Monday, December 29, 2008

Starting the New Year

I was blessed recently to be published in the January 2009 issue of Catechist, a magazine for teachers in Catholic schools. The essay dealt with suggestions for teaching religious sacraments to children with special needs. For those who would like to read the essay, please click here.

Welcome Catechist Readers

I was blessed recently to be published in the January 2009 issue of Catechist, a magazine for teachers in Catholic schools. The essay dealt with suggestions for teaching religious sacraments to children with special needs. For those who would like to read the essay, please click here.

To the readers of Catechist, thanks for dropping by. I hope you will find my blog interesting and worth your time.

Sunday, December 21, 2008

The Other Talk I’m Not Ready For

I don’t remember how old I was when I learned the truth about Santa Claus. I do remember how it happened. It was like the song says:

She didn’t see me creep, down the stairs to have a peek.
She thought that I was tucked up in my bedroom fast asleep.

However, instead of catching my mother kissing Santa Claus, I caught her setting out gifts. I had snuck down quietly, though, and went back upstairs to hide my deception. The next morning, when I rose at 5:00 a.m. for my annual ritual of playing card games with my older sister until it was time to go down and open presents, I wavered about informing my sister of my discovery.
“Sis, do you know there’s no Santa Claus?”
“Yes, but keep pretending to believe, at least for the parental units” she said. “You get more stuff that way.”

My kids are ages eleven and six and both still look forward to Santa Claus. However, my wife and I have a concern with our older one, Andrew. It’s not that he doesn’t believe. It’s just that he doesn’t question things like other kids do. We know that his friends are asking questions and likely many of them, like the kid in the movie The Polar Express, are at their crucial years. This may be the last time for them.

For Andrew, though, he may carry his belief for another few years…and that worries my wife and me. Andrew’s speech and social challenges already make him different and kids will make fun of him, as he gets older, particularly at middle school which he will start next fall. My wife and I work hard to help Andrew with his social skills, to minimize the chances of other kids regarding him as “different.” And it’s because of this we wonder…will we have to tell Andrew about Santa Claus.

For many of you, you may think, “Why bother?” You may regard it as lucky that we get to enjoy for a longer time what many parents wish they could have had. But it’s not an issue of what we want to enjoy at home. It’s an issue of making sure there’s one less thing at school for which kids can make fun of him.

At the moment, there is a ping-pong table in the basement. It’s Andrew’s gift from Santa. I was up until 2:30 a.m. last night assembling it. I had to do it early, as I didn’t want to chance discovering on Christmas Eve that there were parts missing. There’s nothing in the basement that Andrew would go down and see, but I have to hope that he doesn’t go down early to scope out where a table might be placed.

My wife and I will decide sometime after Christmas what we plan to do about next year. For now, we’ll let him enjoy 2008. And I would love to hear from parents about when their kids learned the truth about Santa Claus.

Friday, December 19, 2008

Nancy Pelosi (aka Jay Jacobs) Must Go

A day after Chizik was announced, a poll appeared on asking how you felt about it (the coaching change) now that you’d had a chance to sleep on it. Admittedly, it’s taken me longer than that.

However, with a week in the rearview mirror and a realization that it wasn’t a cruel joke perpetrated by some other world universe that we stepped into, I’d like to say the following.

I support Auburn University, my alma mater and former home of four years
I support Coach Chizik and his efforts to lead Auburn.
I support the team and their efforts at all times and regardless of the outcome.

However, this was the stupidest move the athletic department has made since making the decision to refer to Birmingham as a neutral site. I had an easier time realizing Obama was our next President.

But at least in the case of Obama, the nation made its decision and we had a vote on it. In the case of the Auburn’s head coach, the power brokers toppled Tuberville and replaced him with Chizik. (No, I do not believe the resignation story, even with the letter, given the amount of money that changed hands.) No vote. Just a coup d’etat that was portrayed as a democratic decision.

Chizik seems to be saying the right things. I do like the idea of getting assistant coaches that played at Auburn and made Auburn a winner when they were players. However, Turner Gill apparently had the same idea. Why didn’t it work for him? Why didn’t it work for a coach who took a team from worst in Division I-A to a conference championship in three years?

Jay Gogue has since come out and said that he alone decided on Chizik. If that’s true, then he is the Harry Reid of Auburn and not Bobby Lowder, but I don’t know if makes a difference. Either way, this was a bonehead decision born of arrogance and misinformation.

If Tuberville did resign, then Jacobs needs to show that he can do the same thing. He’s not doing Auburn any good. Under Jacob’s leadership, our sports programs seem to be headed in the wrong direction.

From Jacobs’ perspective, that means he thinks he deserves a pay raise.

Mr. Jacbos, do us all a favor. Follow Tuberville out the door.

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Naughty and Nice

It's been rumored that my younger son, Christopher, spends the entire year on the naughty list. That may be true, as he definitely works at it. Each Christmas at our house, we place a gift from Santa next to the boys' beds. Two years ago, Christoher's gift dropped behind the pillows we set the gift on. He didn't see the present when he woke up and and came out of his room believing he'd been so bad that Santa had skipped him.

Above is a picture of Chistopher and his future wife, Lily, taken by his future mother-in-law, Susan. It was Susan who penned the title of the picture and passed it along to my wife, Mo. Click on the picture to get a better shot of Christopher's face.

Saturday, December 13, 2008

Auburn's New Hire

I'm trying to wrap my mind around the decision that's been made, the idea of Gene Chizik being the new head coach at Auburn. This may take awhile. Mal Moore could have done a better job of finding a new coach for Auburn than Jay Jacobs just did. This may be the stupidest move in the history of the Athletic Department.

Friday, December 12, 2008

Last Christmas, I gave you my ...

I have been swamped of late and am working on a story for posting, but it's just not ready yet. With that in mind, I thought I would re-post a Christmas story from last year. The story got some laughs and I hope newreaders will enjoy it. Given that it's the Christmas season, my wife is regaling friends and relatives with this tale, embellishing the story to make it funnier. When Christopher gets married some day, I hope he won't choose a date close to Christmas as this story would likely make the rehearsal dinner.

The Littlest Actor

Every Christmas Eve, my wife and I take our sons to the children’s service at our church. The service includes a kids’ pageant and our boys seem to pay closer attention than they do during the typical church service. Also, we feel that attending Mass on Christmas Eve provides a wonderful way to begin the holiday. After the service is over, we go out to dinner to the one place open on Christmas Eve, a Chinese restaurant.

While my wife and I believe every family Christmas is special, we cannot conceive that any will be more memorable than our last one. It was to be a big night as our older son, Andrew, was finally old enough to participate in the Christmas pageant. He enjoyed two rehearsals and getting into costume, admirably playing the role of a shepherd. Because church seating at Christmas is limited and we wanted to take pictures, we arrived almost an hour early to get a seat up front. We knew it would be difficult to keep our pre-school age son, Christopher, seated for the long service and the time before it. Therefore, my wife saved our seats while I played with Christopher and kept him entertained. When it was close to time, I corralled him and took him to our seats; he sat on my wife’s lap and anxiously looked for his older brother and the start of the show.

Just before the beginning of the pageant, the stuffy air in the crowded church became a little more unbearable than usual. As there were several babies in the immediate vicinity, my wife and I both thought one of them must have needed changing. Catching the odor, Christopher said aloud, “What’s that smell?” He turned around, looked at his Mom, and said, “That’s disgusting! Mommy, you stink! Mommy, go to the bathroom!” We did our best to quiet him down, while the people around us were suppressing their laughter. He continued on, repeating the words, “That’s disgusting! Mommy, you stink! Mommy, go to the bathroom!” Eventually, Christopher quieted down and the pageant began.

After Mass ended, we walked to the car, buckled the kids in, and drove away. On the way to the Chinese restaurant, my wife and I discussed the incident. She realized that the words Christopher used in church were the same ones she had used with him during his potty training. Also, we were convinced one of the babies close to us during the service must have had a poopy diaper or probably just passed gas. We chuckled about it. However, our little guy provided the last laugh. Overhearing the discussion, Christopher, with the smile that only a young child can produce, piped up with one more comment, “Oh, in church? That was me.”

Friday, December 5, 2008

Tommy Tuberville meets Barack Obama

For those of you visiting here because Googled the name of the President-elect Obama, welcome. In the event that you don’t know who Tommy Tuberville is, either because you
1) live in a bubble, or
2) don’t live in a bubble, but don’t care about college football,
Tuberville is the former coach of the Auburn Tigers football team.

For those of you that do love college football, welcome as well, whether you love the SEC or think it’s full of itself, welcome as well.

I’ll start with the Presidential race. Some of us may not remember back in September. After the Republican convention, McCain led in all the polls and looked to be on course to becoming the 44th President of the United States.

Then the stock market tanked and the economic news changed. Some would say that the signs were already there and that the rest of the America finally woke up in September. Some would say McCain just ran a poor campaign (agreed). Whatever the reason, Barack Obama took the lead over McCain and never looked back.

And so it was this September for Auburn’s football season. Auburn finished September with a 4-1 record and should have won the one game they lost. However, it was still apparent that Auburn was getting by on a defense considered fundamentally sound while the cracks in the offensive armor that was anything but Teflon showed that Auburn, like the economy, was just getting by.

And so it was that Auburn went into October and totally tanked. The checks the offense asked the defense to cash in September came back as NSF in October, when the defense had nothing left in the reserve account to cover the overdrafts of the offense. A promising season spiraled and the power brokers in the Auburn’s version of the House, Senate, and its lobbyists demanded change.

And so it was that Tuberville “resigned.” Let’s face it. Who among us buys that statement? Is resignation the word used because it’s one of those internal family embarrassments that family members never mention in the hopes that it will go away?

Tuberville was forced out, else they wouldn’t be paying him $5.1 million dollars. The man with one of the five best records in college football over the last ten years, coaching in the toughest conference in the nation, left...forced out by people with more money than brains. The forces within Auburn demanded change, and like the Presidential election, threw lots of money at it.

And both Auburn and the country face the same issue, no one involved has a clue what they just bought.

As an American, I wish the President-elect well and hope that he and his advisors will implement policies that improve this Country. Obama wasn’t my choice on Election Day, but on January 20, 2009, he will be my President.

As an Auburn graduate, I hope that the next coach will be a success and will usher in more championships for Auburn. Firing Coach Tuberville wasn’t my choice and I disagree with it vehemently. In my opinion, it was a choice made by AD Jay Jacobs and alumnus Bobby Lowder, Auburn’s version of Nancy Pelosi and Harry Reid.

