Auburn: These Are The Times That Try Men’s Souls

The Crisis by Thomas Paine
December 23, 1776

“THESE are the times that try men’s souls. The summer soldier and the sunshine patriot will, in this crisis, shrink from the…”

Fill in the blank.

The souls of Auburn men and women were tried, once again, this past Saturday at Jordan-Hare Stadium. You know the result. You also know just how that result came down.

2015 has been a trying season, and that is putting it politely.

There are many positives (defense for one) and negatives (quarterback play for one) to be taken from the, 20-13, loss to the the Georgia Bulldogs. I am not going to expound on those here. If you are even a “summer soldier” or a “sunshine patriot”, you probably have seen or heard the takes on the defeat, ad infinitum.

But this is not 2012 (3-9).

This Auburn team has not quit and it has fought, tooth and nail, in EVERY game it has played, thus far, this season. I have every reason to think that that type of effort will continue in the final two games of the regular season and in the, highly probable, bowl game.

Birmingham in December. There’s the making of a poem in those three words, no?

The leaves, having fallen, are now crushed under foot, and pilgrims tread forth, approaching the Old Gray Lady…

Nah, not today. But MAYBE, if Auburn does play in the Birmingham Bowl at Legion Field.

My! How the mighty have fallen, just like the leaves of autumn here in the Deep South.

But our cause is not hopeless. Gus and company will continue to pour every ounce of their being into preparing this edition of the Auburn Tigers to compete in three more football games. And they will will scour the countryside to recruit young men to join them in this rebuilding effort.

I never, in my wildest nightmares, had any idea that 2015 would become a rebuilding job. But that, my friends, is exactly what this season has become. And I am of the opinion that our coaching staff needs at least two more years to rebuild the Gus Bus.

“Love is patient…” 1 Corinthians 13:4 begins. We, as Auburn fans, are going to have to practice that if we do love our Tigers as we say we do.

Auburn WILL be back. Patience Grasshopper.

Now, let us continue in 1 Corinthians 13:7. “Love never gives up, never loses faith, is always hopeful, and endures through every circumstance.” This is the attitude that true Auburn fans will have to adopt to see this thing through.

And here, Auburn Family, is some inspiration. It is one of my favorite songs from my favorite band that is out there, playing live today, Gov’t Mule.

Soulshine

When you just can’t find the light
That guides you through your cloudy day
When the stars ain’t shining bright
And it feels like you lost your way
When the candle lights of home
Burn so very far away
Well you got to let your soul shine
Just like my daddy used to say

He used to say soul shine
It’s better than sunshine
Better than moonshine
Damn sure better than the rain
Hey now people don’t mind
We all feel this way sometimes
Got to let your soul shine
Shine till the break of day

Grew up thinking that I had it made
Gonna make it on my own
But life can take the strongest man
And make him feel so alone
But now and then I feel a cold wind
Blowing through my aching bones
I think back to what my daddy said
He said, “Boy, it’s darkest before the dawn”

Let your soul shine
Oh, it’s better than sunshine
Better than moonshine
Damn sure better than rain
Yeah now people don’t mind
We all feel this way sometimes
Got to let your soul shine
Shine till the break of day

Sometimes a man can feel this emptiness
Like a woman has robbed him of his very soul
Woman too, God knows, she can feel like this
And when your world seems cold
You got to let your spirit take control

Talking about the soul shine
Better than sunshine
Better than moonshine
Damn sure better than rain
Lord, now people don’t mind
We all feel this way sometimes
Got to let your soul shine
Yeah, shine on and on and on and on

Oh, it’s better than sunshine
Better than moonshine
Damn sure better than rain
Yeah, now people don’t mind
We all feel this way sometimes
Got to let your soul shine
Shine till the break of day

Songwriters
WARREN HAYNES

If THAT won’t get you fired up, then your wood’s wet!

Where Do We Go From here?

Auburn is also going to have to have another very strong recruiting class that is loaded with defensive linemen and linebackers.

