by J. Henderson
A very pretty girl, a girl with an intense resentment for fair-weather-fandom, was not her usual self last night. She is a girl and has a girl’s grasp on the game’s mechanics. But like many girls, she has an intuition, and can intuit the rights and wrongs of a football game even from the couch. And here is the thing – for two weeks in a row she has been somewhat ashamed of the Auburn Tigers and has, disconcertingly, twice found herself jealous of their opponents quarterbacks. Both of those quarterbacks – Josh Freeman, and Matt Grothe – are sophomores, sophomores of lesser, yes by God, lesser teams. Her quarterback is a 5th year senior, with two seasons as a starter underneath him, and it is supposed to be his year; despite the hellish schedule, despite the offensive line, despite the receivers, despite the play-calling, despite the devil — his year, and maybe even ours.
But right now it is not, it is obvious, and this is what she said about it: “It’s like nothing we’re doing is real.”
Not real, as in actual – real as in sincere, real as in authentic, real as in balls-out fury for the glory of Auburn, or what Tuberville called “the killer instinct.” Not real.
And by we, she means the Offense. The Scoffense.
For if it is balls-out fury she wants, she need only wait. It will be summoned, open-fanged, by blood thirsty beauties in orange dresses and their visor beaus, by children in jerseys and miniature cheerleader outfits, their hands over their ears and their tiny life-savings in their throats, by righteously tipsy women in their late 40s who have not missed a game since 1980. And once summoned it will come as alive as it can, crouching on the first down after a punt, clawing through the numbing wake of another freaking fumble, flipping the bird to the latest interception and then shrieking in Confederate defiance from the goal line and plunging hammers of holy human will into the gut of defeat.
Defense, Auburn, Defense. Oh, it was a sight. Never have the fans more enjoyed their role as 12th man – on the South Florida 4th downs, the 3rd downs, the 2nd and 1st downs – because never have they more understood the need to be there for Groves, for Coleman, for Marks, for Powers, (no Blackmon, that I could see) for Evans, for Thompson, for them all, because never – or at least not in recent memory – have they ever beheld a more withered Auburn offense.
They gave up plays, of course, and the kickoff coverage again looked like a silent-movie comedy sketch, but let no man’s man or intuitive girl doubt that the Auburn defense, along with kicker Wes Byrum and punter Ryan Shoemaker, were heroes’ heroes tonight. Epic, even in defeat.
But the Offense, on the other shriveled hand, was again epic in ineptitude. What football thinker would have guessed there to be yet more questions and even less answers regarding Auburn’s 2007 offensive identity this Sunday than the crop from the last? And yet there are — namely, how it is that after a week, save for slightly better pass protection, pleasing promise from the hyped Mario Fannin, and the fact that there were at least attempts to go down field in the air, we can still seem so clueless with the ball, so disoriented, so Mississippi State. The running game doubled it’s gains (which isn’t saying much), the passing dwindled and at the end of the day Auburn against South Florida was exactly one yard shy of equaling the total production against Kansas State. Again – we gained one yard less than last week. My Lord…
2004 and 2005 spoiled us all rotten, rotten as hell, and people scream and weep for Borges to do something, do anything. He was quoted after last week’s win as saying that were he given a do-over, the bite from our go-ahead drive would have been ordered before it became absolutely necessary. Those comments, combined with his pre-season assurance on the speaking circuit (given prior to Lester-gate and Tristan’s broken toe, granted) that the 2007 spring practice was the best he had seen at Auburn, that walk-on Rod Smith was the new Courtney Taylor, that the offensive line would soon develop into a strength of the team, etc, etc… had me certain that consistency and points were simply a matter of play-calling, and that he was simply, strategically, conservative against Kansas State, or as I put it last week, simply biding his genius.
But friends, it is not a matter of play-calling – oh how I wish it were. No, last night’s display is simply a reflection of the fact that Auburn, despite what we were told, does not appear to have the players to make those plays work. Our receivers cannot get open. We cannot block. That is why the plays are not being called. Just look at the drive that lined Byrum up for what should have been a game-winning field-goal – it included — dare I even speak it — a reverse (6 yards) and what looked to be the early stages of a half-back pass from Carl Stewart to Tommy Trott (negative a million). These were the plays yanked out of Borges under duress of loss, and the lack of which have had us scratching our heads to bloody nubs. And they did not work, not even close.
But Al is not an idiot, just watch the DVDs, the evidence is YouTubed, he is not an idiot. Perhaps a little delusional, again judging from his early August confidence, but not dumb. He is likely more aware than anyone that the only thing we seem able to do is nothing – we’re doing nothing very, very well.
It is not losing to historic South Florida that is so icky – nor even the actual L of the loss itself, if that makes sense. It is the fact that, save for the defense, nothing we’re doing is real.
Brandon -we love you, we really do. A Spurrier or some other coach would have put in Burns last night, would have put in anyone else, and that probably would have been a good decision. But barring injury — and maybe not even then –Tuberville won’t put in anyone else, cause it’s your year, because you’re a trooper, and in you we have all invested so much. And it still can be your year – in fact, now more than ever. If you can come back from this, can lead us into the battle of our lives and just by God win, no matter how ugly, against Mississippi State, against Vandy, against LSU, Arkansas, Florida, Georgia – and most importantly Bama – then you will forever wear a crown, and we will polish it in our books and dreams. War Eagle, in defeat. War Eagle, in the pit of confusion. War Eagle, in the aching separation from expectations, and War Eagle on the fiery mountain of till-death belief and then some. War Eagle, Brandon. War Eagle, Offense. War Eagle, Defense. War Damn Eagle. Forever and ever.
P.S. to the student section – I love you, and granted they were a Florida team, but we are not Tuscaloosa.