So, now that the change has been made for the sake of change and not reason, I ask that we, to paraphrase the President-elect, try to change the trajectory of what has been de rigueur at Auburn. Bring in someone that can bring fundamental change.

I vote Charlie Strong. Auburn is not a place for a first-time coach, but the man knows the SEC. He does not have a reputation for good recruiting skills, but he supposedly gets the best out of his players and he very deserving. Whomever is chosen, though, he will be my team’s coach.

War Eagle!

Thursday, December 4, 2008

It's true!

Yes, Tuberville's gone. Links below offer a voluminous amount of stories.

Kevin Scarbinsky's column is also good.

My thoughts later this week, when my schedule settles down.

Saturday, November 29, 2008

Auburn vs. Alabama Wrap-Up 2008

If there is one play that sums up Auburn’s season, it was the end of the first half. An Auburn kicker making his first ever field goal attempt in a football game nails a 40-yarder, only to have it nullified because of a CS, but admittedly legal, time-out by Saban. It has gone that way this season.

Alabama scored its first half TD because the special teams played soft on the punt, giving Alabama excellent field position. Soft defensive play let Alabama convert third and long. A missed defensive assignment led to the long run for a TD.

And then there’s the second half. What looks like it could have been a pick-6 for Auburn is dropped. Auburn gets the ball back and promptly fumbles, which was turned into six the other way, a huge swing in points.

From there, we blocked the extra point and another Alabama team with 16 points flashed in my head.

At least until the second fumble. After that, I think the dagger was officially planted in my heart and the game got as ugly as the two hound’s-tooth hat wearing platinum blonde chicks that the TV guys seem to like. However, when your kicker gets run into and can’t get a roughing call, you know it’s not your day.

However, congrats to Alabama. You played well.

For Auburn fans, the season is mercifully over. We have to look forward to next year.

War Eagle anyway! I still love my Auburn Tigers!

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Auburn vs. Alabama 2008 Preview

I was at my favorite coffee shop this morning, a wonderful little place about a mile from my office. Every day they have a trivia question, which earns you a discount if you answer it correctly. Today’s question was “What is the nickname of the Georgia – Georgia Tech clash?” I responded that it was a phrase with “old” and “hate,” but I couldn’t remember the exact term. “Clean Old-Fashioned Hate,” one of the baristas said, and proceeded to give me the discount. I thanked them and then said I still preferred the term ‘Iron Bowl.” The barista, an Auburn fan, agreed. The patron behind me then asked who I thought would be Auburn’s coach next year. “Tuberville,” I said “With stocks in the tank, Bobby Lowder can’t afford to buy him out.”

It’s nice to be able to laugh. However, as the weekend approaches, I see little to make me happy. As I look to this week’s game, I note the following:

I know that no one expects us to win;
I know that we are 14-point underdogs (the last time I checked anyway);
I know that admonitions of “throw the record books out” are remembrances of upsets, not an understanding of statistical history. In the last eight games alone, the best team has won six times (75%).

And the pundits have measured our coffin and written our obituary,

However, I am reminded of that 25% and wonder what Auburn can accomplish.

Will it be like the start of this six-game streak, where no one gave us a chance and a 4th string tailback wrote himself into Auburn lore?
Will it be like ’82, where a freshman phenom ended nine years of Auburn misery?
Will it be like ’72, where a Tiger Team made the greatest comeback in Iron Bowl history?

Or will it be like ’99, when a valiant effort sputtered and ran out of gas late in the third quarter?

Is there anything in our favor?

We’re playing in Tuscaloosa, where we’ve never lost, and we have an opponent that has everything to lose. Last week, sportswriter Kevin Scarbinsky called this game Alabama’s worst nightmare. A dream season for the Tide blows up quickly if they lose to Auburn. And that may be the one thing in our favor. Alabama is playing for its season. For Auburn, our season is likely just 60 minutes. And for just once this season, I believe our team will finally give 60 minutes.

War Eagle!

Sunday, November 23, 2008

A Tradition Continues

Our first Christmas season in Atlanta (2006), we took out boys to The Polar Express in western North Carolina. Last Christmas, we took the boys to Stone Mountain for a Stone Mountain Christmas. We allowed Christopher to go The Polar Express with friends, but kept Andrew at home. (He knew he was growing out of it.) This year, we chose just to do Stone Mountain. This year, like last year, we had a great time. And we were blessed to have family with us. My wife’s parents were in town from southern California. Both my sisters and their families, as well as her an aunt and her husband, joined us as well. And it was good to have everyone.

The bigger the crowd, the more the body heat…and we needed it.

It was cold!

We had a wonderful time. We caught the Polar Express attraction and the parade. The kids enjoyed both. From there, we had dinner, which we had brought ourselves. We brought our meals, as last year was so crowded we had trouble getting something to eat. We needn’t have bothered, as the weather seemed to keep away the crowd. Last year’s 90-minute wait would have been a quick sitdown this evening.

After dinner, we got in line to catch the train around the park. By this time, we were chilled completely through. There were four passenger cars on the train, but three of them were open air. As the crowd seemed to all head to the covered wagon, we knew we wouldn’t have a shot by the time we hit the turnstiles. (Yes, I know there are no turnstiles at Stone Mountain. I’m just speaking figuratively.) Luckily, my wife brought blankets. They were for us to sit on at the laser show, but we pulled them out to keep ourselves warm. The ride was enjoyable, at least when we weren’t shivering.

And of course, it’s Stone Mountain, which means nothing’s complete without a laser show. Then we called it a night, as our bones started creaking as slowly as a glacier and we couldn’t wait to find out if global warming was actually going to melt us or not.

There was more to do and we’ll be back again next year. However, if it’s cold like tonight, we hope Stone Mountain will have a second covered train.

The attraction lasts through December 30th. If you buy your tickets at Kroger, you can get three dollars off per ticket. There are special deals for groups of 15 or more.

Sunday, November 16, 2008

Auburn – Georgia 2008 Wrap Up

For those of you that read my preview, you know that I owe a friend of mine Starbuck’s for Auburn’s loss this past weekend. However, it was a close game, when many didn’t give us a chance. We were close at the end. But like many game this year, we couldn’t get it done.

I could cite some of the curious (let’s say BAD) interference and lack of interference calls on Georgia’s go ahead drive and as well as the ones we didn’t get on our final drive. (Yes, I know there was one call we did get. Small gift. Why did the refs even bother?) I know that SEC coaches send a film of blown calls to the SEC ref coordinator every week. Tuberville has a lot to choose from.

However, special teams cost us this game. Without that botched extra point. We’d have been within a field goal. We could have tied it with the next to last drive or the last drive. The damage we did to ourselves against Vandy, Arkansas, and LSU came back to haunt us again here.

Still, it was close, and for that I was proud, though luck has not been on our side. I remember back in 1982. Auburn lost a tough, close one to Georgia. After the game was over, the team was in locker room when they heard the Auburn student section still as loud as ever, despite the game having ended over 10 minutes prior.

“It’s great…to be…an Auburn Tiger!”

“I said ‘It’s great…to be…an Auburn Tiger!’”

“I said ‘It’s great…to be…an Auburn Tiger!’”

That team went out and upset Alabama the following week, ending a nine-year domination. Nothing has gone Auburn’s way this season. It’s finally time something did.

“It’s great…to be…an Auburn Tiger!”

War Eagle!

Friday, November 14, 2008

Auburn- Georgia Preview: Shades of Georgia 2006

A friend of mine at work IM’d me about a straight-up bet on this weekend’s Auburn-Georgia game. While I appreciate a friendly bet, my friend wanted to put lunch at a sushi restaurant on the line. I asked him how many points I was getting.

My friend jokingly seemed insulted saying that his team’s defense sucks. I responded by saying that Auburn’s offense was worse and our defense was on crutches and playing third stringers. We settled on Starbuck’s.

However, with the odds against us (we’re 8-point underdogs and playing at home), I wonder if Georgia isn’t a possibility for a season turnaround. It was two years ago when the Dawgs came into Jordan-Hare as a 6-4 team and fans wondering if they even had a shot against Auburn. Brandon Cox had his worst game of the year, throwing four picks and completing only four passes all day. Auburn got stomped 37-15 and I don’t think the game was really that close. Georgia finished with wins over Georgia Tech and in the Peach Bowl over Virginia Tech and to a hugely successful 2007.

And so we renew the 112th meeting of Auburn-Georgia; the game known as the oldest rivalry in the South; the game that gave legend to the creation of War Eagle, the game that feels like, given the history of the two school, your scrimmaging your cousin’s family in the backyard at Thanksgiving more than meeting a hated rival in battle. The current record between Auburn and Georgia is 53-50-8. The points differential is 45 in UGA’a favor with the lead having come all in the last two years. Hopefully, we can begin to make up some of that deficit. Maybe Kodi Burns will have his Matthew Stafford first defining moment against a team that’s heavily favored to win.

War Eagle!

P.S. I have no news on the rumor that Tuberville may be the next head coach at Clemson.

Monday, November 10, 2008

Auburn vs. Georgia: The Prelimnaries

When you've played somebody over 100 times, it's hard to come up with a fresh perspective. However, coming later this week, Shades of Georgia - 2006. Stick around.

Sunday, November 9, 2008

A Look Back at Halloween 2008

I stepped on the scale this morning and watched nervously as a line ran across the LCD readout screen several times, figuring up the weight. It was taking extra long it seemed, a sure sign that my weight was ballooning. When the amount finally displayed on the readout, I realized, belatedly, where all the leftover Halloween candy, as well as the discount Halloween cookies my wife bought on November 1st, had gone. Fortunately, I can diet…again. Also, fortunately, some images will be with me much longer.

I spent Halloween night with two of my favorite people: Harry Potter and Jango Fett. Jango, aka my younger son, Christopher, was a little under the weather, but I was actually more worried about my older son, Andrew. When my wife took the boys costume shopping, she’d had looked for an Iron Man costume for Andrew, but none of what the stores had were big enough. Andrew knew what this meant. He was growing up. My wife put together a costume for him through dollar store items. Her biggest accomplishment was using a cereal box and felt to put together a prop that resembled the monster book from the movie, Prisoner of Azkaban. Mo worked similar magic for Christopher, taking a cereal box, plastic cups, and aluminum cans and creating a jet pack for Jango Fett.

