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Sunday, September 21, 2008

LSU 26, Auburn 21: The postmortem

Here's the thing about deadline football games: they're fun for fans, but they stink for reporters. They really do. And even more so for me, who has an hour earlier deadline because my paper is in the Eastern Time Zone.

So basically, everything is rushed. I don't think there's a writer who is ever satisfied with a game story a tight deadline game. For instance, I wish I would have made mention of Kodi Burns somewhere in mine, or more clearly identified the similarities between Saturday's game and last year's in Baton Rogue, where LSU scored a touchdown when all it needed was a field goal to win. Oh well. You do what you can do to make deadline in these situations.

But the biggest regret of deadline games is not being able to go down and talk to players and coaches afterward. All of my quotes were furiously typed while listening to a TV in the press box. Not ideal.

But, the good folks of Auburn's Sports Information Department are kind enough to transcribe most of the post-game quotes. That said, here are some thoughts now that I've been able to peruse some of them:

-- Offensive coordinator Tony Franklin on the running game: "It stunk. We couldn't run the football. We kept trying to force it and it looked like we had something. The numbers were good a lot of times. We just couldn't run it." Blunt, but honest.

-- Franklin planned to play Burns but never felt the right moment to do so. "I felt like Chris (Todd) had played well and competitive all night and thought he gave us the best chance to win," Franklin said. You have to admit that Todd handled himself much better this week. (Then again, could he have played worse?) Anyway, I don't feel like this offense is as hopeless as many do. LSU will be the best defense Auburn plays against this season. And Auburn still moved the ball at times, with Todd responsible for most of the good things that happened.

-- Head coach Tommy Tuberville defended the play-calling on Auburn's second-to-last possession, including a running play on 3rd-and-10 that produced five yards, forcing a punt that set up LSU's go-ahead drive. "We weren't trying to run the air out of the ball. It was just doing what they were giving us and of course, the thing that they were giving us at the time was forcing us to try to run the ball to see if they could make the tackles." Still think you have to take a shot at trying to throw for a first down there.

-- RB Brad Lester is fine, Tuberville said. He twisted his ankle/knee and could have come back in the game if Auburn wanted to.

-- Clinton Durst got the flu on Tuesday and wasn't better until Saturday morning, which is why Ryan Shoemaker handled Auburn's punting duties. For as well as Shoemaker did in not allowing Trindon Holliday to get a good chance at a return, he averaged a mediocre 35.4 yards on seven punts. LSU's Brady Dalfrey averaged 48.3 yards per punt, a significant difference.

-- LSU running back Charles Scott, got his yardage, finishing with 132 yards, but it wasn't easy. "Right now I am thinking it was the hardest 100 yards of my life," he said afterward.

-- DE Gabe McKenzie's pick in the second quarter was one of the prettier ones you'll see by a defensive end. Then again, he's only been a defensive end for about a month. He played tight end up until this year, explaining his soft hands.

-- I wrote in my Gameline for tomorrow that the key decision was LSU coach Les Miles going back to Jarrett Lee at quarterback despite his dismal first half. Well, as it turns out, he didn't have much choice. Starter Andrew Hatch had a concussion and couldn't go back in. Have I mentioned I dislike the rush of deadline games?

-- The onside kick didn't directly result in points, but you have to admire a coach like Miles who isn't afraid to try something daring to jumpstart his team.

-- For my first Auburn game, I've got to admit the atmosphere was incredible. The War Eagle part was impressive, as was the noise. For a college game, I don't know if I've heard louder. The only place that I can remember being more deafening was a Vikings game at the Metrodome in Minneapolis. Then again, that has the unfair advantage of being a closed stadium.

-- As far as classic college games I've seen, this one is up there. The only one that rivals the electricity in the air was when Virginia upset No. 4 Florida State a few years ago in Charlottesville. But I think the back-and-forth nature of this one -- and the fact that both teams were in the top-10 with plenty at stake -- made it much more entertaining.

-- Final thought: I can't imagine this being a backbreaker for Auburn. As last year proved, competing in the SEC is a yearlong struggle. LSU still plays No. 4 Florida, No. 3 Georgia and No. 9 Alabama in the next seven weeks. A lot can happen there.

More tomorrow (actually later today) when Tuberville has his teleconference.


cotton said...

I'm not sure I understand Franklin's call for the last play of the gamne for the offense. 4th and 25, this was Auburn's last shot. Why not set up a trick play, or LONG ball, or something?Anything but throwing short of the sticks. And when Rod smith caught it, it would've been nice for him to have the presence of mind to lateral. another receiver was right next to him. But i guess that's what asking too much.

Auburn Tiger info said...

Watching that last play, I'd say it didn't go as planned. Tood was flushed out to the right and just sort of heaved it up (obviously not far enough). Smith didn't have much chance. The defender was all over him.

I don't know if there are too many plays in the playbook that can get 25 yards in one shot when LSU's defense is expecting it.

Anonymous said...

What's the deal with Mario Fannin? Is he in the dog house or something? In preseason, someone made the comment that he might be the best to wear the orange and blue. Playmakers like that need to touch the ball at least 10 times a game.

Clanton Tiger

Jaiden said...

The game was very loud, but in the grand scheme of classic AU/LSU games, this one is just average...and that says a lot about the intensity of the rivalry. Great game between two well-matched teams. It was fun to watch.
I can't imagine VA/FSU would be nearly as interesting.