Also, it appears that dual threat quarterbacks are the best option to make this, now toothless, offense click. Two have committed to the upcoming, 2016, recruiting class. They are Woody Barrett and John Franklin III.

http://www.al.com/auburnfootball/index.ssf/2015/09/tracking_auburns_commits_woody.html

And Franklin:

http://www.al.com/auburnfootball/index.ssf/2015/11/report_former_fsu_quarterback.html

There are some hard decisions Coach Malzahn will have to make in the off-season. They may involve making assistant coaching changes. I don’t know what those decisions will call for, but they, surely, will have to be made.

BUT… before that off-season arrives there are three football games to be played in the 2015 season.

The first game is this Saturday. The opponent is the Idaho Vandals. Their coach is Paul Petrino. Yes, THAT Petrino. He is Bobby’s brother. Auburn will win this game.

The last game will, likely, be played in late December in the aforementioned Birmingham Bowl or in Shreveport, LA in the Camping World Independence Bowl.

There is another game sandwiched between these two games. It is also a “bowl” game.

The Iron Bowl.

That little contest will be played in Jordan-Hare Stadium at 2:30 CT on CBS.

Yes, all you rabid fans of Verne and Gary, we will get to do it one more time.

And so, these ARE the times that are, most assuredly, trying our collective souls. But, NO, our cause is NOT hopeless. Three games remain to be played by the Auburn Tigers.

So let’s ALL do our part! And whether you are going to attend these games, watch them on television, or listen to them on the radio, you will get to do it thrice more…

WITH FEELING!!!

Advertisements

The Deep South’s Oldest Rivalry

I have attended twenty-five Auburn-Georgia games. My record is 13-11-1. Saturday, good Lord willin’ and the creek don’t rise (well, the creek HAS risen, but that’s another story), will be number twenty-six for me. And I hope my record improves to 14-11-1. More on that later.

Here is a look back at some of those games I attended which were memorable and had a huge impact.

1968

The 1968 game was the first one I was privileged to view in-person. My father drove me, and my friends Frank McGraw and Mike Collins, to The Plains that rainy November morning. The weather cleared during the game.

Auburn was 6-2 with designs on an Orange Bowl invitation. Those dreams were squashed by a suffocating Bulldog defense which allowed only 3 first quarter points. The visitors scored all 17 of their points in stanza number two. The final tally was 17-3.

The Herschel Years

Herschel Walker, arguably college football’s greatest running back EVER, toted the rock at UGA for three seasons, 1980-82, and Georgia was the victor in all three. The respective scores were 31-21, 24-13, and 19-14.

I was there for all of those losses.
1982

Moral victories (is there really any such thing?) are ultimately hollow, but often provide a ray of hope. That was the case in 1982.

Georgia was undefeated and had their sights set on a second National Championship in a three-year span. They had beaten Notre Dame to accomplish this, behind the running of frosh phenom, Walker, following the 1980 season.

The Dawgs led 13-7 in the fourth quarter when Auburn’s Lionel “Little Train” James fielded a punt at his own 13-yard line and took it to the house. Tigers 14-13!

The number one team in the country responded like the champions they were with an 80-yard march that ended with Walker taking it in from the three. The two-point conversion attempt failed.

The Tigers countered with a desperation drive, engineered beautifully by quarterback Randy Campbell, that fell just short, as Campbell threw into the end zone on fourth down only to have the pass batted away with 47 ticks remaining on the clock. Game over. Georgia, 19-14.

This was the afternoon that legendary Bulldog broadcaster, Larry Munson, screamed, “Look at the sugar falling out of the sky! Look at the sugar falling out of the sky!” as the game concluded, and referencing the, now upcoming, trip to the Sugar Bowl for the SEC Champion Bulldogs.

But… BUT, also as the game concluded, Auburn fans, as often we do, chanted “It’s great to be an Auburn Tiger!” over and over and over. And the mood at our, and other’s tailgates, was not one of sadness or despair, but one of optimism and hope.

One game was yet to be played on that 1982 schedule, and the opponent was the Alabama Crimson Tide.