Like Christopher, Mo was sick. However, she was ready to answer the door for the kids in the neighborhood, no matter how queasy it made her feel to stand up. With dusk approaching, she helped the boys get ready. I worked in the kitchen. The next day was Fall Festival. We had committed to four chocolate chess pies for the cakewalk. I put the first one in the oven and set the timer. I pre-made the second one and asked Mo to switch the pies out when the second one was ready. “Let’s go, boys!” I said.

We started down the street, going towards the front of the subdivision and opposite the direction of how we went last year. It seemed as if it was a slow night. We thought with it being a Friday, it would be packed. However, many people seemed to have left bowls of candy on their front porch with signs asking, “Take only one, please.” Still, we made the rounds, the boys knocking on every door and me saying “Hi” to neighbors I knew.

This year, like last year, Christopher tired early. However, our house is in the middle of the subdivision, so I dropped him off when we passed it. Andrew and I then headed to the rear of our subdivision for the final rounds of the night. As we headed home, Andrew decided he wanted to hit one more house. He knocked, but the occupants were gone. “One more?” I asked. “Nah, let’s go home,” he said.

As we walked the last few hundred feet to our house, I asked Andrew if he’d had a good time. He commented that he did, but said, “Daddy, next year, I’ll take Christopher out, like the other big brothers do.”

When we got home, I went back to pie making. Andrew took a shower, while Mo and I discussed the lack of visitors that evening. It was a nice night, so we figured the following:

1) People were voting and didn’t get home soon enough.
2) People were watching high school football (which explains why a number of cities in Alabama held trick-or-treat on Thursday).
3) People were at church, celebrating the day in 1517 when Martin Luther nailed 95 Theses to a church door in Wittenberg, Germany.

Whatever the reason, I got two more pies ready and called it a night.

Auburn vs. Tennessee-Martin Wrap-Up

I’m glad I only listened to yesterday’s game on radio. When UT-Martin tied it as 20-all in the third quarter, I would have been hurling epithets in public. If watching on TV, I would have been hurling my coffee at the screen. As it was, I just wanted to hurl. Auburn was struggling to stop a Division II school and was looking more pathetic by the minute. However, that early third quarter TD by UT-M was the last score, as Auburn won 37-20 and gave up at the end to avoid scoring more.

So, is there anything to take from this week’s game?

1) We won, something we haven’t done since September, and evened our record at 5-5.

2) John Vaughn seems to have regained some of his abilities. Vaughn nailed two 40+ field goals in the second quarter, something we haven’t seen much of this year. Had Vaughn maintained this ability throughout the season, we would have probably beaten both Arkansas and Vandy and still had an outside shot at the SEC West crown (though our shot would have depended on Sly Croom making it three in a row).

3) Most of the players were second and third string, as the coaches chose to sit down a number of first-string players, particularly on defense. Auburn’s current defense resembles the Braves pitching staff, a banged-up M*A*S*H unit trying to cobble together innings (quarters). The good news is that these players will be back next week for Georgia. We’ll need them.

4) Kodi continues to improve.

5) I’m open to suggestions on this one.

We have two more games left in the regular season. We won’t be favored in either of them. However, I’m hopeful that we will come away with a win: one, at least, if not two. And, if Alabama fans try to elicit any grief, calmly remind them that in Tuberville’s second year, Auburn made it to the SEC Championship game, only to get blown out by Florida. The same fate awaits them.

War Eagle!!

Thursday, November 6, 2008

Auburn vs. Tennessee-Martin Preview

Auburn plays a ranked team this weekend…for homecoming.

Normally, you don’t like to schedule ranked teams for homecoming. During the famous ’83 season when Auburn went 11-1, defeating eight Top 25 teams in 12 games (and losing to one, Texas, early in the season), Auburn played then #6 Maryland for homecoming. They had to sandwich between a home game against Florida and an away game at Georgia, two other Top 10 teams. Auburn may be the only team to face three Top Ten teams in three straight weeks and win all three games.

But back to focusing on our upcoming game…

Tennessee-Martin, out of the Ohio Valley Conference, is the #20 FCS team in the nation. For those of you unfamiliar with FCS, that’s what we used to call Division I-AA. UTM is 5-1 this season and 7-2 overall. The Skyhawks lost their opener 56-7 to South Florida and then lost their homecoming to division rival Tennessee State in overtime. Tennessee State apparently got mad for being scheduled as the homecoming opponent.

But back to focusing on our upcoming game…

Auburn, with losses in four straight games and five of their last six, rolled Toomer’s Corner on election night. It had been so long since the last time, the toilet paper left from the Tennessee game had already disintegrated. If Auburn wins this weekend, will we roll Toomer’s because of a victory over a Division I-AA school? It would hearken back to Tuberville’s first game, when Auburn needed a 4th quarter TD to beat an Appalachian State team that was nowhere near then what it is now.

But back to focusing on our upcoming game…

After the Ole Miss loss, Tuberville called out the offensive line for its ineffectiveness. In the spread, it seems the o-line didn’t understand the blocking schemes. Now, it seems like they’ve forgotten how to block…period.

But back to focusing on our upcoming game…

Auburn’s defense is riddled with injuries. We’re starting true freshman on the defensive side of the ball and some of our top players are done, possibly for the year. Do we have the horses to hold up against any team, let alone any of our November opponents.

But back to focusing on our upcoming game…

This season has been such a bust, that even in this economy, it might be worth it for Bobby Lowder to sell a lot of his Colonial Bank stock and buy out Tuberville’s contract, taking the lower capital gains rate of 2008 vs. the higher expected capital gains rate of 2009, if he has capital gains at all. (Granted, this fact could have been part of the reason for rolling Toomer’s after the election.

But back to focusing on our upcoming game…

And this is a problem. As I’ve tried to show in this post, there are many distractions surrounding the program. And it takes us away from what we need to do: concentrate on playing football.

Let’s play!

War Eagle!!!!

Sunday, November 2, 2008

Auburn vs. Ole Miss: Post-Mortem

We lost this game at the close of the first half. Down 3-0, we allowed a late TD to Ole Miss to let them go up 10-0. Like Vandy and West Virginia, we allowed Ole Miss to have momentum going into halftime. But that was only part of the issue. With decent field position, three time-outs, and over a minute to go, we choose to run out the clock. Instead of trying to finish on a high note, we choose to run out the clock. Instead of attempting to get some points on the board, we choose to run out the clock.

And we hung our heads into the locker room. I still had hope that we would win, but I had to wonder. To win, an offense would have to score and score big. Our offense hadn’t scored in the second half of a game since LSU. (We actually scored in the Arkansas game, but that was a safety.)

We opened the second half with a touchdown. I had to admit I was surprised. The QB who can’t pass that well finally started hitting receivers. It ended with a 27-yard TD run by Ben Tate and Auburn trailing 10-7. An offense that had been lackluster in second halves for over a month began moving the football. Three times Auburn threatened again in the second half, only to have Burns commit young mistakes that led to interceptions. Frustration showed after the second interception, when Auburn was flagged for three facemask penalties on a drive that allowed Ole Miss to score again and make it 17-7.

The overturned fumble at the end hurt, but Auburn shouldn’t have been in that position. On the slow-mo replay, it looked as if the ball was coming out when the Ole Miss player’s knee touched the ground. It was a close play, but the refs overturned it and gave the ball back to Ole Miss, dashing any lingering hopes our beloved Tigers had. However, Ole Miss played better overall and we have to congratulate them and Houston Nutt.

Is there anything positive to take away from this game?

=> Kodi was able to move the offense. We picked up around 300 yards in the second half, eclipsing some of our game totals.
=> We do have a young defense that is playing gamely while gimpy. They return next year (if none of the juniors goes pro). Also, with injuries, our back-ups are getting large amounts of playing time.
=> Our offense is young, too, and will have a chance to improve.

Though the immediate outcome is bleak, the future is still bright.

War Eagle anyway!

Saturday, November 1, 2008

What to Play For

Tommy Hicks of the Mobile Press-Register has a wonderful column on what Auburn should be playing for. A link can be found here.

Thursday, October 30, 2008

Auburn vs. Ole Miss Preview: Green Day had it wrong

Pardon the late post for this week’s preview. I’ve been caught up in the political campaigns. I wonder about all the name-calling going back and forth between the two candidates and wonder if it’s as bad as it used to be. Andrew Jackson once called John Quincy Adams a pimp and Adams referred to Jackson’s wife as a slut and the country went on. Name-calling seems pervasive. (In the Adams, Sr. – Jefferson match-up, Jefferson questioned Adams’ gender, saying that he was neither man nor woman. Adams responded, saying that there would be house burning and the violation of the chastity of our nation’s daughters.) I did remember that we have a game this weekend. I just forgot what day it was.

This weekend, Auburn travels to Oxford to take on Ole Miss. Kickoff is 12:30 p.m. EST. The record between the two schools is 24-8. (The record during the Tuberville era is 7-2.) Auburn first played Ole Miss in October 1928. It lost 19-0. Auburn played Ole Miss six times over the next four decades, dropping four of them.

Then I was born. ;-)

Since my birth, Auburn has gone 22-3 against Ole Miss, often favored to win. Shug didn’t lose after my birth. Oddly, Barfeld and Tater Tot never dropped a game to Ole Miss. Dye lost his final meeting against Ole Miss. Tuberville has lost twice, making him (I think) the only coach to lose more than one game to Ole Miss.

However, the general perception is that Auburn will drop another one. is predicting an Ole Miss victory this Saturday, the first time they’ve bet against Auburn all year (ignoring the spread). Ole Miss, like Auburn, has a 4-4 record, with a victory last week over Arkansas and a win at Florida earlier this season. They have an excellent QB in Snead who is coming into his own. In addition, they have an exceptional motivator in 1st year coach, Houston Nutt, whose teams gave Auburn fits when Nutt coached at Arkansas.

Expand more of the same fits in Oxford. However, I have to disagree with College Football News. Auburn’s back is against the wall. With four games remaining, we have to win two to become bowl eligible. Even that, though, won’t guarantee us a postseason game. I’m assuming will beat UT-Martin next week. That means we have to pull out at least one more victory from the remaining three games: Ole Miss, Georgia, and Alabama. I think we’ll pull two out of three minimum, and it starts with Ole Miss.

The best thing I can say about this game is the band Green Day had it wrong. Green Day, has a song titled, ‘Wake Me Up When September Ends.” The date for this game is November 1st. What may be the worst month in Auburn history is over. And Auburn fans would have been glad to have slept through it. We only played three games, but it feels like we went through hell. Hopefully, this team will wake up and establish a beautiful November worth singing about.

War Eagle!

Sunday, October 26, 2008

Mommy Does It Better: A Cooking Story

“What do you want for lunch, Christopher?” I asked yesterday.

