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Meltdown At Pat Dye Field

By Jay Coulter

Nothing lasts forever. How many times have we heard that? Sitting in Jordan-Hare Stadium last night, everyone knew Auburn was struggling. Like last week, they didn’t deserve to win. But most of the 82,000 on hand expected the Tigers to find a way to pull it out.

That’s what we’ve grown accustomed to over the past three years. Tommy Tuberville’s teams find ways to win, even when they don’t deserve it. Those days are gone - maybe not forever, but almost certainly this season.

Tuberville preaches the importance of senior leadership on his teams. It’ a virtue that’s completely missing on the offensive side of the ball. Fair or not, you have to start with quarterback Brandon Cox.

Rarely do you see a senior quarterback’s skills diminish with each passing year. Cox appeared to be having more than just an off night against South Florida. Watching him on the sidelines he appeared to almost be detached from what was happening on the field.

It would be real easy to blame Auburn’s young receivers. They weren’t perfect. However, Cox more closely resembled a freshman quarterback getting his first start, than someone who’s lost only three conference games in his career.

Watching the replay on Tivo this morning, ESPN analyst Rod Gilmore pointed out that Cox was locking on his primary receiver from the second he took the snap. South Florida’s defensive secondary was just waiting out there for the throw.

Gilmore was 100 percent right. Fortunately or unfortunately for Auburn, depending on how you look at it, his throws were so bad that neither side had a shot at the ball.

Rumors have been floating around since before the Kansas State game that Cox had a relapse of myasthenia gravis (MG) recently, the disease that saps your energy and nearly derailed Cox’s career when he arrived at Auburn. I’ve hesitated to report it here because I’ve found no one that can confirm it. And nothing leads me to believe now that these rumors are true. However, it would certainly explain a lot.

There were some positives offensively – if you looked hard enough. The offensive line improved from week one against Kansas State. Unfortunately, senior offensive tackle King Dunlap continues to struggle. More times than not, the left side of the line collapsed first when Cox attempted to throw. When your freshmen tackle is out performing your senior one, you know you have real problems.

As a whole the unit held it blocks longer and gave the Tiger running backs time to hit their holes. As a result Ben Tate and Mario Fannin made some terrific runs. They were overshadowed by Fannin’s two fumbles that nearly put the game out of reach well before overtime began. Brad Lester’s absence is looming larger by the day.

What do you say about this Auburn defense? What a waste they have to be paired with such an inept offense. Playing without four starters including, linebackers Tray Blackmon and Merrill Johnson, safety Aairon Savage and cornerback Jonathan Wilhite, the defense played well enough to win.

If offensive coordinator Al Borges could get half the production out of his group that defensive coordinator Will Muschamp gets out of his, this team would have a shot in every game.

As it stands now, Auburn is starring down the barrel of a five loss season. You do the math. The Tigers have three weeks to get ready for the trip to Gainsville. At this point, I’m not sure if three months would be enough.