Saturday, October 31, 2009

Auburn - Ole Miss Postgame Review

I reminisced today about my days about my days as a collegian.

It’s not that I do it every time I watch college football. It’s just that certain things remind me of certain games. For example, during the Florida – Georgia game, the trivia question asked what was Georgia’s only win against a #1 team. Apparently, it was Georgia’s 24-3 win over Florida in 1985. I remember that game. Auburn had played Florida the week before in Auburn. Auburn lost 14-10, but Florida pretty much left the Plains banged up. When they met Georgia the following week, Florida had nothing left in the tank. Still, Florida took it to Georgia physically, making Auburn’s 24-10 win in the Athens the following week not as close as the score indicated. Such is life in SEC football.

When Auburn announced they were trying to make the game against Ole Miss a “Navy Nightmare” on Halloween, I thought back to 1987. Florida visited the Plains that year. Auburn’s slogan for that game was “Nightmare in Jordan-Hare.” Auburn won that day 29-6.

So when Auburn made it 31-7 against Ole Miss today, the 1987 Florida game popped into my head. I thought we should have had it in the bag. However, jaded by both this season and last season, I knew we still needed to play it out. There was a long way to go.

And I was right. Ole Miss scored two quick TDs to make it 31-20, still in the 3rd quarter. I wondered if this was how Arkansas felt when we scored 20 quick points in the 3rd quarter to make it an 11-point game in Fayetteville. Arkansas responded by stopping Auburn the rest of the way and tacking on a couple of extra scores.

For Auburn today, we responded with a blocked PAT, running it back for a two-point conversion. It was our last score of the day, but possibly the biggest play of the game.

That conversion turned it from a 10-point game (it would have been a 10-point game if Ole Miss had made the PAT) to a 13-point game. Ole Miss went from needing a TD and field goal to essentially needing two TDs. Granted, they could have gotten a TD and two FGs, but that would mean three successful scoring drives. The reality basically negated what Ole miss could do when they got close. A FG was no longer acceptable. They had to go for the TD.

And that may have made the difference. Forced to adopt a higher-risk strategy, Ole Miss wouldn’t get any closer. If they could have only needed a FG to make it a one-score game, then they might have been able to do that and Auburn would have gotten nervous.

Granted, Auburn was nervous anyway. We’ve seen a lot over the last two seasons. Games in which Auburn couldn’t close it out.

Today, they closed the deal.

Today, they turned a corner.

Today they ended with a victory.

And took another step toward making 2008 a bad memory and helping the future look bright.

It may have been a “Navy Nightmare in Jordan-Hare” for Ole Miss, but Auburn’s three-week nightmare was over.

War Eagle and prayers for Zac Etheridge!

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