“Macaroni and cheese,” he said.

“Macaroni and cheese what?”

“Macaroni and cheese with the real fake cheese.”

“OK. It’ll be the real fake cheese, but what else. Macaroni and cheese, what?”

“Oh,” he answered. “Macaroni and cheese, please!”

I searched the pantry for the blue box of Kraft M&C. Christopher called it the “real fake cheese” due to cheese packet inside. As I put the pan of water on the stove, Christopher commented, “Not you, Daddy. I want Mommy to make it.”


“Yeah, Mommy makes it better than you.”

I admit my wife is a better cook and that I’m the house sous chef (apprentice chef). However, even my wife was surprised by this comment. She chimed in, ‘Christopher, it’s just mac-and-cheese. Daddy makes it fine.”

“No, Mommy. It tastes better when you make it,” he said.

Perplexed, I still proceeded to make Christopher his lunch. I boiled the water and allowed Christopher to pour in the macaroni. I drained the macaroni after it had boiled sufficiently and returned it to the pan. I grabbed the margarine and 2% milk from the fridge when my wife commented, “I know it says margarine, but I use butter.’

Ah, mystery solved. My wife’s secret ingredient is substituting the creaminess of milk for the lighter taste of vegetable oil.

I cut four tablespoons of butter, grabbed a small measure of milk, and then allowed Christopher to add them and the fake cheese to the drained macaroni in the saucepan. He mixed it up. I prepared a bowl with his mac-and-cheese.

“So what do you think, Christopher?” my wife asked. “Is Dad’s as good as mine?”

“No, Mommy. Yours still tastes better.”

Darn it! Still house sous chef when it comes to macaroni!

Friday, October 24, 2008

Auburn vs. West Virginia Wrap-Up: The lack of a killer instinct

It’s said that you learn more through adversity than you do through good times. If so, then Auburn is getting a graduate level education at the moment. However, it’s the lessons we’re learning that have me buffaloed. In its four losses this year, Auburn

-> Led at halftime (which is actually true for every game)
-> Led by double digits
-> Came out flat or came up short in the third quarter, when we had chances to keep up the pressure.
-> Showed the total inability of our coaching staff to have something prepared for the expected halftime adjustments.

In addition, in the Vandy and WVU games, we allowed late scores at the end of the half to give the other team momentum going into the locker room.

So what is up? Offensive coordinators aside, we were unable to put away teams we had down. And it points to one thing…lack of a killer instinct. Do I fault us for this? As long as I’ve followed Auburn football, I’ve seen few teams (2004 being a recent exception), where Auburn has taken a lead and then effectively gone for the jugular. It’s not our style. We’re too friggin nice!

Another problem with our style. We play not to lose. When Auburn opened this game, we opened in the “I.” It was going so well, I originally imagined titling my follow up post as “Auburn proves there is an ‘I’ in team.” However, in the second half, it seemed like Tony Franklin was calling the plays again and we came up short.

Kodi made mistakes last night. He started getting away from what seemed to work for him in the first half. However, he can’t do much when receivers drop passes. He can’t do much when the offensive line is not adjusting to defensive shifts. He can’t do much when he makes forward progress into field goal range, only to have the field goal come up short. In his defense, though, he showed brilliance and will only get better.

And speaking of field goals, what is up with Wes Byrum’s Damon Duval imitation? Both kickers made amazing kicks as freshman to win big games against Florida. (Byrum had to do his twice. Duval had to do his in a drizzling rain and a 30-mph crosswind.) Then, both kickers seemed to go in the tank.

At 4-4, it is not looking good for us. We can pass this off as more growing pains as we try to get back to a semblance of the team we love. We can hope that the next 9-10 days will prove us ample opportunity to get ready for an away game at Ole Miss and another shot at turning the season around. I just hope we find what’s ailing us soon. It’s as if we need another wake-up call, another shot of adrenaline, another opponent that brings out the best in Auburn and allows us to prove to ourselves that we are better than we’ve shown.

Where’s Florida when we need them.

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Auburn vs. West Virginia Preview

ESPN must be wondering what they were thinking at the start of the year. They coaxed Auburn and WVU to move their game from the second week of the season to a mid-October Thursday night. They figured Auburn to be 7-0 or 6-1 and WVU to be 6-0.

But a funny thing happened on the way to Morgantown. WVU dropped two of its first three games and is now 4-2. Auburn has dropped three of its last four and comes in 4-3. Two teams struggling for respect. Two teams struggling for an identity. Two teams who shouldn’t be struggling at all.

This is the first match-up between Auburn and West Virginia. (I can’t find any evidence that Auburn and WVU have ever played before. I know it’s our fist trip to Morgantown, but I thought there might be a neutral site or a previous game under a different name scenario. Nothing. ) Auburn hasn’t sparred much with the current teams in the Big East. We’re 1-1-1 against Syracuse, with each game providing a lasting memory. There was the infamous tie in the Sugar Bowl when Auburn ruined Syracuse’s chance at an undefeated season. There was game at Syracuse where we were the first major sporting event in the state of NY after 9-11…and we were blown out. Then there was the three OT classic in the following year. As for other teams in the Big East, we’re 1-0 against both Louisville and Rutgers, 2-0 against Cincinnati, and 0-1 vs. South Florida. None of that matters in Thursday night’s game.

What does matter then?

It matters that Kodi Burns will be starting the game and hopes to remain that way. In the Arkansas game, Kodi drove us down the field twice in the 4th quarter, only to have us stub our toe, heel, or anything else we decided to throw in the ground. It looks like Chris Todd has dropped to third on the depth chart, behind Neil Caudle. It’s been speculated that Barrett Trotter might have his redshirt ripped off for the remaining five games of this season. (Note to Auburn coaches: Please don’t. Was it worth losing a season of Ben Tate for four games?) It will drive Auburn fans crazy to watch that, on the other side of the field, is a QB from Daphne, Alabama, someone that was mentioned as a potential Heisman candidate and who would have been perfect for what we tried to do this year. (Take a bow, Pat. You’re incredible to watch.)

It matters that we don’t give down on ourselves. A good friend of mine (and reader of this blog), Wes Edwards, was watching PBS recently and saw a show about a physicist that championed alternate universes. Wes commented in a note to me: “Perhaps we would have been 4-3 even without the Franklin experiment. Perhaps, in another reality, we are 7-0.” To that, I would add the following: Perhaps, in another reality, we are also 2-5.

We can’t change the past, only the perception of the future. The current perception is for Auburn to go 6-6, with wins over UT-Martin and Ole Miss. Changing that perception starts NOW!

War Eagle!!!!!

Saturday, October 18, 2008

Where Do We Go From Here

I feel the need to follow up on my short comment from my previous post.

We have played seven of our 12 games this season. Our five remaining opponents: West Virginia, Ole Miss, Tennessee Martin, Georgia, and Alabama. We need to beat at least two of them to add a 13th game to the season. I know we can win one. I find myself hopeful that we can win two.

I am looking at what were the remains of a season with great potential. An old football saying goes, “Offense wins games. Defense wins championships.” This year, we have the type of defense on which championship teams are built…and the offense failed miserably. It isn’t through a lack of talent. The players we have on offense are extremely talented. They’ve more talent than Vandy. They’ve more talent than Arkansas. They have as much talent as LSU. This team should be 6-1 or 7-0. Instead, they’re 4-3. In the Vandy game, the defense had miscues. In the Arkansas game, the defense fell apart and gave up over 400 yards. I don’t blame them. After having to carry the water for the offense for half the season, I think they just got tired.

And I lay the failure for this season not at the feel of Franklin, but of Tuberville. It was Tuberville’s idea to do to the offense what he did. Even a half-decent offense would have beaten both Vandy and Arkansas. We’d be in the hunt for the SEC West title. We’d be looking forward to the remaining five games, our emotions rising and falling each week. Instead, our dreams of championship this season have ended so early that the Tampa Bay Rays are still alive.

Yet, with five games, possibly six, we still have a chance to make it a good season. I expected us to lose two this year. With some breaks, I could be only one off. It wouldn’t be the season we’d hoped for, but still a season of that we could remember. That hope begins now.

Friday, October 17, 2008

I Should Have Posted This Earlier

A co-worker, who happens to be a Clemson grad, IM'd me on Monday with the message, "Walt, have you heard the news? Tommy's fired."

My response was, "Who's?"

Saturday, October 11, 2008

Auburn vs. Arkansas Wrap Up: The Return of Nallsminger

The Smashing Pumpkins have hit Auburn. I say that as I currently Melancholy and I’m feeling the infinite sadness. (OK. Bad pun.)

Admittedly, I missed the first half of tonight’s game. Every October, my wife schedules a trip to a local pumpkin patch. Though she doesn’t look at Auburn’s schedule, she typically seems to plan the trip for Auburn’s game with Arkansas. I love my Tigers, but the kids won’t be pumpkin patch age forever. I caught the second half by computer.

I wish I missed the second half, too.

I have never seen an offensive performance that pathetic. Still, through turnovers and a kickoff return for a TD, we were up 20-10 in the third quarter and leading 20-16 going in to the 4th quarter.

And we’d yet to gain 100 yards of total offense by the end of the third quarter. Combining these first three quarters with the final three quarters of Vanderbilt game, we were under 170 yards for six quarters.

And our defense gave up over 400 yards. I don’t blame them. They were tired. At one point somewhere in 4th quarter, Arkansas had run double the numbers of plays of Auburn. That’s a lot of three and outs.

What’s amazing, though, is that we still had a chance to win the game at the end. We drove the field and had 2nd and goal at the 4-yard line. We threw three straight passes. THREE STRAIGHT FRIGGIN PASSES!

It was then I realized Nallsminger was in charge. (Yes, I realize Ensminger is the one calling the plays.)

In 2003, we were down to Ole Miss at home. (For those that don’t’ remember, 2003 was Eli’s senior year.) We had 3rd and 2 at Ole Miss’s 3-yard line with less than a minute to go. We had a time out. Also, even if we got stopped short, we would get a 1st down (and the clock would stop) just by reaching the 1-yard line. We threw two passes, the last one dropped by Ben Obamanu in the end zone.

We have lost three games by a combined score of nine points and we look pathetic and what really sucks is how easily we could be 7-0. However, I don’t see much hope at the moment. Nallsminger tried to run in 2003 the offense that Petrino ran in 2002. The current incarnation is trying to run the spread. Neither incarnation knew what they were doing.

