Goodreads

Goodreads Book Giveaway

The Samurai's Heart by Walt Mussell

The Samurai's Heart

by Walt Mussell

Giveaway ends January 08, 2018.

See the giveaway details at Goodreads.

Enter Giveaway

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.

“Strike!”

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.

September 6: Auburn vs. Southern Miss

Southern Miss has to be wondering if scheduling Auburn was a good idea. The following week, the Golden Eagles face Arkansas State, a suddenly tough customer who last week opened the season with a 16-14 win over Texas A&M. Forgive Southern Miss if they spend this week game planning against Arkansas State. After all, the only thing Auburn can do is run the football.

Yes, I’m being facetious.

Southern Miss started its year with a new head coach, Larry Fedora. While Auburn was beating ULM 34-0, Coach Fedora, an offensive specialist, was leading his team to a 51-21 pasting of University of Louisiana – Lafayette (ULL). (Lafayette, along the lower portion of Louisiana, was hit by Gustav. Prayers for the entire region go out.) So, both Auburn and Southern Miss come in to this contest 1-0.

Auburn‘s record against Southern Miss is 16-5. We first played them in 1946, during the days of Travis Tidwell, and won that game 13-12. At that time, Southern Miss was known as Mississippi Southern. We played them again the following year, losing 19-13. Our history with Southern Miss seems to be one of spurts. We play them a few times over the course of several years, and then don’t see them again for a while. Our last set was six games from 1988-1993. We went 4-2 over those six games. Our last meeting was during Terry Bowden’s first season. Auburn won that game 35-24, on its way to an 11-win season.

Every time, we face Southern Miss, I am reminded of a game I saw during my days at Auburn. USM had a QB named Danny Ducksworth. Ducksworth came in to Jordan-Hare and started lighting up the defense. Our boys had expected an easy game and played like a deer in the headlights. Somewhere in the second quarter, Ducksworth got hurt and was out for the rest of the game. Without him to contend with, Auburn reestablished itself and won the game. On the field that day, Coach Dye supposedly remarked to his opponent, “If Ducksworth hadn’t gotten hurt, you’d have won.”

I bring this up, as we seem to have a QB issue ourselves. As I said in my last post, Chris Todd sounds better on radio. Kodi Burns looks better on TV. Since Tuberville has announced that Chris Todd will start this weekend’s game, I am guessing I need to listen to it. However, I am hopeful that the coaches will allow Todd to play more than one possession at a time and establish some rhythm. Hopefully, though, we’ll see Kodi as well. I see Kodi as Auburn’s QB for the next three years. He needs time to get accustomed to the new offense, an offense that can pass when needed.

Look for a little more consistency this week than last week and a little more passing, though I am expecting us to pick up another 200+ yards on the ground. It should be good. It’s an early morning game, something that has been a problem for us in recent seasons. However, it will be an Auburn victory.