The Great Collapse of 2009

What is it with October and collapses? Last year Wall Street and the final edition of Team Tuberville paired up to push fans to the ledges of tall buildings looking for relief from a world gone mad. This year was supposed to be the recovery, both on the field and in the wallet. I don't know about you, but I'm feeling about the same in both important areas.

Last week's loss at Arkansas was a setback. Saturday night's defeat was a game changer for first year Auburn coach Gene Chizik. Sitting here last week, I wrote about better days to come for this team. Every young team has hiccups and rides the emotional rollercoaster. What we witnessed against Kentucky was something far worse than a young team trying to find its way. Auburn football is in full meltdown today.

Beyond the surprise of losing was the way the Tiger's did it. There's no doubt Auburn's defense has problems. The secondary is making far too many tackles and the names on the backs of the jerseys are from way too many guys who played on Friday nights a year ago. But Ted Roof's defense didn't lose it for Auburn on Saturday. Holding the Wildcats to 21 points and 357 yards of offense is hardly spectacular, but plenty enough to grab a win.

How does it feel to be running back Ben Tate today? While things crumble around him, he's quietly becoming one of the most dominating backs in the SEC and America. He's now gone over the hundred yard mark in all four of Auburn's conference games, finishing Saturday with 132 yards on 31 carries. Not since the days of Cribbs and Brooks has such a great Auburn back played on such a poorly performing team.

Rumblings have already started about the arm of quarterback Chris Todd. I don't pretend to be Dr. James Andrews, but there's something very different about the strength and velocity of his throwing arm. By now you know that Chizik practically refuses to discuss injuries. Ask him about a player and he'll usually use his favorite term, "dinged up" to describe anything from a concussion to a broken back. It's unlikely we'll learn much about Todd this week leading up to LSU.

Like all quarterbacks, Todd will get the brunt of the criticism in the days ahead. But it would be foolish to stop with him. Johnny Unitas couldn't overcome eight penalties for 55 yards in the fourth quarter, including one series where Auburn went from a third-and-one at the Kentucky 43 to a third-and-11 at the Auburn 47. The ball was later turned over on downs.

Dreams of a repeat of the 1993 season are over.  There will likely be no magical ending. Like last season, fans now look at the schedule trying to find that allusive sixth win that may earn Auburn a trip to Legion Field and the Pizza Bowl in late December. More than likely it comes on November 7th when the Paladins of Furman come to town to pick up their fat check.

Hoping for a win over LSU, Ole Miss, Georgia or Alabama may be futile at this point. Surprisingly, Georgia may be Auburn's best shot even though it's on the road in Athens. Unless things change drastically from Saturday night, September will likely be remembered as fool's gold.

Last Monday's headline here read, "The Best Is Still To Come." A week later I'm not so sure. Auburn travels to Baton Rouge Saturday night under the worst of circumstances. It's hard to see anything good coming out of it, but that's why they play the game.

Keep hope alive. Talk to you on Friday.

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