If Auburn’s going to run a spread offense similar to what Oklahoma does, then they’re going to have to do more than fire Tony Franklin. Nall, Ensminger, Gran, and Knox would need to go as well. Tuberville needs to decide whether he’s more devoted to his assistants and thinks they can learn or whether he needs to bring in others who know what they’re doing. Too many missed assignments. Too many dropped passes. Too many…losses.

And the season has really imploded.

War Eagle anyway!

Friday, October 10, 2008

A Visit to House 24

On Thursday night, I went with Christopher’s Cub Scout troop to visit the local fire station near the Mall of Georgia. Christopher, age six, is in first grade and a Tiger Cub. He’s excited to be a Cub Scout and has wanted to follow in his brother’s footsteps since Andrew joined the local Scout troop last year.

Fire stations all through the area offer these kinds of tours to children’s group. People can arrange them by calling the Programs and Services number at 678-518-4850. The firefighters visit schools throughout the districts they serve. According to one of the firefighters I talked to, they enjoy the visits as it gives the firefighters a chance to see people at happy times instead of sad ones.

The Tiger Cubs all seemed to have a blast. It opened with a video on fire safety that was geared towards the kids. (What is it about Gilbert Gottfried, who provided the voice for a smoke detector in the video, which makes young and old laugh?) Then Fireman Matt had a question and answer session, making sure every boy in attendance got to talk and received a sticker.

Beep Beep Beep
The firefighters tensed. The beeps go out to all stations, signaling the need that one station’s services will be needed. A central dispatcher announces the firehouse’s number and then the situation.

“Engine 23,” the dispatcher’s voice sounded. I couldn’t hear anything after that, though I knew the firefighters had heard and understood every word. Firefighter Matt returned to the Q&A session.

After the Q&A session, Firefighter Ashley (yes, there are female firefighters) brought out her gear and gave a demonstration to the Tiger Cubs of how firefighters go through the ritual of what is anywhere from 50-80 pounds of equipment, given the needs of the emergency.

Beep Beep Beep
The equipment demo was interrupted by the second set of beeps we’d heard since arrival. “Engine 9,” the dispatcher said. The firefighters relaxed and the demo continued.

Next, the demo headed to what was likely the most exciting: the trucks. Uniforms were stacked next to the trucks, the closest point when it would be needed. They started with one of the big trucks.

Beep Beep Beep
“Engine 20” the dispatcher said and the lecture continued towards one of the medical vehicles at the fire house.

Beep Beep Beep
“Engine 24,” the dispatcher said.

The kidding around stopped as the firefighters ushered the boys and chaperones out of the way. “A business alarm,” one said. Three firefighters kicked off their shoes and got ready, their equipment stacked to facilitate the quick preparedness. The boys went outside to watch the big truck roll out. The firefighters were ready and on the truck in less than two minutes. The lights flashed as they pulled out. All that remained were the firefighter’s shoes, lying beside where the big vehicle had been.

We continued with the tour, which had many shouts of “awesome!” from every Tiger Cub. Within 20 minutes, the truck returned, backing in to the fire station and managing not to run over their shoes in the process.

Overall, it was a great night for the Tiger Cubs. Thank you, House 24.

Wednesday, October 8, 2008

Auburn vs. Arkansas Preview

Sorry for the late post. I’ve had a busy few days. Usually, I like to post my previews no later than Tuesday night/Wednesday morning.

Besides, if I’d posted earlier, I would have missed the news. Tony Franklin fired. So, I find myself wondering who might call the plays.

Hugh Nall and/or Steve Ensminger. That worked really well in 2003.

Tuberville? He’s a defensive specialist.

Does Borges still live in town? (Ok, I’m kidding.)

This should be interesting.

And so we play football.

This weekend, Auburn faces Arkansas. It’s the first meeting between Tuberville and Petrino since the infamous night flight on the Colonial Bank jet to Louisville. They both publicly claim that there’s no hostility between the two of them.

I don’t think so, do you?!

Auburn and Arkansas haven’t been playing each other long. The first time was the ’84 Liberty Bowl. Auburn won 21-15. I was a freshman then. The schools started playing each other every year when Arkansas joined the SEC (and caused the implosion of the old SWC) in 1992. The 1992 match-up yielded a 24-24 tie. Auburn now leads the series 10-6-1.

Last year’s game was a 9-7 AU victory. Auburn held McFadden and Jones both under 100 yards total, if memory serves me correctly. We know the defense will be ready to play. However, will the offense?

I don’t think so, do you?!

The offense is hurting. I’ve seen more missed blocking assignments causing problems for Auburn than I’ve seen in a while. I’ve seen more lackluster play from Auburn than I’ve seen in a while. I’ve seen more backfiring when we could have taken control than I’ve seen in a while.

And our season teeters on edge as thin as an envelope that’s been sliced lengthwise with a surgical scalpel.

Still, it’s Arkansas, and our team has something to play for. We can salvage things going forward AND make this season better AND make it memorable. Does Arkansas have a chance to spoil it?

I don’t think so, do you?!

One more thing. Given the problems in the banking industry right now, do you think Colonial Bank still wants to keep that jet if they still have it?

I don’t think so, do you?!

War Damn Eagle!

Sunday, October 5, 2008

When Current Events Make History

When I was three years old, my mother woke me up to watch Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin land on the moon. As you might expect, I have no recollection of the day my Mom did this to me. (She mentioned it to me when I was older.) However, I can say with a straight face that I actually watched this historic event.

As parents, we’re more adept at seeing current events and recognizing their historical significance. Sports is one example, albeit a minor one. I remember coming in one evening with Andrew and flipping on the TV. I knew Mark McGwire was coming up to bat. He had already tied Roger Maris’s single season home record and was due to break it any day. I held Andrew in my arms as we watched McGwire hit 62, but he was too young to have a clue. Had he been older, though, I’m not sure anything would have changed. I remember, when I was kid, watching Hank Aaron break Babe Ruth’s record. I was several years older than Andrew was when I saw Aaron’s homer. I was happy, because Aaron was my favorite player. However, I didn’t understand the significance of what I’d just witnessed.

Then there’s politics. We had a current event a week ago, that will be noted in history: McCain and Obama debated on TV. Andrew has been studying the Civil War in school. He knows the reasons it was fought, as well as the battles, the technology, etc. For some reason, Reconstruction gives him problem. He gets terms mixed. (His test isn’t until Tuesday, so we have time to get it right.)

However, Andrew’s still a kid with a kid’s appreciation of current events. So, when the McCain – Obama debate came on, we tried to get Andrew (and his brother, Christopher) to watch it. For both boys, it was just to try and get them to understand we’re choosing a President. (When they pay attention to politics, both boys claim to be supporting McCain.) For Andrew, though, we tried to draw a correlation between his Civil War studies and what was going on in front of him. He said he understood. He gave us an hour of debate watching before boredom breached his senses and he called it night.

Hopefully, when he’s adult with an adult’s appreciation for history, he might recognize what we made him watch as a kid. Hopefully, when he’s an adult, he begins to recognize such events himself. Hopefully, when he’s an adult, he’ll pass the same things along to his kids.

And maybe, by then, events like the above will no longer be considered historic anymore.

Auburn vs. Vandy: Wrap Up: This Mystery of the Back-Up QB

I …am…at…a…loss!

Why, after six games, does QB Todd have even less zip on the ball?
Why, after six games, does Auburn’s offense still look anemic?
Why, after six games, are we producing less and less yards?

It’s only early October, but this is elaborate trick-or-treat.

Our defense and special teams didn’t score their one TD per game.
Our defense, #1 in the nation on third down conversions, showed cracks that hadn’t existed before.
Our defense couldn’t cover the overdrafts our offense kept writing.

Tonight it bit our season.

What was the reason? Was it breaks not going our way?

On the missed PAT, we didn’t get the bounce.
On the late fumble by Vandy’s QB, we didn’t get the bounce.
On Vandy’s last punt, we didn’t get the bounce

And it signaled the end of any scant title hopes.

Congratulations to the Vanderbilt Commodores. You won. We lost. For the second time this year, we knocked out a team’s first strong QB, only to have the back-up perform like Kerri Strug with one vault to go.

And I am at a loss to explain why?

I’ll even accept the fact that, on the occasion of our four wins, I wore the same Auburn shirt. On the day of our two losses, I didn’t wear it. But I’m beyond believing my karma has any effect on a game’s outcome.

Unfortunately, I’m starting to believe that this can’t be righted this season.

Does anyone know?

Wednesday, October 1, 2008

Auburn vs. Vandy Preview

In 1899, Sewanee University, now called the University of the South, embarked on football season unmatched before or since. Sewanee set up a 12-game schedule that included 11 tough football programs and one cupcake (Cumberland). During the season, Sewanee won all 12 games, 11 of them by shutout. One memorable part of the schedule has Sewanee boarding a train for a road trip that will never be repeated. Sewanee played five road games in six days, including Ole Miss, LSU, Texas, Texas A&M, and Tulane. They also started the season in mid-October and finished it in early December.

Why did Sewanee do this? The reason relates to 1898 season. In 1898, Sewanee had upset the team that was supposedly the best in the south. That team decided not to play Sewanee in 1899. Sewanee decided to set up a schedule that would leave no doubt as to who was the best team in the South. The only team to score on Sewanee that year: Auburn. A John Heisman-coached Auburn team fell 11-10 to Sewanee. As for the team that chose not to schedule Sewanee in 1899: Vandy.

Was Vandy really that good back then? In 1893, Auburn won the first AU-Vandy contest by a score of 30-10. It would be 20 years (and seven games) before AU took another one. The record between the two schools is 20-19-1 in favor of Auburn. However, Auburn has had to win the last 13 match-ups to finally take the lead in the series. Vandy’s last win was a 25-13 Gator Bowl triumph in 1955.

So what about now? As I said in my Tennessee follow-up, we play one of the SEC’s three undefeated teams this week. (I stand corrected. There are four undefeated teams. Can you name them without looking?) Vandy is 4-0, with conference victories over Ole Miss and SC and nonconference foes Miami (Ohio) and Rice. How big is it that Vandy is undefeated? Vandy has not had a winning season since going 8-4 in 1982. (They were 8-3 in the regular season and lost the All-American Bowl to Air Force.)

Need more? Vandy is #19 in both the AP and Coaches polls. Auburn is #13 in the AP and #14 in the Coaches poll, making this weekend a match-up of Top 20 teams. ESPN Gameday is broadcasting from Vandy this week.

