By J.M. Comer
Part three of a three-part series. Sorry for the delay. After the events of this past Thursday, I wonder if this little series is moot. I have the feeling, should Dark Lord Trustee’s wicked hand of impatient, black death reach deep into his pocket of ill-gotten gains and lost souls and produce the buy-out for Tuberville’s contract, we will be without a good man and coach and a lot of his upcoming recruiting class. Ray Cotton could be lost. Let’s beat Ole Miss in the SECOND HALF of the game (The 2008 Auburn Tigers: First-half champions!) and see where this year’s winding path takes us. Thanks to Jerry at The Joe Cribbs Car Wash and Jeremy here at TWER for their guidance on this undertaking. War Eagle!
If you looked at just the first half of the Meade-Southern game two Fridays ago, you would have thought the Southern High Bulldogs were ready to cruise ahead to an easy win. Run the ball. Run out the clock. Loss No. 5 in a row for the Meade High Mustangs.
Cotton, the Mustangs quarterback and verbal commitment to Auburn University, was not connecting his passes to the team’s receivers. Like I mentioned before, you saw promise in Cotton’s throws. But his some of his most precise, beautiful passes were often hitting the cold, leaden hands of his teammates and bouncing away. Some passes were one or two steps in front of his receivers for touchdowns. And, I hate to say it, there could have been an additional turnover or two if Southern’s defense had held on to their gift-wrapped air mail from Cotton. The Mustangs were out of sync and seemed to be a one-trick pony. (I made pun!)
As the second half opened, the Mustangs trailed 14-6. The Mustang’s 6 points were the result of a 1-yard run by Cotton into the endzone. The extra kick was flubbed. Again, focusing on Cotton: He was one, if not THE, fastest, biggest guy on the field. He had the legs to match the arm. To me, he looked like the total — albeit unpolished — package.
This guy could come to Auburn? Would the presence of Auburn’s Coach Tommy Tuberville and Assistant Coach James Willis show the Cotton family the support that they wanted? If you would believe this report: Yes. Yes it did.
At the beginning of the second half, the two Auburn coaches had departed, or at least were hidden from the view of the fans. They might have went up to the pressbox, I don’t know. Like I said before, there was a buzz through the crowd in the first half of the game. The fans and Mustang team (as well as Thomas, Ike and myself) would keep an eye on the Auburn football council. Folks from the home stand would wander over for a closer look. “Who were these mysterious men dressed in dark blue, with subtle splashes of orange, watching the visitors from afar?”
Raymond Cotton Sr. stayed separate from most of the other fans. He took a proud perch at the top of the bleachers to watch his son. Ray Cotton’s mom (at least, I think it was his mom), walked up and down the fence, following the team along the field (like us and others, it was fun) and shouting encouraging words to her son. The Mustang fans were a small, but rowdy bunch. They were a lot of fun to be around. They had noise makers (blue horns that had a visible toot in the cold, night air) and would stomp on the bleachers from time to time.
“I need to get one of those horns for the West Virginia game,” Thomas said. (In reflection after the West Virginia choke job: The first half would have been horn-filled. The second half, not so much.)
As the Mighty Meade Mustangs rallied, the game became a party.
Maybe the presence of Auburn’s coaches were a distraction. Maybe Cotton was trying to hard to impress Tuberville and Willis. At any rate, a different Mustang team took the field in the second half. Cotton had the arm to match the leg.
On to victory!
Like a flash of lightning, the Meade High Mustangs were back in the game after the first drive of the 3rd quarter. Cotton connected with receiver Trevor Turner on 4th down. It was a 30-yard desperation pass. Turner came through for his quarterback. The timing couldn’t have been better. In an attempt to tie the game, the Mustangs went for the 2-point conversation but failed. The score stood 14-12. The Mustangs galloped close behind.
At this point we were by the fence near the endzone. Directly behind us in the bleachers were Cotton’s father and another Mustang dad. Once again, our orange and blue confused Cotton Sr.’s bleacher buddy, as the dad shouted to us: “Hey, my boy is No. 44 out there. Give him a look too! I tell you what, you can have him for four years. If you don’t like him, just send him back!”
I tried to explain that we were not with Auburn University for probably the fifth time, but because he was laughing so hard, I don’t think he heard me. At this time, Cotton’s father gave us a wary look from his roost. I wondered if Cotton Sr. noticed when I shook my head in disappointment after his son flubbed a play. I thought I had better watch my actions. I probably shouldn’t throw my sandwich to the ground in disgust, screaming obscenities at his boy should he fumble the ball or something. Whether we wanted it or not, Thomas, Ike and I were representatives of Auburn.
Back on the field, the Mustangs defense would shut out the Bulldogs in the second half. The Mustangs were pulling together. The defense was feeding from the trough of offensive glory and vice versa.
Halfway through the 4th quarter, the Mustang’s little running back pulled out the play of the game. Demetrius Brown gained 28 yards on a busted play. He ran to the broken and bleeding left side of the line, facing a multitude of Bulldog defenders. Like a flash, he rolled to the open field to the right and was off to the races. The Bulldogs would pull him down at their 30-yard line. Now, at last the Mustangs could pull ahead.
With two throws in succession to receiver Tuswani Copeland, the Mustangs would go ahead. The game-winning throw from Cotton to Copeland was a 19-yard strike. After failing to get the point after, the Mustangs led 18-14.
The Mustang defense would hold and the team would win. Cotton’s receivers came through in the second half and little Demetrius Brown, in my eyes, came through big time to spark the winning score.
Cotton’s final stats: 147 yards passing with two touchdowns through the air. 97 yards rushing with one rushing touchdown. Cotton had one fumble that I remember in the 4th quarter.
What a game! What a comeback! What a Tiger?
The next few weeks will tell the tale.