Those of you that have muddled through my wrist slitting blogs the last couple of weeks were no doubt looking forward to seeing me eat some crow. Time to grant that wish.
Amazing. That's the only word to describe it. An absolutely amazing turnaround. I honestly think at least a couple of the coaches glanced at the blogosphere last week and were insulted or at least pissed off. Trust me, I wasn't the only one that was seriously questioning their way of going about things. Pretty much every message board and every website that dealt with Auburn football had at least 1 or 2 guys just like me that were infuriated with the piss poor performance since at the beginning of this season. Last night, we all got last week's dirty socks stuffed in our collective mouthes.
For the first time all year, the Auburn defense looked good. I was literally amazed at the turnaround. The piss poor tackling, although there is still much room for improvement, looked WORLDS better. Some great open field tackles were made. The great Marcus Lattimore and his silly hat tricks was held far below the century mark yet again. Auburn simply has his number. As good as he is, he can't seem to do anything against us. The soft, wimpy, 15 to 20 yard cushion zones were gone. The corners were playing up! The D-line and linebackers were so much more disciplined I was literally blown away. Very few missed assignments. They stayed home on the run and did their job.
T'sharvin Bell did as good a job as he could have against Alshon Jefferies. The touchdown catch in the first quarter was just Jefferies being a freak. Bell was all over him, and Jefferies just made a play. There is no fault on anyone anywhere for that. But it proves something: Yes, coaches, these guys CAN play up without the huge cushion! Let them play a bit and they might surprise you.
Now, let's be realistic. Are we an elite team? Nope. Not this year. We are still young. There are still problems. I can count at least 5 passes off the top of my head where the receiver was wide open, possibly for a touchdown and Stephen Garcia just flat out missed them. There were a couple of QB runs where we made Garcia look like Barry Sanders. There were still bad angles, some missed tackles, and some missed assignments. The difference is that, unlike the last couple of weeks, it was nothing more then you should usually expect from such a young team. I honestly believe that we owe the victory this week mainly to Stephen Garcia sucking. But, the biggest difference is that this week, the team was ready to play. The game plan was sound. And most of all, the coaches weren't scheming not to lose, they were scheming to WIN. Hell, I even saw a couple of blitzes. There was more than one occasion where Garcia was planted by an unblocked linebacker. The D-line got some penetration for the first time this year, and forced some early throws and mistakes. This week, the defense went from among the worst in the country to shutting down the best RB in the country and holding the #10 ranked team to 13 points. I bow to your superiority! GREAT job.
Now on to the offense. Once again, it's like Gus Malzhan was reading the blogosphere this week, and finally decided to pound the ball with our best football player, Michael Dyer. It worked. 141 yards for one thing, but the most important thing was the noticable difference in USC's defense toward the end of the game. Dyer took a toll on them. 141 yards, while impressive, wasn't a blow your mind number. But that didn't matter, because the physicality that Dyer forced upon them took a definite toll towards the end. Remember McCalebb gashing them for big runs on two big third and longs? That was a direct result of Malzhan's game plan. Make no mistake about it, folks. USC has one of the best front 7's in football, and this week, Dyer was superior.
Probably the worst spot of the game was the play of the OL. While the run blocking was not bad, the pass blocking was horrendous. Barrett Trotter has a piss poor game, but I don't blame him for all of it. It's hard to have a good game when you are running for your life for 4 quarters, because your O-Line couldn't pass block a pee wee team. However, that does not excuse some of the unbelievably horrible decisions he made. I am really starting to want to see Kiehl Frazier start. I'm sorry, Barrett, I know you have seniority, you know the offense better, but it's just a fact that Frazier is far more talented. On top of that, he is a much better fit for Malzhan's offense. Remember the whole Chris Todd vs. Kodi Burns argument? It's the same concept. When Frazier is in, the offense moves better. It is just that damn simple.
Trotter came through in the end with the big TD pass to Lutz. But when you are judging, you have to look at the entire body of work, not just 1 play. You can't forgive a bunch of mistakes and bad plays because of 1 good one. Trotter is supposed to be getting better by now. He's not. He's not a bad QB, but I honestly believe we have a much better option in Frazier. Frazier is the future, no doubt about it. If you ask me, the future is now.
One last thing to address, the fakes and the 'too cute' plays by Malzhan. There was lots of blowing up here when that happened. I tend to disagree. With all apologies to the ladies on the site, it has to be said. The coaches FINALLY grew some cajones. I don't care if the fake failed. It showed me one BIG thing. The coaching staff isn't scared anymore. They are leaving it out on the field, and are NOT afraid to take risks. Admit it, if the play had worked, everyone on here would be singing the praises of the amazing genius call. Really. I try to look at things subjectively. Sure, the play didn't work. But it's all about mentality! No more coacing scared! They are taking shots! You can't say it was stupid because just because it didn't work any more than you can say it was genius because it did work. I like the call. I like them going for it. And you know what else? I'd bet the team does too.
The one 'too cute' play that Malzhan called took a lot of heat. Why? Why are you upset? Because it was an INT? The damn play WORKED! The receiver was WIDE OPEN, and got a lousy throw. The play was well designed, called at a good time, but the throw was poorly executed. The only thing I might have done differently is have Kiehl Frazier in there making that throw. I don't fault Gus for it. I think it was a good idea that just didn't happen at the time. But once again, that's what you get with Gus. He is going to do things like that. I have no problem with it.
Overall, we saw a different team. I can't believe the improvement. I think a ton of it has to do with the coaches waking up and not coaching like a bunch of wimps anymore. I stand by what I said the last two weeks. The coaching was terrible, the scheming was terrible and the philosophy was terrible. I said the coaches should be 'on notice.' I cussed a LOT. I was pissed, what can I say. All of that is gone, and I'm more than happy to call myself an idiot and call for renewed faith in our coaching staff. I would be saying the same thing if we had lost the game, too. I am amazed by the turnaround and can't praise the coaching staff and the team enough for a job well done this week.
Now just fix the OL pass blocking and QB play. Don't get wimpy! Keep playing and coaching to win, guys! If you do that, even if you lose, you can still hold your heads high. Well done!!