Therefore, this week, it’s a big game! But is Vandy good? They are led by such people as cornerback D.J. Moore, an all-SEC performer who could shut down our passing game on his side of the field. Their QB, Chris Nickson, is a senior, a dangerous thing to face in the SEC. For motivation, Coach Bobby Johnson has been showing film of Auburn’s 35-7 shellacking of Vandy last year. Also, Vandy, which had some injuries, early this season, had last week off and should be rested up to face Auburn.

So Vandy will be ready. I think we will be, too. Expect another close game, as if Auburn knows how to play any other way. Expect the Auburn defense to shut down Vandy’s offense. Auburn’s offense will likely pick up two TDs, which would put us above average for our SEC contests. (The offense is averaging one TD per game in SEC games.) Hopefully, the defense or special teams picks up one more. If not, however, those two TDs should still be enough. Expect to see Kodi more as well.

War Eagle!

One final note: In defense of Vandy’s loss to Sewanee in 1898, it was a rebuilding year. Vandy, who went undefeated in 1897, was 1-5 in 1898 with its only win coming against Nashville. This begs the question as to why Sewanee thought beating a 1-5 team made them the top team in the area.

Sunday, September 28, 2008

Auburn vs. Tennessee Wrap Up

As kids, we all learned that if you can’t say anything nice, don’t say anything at all.

That may be why it took so long for me to complete a post on this game.

I could say a win is a win, but I said that after the Mississippi State game. Still, compared to what happened vs. LSU, it definitely beats losing.

However, our offense looked pathetic. There’s no sugarcoating it. We produced 226 yards in total offense, the worst output by far this year. I feel like I’ve time warped back to 2003 and am watching Hugh Nall try to run Bobby Petrino’s offense. Nall was uncomfortable doing so. Now we’ve got Tony Franklin trying to run the spread, without having the right players to run the spread. We look uncomfortable now.

I raised the question when I previewed this game about out lack of playmaker receivers since 2004 (actually 2005, as we still had Aromashodu). The broadcasters for this game brought up the same thing. Auburn switched to the spread as a way to recruit athletes of this type. Apparently, we are seeing some success in recruiting in this area.

Are there any positives? The following should be noted:

=> We still have the number one defense in the nation on 3rd down conversions. This is great, as our offense ranks dead last in the SEC in the same category.
=> We’re 4-1 and only a play away from being 5-0. (Granted, we were one play away from being in last year’s SEC Championship Game as well as one play away from losing to Mississippi State.) => When we needed to make a first down to seal the game, Kodi was able to come through for us. If we’d been willing to use him the LSU game, we might have succeeded there.
=> Durst is over the flu and back handling the punting. Now, if we could only figure out what’s bugging Wes Byrum.
=> Honestly, that’s about it. The only other thing I can think of is that I survived both LSU and Tennessee without drinking a beer.

Congratulations to Ole Miss, who became the second team to defeat Urban Meyer in The Swamp. Condolences to Georgia and the defeat they suffered against Alabama. The Crimson Kool-Aid drinkers are about to take being a redneck to an unimagined level…and that’s a scary thought. However, given that Alabama destroyed Tennessee last season and Tennessee did the same to UGA, maybe the two teams were just cutting out the middleman. Condolences also to Wake Forest, my grad school, who unexpectedly took it on the chin from Navy.

There are three undefeated teams left in the SEC. Two of them are on our schedule. We play one of them this coming weekend.

War Eagle!!

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Auburn vs. Tennessee: That Tennessee Feeling

I remember watching the AU-Tennessee game in the fall of 1989. It was September. We often played Tennessee early in the season and the announcers pointed out prior to kickoff that the loser of the AU-Tennessee game had never won the SEC and probably never would.

We lost to UT that year. Alabama beat UT. We beat Alabama. All three teams finished with identical records and were declared SEC Champions. It’s the only time back then where we lost to Tennessee and still had a Championship, even if it was a tie.

And that’s where we are right now.

LSU has become to us what Tennessee used to be. If we’d beaten LSU last year, we’d have played Tennessee for the Championship. And losing to LSU, when it happens this early, puts a damper on our season early on.

And then we have Tennessee.

Tennessee is another long-time Auburn nemesis. The schools have played each other 49 times and Auburn leads the series 25-21-3. Amazing is the points scored. Auburn has scored 830 points in the series. Tennessee has picked up 831. (Damn that last TD Peyton Manning threw in 1997 Championship game!) The first game was in 1900. Auburn won 23-0, so scaring Tennessee that they didn’t play us again until the stock market crashed in 1929.

Beginning in 1956, Auburn and Tennessee began playing each other every season, something that continued until 1991. With the exception of 1968, it was always in September. Auburn has won the last three contests. The last game was the 2004 SEC Championship. We played Tennessee twice that year, also winning in Knoxville 34-10.

The game I’d like to draw attention to is the one from the 2003 season. Auburn came into that game 2-2, having opened the season with losses to Southern Cal and Georgia Tech. Tennessee came in to the game 4-0 and ranked seventh in the nation. The final score was Auburn 28, Tennessee 21. However, that score was the result of two garbage TDs by Tennessee in the 4th quarter. This year, UT comes into this game with a record of 1-2 with losses to UCLA (how did they blow that one) and Florida.

And so my concern. We lost to LSU last week. Florida embarrassed Tennessee. Both schools are going to come out mad. However, like us in 2003, Tennessee comes in to the game feeling like they have nothing to lose. Should we be able to beat Tennessee? Yes! Is it going to be tough? Yes!

Injury-wise, we seem to be fine. It looks like Brad Lester may be back. Good for us if he is. I hope Kodi Burns gets in to the game. He adds a necessary dimension to our offense. Don’t understand why the coaches are hesitant, when they used such with Cox last year.

Lastly, I hope Durst is fully healed from the flu. As I watched Shoemaker punt poorly, I spent time wondering what happened to Durst. We lost 20 yards of field position in the LSU game when he went down with the flu. That could have been the difference.

War Damn Eagle!

P.S. A question for later that needs to be addressed…has our real problem since 2004 been the lack of playmaker receivers. We used to Obamanu, Aromashodu, & Mix. We’ve yet to have similar playmakers since.

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

The Resurgence of Erin Andrews

A few months ago, I put a picture of Erin Andrews on this website. It’s not a fancy picture, just one of her from a Florida alumni get-together in Atlanta. That one picture has been found by some website somewhere. When people visit this blog, the Erin Andrews picture is drawing in 3 out of every 10 visitors (30%).

During the run-up to the Auburn – LSU game last week, the Erin Andrews picture was drawing only 1 out of every 20 visitors (5%). Now that the game is over, the percentage of people checking out this blog to see the Erin Andrews shot is one in four (25%).

I just want to ask the question…what website or blog is funneling the traffic here.

Please drop me a line and let me know. Thanks.

To see the picture, click here.

Sunday, September 21, 2008

Auburn - LSU Wrap Up: Pooched Out

When we have late night games like this, I find it impossible to go to bed right away. The adrenalin rush makes it impossible to calm down and go to sleep. Right now is one of those times.

When we took the lead in the 4th quarter in Baton Rouge last year, a pooch kick gave LSU excellent field position and proved our downfall. This year, a poor punt did the same thing. We gave LSU great field position and they took it down and scored on us.

But that wasn’t the only thing that proved our downfall tonight.

There was the way we started missing our defensive assignments and allowed LSU to score two TDs in the 3rd quarter to take the lead. This was combined with the fact that twice in the 2nd half we drove to within field goal range and never even got a chance to kick the field goal. If you’re going to go for it on 4th and 1, just run the damn ball.

There was the play on 3rd and 25 late where Todd missed a wide-open Robert Dunn. However, there was also the play that same series where Lee Ziemba missed his assignment and put us in to that long yardage situation. On 4th and 25, we fell three yards short. Ironically, we faced long yardage in 2004 on the last drive. On 4th and 15 four years ago, we were on target.

There are some numerical oddities to note:

1) The last five games have been decided by a total of 19 points. Margins have been 1 point (2004), 3 points (2005), 4 points (2006), 6 points (2007), and 5 points (2008). When we win next year in Baton Rouge, the margin will be two points.

2) Auburn gained 320 total yards against LSU. That’s five more than Auburn gained against Mississippi State.

3) The over-under on this game was 38. Who, but Vegas, could have imagined there would be more than 38 points scored in this game?

Yes, there are little things we can point to, but in the end, we just flat lost. We have to hope LSU loses two games, which is conceivable.

As for us, I’d like to rescind one comment I made in July. I expected us to beat LSU, but lose to Tennessee. I based that on us being physically wracked from the LSU game.

I now think we’ll beat UT next weekend.

War Damn Eagle anyway!!!!

Saturday, September 20, 2008

An Answered Prayer

It was a little after 5:00 as I left work on Thursday. My destination was Andrew’s baseball game. The game was slated for 5:45, but I knew I’d be late. There was 40+ miles of Atlanta rush hour traffic between me and the ball field. The highways had been stress free of late. I tried to leave as early as I could, but still knew I’d be late.

I called my wife from the road to update her on my ETA. She and Christopher were in the bleachers. The game had started.
“I’m just passing Gwinnett Arena,” I said. Another 20 minutes or so till I get there.
“I probably won’t be here when you arrive. I have to take Christopher to his practice.”

I arrived about when I expected and took the first available space I saw. As I walked to the field, I saw my wife’s car leaving. I ran over and said hi quickly, then headed to Andrew’s game. His team was the guest so I sat in the third base bleachers. The sun was setting directly over the first base line. Parents held their hands over their eyes to block the glare. How can the kids batting right-handed even see?

Andrew came up second in the inning and I did what I had done so many times before: glance towards Heaven and tried to imperceptibly cross myself. Andrew started playing baseball only last spring. I hoped back then he’d get some hits. I don’t remember when I started offering my silent prayers. However, cursed with an un-athletic father, Andrew isn’t gifted with the bat. Any help…I’ll take it. Andrew does have a good eye and waits for good pitches. Last spring, he managed to get on base every game either via walk or hit-by-pitch.

Andrew stepped into the batter’s box and I wondered how much the low sun would affect him. He let the first one go by.

“Ball!” the umpire said.

“Good eye, Andrew!” I yelled. Andrew stepped out of the batter’s box, looked at the coach, and then stepped back in. The next pitch came in slightly above the letters. Andrew swung, but couldn’t catch up to it.


The cheers from the other side were loud and clear, matching the encouragement we gave one our side. “Good swing, Andrew!” I yelled.

Andrew let the next two go by. The umpire called “Ball!” on both. “Wait for your pitch,” I called out.

