It won't be long before I'm going to go into my usual few months where I only have 2-3 cigars because I just don't want to brave the cold for over an hour, but tonight I'm going to take advantage of the cool evening air of the Loveliest Village and express some more editorial thoughts on this year's edition of the Iron Bowl.
I recapped the game, yesterday. You can check it out, here. I finally figured out that my iPad gets enough service off the campus wifi that I can write the recaps of the games as they happen even if I'm in the stadium. It's not fun to do it that way, but it worked. I knew going into this one that I wasn't likely to want to come home and relive the experience again. I was right, but not for the reasons I initially suspected.
I'll do a post-mortem on the season as a whole before long. Whether it will come before or after the bowl game, I don't quite know just yet. They continued to do what they've done all season long, though. They fought. That Alabama team might just be the best in the nation, and the Tigers had them on the ropes at times. A consistent offense and that game could have ended a different way. Could have. I'm not going to say it would have.
There are so many "what ifs," though. What if Sean White never got hurt and the offense was able to keep evolving? That would have made for a much different team going into last night on the offensive side of the ball. To keep it into just last night, what if Blake Countess converts that pick-6? What if the defense is able to make one or two of those stops or sacks on Coker before Alabama's touchdown drive early 2nd half?
What if the refs actually call holding? Nah, that one really is pointless to speculate on. It wasn't going to happen.
I get that some people don't like what Will Muschamp did, but I also understand why he did it. From the angle I had in the upper deck, some of those missed calls were absolutely horrible. I'm sure they missed calling some on Auburn, too, but the holds I saw missed defied logic and reason to me. Muschamp couldn't believe it, either, and he knew it was affecting his defense.
If you want to take a positive from that, just imagine the big name recruits who were in the stands and saw the fire and passion Coach Boom has for his boys and how much he fights for them.
Last night really was a microcosm of the 2015 season. The lack of trust in the quarterback led to some serious questions in play calling. Where was Jovon Robinson for the second half? Why did the coaches suddenly decide that throwing the football was the best answer?
Some of it was execution, too. Jeremy Johnson had Ricardo Louis wide open for two touchdowns. Once in the 1st half, once in the 2nd. In the 1st half he had two steps on the DB. A well thrown ball and he walks in. In the second half, Louis was running free on what looked almost like a wheel route once I saw Louis get open. Johnson threw it 2-3 yards too far ahead of him.
Still, though, Auburn put up more yards rushing on Alabama in the first half than Alabama was averaging giving up per game. Why abandon the run? Part of it may be because Alabama took a two score lead. Part of it could be that once Avery Young left the game, the line just wasn't getting any push. Young's absence definitely showed in the passing game, as Johnson was harried on almost every passing attempt afterwards.
On the defensive side of the ball, I thought Auburn played very well, overall. They held Alabama to numerous field goals. Credit to Alabama's kicker for making them all. I never saw Griffith as the goat for the Kick-Six. He didn't miss all of the earlier kicks, and 56 yards is a heck of a kick for most any kicker. He did exactly what was needed for his team in this one. Had he not, then there's another thing that could have turned the momentum on numerous occasions.
Derrick Henry is a beast of a running back, that's for sure. Anyone is going to rack up a ton of yards when they carry the ball 46 times, and by the 4th quarter, Auburn's defense just couldn't make a stop. They held him in check when they needed to most until the point where they were too worn down and the offense couldn't do anything for them. I really wish they could have stopped him from scoring that final touchdown, though.
It's been a long regular season ever since the Jacksonville State game. It's over, now. We look ahead to the bowl game announcement this weekend, and then we'll start looking to next season. I'll have some speculation on staffing before long, too. Some of my thoughts on what may happen many of you won't like. I don't particularly care for it, myself. I don't think the future is anything approaching doom-and-gloom, though. I think this team is a good quarterback and some wide receivers from being a very good football team.
If you doubt that, just think on this one fact, as Tuco said in a group e-mail with all the staff: the worst Gus Malzahn team just put a hell of a scare into one of Nick Saban's best teams. It wasn't an exception, either. Every time Gus has either been at the reigns himself or not hamstrung, his offenses have given Saban fits. This team will be back, and they'll be back strong.
War Eagle. Always.