Auburn fans knew, in their heart of hearts, as one, that the nine-game winning streak that the Tide lorded over the Tigers could very well come to an end in two weeks at Legion Field in Birmingham, Alabama.

It did! Bo Jackson went “over the top” to give Auburn a 23-22 lead which they did not relinquish. That was Bear Bryant’s last regular season game as head coach at Alabama, and the balance of power, within the state, began to shift.
And now back to our regularly scheduled program.

Another monster game in “The Deep South’s Oldest Rivalry.”

1983

I was NOT in attendance. We were living in Albany, NY and didn’t make the game, but it’s tale is a must tell when one consider’s the enormity of the event.

Auburn had not won an SEC Championship since 1957. Third-year coach Pat Dye brought a determined group of Tigers to play “between the hedges”. They were 8-1 and number 3 in the country. Georgia was undefeated and ranked number 4.

Georgia was looking for its fourth straight league title. The winner of this one would decide who would represent the SEC in New Orleans.

Auburn would, absolutely, not be denied this time. They were in full control of the game, from the beginning, and the 13-7 triumph was not as close as the score indicated.

The twenty-six year conference championship drought came to an end in Athens.

Auburn went on to defeat the Michigan Wolverines, and Bo Schembechler, 9-7, in the Sugar Bowl. They would be crowned National Champions by the New York Times.

Schembechler said Auburn would not be able to run on Michigan. Auburn did, indeed, run on the Wolverines and Bo Jackson was named the game’s Most Valuable Player.

Fast forward to 2004. I’m back in attendance.

2004

Auburn… #3 and undefeated. Georgia… #5 with one loss.

ESPN College GameDay.

There is only one game in which the atmosphere was more electric on an Auburn football Saturday. That was in 1989 when Alabama came to town for the first time in the history of the series.

Auburn had already clinched a spot in the SEC Championship Game and was playing for a, potential, spot in the Orange Bowl in the BCS National Championship Game.

Auburn held Georgia scoreless for 57 minutes and wound up winning by a 24-6 count. It wasn’t that close. They dominated the Bulldogs on both sides of the ball.

Carnell “Cadillac” Williams carried the ball 19 times for 101 yards.

Ronnie Brown ran for 51 yards. He also caught 7 passes for 88 yards.

And how about Jason Campbell? 18 for 22 and 189 yards.

Most of us know the rest of the story.

Auburn went into Tuscaloosa and beat Alabama two weeks later. The Tigers should have played Southern Cal for it all. They did not, as the idiots in both the AP and USA Today Coaches Polls kept Oklahoma at number two, and college football fans were robbed of what would, most likely, have been a monumental ‘game for the ages’ in Miami.

Auburn WAS named National Champions by People’s National Champions and the GBE College Football Ratings, among others.
2013
‘Nuff said!!!

And that brings us to…

2015

It’s not 2004, or even 1982, but this year’s contest between Auburn and Georgia is very important. Without rehashing what is going on in Athens, with Mark Richt and his squad, Georgia needs this game… BADLY.

Auburn needs this game.

The Tigers went to to College Station and whipped the Texas A&M Aggies in a most impressive fashion.

The game plans for the offense and defense were excellent and they were well executed.

Jeremy Johnson returned as the starting signal caller and performed extremely well.

Jovon Robinson asserted himself as that ‘go to’ back that Auburn can give the ball to with complete confidence, and he will break a couple of long runs before the season is over.

The Auburn defense nabbed three picks off the arm of dynamic freshman quarterback, Kyler Murray and, very importantly, contained him in the pocket.

In short, the Tigers played Auburn Football, really, for the first time this year. Now it’s time for them to step up and do that consistently.

For the 119th time, Georgia awaits. The series stands at 55-55-8. Think it could get any closer?

There has been turmoil within the Bulldog program and Richt might be coaching for his job in these last two games, but you can believe that he will have his minions ready for Auburn. He always does. The Dawgs have won seven out of the last ten.

The stage is set.

