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Goodreads Book Giveaway

The Samurai's Heart by Walt Mussell

The Samurai's Heart

by Walt Mussell

Giveaway ends October 20, 2017.

See the giveaway details at Goodreads.

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Friday, September 28, 2007

The Swamp

Flash Gordon: Prince Barin, I'm not your enemy. Ming is.
Prince Barin: Lower him into the swamp.
(from the 1980 movie Flash Gordon. Click on title to be taken to a link)

Shug Jordan once said that Goliath was a 40-point favorite over David. I thought about starting with that until I realized that LSU will probably be more heavily favored over us than Florida is. The line started at Florida by 20, but I think the last one I saw had Florida by 17. The last time Florida was this big a favorite over us was in 2001. They came in a 21-point favorite.

Auburn won that game, sealing it on a Damon Duval kick that traveled 44 yards (not including the additional yardage it covered going towards the sideline and then flying back into the field of play) in rain, with a 25 mph crosswind.

This time it’s a little different. The line dropping slightly has a hidden meaning. Translation: We’re not going to get beat as bad as people originally thought, though they probably first thought that Florida would easily cover 20 points the way Auburn is playing. Now, Charles Hollis (a sportswriter in Alabama) is predicting Florida by 4. I think it will be close. I hope for the best.

One of the odd things about this game, though, is that they keep using the line, “Tuberville has never won in the Swamp.” Big deal. He’s played there what…twice? The first time, it wasn’t pretty. The last time, 2002, it started out pretty much the same way. Florida jumped out to an early lead. Carnell broke his leg. And Florida stopped us on a fake punt FROM OUR OWN END ZONE late in the 2nd quarter, tacking on a last minute three points as time expired.

In the 2nd half, Ronnie Brown ran over the Florida defense. We tied the game. Then, with time running out, we drove down the field. On the last play of the game, we had a chance to kick a field goal to win it, with the ball placed at very nearly the exact same spot you would kick a extra point.

Duval, the man who did not miss an extra point in his career, missed the exact same kick when it was worth three points.

We lost in overtime.

So far, that game is kind of reminiscent of our season. We feel so close to winning more, but the end result just didn't go our way.

It should be noted that there is one thing in tomorrow's game that is exactly like 2002: Florida wanted revenge for losing to us the previous year. They got it last time, though not how they expected.

This time, let’s hope it falls our way.

War Eagle!

P.S. The networks can't stop talking abut next week's Florida-LSU match-up. Wouldn't it be nice to tick them off.

Wednesday, September 26, 2007

My Boys



As the blog is about parenting, I thought I should break out the pictures. The one on the left is Andrew. He's 10 and in 4th grade. The one on the right is Christopher. He's 5 and in kindergarten. (The weird-looking guy in the middle is me.)

Monday, September 24, 2007

The Score

Every morning, before I leave for work, I give my wife and kids a kiss goodbye. Nearly every morning, my 10-year old, Andrew, wakes up and utters the same groggy sentence, “Daddy, who won?” When Andrew asks this question, he is referring to the Braves. He watches as many games as he can and is particularly fond of his favorite player, Andruw Jones. (He likes the name.) If he could, he would like to stay up and watch the whole game (and sometimes does during the summer), but when it is a school night, he has to get in bed by 8:30. After finding out who won, the next question that always follows is, “What was the score?”

With the Braves season drawing to a close (it would seem), Andrew soon won’t be asking for the score for awhile. That’s okay. After finding out the score, Andrew always utters one last sentence before falling back to sleep: “Daddy, I love you.” Hopefully, after the season ends, he still wakes up and utters that last sentence.

Time For Florida

Well, for a few days, we feel better.

It was hard to feel much worse.

We put up over 400 yards of offense, after failing to reach 300 in the first three games.

We put up 55 points. In the previous three games, we scored a total of 60.

We had one turnover. In the previous three games, we had 13.

In short, we looked good.

It was still New Mexico State.

To re-establish ourselves, we have to do a little more.

This week we have our chance.

Yes, this week we travel to the Swamp to play Florida. The line I have seen is Florida by 20. (The Florida grad in my office says that it has dropped to 17.) The last time I saw it this high was 2001. We were playing Florida then, too. Florida came in to Jordan-Hare a 21-point favorite. The game ended with Auburn winning 23-20 on a Damon Duval 44-yard field goal, splitting the uprights despite rain and a 25 mph crosswind.

That was a great moment. Let’s hope for another.

