A Big Win that Felt Like Something Else

Monday, September 24, 2018

A Big Win that Felt Like Something Else

If there’s been a less satisfying 31-point win in the history of Auburn football it was before my time. As fans filed out of Jordan-Hare Stadium Saturday following Auburn’s 34-3 win over Arkansas, it felt like something of a loss – or at least a really bad tie if you remember those days.

Against the 119th ranked defense in the country, Gus Malzahn’s offense was held to 225 yards. Its average starting field position was the Arkansas 49 yard line. It managed only 17 offensive points from it through three quarters.

Breaking down this Auburn team through four games is simple. It’s playing with an elite defense, improving special teams and one of the worst offensive lines in the SEC. Because of this, the running game has been pedestrian and Jarrett Stidham has struggled.

Kuddos to former Heisman Trophy winner Tim Tebow who nailed the scouting report on Stidham prior to the LSU game. “When the line starts to give, he becomes very average.” said Tebow during an SEC Network broadcast . “His feet start to shuffle and he struggles with the downfield pass.”

Offensive lines are like the stock market, they tend to go up or down as the season progresses. Last year, the protection got better every week and we saw the result. Right now, Chip Lindsey is still trying to find the pieces. If there is silver lining, it’s Auburn’s schedule over the next month.

It’s no cake walk for sure, but with games against Southern Miss, at Mississippi St., Tennessee and at Ole Miss coming up, Auburn has time to fix things. The defense should play well enough to get them to 7-1 when Texas A&M comes to town on November 3rd.

The real shame is that lost in all the offensive talk is a defense that’s playing about as good as any in the country. If Auburn can just improve incrementally in the coming weeks, it should arrive at Amen Corner in good shape. Time will tell…

If I’m Auburn officials, the crowds showing up for games have to be a concern. On Saturday, close to 40 percent of the seats on the east side upper deck were empty. There were plenty of open ones as well on the west side.

You could chalk it up to playing a bad Arkansas team and coming off a loss, but the results were nearly as bad a week earlier against LSU. There’s no arguing that not having Alabama or Georgia for a home game is having an effect on season ticket sales. But there are other factors.

Tailgating restrictions and adding more pay-to-park spaces are causing issues. Less than friendly University employees make you feel like something of a criminal by imposing strict rules for setting up and enjoying your Saturday.

Throw in the convenience of big screen televisions and air conditioning at home and you begin to see why people are punting on a day spent in Auburn. The University’s past administration was largely viewed as inept at running the game day experience. Here’s to hoping the new leaders do a better job of making people feel welcomed…

I know SEC league officials frown on coaches saying anything publicly about officiating, but enough is enough. Teams are going to have bad calls go their way. It’s part of the game. This year, things have gone to a new level for Auburn. It’s time for Malzahn to speak out, take the league fine and show the players and fans he has their back.

Saturday’s questionable block in the back didn’t affect the outcome, but it could have easily. I can’t remember a year when SEC officiating has been so bad. It’s time for them to be held accountable and not just in a Monday morning conference call. Coaches need to speak out until the issues are fixed…

I had a moment inside Jordan-Stadium that made me feel my age. Welcoming back former players on the field prior to kickoff, Lionel James was welcomed to the field with polite applause. How could one of the great Auburn running backs get such a lukewarm reception?

Then it hit me. Most in attendance probably had no recollection of his playing days in the early 1980’s. That makes me sad and feel really old. If you don’t know him, hit up Google and type in “Little Train Auburn”. He was pretty special. Ask Bo Jackson.

Until next time…

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