Homecoming Week for the Tigers.

Thursday, September 14, 2017

Homecoming Week for the Tigers.

Auburn tight end Philip Lutzenkirchen (43) looks back at Samford defensive back Omar Johnson (25) as he runs into the end zone for a touchdown during the first half of an NCAA college football game on Saturday, Nov. 19, 2011, in Auburn, Ala. (AP Photo/Butch Dill)

Auburn needed a touchdown from Phillip Lutzenkirchen the last time Homecoming was close.

     War Eagle, everybody! It’s homecoming week. It’s a work week for this team, after a disappointing loss at Clemson. I think the time has come to shake that loss off, and move on. No amount of hand-wringing will bring Auburn an SEC Title, this year. What might is work, hard work. Work that focuses on the things Auburn did not do well on last week, is what should happen this week.

     First off, Auburn does have to focus on winning this game. We can look in our own division for a good example of taking a lower-classification school lightly. Texas A&M played a hangover game against Nichols State last weekend, and only 10 points in the 4th quarter to pull out a 24-14 victory. I do think Auburn needs to pound out a couple of quick touchdowns, before settling down to work on a stagnant passing game.

     How dangerous is Mercer? They pounded Jacksonville (the Florida one, not Jacksonville State, who almost beat Auburn a couple of years ago) 48-7 in week one. Quarterback Kaelan Riley threw 5 touchdown passes, and all was well. Last week, Mercer was nipped at home in Southern Conference play by the Wofford Terriers, 28-27. Riley threw more interceptions (3) than touchdowns (2). Wofford held the Bear rushing attack to just 3.2 yards per carry. Last season, Mercer went 6-5, and 4-4 in the Southern Conference. The Bears had losses to the Citadel, Georgia Tech, Chattanooga, Wofford and Samford.

     After building a lead, I think Auburn needs to work on throwing a variety of routes. Get the tight ends and backs some catches against live competition, so that it won’t be a surprise to them against LSU, to see a ball coming their way. If the Mercer coaches have watched any film on Auburn, they will know how to time the Auburn snap count and walk defenders up on the line at the last minute. We want to see what Auburn has done about that issue. Auburn could line up heavy, and just bash this team for 60 or 70 points. What Auburn needs to do is win the game, and work on things that they have not done well on, thus far.

     One change Auburn has implemented that we know of, already, is a coaching move. Offensive coordinator Chip Lindsey is moving upstairs to the press box, and offensive line coach Herb Hand will move down to the field. I applaud this. If I were calling plays, I’d want the bird’s eye view. On the other hand, Coach Hand has been a press-box guy for most of his career. I think the move will pay dividends, but there will probably be a few quirks to work out. Thankfully, Auburn has Mercer, then an awful Missouri defense to play the next two games.

     Homecoming games are supposed to be blowouts. One would have to go back to 2011 to find one that was truly competitive into the 4th quarter. Auburn led Samford just 21-16, early in the 4th, before winning, 35-16. Tennessee Martin hung around in 2008, before falling 37-20. Before that, Tommy Tuberville’s teams usually won big on homecoming, from 2002-2006.

More tight homecoming games, after the jump.

     In 2001, Louisiana Tech took Auburn to overtime, thanks to Auburn throwing 4 interceptions. Auburn prevailed, 48-41. The year before, Louisiana Tech’s offense was tough to stop, also, but it did not matter. Rudi Johnson rushed for over 200 yards, and Auburn won, 38-28. Tuberville’s first homecoming, against Central Florida was scary. The Knights actually led this one, 10-7 in the late going. With under 5 minutes left, Auburn faced a 3rd down situation in the red zone. Quarterback Jeff Klein threw a desperation ball too high in the end zone, but Reggie Worthy climbed the ladder and hauled it in. Then Central Florida went for it on 4th and 15, with 3 minutes left, and Vic Penn took a sack on 4th down, at his own 8 yard line. (Sounds like a scene from last weekend, doesn’t it?) Auburn cashed that one for another touchdown. Then an Alex Lincoln pick-six made the final score Auburn 28, Central Florida 10.

     Terry Bowden’s teams had a couple of close homecomings. In 1996, it took a late drive for a touchdown, on a pass from Dameyune Craig to Kevin McCloud to take a 28-24 win from Northeastern Louisiana. Bowden had quit by homecoming of 1998, and Bill Oliver was running things. Duante Culpepper and Central Florida led Auburn 6-3 late, and were driving for the clinching score. A fumbled snap stopped the drive, and Auburn had one more chance very late. Receiver Karsten Bailey took a simple 5-yard hitch pass, broke 3 tackles and went 57 yards for the score. Auburn escaped, 10-6.

     Pat Dye’s teams seldom had any trouble on homecoming, till the wheels came off the program in Gainesville, Florida, the week before homecoming 1990. Auburn built a 12-0 lead over Southern Mississippi, only to watch Bret Farve engineer a pair of 4th quarter touchdown drives. The Golden Eagles beat Auburn, 14-12. The following year, Auburn played Mississippi State for homecoming. That was the last time Auburn has played an SEC team for homecoming. First year Bulldog head coach Jackie Sherrill had his team fired up, and extremely mad that they were considered homecoming fodder. Mississippi State dominated the first half, leading 17-3 at the break. Auburn slowly climbed back into the game, finally tying the score at 17 in the 4th quarter. Late in the game, the tired Tigers allowed a simple option play to cover 63 yards for the game-winning touchdown. Auburn lost to MSU, 24-17. That was the last time Auburn has lost a homecoming game.

     This week, we’ll have our usual open thread up and ready to go early. The Mercer game kicks off at 3:00 PM, and will be televised on the SEC Alternate channel. I know on Charter cable TV, that is channel 720. I’m not sure about Dish or other companies. I will not be able to do the play-by-play this week, thanks to work obligations. I will watch the DVR and post grades, later in the weekend.

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