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Storm au Brewing!

September 21, 2009

What a great way to start the first official week of Autumn: undefeated, optimistic, having fun and more importantly, full of belief! Auburn weathered two storms on Saturday – and today have the enviable task of avoiding a let down against the Ball State Cardinals.

Saturday started overcast and progressed through intense humidity, glimpses of sunshine, rolling low clouds and fog, more sunshine, higher humidity and then a deluge complete with lightning flashes. Fast forward to game time (just over one hour later than scheduled), and Auburn faced a lightning storm of its own, staring at a 14-0 deficit in the first five minutes of the game.

West Virginia’s combo of Brown and Devine were everything and then some that we expected. Of course, when you approach them with arm tackles, they look even better. Much as Joe predicted, WV’s offense exposed Auburn’s defense early and often.

On the other side of the ball, Auburn’s running game was stifled. Onterio McCalebb looked frustrated, Ben Tate looked hamstrung and Auburn surrendered its first sack of the year.

Who’ll stop the rain?

Auburn’s student section ignored the calls to leave the stands and sang and chanted through the storm. The TV viewers of the world must have wondered if Auburn sells mens clothing by game time based on the number of shirtless males in the student section. Other schools have the “12th man”, but on Saturday night, Auburn added the phrase to the repertoire as the 87k fans who stayed put demonstrated. They were loud and ready for revenge. They didn’t give up when Auburn clawed back from hole after hole, 1st down after 1st down – 10 for 15 to be exact. Coach Chizik called on the fans last week and the fans responded.

(muddy) Country Roads.

West Virginia sniffed out the Wildcat, preventing Kodi Burns from a repeat performance of the week prior and stuffing McCalebb to the tune of 20 yards. Ben Tate added another 75, or about half of the output against Mississippi State. However, not to be outdone, Chris Todd lit up the middle of the field with wheel routes to Eric Smith and strikes to Darvin Adams. His 275 yards and 4 touchdowns were career highs. The TD toss to Mario Fannin forced WVU into panic mode and changed the template of the game.

It was readily apparent, a two TD deficit was not enough to force these Tigers into a storm shelter.

On defense, the number was gaudy: 509 yards surrendered, but with 6 turnovers. Finish that off with a win and +5 turnover margin and few if any outside the coaching ranks will complain. Yes, the poor tackling was frustrating, but give some credit to West Virginia. They played physical football. Dare I say they played, SEC football? The part of the radar that is most troubling is perhaps the lack of depth on defense showing itself early (week 3) in the tackling problems. Who knows? This prediction is as troubling as any southeastern spring time picnic weather forecast.

By the end of the game, Auburn had done everything it needed to win. The offense adjusted and truly took what was given to them. The defense, unable to truly stop the Mountaineers on third down, resorted to turnovers to get off the field. Special teams delivered with timely, lengthy field goals, no muffed punts, and not allowing a TD on a kickoff or punt return. And more specifically and just as important, Chris Todd showed a lot of poise under pressure ending the night covered in the mud and turf of Pat Dye field.

Looking beyond, Auburn faces a Ball State team that has sunk to 0-3 after a 12-0 run last year. Auburn has never lost to Ball State in their previous 2 meetings this decade. The coaches have already talked about guarding against a let-down with a “lesser” opponent sandwiched between a signature win and the first road game of the year in Tennessee the week after. What we could hope for is Auburn to rest the starters for the bulk of the third and fourth quarters thanks to a dominating first half and a lopsided Auburn scoreboard. What we’ll get depends a lot on the practice notes this week.

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One Comment
  1. I don’t know If I said it already but …This blog rocks! I gotta say, that I read a lot of blogs on a daily basis and for the most part, people lack substance but, I just wanted to make a quick comment to say I’m glad I found your blog. Thanks, 🙂

    A definite great read..Jim Bean

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