I've never been one for showboating. I'm of the 'do your talking on the field' sort. Luckily for me, Auburn teams aren't that type either. At their best, they usually play with a quiet confidence. But this team, under the stewardship of the Heisman favorite Cameron Newton, is starting to show just a tinge of swagger, and I think I like it. What I witnessed happening in Oxford Saturday night was something I don't believe I've ever seen during an Auburn away game: from the beginning, the team and the crowd took control of the opponent's stadium.
On TV, you could see all the Auburn fans crammed in the end zone, but a size-able chunk of them were also around the right side 10 yard line. Not only were they seen, but they were definitely heard. After that initial long TD run, Rebel fans were seldom heard from again compared to the Tiger fans. There must have been a ton of extra tickets gobbled up by Auburn folk. I was proud to see that turnout and it made me lament that I didn't try to go. We staged our own Tiger Walk there, for crying out loud. Have we ever done that before? Not that I can recall, but then again, we'd never been a BCS #1 before either.
Did Ole Miss even bring in their band? All I could hear was ours and I think we brought the house. They must have had a field mic right in the Auburn section. Four quick beeps on the whistle is band code for War Eagle. I learned that one quickly. They had me trained to pick up my air trumpet and blow the first few notes on cue by halftime. Towards the end of the game after most of their crowd had left, the Rebels were trying to score their last touchdown into our end zone, and the crowd noise was enormous. On TV, it sounded like we were at Jordan-Hare. Even the announcers noticed as much. I think this week, all those who travelled get a game ball. You sure pumped up the team and gave them tremendous confidence to win that one in a blowout.
But the best part about this game--and probably the biggest bit of our swagger--is that although we came in showcasing Cam Newton, we actually came to beat you with the rest of the guys. Maybe Cam was a decoy of sorts, maybe out to send a message or prove a point. Although Ole Miss gamed for him all week, we never intended him to play as leading a role in this contest as he had withthe preceding two. We meant for the rest of the team to lay waste to Mississippi, with Cam simply as a conductor to our finely tuned offensive orchestra. I knew it immediately when he didn't make a single designed run until well into the first few possessions. Auburn was out to instill confidence in our other key players and had a unique opportunity to do so against Ole Miss without diminishing Cam's Heisman star quality. Yea, the Kodi Burns lob into the end zonewith Cam going up for the jump ball was tailor-made for the highlight reels and Heisman voters, but Gus Malzahn was bound and determined to spread the ball around and let the light shine on the rest of his talented team.
It was good to see Michael Dyer finally get his break-out game that we've all been waiting on, and Onterio McCalleb has firmly established himself as the speedy alternative to Dyer's power rushing. Don't look now, but Dyer actually leads South Carolina's Marcus Lattimore in yards (723 to 722) on less carries (120 to 151) though Dyer has played (technically) in one more game. With Dyer having now solidified his position as the main back on the team, barring injury, he'll go on to rush for well over 1000 yards and could possibly win the crown asthe conference's top rushing running back--including over a certain two across the state. And before you argue that those across the state in question split carries, I'll remind you that so does Dyer and McCalleb. Currently the talley is 1280 yards versus 1150, but with one more game played for us. It's all academic though. Everyone will probably get beat out by Cam. He's still 4th in the nation in rushing on just a paltry 11 carries against the Rebels.
Emory Blake had his big breakout game as well with 5 catches. Malzahn must have seen something in the Ole Miss secondary that he wanted to exploit, with a number of balls thrown to Blake on a post pattern. With Darvin Adams and Terrell Zachary doing their normal incredible work, it's good to have a third wideout step up as a reliable go-to guy. Unfortunately, Blake's emergence comes at a price, with fewer balls being thrown to TE/H-back Phillip Lutzenkirchen and out of the backfield to Mario Fannin. Withonly 71 plays run, we're still off the goal of 80 per game, and with the rushing attack at full steam, passes are coming at a premium.
But no where on the team is more swag being emitted than from KR Demond Washington. This guy is a legitimate threat to break it wide open on every catch. He finally got his long one for a TD and he averaged over 35 per against Ole Miss. He's currently 3rd in the nation in total return yardage, and with McCalleb back there with him, it's a pick your poison dilemma for opposing place kickers. I'm sure there's a good reason why we don't let Washington try it with some punts, it's just that I've never heard it. Can someone esplain me?
Yes, Auburn played with swagger on Saturday, and the biggest part of it is that it didn't take Cam Newton on full throttle to throttle the Rebels. This team's confidence grows a little bit more each week, but I think Gene Chizik took the reigns off some of their bottled-up emotions in practice leading up to the game and let them celebrate and enjoy their success of ascending to the top of the BCS. Pads were out--mostly to help the team heal physically, but to also symbolize a coming-out party of sorts for the Tigers. These guys are playing like champions and waltzed into Oxford looking every bit like it, too.