Sunday, November 28, 2010
2010 Iron Bowl: Survive And Advance
Walking towards Bryant-Denny Stadium on the Tuscaloosa campus, it seemed neither side wanted to acknowledge there was a game going on.
Alabama fans had a sense of dread as if they were getting their ass haded to them and staring at a three-loss (gasp) season at the end of Friday afternoon. Auburn fans were going into the game feeling that, since they were the underdog, they must be the underdog after all.
There wasn't any smack talk on the boulevard. There were just merchants trying to sell "Scam Newton" and "Got Laptops? Cam Does" t-shirts.
By the way, the HQ now has a few of those for Festivus gifts.
They were on special after the game...
But when you see Mark Ingram run for nine without being touched, when Julio Jones is left to run free in a two-deep zone as corners think safeties are there for support and vice versa, and when Darius Hanks catches a 15-yard fade that everyone could see was going to work, it a 21-0 lead that took all of 17 minutes to put on the board.
Full disclosure... I went as a civilian this year. TBH got tickets in the endzone and I went since I had never gone in that capacity. It was wet. It was cold. And I couldn't get a cell signal out to save my life.
And when the lead was that big for Alabama, TBH wondered if the beating was going to be worse than the one in Tommy Tuberville's last year- 36-zip.
But it wasn't...
I reminded her that her team had been a second-half team all year- all 32 games they've played in, they've trailed. There were a half-dozen games where the Tigers/Plainsmen/War Eagles had trailed in the fourth quarter and had escaped. They were also getting two defensive starters back after they had thrown punches in the UGA game and had to sit out the first half. All the depth you would have had in the first half would be there in the second half.
But the two marquee defensive plays in the first 30 minutes, the Nelson punchout and the Nick Fairley bench press/fumble recovery, kept the team hanging around. Emory Blake caught the TD pass in the first half with all the confidence his father had on some Sundays as a quarterback ((Remember "throw up a moon ball and hope someone in the same colored jersey runs under it?")).
They got the ball at the start of the second half, and made the most of it. Terrell Zachery was the lucky recipient of an overplay in the Bama secondary to make it 24-14, and all the yards that Greg McElroy threw for in the first-half (something short of eleventy-billion), didn't mean a thing.
He threw for thirty-something yards in the second half before he was suplexed by Tasharvin Bell in a way that would have made Chris Benoit proud. From that moment on, McElroy thought he was Scott Hunter and wanted his mommy.
((HT: SEC on CBS/youtube))
McElroy didn't get to finish- that was left to AJ McCarron. And we found out why he was a redshirt freshman who signalled in plays instead of ran them. Especially after getting his ass slapped and his ears chewed in the Miss State game by Nick Saban.
But the defensive adjustments made by Ted Roof and the staff were top notch in a season where there have been two ways Auburn had to win- come from behind and make Vegas mad, or outscore everyone and make Vegas money.
As all the Crimson people were leaving, it turned into a blue-and-orange celebration. All of the Bama fans were left with was a bunch of expletive-laden retorts on their way to a weekend's worth of sulk. For every win that the Tide thinks is "bought and paid for," all the Auburn fans had to do was point to a scoreboard. But it wouldn't be that simple, would it...???
It's a game where families are divided. It's a game where middle school principals wander over to former students on their way to concession stands and make fun of their allegiances. And, on the next play when things go south, the father of the student makes a point to race to the stairwell and offer an answer to the question previously posed.
None of it clean... for the next 365 days...
It's where Auburn fans sit next to Alabama fans and send their index fingers as close to their seatmates and second-guess their neighbor. It's a game where your color choice is looked at as nothing short of Goodwill-bought and there is never any Goodwill sold.
And the land where there is nothing short of a Paul Bryant Drive will make a point to reinforce that every coach on the staff should be drawn and quartered, after being shot and killed and not a moment before.
Monday will be a fun day... for half a state, anyway... because some coaches, probably, will...
Kirby Smart and Joe McElwain are looking for work...
And so is Nick Saban, but we aren't supposed to know that yet...