Well, it was a win......sigh. Coach Chizik's demeanor in the postgame conference spoke volumes. He didn't mince words either, using phrases like 'we played poorly', and 'we have a long way to go'. I couldn't agree more, Coach. While there were quite a few positives, there were far more negatives. Unless we improve, bigtime, it's going to be a looooooong year.
Credit to our coaching staff. Coming back like that, at the end of the game, is always a MAJOR credit to the coaching staff. They had those kids believing. Believing that the game is NEVER over, they are NEVER down, and they ALWAYS have a chance to win. There was no quit in the Auburn Tigers. I know, that is a major cliche', you hear it every week, from every team, etc. etc, but this is one instance where it is absolutely true, no cliche' no bulls**t. Those kids NEVER stopped playing, and they NEVER stopped believing they could win. That is entirely on the coaching staff, for getting them in that mindset.
I know, it's just Utah State. They were supposed to be MWC whipping boys. All in all, they are not a bad team. They are much improved from last year, with loads and loads of experience, and it showed. At the end of the day, the only thing that beat them was lack of depth. Towards the end of the game, their defense were zombies. Dead men walking. They were so tired they couldn't see straight, and there was nothing they could do to stop Auburn. Our scout team could have scored on them. But for the first 3 1/2 quarters, Utah State was the better team.
Utah State was the better team.........aaaagghhh. It pains me to write that, more than you'll ever know. But it is absolutely true. Do they have more talent than us? No. Were they better? By a longshot. Experience matters! This game was a GLARING example of that. From the beginning, Auburn looked like a bunch of kids that had never played a meaningful down in the SEC. We have 26 freshmen getting meaningful playing time. We lost 8 starters on EACH SIDE OF THE BALL. Ladies and gentlemen, that is what you characterize as a BIG FRICKING DEAL. The O-line was beaten all game. Dyer, Mason, and McCalebb, as good as they are, have no idea how to effectively pass block. The D-line was getting stuffed, the linebackers were missing assignments. Trotter is good, and he's going to get better. But he's no Cam Newton. Trust me, that is not a knock on Trotter. Cam was so good it was just ridiculous. He won every single award there was to win in FBS last year. He was the 1st pick in the NFL draft. What the hell can you do? It's like following Stevie Ray Vaughan at a blues/rock concert......nobody can expect you to be THAT good. Every time the team made a mistake, Cam would make up for it. That dimension is gone.
There are two reasons that we are 1-0. The first was discussed earlier, with Utah State being tired thanks to lack of depth. The second was Special Teams. They were GREAT. By far the most experienced part of the team. Just the kick return touchdown is enough to warrent their praise, because if you take that away, we lose. Everything they did was right. Kick and punt coverage was perfect. Punting was as good as it could have been. Trovon Reed made no mistakes in the punt return game. Good job, special teams.
Another huge bright spot was the receiving corps. As much as I miss Darvin Adams, Stallworth, Reed, Blake, and Lutz are bigtime players, and probably the strongest part of our offense right now. There were no drops, no bad routes, blocking was good (although not Kodi Burns good), and very few mistakes made. I love our receivers. And, like the rest of the team, they are only going to get better.
Michael Dyer is a monster. He is just a sophomore, too. The kid is damn near impossible to tackle one-on-one. If he learns how to pick up a blitz and improves his pass blocking, he could be the 1st or 2nd RB taken in the NFL draft. How many would that be from Auburn? Good Lord.
McCalebb is still the fastest guy on the field. This year, also, you can't throw a feather at him and knock him down. Now it takes a rubber chicken. He is a bit tougher, but, like Dyer, really needs to work on his blocking. HIs hands are starting to get soft, though. Excellent receiving skills.