I am of the opinion that Auburn will continue to build on what they have been doing for the past three weeks, the A&M game being their most complete one, and play their best game of the 2015 season. And I will run my record, in games I’ve attended versus Georgia, to 14-11-1.

Auburn 31, Georgia 20

Gut (Gus) Check Time

What if I told you, before this season started, that Auburn would, essentially, be without Duke Williams, Jeremy Johnson, and Carl Lawson? That, by and large, is what has occurred to this point in the 2015 campaign. Yes Jeremy, Duke, and Carl have played, but very little.

And what if someone told you that Auburn would play Ole Miss off their feet with a redshirt freshman quarterback, with one leg?

What if you had known that Auburn’s defense, with Will Muschamp as defensive coordinator, would be at, or near, the bottom of the league in total yards (14th), passing yards (13th), and rushing yards (12th)?

What would you have thought Auburn’s record would have been, under these circumstances?

Auburn finds itself at 4-4 with a 1-4 record in SEC play. That is where the Tigers stand, and that is the cold, harsh reality here on November 4, 2015.

Who’d a thunk it?

NO ONE.

SO… where does it go from here?

It seems like just the other day Auburn was playing Florida State for the BCS National Championship under first year head coach Gus Malzahn. Consensus Coach of the Year, Gus Malzahn. And offensive coordinator Rhett Lashlee was nominated for the Broyles Award as the top assistant coach in the country.IMG_1332

Wot hoppened?

Many people picked Auburn to win the SEC West, the SEC Championship, and play in the College Football Playoff.

Whew!

Here is a snippet from Pat Dye’s weekly column which appears on Inside The Auburn Tigers (ITAT).

“I know there were questionable decisions in the Ole Miss game, but I believe they were made based on the knowledge the coaches have about their team and the desire to give their team the best possible chance of winning–even the fourth down call in the second quarter that didn’t work. I have done it myself and I have seen great coaches over the years in close games make decisions that if they work are going to help their teams win, but if they don’t work they are probably going to cost you the game.

You have to be thick-skinned to do it. You can’t make those type of calls if you are scared of the outcome because then you are making a decision for a negative reason rather than doing what you think gives your team the best chance to win.”

It’s not that our coaches can no longer coach or were struck dumb, although many of us feel that way. The brutal circumstances, mentioned above, along with more to come, below, have combined to put the Auburn Tigers in an almost unfathomable position considering what preseason expectations were.

Now here’s some more fodder to mix into the equation.

Auburn has 15 rookies on NFL rosters this season. THAT IS MORE THAN ANYONE IN THE SEC.

Included in that group are Nick Marshall, Reese Dismukes, Robenson Therezie, Cameron Artis-Payne, Sammie Coates, Quan Bray, CJ Uzomah, Gabe Wright, Chris Davis and Corey Grant.

That’s some SERIOUS offensive production and a few defensive talents. Take that, along with the defensive stats cited earlier, and you can truly get a sense of “Wot hoppened”.

If you consider that Auburn could have won any of the games they’ve played in, except for LSU, then think where they could have been without the negative waves that have washed over them like some relentless sea of doom.

Where does that leave us?

“And I never lost a minute of sleepin’ worryin’ ’bout the way things might have been.” All of you are familiar the that John Fogerty penned CCR song.
Or maybe Willie Nelson would be more appropriate. “Whiskey river take my mind, don’t let ‘er mem’ry torture me. Whiskey river don’t run dry, you’re all I’ve got take care of me. I’m drowning in a whiskey river…”
However. Whatever. It is what it is.

So here we stand. The present. A trip to College Station looms large on the horizon.

This game has been a critical one the past two seasons. Two years ago, ah yes, two short years ago Auburn roared into Kyle Field. They defeated Heisman Trophy winner, Johnny Manziel, and the Texas A&M Aggies and utilized that victory to propel them to an SEC Championship and a berth in the BCS National Championship Game.

Last year, you know the story, a huge upset at the hands of the Aggies in Jordan-Hare Stadium was the beginning of a bitter downward spiral that has seen the Tigers go 1-7 in SEC play since that fateful day.