The next pitch came in letter-high. Andrew swung and connected. I’d seen him foul balls off. He’d done so in the previous game. However, as I watched this one make a rainbow arc over the third baseman, I realized he’d hit it fair. As it sailed towards the left fielder, I uttered a second plea to Heaven. Please don’t let him catch it. The ball dropped in front of the left fielder and then bounced passed him. Andrew was running as fast as he could. He’s not fast, but he was listening to his coaches and wasn’t about to stop. The right fielder picked up a ball and hurled it to the second basemen. However, Andrew touched second base at that time and headed towards third. The second basemen threw it to third. A chorus of “Slide” came from the bench, but it wasn’t necessary. Andrew beat the throw, making it to third standing up. His whole bench was cheering. Andrew’s smile could have lit the park.

I pulled out my cell phone to call my wife. I was sorry she had missed Andrew’s first hit. I called her several times, but had to leave a message. The next batter hit a single that brought Andrew home. I smiled as he passed by in front of me and said to him, “Way to go!’ Andrew entered the dugout. His teammates slapped his helmet in congratulations.

I glanced to Heaven once more: Thank you!

Friday, September 19, 2008

Auburn vs. LSU: Round Three

Prayers of the Faithful
It’s late. I’m watching West Virginia blow it against Colorado. The more luster WVU loses, the less pressure they’ll be under later, but that game is weeks away.

A friend of mine at work grew up in the Bronx at 157th and Melrose. He’s a Mets fan. For those of you, like me, who are unfamiliar with the Bronx, my friend grew up four blocks from Yankee Stadium. When he talks about the Mets these days, my friend references what the New York press refer to as the Russian Roulette Bullpen. Since Billy Wagner, the Mets closer, went down, Mets fans have been hoping to survive every game. Every time a reliever comes out, Mets fans say a prayer.

And that’s where Auburn fans are right now…we’re saying a prayer. We know we have the tools to win the game vs. LSU, but we have no idea what’s going to come from the Auburn offense. Will we survive or will we shoot ourselves? We tried hard to do the latter in the game vs. Mississippi State, but still managed to win. (Thank you, Defense!) I think we will move the football enough to win the game, but that first trip in the Red Zone will say all. Still, I’ll look for other signs: cloud formations, dogs and cats holding town hall meetings in my backyard, and Bo Jackson movies. (The last time I saw one, Auburn smoked LSU by a score of 31-7 two days later.)

Yet they built those hotels
I’ve tried to take the pulse of the non-passion crowd for this game and I’m confused. Most of the columnists I read are giving it to Auburn in a close one. However, Vegas has the line at LSU by 2.5. More fascinating is the over/under. Vegas isn’t known for making stupid bets. The oddsmakers set a line so that half of the money bet will fall on each side of the line. The losers pay a surcharge. On this surcharge, hotels are built. The over/under for this game is 38. Combined with 2.5 point spread, this means the gamblers are expecting a score around 20-18 or 21-17. The combined games scores of LSU’s last two visits to Auburn totaled 29. (The score was 10-9 in 2004 and 7-3 in 2006. Yes, I do remember LSU’s 30-24 win last year. I’m sure ESPN won’t let us forget it.)

Still, with both defenses considered among the best in the nation and both offenses unproven, the 38 seems high. Granted, what do I know, I don’t live in Vegas.

War Damn Eagle!

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Auburn vs. LSU: Round Two

Yes, it was probably the most anemic performance by an Auburn offense that we’ve ever seen.

Granted, I still remember a 22-0 loss to Southern Cal a few years ago and a 34-3 loss to FSU back when I was in college. Those were bad. And we looked like crap. But how bad were we really in the MSU game? We gained 315 yards of total offense in the game. It was our lowest production of the year. However, as one Alabama sportswriter pointed out, Auburn’s total yardage was higher than six games from last season and within 25 yards of two others. I had to check that out. The writer was correct. Here are the results:

Auburn’s total yardage from last season:
Below 315:
Georgia (216), Alabama (282), Arkansas (290), South Florida (290), Kansas State (291), and LSU (296).
Close: Mississippi State (323), Florida (326)

Our highest output in one game was 428 yards, ironically against Clemson.

(Yes, I know, none of the games is adjusted for penalties.)

Still, our inability to put the ball into the end zone and Wes Byrum’s imitation of John Vaughn against LSU has every Auburn fan wondering the following: will Auburn’s offense be able to generate anything against LSU?

The answer is yes.

For starters, we’ve had three games. Last year at this time, we were 1-2 (0-1 in the SEC) and had produced 10 turnovers in two losses. The pundits were saying Auburn would be lucky to win three games and was already out of the bowl picture.

This year, we’re 3-0 (1-0 in the SEC). Our worry is not being bowl eligible, but whether we can get our offense together to win the Western Division.

The worries this season vs. last season are very different. Last season, it was can we win. This season, it’s can we score enough.

The total points scored in the last two visits by LSU to Auburn: 29. Ten points were scored in Auburn’s 7-3 victory in 2006. Nineteen points were scored in Auburn’s 10-9 victory in 2004.

We may not score much, but, the way our defense is playing, hopefully we won’t need to score much. The line on the game is LSU by 2-1/2. Yes, they are favored in our house.
Expect us to beat the spread.

And look for us to win the game.

Monday, September 15, 2008

Auburn vs. LSU: Round One - GameDay

In October of last year, I did a column entitled “Auburn: 2-0 when GameDay blows”. The column discussed the GameDay crew ripping Auburn prior to last year’s Florida game, implying that Auburn didn’t have a chance. All three hosts were predicting a virtual blood bath. Instead, as you may recall, Auburn beat Florida in The Swamp.

The last time the GameDay crew made similar predictions was when Auburn faced Alabama with a 4th string TB named Tre Smith and converted TE to FB named Cooper Wallace.

This week, the GameDay crew descends on the Plains. It’s nice that they at least admit that a match-up of two Top Ten teams is probably the biggest game of the day, not the meeting between UT and Florida, which CBS has chosen to show for the last several years, when presented with a choice between UF-UT and AU-LSU. CBS definitely lives in the 90s.

However, I hope the Game Day crew gives Auburn the same treatment they have before.

I hope after watching Auburn’s performance against MSU last week, the GameDay crew throws us under a bus.

I hope when the time comes that Corso takes a mascot head of Mike the Tiger out of the box and puts it on his head.

Auburn fights best when it’s fighting mad.

War Eagle!

P.S. I was going to do a story on how close and low scoring a number of Auburn – LSU games have been over the years, but Kevin Scarbinsky at the Birmingham News beat me to the punch in the second half of his Auburn - MSU wrap up. His article is here.

Sunday, September 14, 2008

Listen to the Music

Over a year ago, a car company put out a commercial showing an engineer testing the gear shifts on several versions of a new vehicle. During the commercial, the engineer noticed the pitch of the engine changed with each shift. He smiles, starts shifting gears in rhythm, and the engines play the opening guitar riff from “Smoke on the Water.” I have no idea what car they were advertising. (I’m sure it was mentioned in the ad.)

What I do know is that the commercial made an impression on my younger son, Christopher. When it came on, Christopher would start humming (grunting) trying to imitate the music: dun dun DUN, dun dun DA-DUN, dun dun DUN, dun dun. Over and over again, he would mimic it, dancing around and doing his best air guitar routine. I love the song, so I tried to teach him some of the lyrics. He got as far as singing “SMOKE…on the WA-TER” before going back to imitating the sounds. It was his new favorite song.

This isn’t the first hard rock song Christopher has liked. He loves Miracle, the movie about the U.S. hockey team winning gold at Lake Placid in 1980. However, his favorite part of the movie is the closing montage, which features Aerosmith’s “Dream On.” He would ask us to replay the closing credits so he could hear it. Also, there are times in the car when I’m changing stations. Christopher will say, “Go back, Daddy, I want to hear that song.” Usually, it’s either Aerosmith or The Rolling Stones. I have CDs of both groups, but I’ve yet to let him listen, as I am afraid I might have to explain the lyrics.

My older son, Andrew, has the musical tastes I would expect for kids his age. When Andrew’s in the car, he wants me to tune in the Disney station on my satellite radio so he can hear The Jonas Brothers. Andrew also sings Hannah Montana songs. Christopher, though, prefers “heavier” sounds. My wife accuses me of instigating it, saying that I push it on Christopher because its music I like. I don’t agree, but I do admit to having used “Smoke on the Water to get his attention. (Admittedly, the recent father-son duet last night at the grocery store was probably a bit much.)

Because of Christopher’s music tastes, I was concerned when the new superhero movie Iron Man opened in May. Both kids love these types of films. I had originally planned to take Andrew, as he is old enough (age 11) to understand what words are inappropriate for him to use. However, Christopher is six and the movie is too violent for him. Plus, he tends to act out movies at home and I don’t want to give him ideas. Still, since someone showed Christopher the trailers on the Net (ok, it was me), I felt like I had no option but to take him.

The violence, though, was only part of it. What scared me more was the theme song. I knew Christopher would pick it up instantly. I could deal with him liking Deep Purple, Aerosmith, and the Stones, but I wasn’t ready for a six-year old walking around the house and humming Black Sabbath. Now, that he’s seen it, he does his air guitar routine with even more flair than he showed on “Smoke on the Water.”

Anybody know where I can get a Deep Purple or a Black Sabbath t-shirt in a youth medium?

Auburn vs. Mississippi State Wrap Up

My son, who went to bed at 10:00 last night, asked me this morning what the score was.

"3-2," I said.

"Dad, that was the score of the Braves-Mets game yesterday. What was the Auburn score?"

Like my son this morning, I’m not sure what to think at this moment.

One, I love our defense, but I’m only expressing the view of every Auburn fan in the country. I’ve never seen such a dominating performance in my life. Our defense did not allow MSU a third down conversion. (Granted, we only made three third down conversions ourselves.) They also shut them down on three 4th down conversions.

Two, I can’t stand MSU’s punter. I think our punter, Durst, is good. However, MSU’s punter, Blake McAdams, has changed field position on us in the 4th quarter both this year and last year. He’s average over half the time. But, as I watched us trade punts with MSU, I knew he’d pin us deep eventually. Croom apparently told him he’d lose his job if he kicked it to Robert Dunn, which may have hampered some of his ability last night. Hard to say.

