Full disclosure: I am an eternally optimistic Auburn fan. I may not outwardly sunshine pump all the time, but I generally refrain from being obviously negative without good cause. You will never hear me boo our quarterback or call for a coach’s head mid-season. This is for two main reasons: 1. I don’t believe it helps anything and 2. Most of the time, I just choose to be happy.
But holy crap, Saturday’s game was bad. It was bad from every imaginable angle:
1. An Auburn loss is always painful.
2. An Auburn loss to a seemingly inferior Arkansas team in an 11 a.m. game is also always painful.
3. Watching Auburn’s quarterbacks take eight sacks is just pitiful.
4. Trusting the development of Quarterback A*, even through obvious struggles with minimal improvement, and then having him yanked mid-game for Quarterback B, who also struggles, is puzzling. I guess I get why they did it. I just wonder how well reasoned it was.
5. I’m no football expert, but the offensive play-calling doesn’t make sense to me. I’ll leave it at that.
6. Any team that can quick snap effectively will probably catch Auburn’s defense out of position more often than not.
7. Any team with a decent D-line will punch Auburn’s O-line in the mouth. But this is the one area where lack of experience hurts the most. I have no idea, other than lack of experience, why the offensive line has been playing like it has.
8. The thing that struck me as the most troubling Saturday was how immature the team appeared. I don’t mean that the players are young. I mean that they don’t know how to handle any kind of adversity, anything that doesn’t initially go their way. And lack of maturity, especially in the middle of the season, only goes back to one thing: leadership and coaching. Yeah, a lot of the guys are young. But a lot of them aren’t so young. When a senior leader gives up before the game is over and doesn’t even attempt to make his blocks, you have to think something is wrong in the locker room. Why weren’t these guys ready after a bye week?
9. I knew Auburn was going to lose this game when they came out of the tunnel. There was no energy. They weren’t on fire like they were against LSU. If the Arkansas game had been played the week after LSU, I think the outcome would have been different. But it wasn’t. Auburn wasn’t ready for that game, after a week to prepare, and from the stands at Jordan-Hare, it looked like they didn’t care. And yeah, I stayed for the whole game. But for the first time in a while, I honestly couldn’t blame the people who didn’t. That team gave up with about 10 minutes remaining.
10. As sad as it is to watch the offense struggle, watching the defense flounder is harder. The soft zone is excruciating. Some players are rarely in position to make any play on the ball, and if by some miracle they do find themselves in position, they don’t finish their tackles or miss the tackles entirely. Every now and then, though, we’ll see flashes of brilliance and what’s to come. They are getting better. I trust Brian VanGorder’s system, and with the talent Auburn has, I honestly believe the defensive woes are temporary. If anyone on the team is playing with fire, it’s the defense.
11. To be fair, special teams weren’t awful.
12. I’m sorry. Two-Bits isn’t the right cheer for timeouts before big third-down defensive plays. It’s just not.
13. Ah, lucky number thirteen. They released Nova from the opposite endzone, somebody probably roasted a hog, and I saw a girl in the student section with tiger eyes face tattoos. All of these things spelled doom. Well, those things and the complete offensive meltdown, but who’s counting?
14. Our friend has been to 36 consecutive Auburn games. He has seen at least one Alabama fan at each of them, and only 3 of them were Iron Bowls. I don’t know what it means, but I find it's kind of sad.
15. That game was the least fun I’ve had at Jordan-Hare since the 2009 Kentucky game.
I love Auburn, and nothing will change that. But I can’t stick my head in the sand and pretend something isn’t amiss. Whether it’s a small cog in the machine or a giant five-alarm fire, I can’t tell you. I just hope it’s something that can be addressed during the season without an ugly firing.
I may be in the minority, even on this blog, but I will not equivocate: Absent gross misconduct, midseason coaching changes never help anyone. If you get rid of Loeffler, who is going to call the plays? Chiz? Troop? Lupe? Mic Man? Me**? I’m not Loeffler’s biggest fan, but I don’t see what getting rid of him Tony Franklin-style would accomplish at this point in the season***.
Safe travels if you’re going to The Grove this weekend, Tiger fans. Oxford is a fun town. I hope our Tigers can bounce back against the Rebels. If not, well, enjoy the tailgate.
Until next time — War Eagle.
*I really like Kiehl Frazier as a person. I really want Kiehl Frazier to succeed. I think Malzahn hung him out to dry and neglected to develop him at all last year. I hate it for him. I really do.
**If I were the designated play-caller, I can sure as hell tell you what I wouldn’t call: O-Mac up the middle. Ever. I love him, but he is not that type of back. But he sure is pretty when he breaks one loose up the sideline. Don't forget to enjoy him this season--when he's not being sent up the middle to impending doom.
***At THIS point. There may be points in the future where it might accomplish a great deal. I just don’t see it helping at this point.