|Auburn Tigers||Arkansas Razorbacks|
By Jay Coulter
Smash mouth football is an overused term. Saturday night in Fayetteville it fit perfectly. On a night when Auburn quarterback Brandon Cox had his chin busted wide open and Arkansas coach Houston Nutt had his Razorback career all but ended, the Tigers found a way to stay around the SEC party a little longer.
Saturday’s 9-7 win over the Hogs was perhaps a better tribute to the 1957 National Championship team than wearing white uniforms at Jordan-Hare Stadium. For 60 minutes fans were treated to throwback football.
A game that was expected to be a battle of backfields, turned into a defensive showcase worthy of the guys who wore the orange and blue 50 years ago.
With apologies to Wayne Hall, Bill Oliver and Gene Chizik, defensive coordinator Will Muschamp has in two short years become the best defensive coordinator to ever walk the Auburn sideline.
Just when you think the Auburn defense can’t possibly do anymore, they find a way to up the ante. Has there ever been a better defense in Auburn history? There certainly hasn’t in the last quarter century.
With Auburn’s All-American defensive end Quentin Groves watching from the sidelines, the Tiger’s shut down Arkansas backs Darren McFadden and Felix Jones.
The numbers are staggering. McFadden carried for a paltry 43 yards and Jones was worse, collecting 42 yards of rushing. Coming into the game McFadden was averaging 158 yards a game and Jones was behind him with 126.
This group of young, no name defenders effectively ended the coaching career of Houston Nutt and derailed the Heisman candidacy of McFadden. How fitting that McFadden’s rise to stardom would start and end with the Tigers.
On the other side of the ball it was by no means pretty. Brandon Cox wasn’t razor sharp, the receivers dropped balls they shouldn’t and that group of 18 and under showed they were human on the offensive line in the first half.
But this group believed. With the game on the line with a little over two minutes left, Cox showed why he’s one of the best in the big games. Few can run a two minute offense like he can. And wasn’t it good to see Robert Dunn make the big run to set up the game winner? That confidence builder should pay dividends in the coming weeks.
How many believed in August that Auburn would be undefeated on the road heading to LSU?
How big was the divide between LSU and Auburn a month ago? In my nearly 40 years of watching college football, this is the most improbable year I’ve ever seen – both nationally and for Auburn.
Saturday’s contest is shaping up to be for all the marbles in the SEC West. Who would have thought it on September 15th? With the way things are happening across college football, Auburn has a legitimate shot at a BCS bowl game and even a top 5 finish.
Is college football fun or what?