War Eagle

Saturday, September 22, 2007

Deranged Thought for the Day

Do newspapers in New Mexico, in reference to NMSU coach, Hal Mumme, ever use the headline "The Mumme Strikes" or do they control themselves?

Friday, September 21, 2007

Rumors

OK. I will admit it. I’ve been a little distracted today at work. A lot of rumors have been flying on various websites and my new favorite message board.

There’s a rumor that Cox’s myasthenia gravis has returned. If that is true, we can only wish him the best. Even if it hasn’t, we can still wish him the best as he apparently is pretty much a class act.

There’s a rumor that Tuberville and Borges exchanged heated words about the offense in front of some of the players. I can’t believe this one. If they had the conversation, it would have occurred behind closed doors.

And then there’s Lester. Word is that Auburn is to get word sometime today about his status in the academic suspension. The boards are going crazy, wondering if Lester will be okayed to play. Apparently, we are waiting for clearance from the NCAA. This is the same NCAA that once inadvertently entered a failing grade at the start of a season for a standout Auburn defensive player AND TOOK ALL SEASON to process the correction, offering only a perfunctory apology later.

However, let’s forget innuendo and discuss facts,

Facts:

NMSU is located just north-northwest of El Paso.

The team is 2-1, meaning that all of our first four opponents have better records right now than we do.

They will use a no-huddle offenses and pass like crazy.

We need a victory in the worst way.

One last rumor:
All, or nearly all, of our injured players should be back for next week’s game against Florida.

Fact:
That should make things interesting.

War Eagle

Looking Forward

My senior year at Auburn, I was listed among a group of 50 or so seniors that were considered prominent on campus, due to our campus involvement. (In other words, whoever made the list wasn’t looking at my grades.) The staff at our beloved annual, the Glomerata, sent all of us on the list a page of five questions. The answer to one of the questions would be placed next to your picture in the Glom. These were things like, “Why Did You Come To Auburn?”, “What is your greatest accomplishment?”, and “What advice would you give incoming freshman?” Proud to be recognized (i.e. full of myself), I responded with what I thought were well thought-out, inspirational answers.

When I got my Glom, one of the things I looked at was the section where the 50 of us were listed. I read through what everyone wrote. Many people had written things that can only be called job-interview type answers, putting your best impression forward. I then looked at my picture. They had chosen my answer for “advice to incoming freshmen.” I read what I had written so many months ago, and thought to myself, “What a crock?!” I should have answered that what I could teach incoming freshmen was the words to Louie Louie. However, there it was. My B.S. answer recorded for all time and I couldn’t do a thing about it.

Which brings us to this season. The last two games have felt like huge mistakes that, unfortunately, are now recorded for all time. We can’t change the past. We can only go forward…and kick @$$ from here on out. The whipping begins on Saturday night at 6:00 p.m. CST.

Sunday, September 16, 2007

What's Next

One of my favorite Pat Dye-isms is, “I didn’t have a talk planned for getting beat.”

I did not have a plan for writing something about getting beat either.

Unfortunately, that is what I now find myself doing.

I wish I could find some pithy comment to add meaning. I can’t.

Usually I am pretty good at looking in the past, finding some correlation between the current season and a past season or at least the most recent game and a past game. I started thinking about the 2003 season, where we started slow and finished 8-5. I also looked at the 2001 season, where we had quarterback issues between Cobb and Campbell. Neither of these fit. I then thought about UGA’s season from last year. They nearly got beat by Colorado to open the season, struggled for much of the season, and then finished strong.

Then I realized my problem.

I was looking at the past.

Auburn has a lot of young players in key position…and a serious lack of senior leadership. An article this week on www.al.com/auburnfootball/ pointed to Jetgate as being the reason. The combination of Jetgate and potential accreditation issues gave new recruits to Auburn pause. This current class is the result of that.

When I look at the current Auburn team, I realize I am looking at the future. The senior leaders are few. The younger players on the field are there because they are at the top of the depth chart. They are good, but they struggle.

So when I say we are looking at the future, I don’t mean that it is as bleak as the present season looks like right now. I mean that we will be seeing the same players for the next two or three years and that they will be good.

Now, though, it’s a struggle. We will have to take it one game at a time.

As Pat Dye would say, “It’s time for a gut check.”

War Eagle

Friday, September 14, 2007

Needing Caffeine

Last season, when Auburn had early games, they played like absolute crap. The bad teams hung in too long. (The Ole Miss game went to the wire.) A couple of decent teams ran all over us. (No names needed.)