Trotter is a good pick at QB, although I'd MUCH rather see Frazier. Frazier is a better fit for the Malzhan offense. To run the spread that we run, you have to have a legitimate threat to run at QB. Trotter is BARELY good enough to qualify for that. He's not a bad runner, but unlike Cam, he is just barely good enough to keep the defense honest. Last year, on the zone read play, it was pure hell for defensive coaches because either Cam, Dyer, or McCalebb could get it and any one of the three could burn you. Trotter is not going to burn anybody. He might get some yards, but the defense can focus much more on the RB's than they could last year. It's not as bad as trying to run a zone read with Chris Todd, but it's definitely not like running it with Cam. Trotter is in the unenviable position of being the guy to follow Cam, and will be compared to him all year. I feel bad because even I am doing it. Make no mistake about it, Trotter is a damn good QB, and would have been playing a lot sooner had he not been hurt for so long. It's just going to be that difficult to follow #2.
Overall, I can't say I'm dissapointed. We aren't very good, at least not right now. But we all knew that we lost a LOT. This has the potential to be a very long year. We've lost the possibly the best college football player ever, 4/5 of possibly the best offensive line to ever start at Auburn, the best defensive lineman in the country last year, plus 2 others from possibly the best defensive front 4 in college football last year, and loads of other experienced leaders on the team like Josh Bynes, Fannin, etc. Right now, we are a 5 or 6 win team at best. If we play every game like we did yesterday, especially on the defensive side of the ball, it's going to be ugly when we start SEC play. We have a schedule from hell. We have only 2 or 3 'gimme' games, and this was supposed to be one of them. Not only that, all the whoopings we gave everybody last year are going to come back to haunt us. (South Carolina comes to mind).
I know, I just said that that I WASN'T dissapointed. I'm not, that wasn't a typo. Why? The answer is simple. Almost all of the bad stuff I saw yesterday can be attributed to one thing: lack of experience. These guys are going to get better. Just watch. They will improve every game. By then end of the year, if our coaching staff is as good as we think they are, we will be looking at a different team, and be counting down the days until next season, when we get all of these guys back. Keep the faith people. We all knew it was a rebuilding year. Let's cheer them on, watch them grow up, and stay behind them no matter what. Good times are ahead! War Eagle!
OTHER NOTES FROM OPENING DAY:
LSU is a monster. I think you are looking at the SEC champs this year, possibly the national champs. They are so talented and have so many athletes, it's going to be hard for anybody to beat them.
The jury is still out on Bammer. They are good, but I don't think they are better than LSU.
Florida looked good last night, even against a cupcake. I was looking forward to playing them, thinking it'd be a good chance at a win. That is long gone.
Mississippi State is going to be dangerous next week, especially for our defense. Their defense definitely is not as good as last year's but their offense is deadly. Chris Relf, while much improved, still misses a lot of throws he shouldn't miss. Going to be a close one, but I think this might be the Dawgs' year against us.
OMFG Georgia, way to embarass the SEC!! Losing a virtual home game to a MWC team that you are more talented than in pretty much every position on the field with the possible exception of QB and TE? Boise looked experienced and well coached, while GA looked like the bunch of perennial underachievers that they have been for the last 10 years. They outsized Boise at every position. Please tell me how a 350lb DL gets blocked all night long by a 5'10, 252 lb offensive lineman? Shameful. Boise is the best coached team in the country. If Chris Petersen ever decides to move to a real school with real talent, it's going to be ugly for the rest of the schools they have to face. On the flip side, Mark Richt better win a minimum of 10 games this year or he is gone. I'm actually hoping that GA has a good year because if Richt gets fired, look out. I'll bet my left nut they go after Gus Malzhan. Gus Malzhan at GA scares the living hell out of me, and should scare the living hell out of everybody in the SEC. We'll have to keep an eye on that.
Ole MIss sucks. I'm willing to put money down that Houston Nutt doesn't last the year. I live in Arkansas. I watched him coach at Arky. Nutt is like a used car salesman. He comes in, with somebody else's recruits, gets a team fired up, and does well for 1 or 2 seasons. But sooner or later, his good line of bulls**t runs out and then you find out he's a terrible recruiter and average coach at best. Good luck on your future coaching search, Rebs.
Arkansas is slightly better than last year, but they still have holes. Will they improve?
South Carolina must have gotten a serious screaming by Spurrier at halftime. Would love to have been a fly on that wall.
Vandy is Vandy.
And finally, Lou Holtz is still an insufferable idiot, and Mark May still comes to work every day wondering why he has to put up with that insufferable idiot.
See you next week!