Auburn opened my eyes last night to something that I think most of you have known for a couple of weeks now. This team has heart for days. I guess it was about time I saw it. I'm sure I was being cursed under everyone's breath for being Johnny Nay-sayer. I'll admit, I have been critical on the Tigers. Too critical. That doesn't mean I didn't take any negatives away from this game, but I'm not exactly dwelling either.
The defense once again left a little to be desired on the pass defense front, but overall maintained an acceptable level of play. Especially with their stingy 2nd half performance for the 3rd week in a row. If it weren't for a busted coverage at the Safety position, SC may not have scored at all in the second half. Also, we finally forced and made a team pay for turnovers. That was great to see.
The defense needed that as a whole to carry over some confidence. The INT at the end of the game was a sloppy tip drill. BUT It worked, we got the ball back when we needed to, and it came just in time. It was the final nail in the coffin exactly when we needed it. You could feel a huge weight lifted when that happened. Like a lid was taken off of the stadium and all kinds of pressure escaped into the sky. Very nice indeed. The run defense was downright dominant. AU fans should be very comfortable with this part of our team. If our secondary can begin to progress more in their coverage we could be getting back into "good old days defense" territory. At the beginning of the season I thought that Roof was a candidate for being placed on the hot seat. He's held off that status pretty well so far.
The offense was much improved from last week, in terms of more consistent ball movement. We scored more points against a better team I think, so that is a good sign. Now, what worries me about this offense is that it still doesn't seemed very polished or efficient at all. Many times, I mean MANY the team would line only to stand straight up again to get signs from the sideline. Not really an odd sight from an offense like AU runs, unless they do it every other play. Now, maybe Ellis Johnson was throwing monkey wrenches all night long, but I don't buy that. This offense has to got to start showing some bigger leaps in improvement. We are too imbalanced, I think last night it was something like 21 passing plays to 57-60 rrunning plays? (Stat gurus can correct that.)
These are the things that catch up with you eventually no matter what. Malzahn preaches tempo and speed of play. So far this year, the offense has been slower, yes slower than 2009. Now, the offense has been effective I can't argue against that, but we keep shooting ourselves in the foot with penalties and poor execution. Which brings me to the o-line. The o-line had a much better game. They could have been better, but hopefully the Clemson game was the wake up call they needed and they can continue to build off of this week's performance.
Cam Newton got the ball spread around to 6 different receivers and that was really good to see. We have got to do more of that. Some teams will want to make us beat them that way and we have to be able to do it. Cam was also responsible for 5 touchdowns. You can officially put him in your Heisman race. If he isn't at least being mentioned after this game, then I don't know what you have to do.
Special teams was solid once again minus Wes Byrum. Would've been nice to have 6 more points on top of those 35. But Byrum can and will bounce back. We need to keep him confident. He will probably have to kick a game winner at some point this year. Coverage was also solid. No huge mistakes, and that has become what we celebrate on special teams (though it isn't acceptable long term).
Overall, you can see the team growing and developing. If we can just get out of our own way we will have a great shot at the west and also at winning in Atlanta. But we've got to start eliminating mistakes or we will run into the inevitable buzz saw or 2. We still have some extremely talented teams to play and we will have to play extremely clean to get through those games with a win. I hope Chizik continues to challenge them mentally and physically every week. This team has awesome potential, and the only way to tap into that is hard work Sunday through Friday. This team has certain problems that will be problems all year long, but that doesn't mean that we can't get a little better at those things and give ourselves an even better chance in the remaining games.
War Eagle! Beat LA-Monroe!