A win, Saturday, could jump start Auburn on a three game winning streak. They could, certainly, beat the free falling Georgia Bulldogs, who have more problems than a math book. And they WILL beat the Idaho Vandals.

That would leave one game remaining on the 2015 schedule.

You know who the opponent is in that one game.

I know who that opponent is in that one game.

We shall not speak of it here today. There is far too much ground to cover in the interim.

Auburn vs. Texas A&M. It’s large, folks. It’s large.IMG_1559_2

The whole nation, yea the whole world, will have its eyes squarely focused on what transpires in Tuscaloosa, AL, Saturday. That is a monster game.

But for those who love and support the men who proudly wear the burnt orange and navy blue of Auburn University, what takes place in the wide open space, north of Houston and east of Austin, Texas, is of paramount importance. Every game now becomes a season in itself.

What will happen out there in Tejas? I don’t know. But, I suspect that this group of Auburn Tigers will be ready to rumble. I suspect that they will be “scratchin’ and clawin’ and fightin’ “, as Coach Pat Dye once said. That’s what they’ve done thus far this season, and I have no reason to think they won’t continue to play with great effort at 6:30 Saturday night.

I’m not going to venture a prediction, in this slot, on the game. But I will say that I think Auburn will give the Aggies all they can handle and more.

And so, if you aren’t making the trip to the Lone Star State on Saturday, then fire up the grill, pour yourself a beverage, and get ready for some great SEC football!

Auburn vs. Ole Miss: Glancing Back and Peering Forward

My first recollection of an Auburn vs. Ole Miss game is the Liberty Bowl of 1965. The two teams had not met since 1953. This was the first time the Liberty Bowl was played in Memphis. It was held in Philadelphia from it’s inception in 1959 through the 1963 season. In 1964 the game was played in Atlantic City.

Ole Miss escaped that 1965 game with a 13-7 win. Tailback Tom Bryan scored Auburn’s only touchdown on a 44-yard scamper. He was named the game’s Most Valuable Player and its Outstanding Offensive Back. The Tigers’ Robert Fulghum was selected as the Outstanding Defensive Back.

IMG_23831973 was the season that I attended my initial Auburn-Ole Miss brawl. And that it was, a defensive battle.

The game took place on October 6th of that year. That was the day old Cliff Hare Stadium was dedicated as Jordan- Hare Stadium.

Coach Jordan was, of course, humble in his receiving this honor and his Tigers responded with a 14-7 victory.

Halfback Rick Neel broke a 7-7 tie with a 33-yard touchdown burst with just over one minute remaining in the game.

One of the most exciting games of the series occurred on January 2, 1971 in the Gator Bowl. Auburn was led by junior quarterback, Pat Sullivan. Ole Miss also had a decent signal caller heading up their offense that day. His name was Archie Manning.

Auburn broke out of the gates with a vengeance by rolling to a 21-0 lead before the Rebels roared back to cut the lead to 21-14 at halftime.

The teams battled fiercely for the remainder of the game, several Gator Bowl stats were broken, with Auburn finally securing a 35-28 win.

And, probably, THE most exciting game of the series took place in Oxford in 2014. Click below:
Now, for those of you who love numbers and history, here are some more. The last six Auburn coaches’ records versus Ole Miss:

Shug Jordan, 4-3

Doug Barfield, 2-0

Pat Dye, 4-1

Terry Bowden, 6-0

Tommy Tuberville, 7-3

Gene Chizik, 3-1

Gus Malzahn, 2-0

The meetings between the two schools had been sporadic until divisions were created in 1992. Auburn leads the series with a 29-10-0 record against the Rebels.

The first time the schools met on the gridiron was in Birmingham in 1928 with the Tigers taking the win, 19-0.

The largest margin of victory came in 1985 when Bo Jackson ran for 240 yards on 38 carries to lead Auburn to a 41-0 victory.

The longest winning streak stands at nine, with Auburn taking games interspersed between 1971-1991.