The offense. I haven’t seen anything this inept since the days of Hugh Nall. We looked pathetic. The irony? We had over 300 yards of offense. When I saw that total, I was in shock. How? We had two missed field goals and I lost count on the fumbles. Then, I realized we had close to 100 yards in penalties (meaning we really had about a net 200 yards.) More galling, we have to put the ball in the end zone when we’re in the red zone. Where was Kodi? Is he hurt more than we think he is? Also, what to think of the offensive line? Todd has had all day to throw in the last two games. Is the offensive line facing defenses that don’t know how to generate a pass rush?

Is there anything positive to take forward about Auburn’s chances, given the display we just witnessed?

-> We had less turnovers than last year’s game vs. Mississippi State.
-> I’ve see us have bad games before. Our offense has a habit (2004 being the exception) of looking anemic against Arkansas, only to come out gangbusters the following weekend.
-> If there was a way to lull LSU in to complacency, we found it.

Still, I wouldn’t throw in the towel yet. The game against MSU was an aberration (and an embarrassment.) Winning ugly is still a win. And we can’t get any worse (though we will likely drop in the polls).

And I still firmly believe we’ll beat LSU.

In other news:

South Carolina was an end zone fumble away from tying Georgia. It was a good game.

Should we be worried about our October trip to Nashville to face Vanderbilt? The Commodores look good at the moment. (Just what everyone needed, another tough SEC game.)

Kentucky avoided a sequel to the Bluegrass Miracle, tackling a Middle Tennessee state receiver on the 1-yard line and winning 20-14.

Given what BYU did to UCLA, do you think Tennessee is glad they didn’t schedule BYU.

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

September 13: Auburn vs. Mississippi State

History is not on our side!

I don’t mean that we don’t lead the overall series. Auburn first played Mississippi State on October 27, 1905. The final score was 18-0. I t was the first of ten straight wins over MSU. The Bulldogs finally took their first victory in 1927 and followed it with two more. Auburn then won three straight before the series first tie in 1940. Then MSU took seven straight. The series record currently stands at 53-25-3. (Yes, in Auburn’s favor.)

Nevertheless, when I say that history doesn’t favor us, I refer to the way MSU normally wins: in spurts. There’s little back and forth in this series. Auburn runs off several. Then MSU. Then Auburn again. The only exception is below

1960: Auburn 23, MSU 12
1961: MSU 11, Auburn 10
1962: Auburn 9, MSU 3
1963: MSU 13, Auburn 10
1964: Auburn 12, MSU 3

Gotta love the days of the old defensive-style football. The games were close. Still, MSU, like a Lays potato chip, never has just one.

They’ll have only one this time around.

MSU comes into the contest 1-1, having dropped its opening day contest to LA Tech and then defeating SE Louisiana. Auburn comes into Starkville 2-0 with revenge on their mind for last season’s 19-14 loss, a game plagued with five turnovers, two of them (if I remember correctly) deep in MSU territory. We also had Kodi Burns playing his first start, an MSU punt late in the game that flipped the field, and probably the one time I remember in three years where Brandon Cox was unable to drive us down the field to get us what we needed at the end of a game. (Yes, I know we lost at LSU twice in Cox’s career, but it wasn’t the fault of Cox’s play.)

Auburn is mad and Auburn is good. With last year’s loss to MSU still fresh, Auburn will be focused and not looking ahead to LSU next weekend. MSU has some of the best “big uglies” in the business year-in and year-out. However, look for Todd to lead several drives in the first half and Kodi to get significant time in the second half. He, too, needs to shake away the demons of last season.

War Damn Eagle!

Sunday, September 7, 2008

Auburn vs. Southern Miss Wrap Up

Not again!

You were thinking it! Don’t deny it!

When Auburn fumbled in the red zone on the first drive, you cursed the bad luck.

When Auburn fumbled in the red zone on the second drive, you said to yourself “Not Again!” for two reasons: you had just watched Auburn fumble on its first drive. You had flashbacks to Auburn’s contests last year against South Florida and Mississippi State: games where we couldn’t keep hold of the ball.

When Auburn fumbled in the red zone on the third time, you were swearing loudly, approaching a coronary, until the referee signaled that the play had been blown dead and it was still Auburn’s ball. You breathed a sigh of relief when Auburn finally went in for its first score.

When Auburn made its second score, you breathed easier ever more. Then Tristan Davis was hurt. “Not Again!” you thought.
When Robert Dunn had his second punt return for a TD called back because of an illegal block, a block that had no effect on the runback, your first thought was Chaz Ramsey from a year ago…wondering if Auburn’s reputation will change from running backs to blocks in the back.

Eventually Auburn got up to 24-0. You relaxed. Auburn had it in the bag, even though the score could easily have been 42-0.

Then Kodi threw an interception and Southern Miss responded with a TD. They missed the two-point conversion. It was now 24-6.

On a later drive, Auburn gave up 4th and 10 and 4th and 16 plays to allow Southern Miss to close the gap with another TD. The score was 24-13.

Auburn responded by taking the ball down the field, at times in huge rain. With 1st and goal at the 7 and the chance to make it a three score game again, Auburn fell short and had to take a field goal. It was 27-13.

“Is Auburn losing?” my wife asked.

“They’re trying to,” I responded.

Southern Miss would drive the field again, to be stopped by a turnover.

It ended 27-13 and you exhaled deeply. Auburn had gone up early, lost focus, and it nearly cost them. Back in July, when I was reviewing the upcoming season, I predicted a 31-13 final core for this game. It felt a lot closer. You thought the same way.

What did we know at the end?

Auburn was now 2-0.

We now have a QB. Chris Todd led the Tigers on respectable drives, but he seems unsure of himself. And there’s just something about him wearing Brandon Cox’s number, a number that you thought maybe should have been rested for four years. We won often with Cox under center, but something about Auburn’s play over the last three years has had many doubling and tripling their beer intake.

We seem to be able to kick it a lot better than we did last year. None of this pooch kick crap that likely cost us the LSU game.

Our defense is stingy when focused, though work is still to be done.

Our offense does know how to pass.

This week is Mississippi State in Starkville. It’s time for payback. I just hope we can hold on to the ball this weekend.

War Damn Eagle!

In other SEC news, Arkansas had to score two TDs in the 4th quarter to beat Louisiana-Monroe. Hope this doesn’t make up complacent when we play Arkansas.

Ole Miss took Wake Forest to the wire before losing on 30-28 on a field goal with three seconds to go. As I attended Wake (grad school), I root hard for the Demon Deacons against except when they’re playing Auburn. It was a great game. Ole Miss is going to be tougher than anyone expects this year.

Alabama was lethargic in their win over Tulane, with the offense contributing only one TD in the affair and special teams contributing two. However, as Tulane spent a week in B’ham due to Gustav, the Alabama faithful apparently did give Tulane a standing ovation when they came on to the field. It was a class move.

Friday, September 5, 2008

Mo’s New Job

My wife, Mo, has a new job. She’s volunteering at our sons’ school. Granted, this isn’t new. She’s volunteered before. It started when Andrew was younger. Mo’s favorite hobby is origami (the Japanese art of paper folding). Every year, she has gone into the boys’ classes to teach basic techniques to the kids. She also spends hours crafting origami ornaments and other gifts for family and teachers. Last year, Mo signed to help with the boys’ classes. After hearing nothing from anyone for several months, she took matters into her own hands and let the teachers know of her availability. I know the boys enjoyed seeing her at school.

This year, Mo decided to go one step further. She joined the PTA to get more involved. However, she has also volunteered for a new program called Sound Reading Solutions. Sound Reading Solutions targets children in grades 3-5 that have reading difficulties, but that don’t qualify for additional services for the school. The program was founded by Bruce Howlett, a former junior high special education teacher. CostCo funds the program to bring it to schools. Volunteers are recruited at schools and taught how to work with kids to improve their reading abilities. CostCo pays for the materials and the training; it falls to the schools to sign up enough volunteers to implement it.

At my sons’ school, seven people volunteered to help. The time requirement is only one hour per child per week. Mo agreed to take two kids to start until she is accustomed to helping the program. She hopes to get used to it quickly, so that she might help more kids. Given the percentages of kids who might qualify for this program, Mo and I estimate that roughly 30 or more children are on a waiting list for this service. With seven volunteers, that’s only 14 kids receiving it if each volunteer takes two. I know that Mo will take on more once she is more familiar with what needs to be done. For now, though, she is doing what she can.

If you can help out, call your local, your PTA, or even CostCo and ask what you can do.

Thursday, September 4, 2008

McCain, Obama, and the NFL

This morning, on Mike and Mike in the Morning (a morning talk show on ESPN radio), the hosts, Mike Golic and Mike Greenberg, raised the question as to how tonight’s season opening NFL game between the NY Giants and Washington Redskins would affect the Republican Convention. Kickoff for the game, which will be broadcast on NBC, has been set for 7:00 p.m EST. Normally, night games are set for 8:00 or 9:00 p.m. However, NBC has set the earlier time so as not to interfere with John McCain’s acceptance speech, which is scheduled to occur some time after 10:00 p.m.

Mike and Mike raised the question as to whether McCain would hold off on his speech until the end of the game. This is particularly relevant if there is an overtime period. What does NBC do if the game isn’t over and McCain decides to go ahead with his speech? They would have to cut out, almost in a repeat of the Heidi fiasco of long ago, irritating the general public of viewers watching the game.

So what if NBC does cut out? In addition to the general public, NBC risks annoying New York and D.C., two areas voting for Obama anyway. They risk annoying the “mainstream” press, a group that has nearly all of its various headquarters in New York, many of its people in Washington, and is also voting for Obama.

So the risk gets back to annoying the general public: the fan that wants to watch the game but that doesn’t really have a rooting interest for either team. For these people, McCain will wait. If OT occurs, McCain will be rehearsing his speech for the nth time until it’s time to go on. Besides, he’s a sports fan.

In this discussion, Mike and Mike missed one point: the Democratic contender, Barack Obama. Obama is finally ending his boycott of Fox News, agreeing to an interview with Bill O’Reilly. The interview will be scheduled over two shows. Obama’s price for the interview: the first portion is to run the night of McCain’s acceptance speech.

It’s hard to ignore this. Candidates traditionally stay quiet during an opponent’s convention. McCain bought three commercials during the Democratic Convention, all congratulating Barack Obama. On the other hand, Barack wants an hour on Fox News. This could be called gamesmanship and payback for McCain announcing his VP choice the day after the Democratic Convention. It could also be called narcissism.

However, the real testament to what it is shows here. O’Reilly’s show, The O'Reilly Factor, begins at 8:00 p.m., one hour into the NFL broadcast. Obama is setting himself up to compete against the NFL.

And that’s nuts.