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South Cackalackies Oh-for-Auburn

Normally Auburn doesn't get a slate of Palmetto state teams without throwing a Furman or a Citadel in the mix, but we just ran through their best in back-to-back weekends and the visitors fared as well as they normally do--they lost. Now I know that sounds bold, but I'm merely pointing out the unbelievably curious statistic of Auburn's dominance over teams from that state, which admittingly, is a bit misleading. Few who read this site were alive back in 1951 when Clemson last beat Auburn, and FDR wasn't quite through his first year in office the last time the Gamecocks were victorious over us in 1933. What does that mean? Nothing--that we don't play either that often, really. Auburn never had much of a history with USC prior to the conference realignment, and I'm too lazy to go back and see if we ever played both teams in the same season previously.

Having attended both games, I'll say that there was a stark contrast in the fan bases and what they brought to the Plains. Clemson fans, long known for their $2 bill travelling ways, packed more into JHS than I've seen in a long time from any opponent. They obviously capitalized on the available tickets in the top right corner of the away upper deck and made their presence known. Carolina fans, on the other hand, probably only had half as many by my estimation, but were loud nonetheless. But considering the position that their team was in, challenging for the early east lead, it's disappointing for them that their turnout wasn't better. I'd always heard that they were the most loyal, long-suffering fans. Even Chicaco Cubs fans are sympathetic to them.

Tickets were in absolute abundance for this game. Acid Reign and I traded our two face-value end zone seats up at the last minute for three together on the 25 yard line at $20 each and had to quickly sell a pair and a single. I got $20 each for the pair and $5 for the single. And the only reason I got that much is because I trusted the girls to wire me the money the next day. Yes, they were Auburn fans, yes, they were cute, and yes, they paid.

Official attendance was announced at just below capacity, but it wasn't over 84-85k at most. The crowd was just as electric as it was the week before, perhaps even more so. It's still upsetting to see empty seats in the ESPN prime-time game of the week between the #12 and #16 teams in the country. There's just something un-Auburn about that
regardless of how many Cocks fans didn't show up. Just curious if anyone knows if tickets were still on sale at the box office on Saturday. Extra tickets, athletic department? Two words: ticket kiosks--at all three bookstores and at Toomers. (And I wasn't even a marketing major.)

And as Jay mentioned yesterday, seeing Steve Spurrier on the sidelines is a treat for any opposing CFB fan. Spurrier made what will probably be his last trip ever to Jordan-Hare and he didn't disappoint. At one point in the 4th quarter I saw a silvery clipboard go flying by the opposite sidelines. With the visor all but retired and headsets too expensive to toss, I guess it's all that's left. Except for tossing quarterbacks, of course.

Home, homer on the Plains: I'm sorry, but you simply can't have a conversation about the most exciting player in the nation and not name Cam Newton three times out of three. I abhor Heisman talk before the middle of the season, so when the hour is near, tell me why his name won't top the list. He's now in the top three in the country in passing efficiency (mostly for his yards per attempt), AND he's in the top seven in rushing. Excuse me if I go too fast, but didn't Tim Tebow do basically the same thing? Aside from the obvious distinction of being an off-season, untrained, third-world mohel, I can't tell the difference other than Cam smiles more and cries less.

Acid Reign was correct in his Sunday write-up when he stated that the coaches basically removed the chains Cam was dragging for this game. Many of us thought that they had put the brakes on his scrambling after the Arky-State game where he took a lot of big hits while running over defenders. I think that hampered his game against State and Clemson. Cam has one speed and it's dual overhead. True, we run a major risk by constantly letting him run up the middle, which he is wont to do on the zone read. Anytime you see McCalebb lined up with Newton, the only one going up the middle is Cam.

What a difference being up or down 14 makes. At the end of last season, Auburn didn't have much luck with busting out with 14-point leads, losing eventually to Georgia and Alabama and almost lousing it up against Northwestern. This season, we're on the opposite end of the spectrum and are spotting teams 14 points or so. It was 17 against Clemson and 13 against Carolina, but the point here is that no one on the team seemed to panic. With our offense having it's way against the Gamecocks in a second consecutive big 3rd quarter in as many weeks, there was little reason to fret.

Late in the 4th when Carolina was driving in between four turnovers, I had little doubt that even if they had managed to score and tie it up, that we were going to score again, then again if necessary. They couldn't stop us. We didn't punt the whole second half until the next-to-last possession when they had us pinned and we had to get conservative. It goes without saying that this team (after the State game) has now become a second half team--keenly aware of the adjustments that they must make at the break. All I can think of is conditioning. We wore them flat out. The defensive line was still getting penetration well into the 4th quarter and more than a few drop-backs by Stephen Garcia looked like a jail break of Auburn defenders. Hat's off to the defense this game. Ted Roof and company were more than a match against a quality, big-play offense and their play in the first four games has improved remarkably each contest.

Battle of the Freshman RB Phenoms quietly won by Michael Dyer: If there is one thing that Auburn defenses can do is to stop a quality running back if they put their minds to it. Think Heisman Trophy winner Mark Ingram for one. Marcus Lattimore, the highly-touted recruit who chose the Gamecocks over Auburn, came into town looking to hang 200 on us like he almost did to Georgia. Instead, he left with Emmitt Smith-like numbers. As a matter of fact, the whole Gamecock team didn't rush this game as many times as Lattimore did against the Dogs. Dyer eventually got on track and notched 100 yards, his first time accomplishing that feat this season. Onterio McCalebb rushed for 55 yards and is still averaging over 7 ypc for the season. With 334 yards versus 79, Auburn proved that not only can they run it on you, but can stop it as well.

Coming out party: Phillip Lutzenkirchen, who normally has his name mis-pronounced more than he gets his number called, caught all three balls thrown his way, including a TD late in the game on third and goal. And he had to climb the ladder on that one, as Cam threw it slightly high. Even more interesting was Lutz's use in the slot position, where he served as a de facto full back on many of the end around and zone read plays. It was great to finally see this supreme athlete and consummate team player give a hint of his potential. I think that as the meat of our season progresses, Gus Malzahn will call his number a bit more frequently.