive.

I can only hope, as I hoped through every game last year, that the Borges of ’04 and ’05 is simply biding his genius for the big dogs. Our winning, and only memorable, drive, as well as his post-game comments, seem to suggest that the weapons we have assumed to be at his disposal for brutal West-Coast-ish finesse indeed are there, at least to a certain extent, and that consecutive first-downs can be had by simply flipping a switch.

It honestly appears that Tuberville and Co. simply set themselves to the challenge of winning this game with minimal revelation of the Auburn play book, and it took every bit of minimal. That, combined with all the factors that produce opening day jitters, took us down to the wire on the field and in the heart.

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Call it a “Bama Victory” because that case can be made. Call it ugly, because it was. But the girls are as pretty as they look in TiVo, the dreaded freshman kicking game is thus far more than adequate, and in some intangible, unconscious, glorious deliberateness, that gut-wrenching spasm was, somehow, classic Auburn football and I’m re-learning to love it.

23-13.

And all God’s people said?

“Whew… War Eagle.”

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