Today is an early game.

We should win,

I am nervous.

What can I say? I watched the MSU-LSU game two weeks ago. MSU’s defense did well for at least a half.

Auburn’s offense has sputtered five quarters out of eight this year.

Those were in night games.

I am nervous.

The national press has already written us off. Collegefootbalnews.com referred to this weekend’s Arkansas-Alabama game as the battle to see who would challenge LSU.

One OT loss dropped us out of both polls. Virginia Tech fell fewer sports and they were totally annihilated.

Let’s face it, though. We like being written off.

Auburn is never better than when it has been written off.

This is where the caffeine begins.

This is where the fun begins.

War Eagle

Tuesday, September 11, 2007

Auburn's SEC Opener



With Auburn's SEC opener occurring this weekend, I thought the cartoon above, sent to me by a friend, was appropriate. If I am violating a copyright with this post, please let me know. Thanks.

Sunday, September 9, 2007

Spoiler Warning

When I watch Auburn games, I often set up my computer on ESPN’s website that automatically tracks stats. Prior to the start of the OT, the score USF 26, Auburn 23 showed up on my screen. I was taken aback. The game wasn’t over…or was it. I thought to myself that it had to be an error.

Then I realized the awful truth. ESPN must have had a glitch in their delay mechanism. The game was over and I would see the results in a few minutes. I told myself again that it was just a glitch and that the OT had just repeated the points scored in fourth quarter and then added it in. Still, I now had an awful feeling in my stomach, a feeling that would not go away. I tried to tell myself it was going to be okay as Auburn lost the toss…as Trott dropped the pass…as we brought out the field goal unit. When Byrum’s kick looked like it didn’t have a chance the way it was spinning, I told myself that everything was still going to be okay…before the kick still sailed through. I told myself as USF went for it on 4th and 1 that we were going to stop them and that we were still going to win this…all the way until that TD pass sealed our fate.

So congratulations to South Florida. They played hard and won the game. We looked good in the 2nd quarter. When we took the lead just before the half, I was convinced we would win the game. With all the mistakes in the 2nd half, I thought we would still pull it out. Even when I got the advance notice of the final score, I still believed that we could win. But unlike so many close games before, the magic ran out. An opponent didn’t end the game scratching their heads thinking, “How did we lose that game?”

Think about the magic, though. Every time it has been close in the last three years, we have won every game but one. Our only other loss in a close game: LSU 20, Auburn 17. Also, an overtime contest. Also, a contest where a kicker missed untold field goal attempts and a special teams lapse was crucial in regulation. As I watched this game, I thought to myself that this must be the karma for that LSU game. How we lost that one, I have no clue. Given our mega-turnovers in the 2nd half, how we stayed in last night’s game, I have no clue.

Actually I do. Note the good things:

-> Our defense allowed only three points off of five turnovers. (I know that they had a couple of lapses in the first quarter.)
-> We DO have a good new kicker.
-> Fannin had a good first half. Despite his second half turnovers, he and Tate are the next Williams-Brown tandem.
-> This WILL wake us up, just in time for the SEC.
-> We didn’t graduate from Michigan or Notre Dame.

I haven’t checked the articles and message boards today yet, as I wanted to wait until after I wrote this post. That way I would not color my message. I am sure everyone is predicting doom for us. I am particularly certain that the Alabama fans are now invading the Auburn message boards, talking smack and claiming that they are back. In other words, claiming victory again in the early fall, despite five straight losses in November. SI may even do another “Bama is back” cover like they did in 2005.

However, one thing still gives me pride. As I was leaving church this morning, I noticed a Gamecocks flag still on one of the cars. Given the number of specialized UGA license plates around, putting out a Gamecocks flag was not the smartest thing to do. Granted, it was still a church parking lot, so the driver, I am sure, wasn’t too worried. However, I noticed one other flag flying on someone’s car…an Auburn one. Win or lose, we stand with our team and behind them. Only an Auburn fan would have driven to church the day after a loss with an Auburn flag still attached to the car.

War Eagle!

Saturday, September 8, 2007

The Long Wait

I lived in Oregon for twelve years before returning to the South 18 months ago. One of the things I liked about living in the Northwest was Saturday mornings during college football season. Being on PST, I could turn on ESPN and watch College GameDay at 7:30 a.m. I could brew a pot of coffee, make breakfast, and watch in the early morning. The first kickoff would be at 9:00 a.m. This did present a problem if Auburn was playing at 9:00 a.m., as these were always regional broadcasts. You couldn’t get JP Sports/Lincoln Financial Sports in Oregon, so you had to go to a sports bar.