Auburn vs. Ole Miss 2015

Last year’s contest was an elimination game, of sorts, and the same holds true for Ole Miss this year. The Rebs control their own destiny but if they lose they can more-than-likely kiss any chance to win the SEC West goodbye.

The 2015 Auburn Tiger football season is at a critical juncture. The same could have been, and probably was, said about last Saturday’s tough loss in Fayetteville. It rings ever more true with each succeeding game.

If Auburn fails to win, then any chance of a very good bowl game will disappear with the breeze which will waft away from Jordan-Hare Stadium around mid-afternoon this coming Saturday.

IMG_2329The Rebels had an impressive, 23-3, win against Texas A&M last Saturday night at Vaught-Hemingway Stadium.

Quarterback Chad Kelly had a big night throwing for 241 yards and two touchdowns. Laquon Treadwell was on the receiving end of five of those passes. They totaled 102 yards.

Laremy Tunsil, star left tackle on the Ole Miss O line, returned to the lineup after completing a seven-game NCAA suspension for receiving illegal benefits. It appeared to have rejuvenated their ground attack as they rushed for 230 yards. They only ran for 40 yards the week before at Memphis.

I’m not going to rehash the details of Auburn’s excruciating loss, in four overtimes, at Arkansas last week. If the Tigers hadn’t dropped eight passes and two interceptions it would have been, truly, a different story. Hey! It would have been a different story if Tiger receivers had caught only HALF of those whiffs. SIGH.

But take heart Auburn fans! Redshirt freshman quarterback, Sean White, is getting better each week and it appears he could be a star for the Tigers sooner than later.

Here is a look at some of his numbers.

White completed 19 of 32 passes, in the Arkansas game, for 254 yards and zero interceptions. Add back only half of the eight drops and you have a completion percentage of .719, and many, many more yards. Probably well over 300 and, possibly near 400.

On the season he has thrown 97 passes and completed 62 for 805 yards. That’s over 200 yards per game. He has one interception. That came in the Miss State game.

And hopefully it’s going to get even better for the young QB.

Now, forget the numbers. The thing that impresses me most about Sean is his competitive spirit, his confidence, and his leadership. The kid LOVES to play and he gives it 110%.

He comin’!

Peyton Barber. Another baller. The guy really has a nose for the end zone. He found it four times against the Razorbacks. And he’s rushing for 110 yards per game.

And… AND… Carl Lawson practiced for the first time Tuesday! Will he play Saturday? We don’t know yet, but that is very encouraging!

Also, Auburn’s defense played better. After garnering 14 first quarter points, Arkansas scored only 10 points in the last three quarters of regulation play.

If defensive coordinator, Will Muschamp, can get similar results as those this Saturday, the Tigers will have a solid chance at winning the football game.

So, Auburn is playing to get better. They’re playing for pride. They’re playing for the opportunity to continue toward a 9-3 regular season record and a very good bowl game.

Ole Miss is playing for an opportunity to continue toward an SEC West Championship and, potentially, a College Football Playoff berth.

This is a HUGE game for both teams. A loss, for either squad, effectively ends the realization of lofty post-season goals.

Auburn has not committed a turnover in its past three games. That is a very good thing. If the Tigers can again protect the football, improve on both offense and defense, and get its expected high level of play from special teams, they have a good chance to win.

This game should be a Battle Royale. I expect Auburn and Ole Miss to come out breathing fire and leave everything on the field.IMG_0546

It should come down to the fourth quarter and whoever wants it most should win.

Here’s how I see it.

Ole Miss, trailing 21-20 late, gets a long TD pass from Kelly to Treadwell. 27-21, Black Bears.

Auburn, in an effort to salvage its season, gets a kickoff return of 87 yards from Rudy Ford. This puts the ball at the Rebel 13.

White hits Kamryn Pettway, coming out of the backfield, for a 12-yard gain.

Peyton Barber hammers it in from the one. The PAT is good. Auburn up.

Blake Countess then intercepts a late pass from Kelly and Auburn holds on for a 28-27 win!

You heard it here first!