Yeah, good luck finding one open at 9:00 a.m. Actually, my Auburn friends and I in the Northwest did find places that opened at 10:00 a.m. and let us in early to watch while they prepared for the mid-day rush. (Note to the staffs at Damon’s Grill: Thanks again!)

Here, back on EST again though, the first kickoff is not until Noon. You might think that I could sleep in. Yet, my kids still rise on Saturdays between 7-8:00 a.m., so I get up, brew a pot of coffee, and make breakfast. And I wait for 10:30 to arrive.

With tonight’s game not kicking off until late, I know, however, that it will be a day even longer than usual. Being the late game on ESPN2, the Auburn game will likely not finish until midnight. It’s days like this that drive my wife insane, as I seem to watch all day. It gives me more reason to get nervous. Also, I broke one of my cardinal rules, I actually bet on Auburn today. Granted, it was only for coffee and I couldn’t ignore the opportunity for straight up bet.

I do think Auburn will win. I have less trepidation than I had last week. There are too may people saying that Auburn is an upset victim waiting to happen today, so the team won’t be caught unawares. (Not that it would be hard, given that USF has knocked off a Top 10 opponent each of the last two seasons, including a 24-19 shocking of West Virginia in Morgantown, the place where Auburn opens the 2008 season.

One final note: Not many Auburn fans realize this, but last week’s match was a home-and-home one. Auburn will pay a visit to K-State…in 2014.

War Eagle!

Thursday, September 6, 2007

Big 12 Down. Big East Next

Auburn took care of business against the Big 12 last week. This week it is South Florida and the Big East. South Florida is a dark horse Big East contender. Though not listed in the Coaches' or AP Poll, South Florida is listed as a Top 25 team in other polls. The current line is 6, though to hear my co-workers (the USF graduates) talk, Auburn should be at least a two TD favorite and that's how many points they want. I am not biting. It's going to be close....again.

Both conferences lost only one game last week, with Tennessee falling to Cal and Syracuse getting waxed by Washington. Should be interesting this time around.

Sunday, September 2, 2007

Shades of Georgia Tech

As I watched Auburn play K-State, the same thought kept popping up in my mind: this reminds me of a Ga Tech game. In Cox’s first game as the Auburn QB, Auburn played at home against Ga Tech. The team looked inept, especially in the Red Zone. There was no running game, as the best runner on the team (irons in ’05, Lester in ’07) was on the bench. (Lester was suspended. Irons just didn’t play much.)

The difference between then and now was the penalties. In ’05, Auburn committed over 100 yards in penalties, shooting itself in the foot at every opportunity. The most costly one I remember was a holding call. It looked like one of those “you’ve gotta be kidding me” type fouls that never happened. In addition, it was nowhere near and had absolutely no effect on the outcome of the play; still, the effect of the call was to negate a 40+ yard TD pass that would have put Auburn up 14-10 (assuming a made PAT) and changed the dynamics of the game.

In this game, however, the penalties were on the other team. The penalties that killed us in the opener in ’05 saved us in ’07. Time after time, a K-State penalty benefited Auburn when we needed it the most. Finding ourselves one last time in the Red Zone late in the game, K-State committed another penalty (offsides) that moved us from the 6-yd line to the 3-yard line and set up the winning TD. A fumble returned for a TD later would make it 23-13.

As I look back this year’s opener, I remember the following: As bad as the ’05 team looked against Tech that year, they went on to a great season, losing only in OT at LSU and in the bowl game against Wisconsin. Similar success this year (though I really want to beat LSU in Baton Rouge) would be welcome.

There is one last thing: John Pruett, of the Huntsville Times, commented in his column this morning that, "Seldom has a final score been more deceiving." I can think of a similar game that ended the exact same way. On the road, Auburn trailed most of the game against a team it should have been beating by at least two TDs. Down 10-7 late in the 4th quarter, Auburn finally drove the field with Lawyer Tillman making a spectacular one-handed grab in the end zone to put Auburn up 14-10 with a minute to play. The other team tried to come back, but Aundray Bruce intercepted the ball on the last play and ran it back for a TD. Final score was 20-10.

It was about 20 years ago, I think, as I believe it occurred in ’86 or ‘87. The other team was Ga. Tech.