Tuesday, January 11, 2011

TWTW: OSG Is Glendale Tuesday

Let's be honest, for Auburn people this was the athletic equivalent of Woodstock or Mecca- there is no substitute for having 50,000 people inside and countless others outside in the desert southwest watching their team go all in one last time.

And Auburn faithful wanted to make sure they were around for every aspect of this alphabetical title game. The parking lots weren't supposed to open until four hours before kickoff. People arrived early enough to where the folks in Glendale opened the parking lots early.

Security was nothing short of a papal visit- and the city was still overwhelmed. People hit the gate entrances with such force that the scanners were in no condition to let everyone in with a scanned ticket. If seven people hit the door, maybe two got their tickets approved as legal.

For the second day in a row, the number one venue ran out of beer- and souvenir cups. I had to make a deal with my concessions guy to get two cups- one of the being the floor model.

And for everyone that thought the game was going to be one of those PS3-Arena Football games, the HQ thought differently. Darron Thomas and Cameron Newton were both shaky- evidence the short-armed TD pass attempt on 4th down that really would have out the game out of reach for Auburn and the two early picks for Thomas. Gameplans for Gus Malzahn were dialed back considerably.

There was clock manipulation and maximization- something that, I don't think Oregon may even have in its play book. And in a game of this magnitude, if you don't have that to fall back on in a tight game where you need to be something other than a gambler, it might come back on you.

There were too many instances of Auburn receivers on Oregon linebackers, and on the Emory Blake TD pass, it came back on Chip Kelly. The game plan for the Tigers/War Eagles/Plainsmen was simple- somewhat. Stop LaMichael James ((88 total yards on two dozen or so plays)) and force the rest of the roster to beat you. Jeff Maehl almost did that single-handedly with 9 catches and 133 yards.

And the simplicity of the Oregon offense is its brilliance that moves them from one side of the field to the red zone of the other quickly. The only evidence of that you need are the Maehl and Tuinei catches that kept drives going when they were pinned deep in their own territory. But the idea of a zone read and react-find the gap passing game slows down inside the 20. There isn't a whole lot of real estate to play with, and you noticed that the running plays were very rarely between the tackles. If Auburn was able to string the play out to the boundary, it was over.

And it was over, a lot... Oregon could get there, as Thomas' 363 yards through the air will attest, but they couldn't close the deal. There was one of those classic goal-line stands that you remember over time, and the long thought of notion that the larger, more experienced offensive line would create holes- and it did for Michael Dyer when the team really needed it on the last drive.

And for the coaching staff to have the presence of mind to remind the freshman that no whistle had blown and that they play wasn't over says volumes as to their in-game awareness in a tight ballgame- very late in a very tight ballgame.

Leave it to an unsung hero- something OSG has made a point to remind people of this entire time, and that there would be no marquee name with the finishing blow- and a kicker of all things to wrap up the first title since 1957 for this school. And, while it's true the win was for the teams in the '80s and '90s and 2000's that were close, leapfrogged, and/or probated, the win crosses more generations than that.

There was an elderly gentleman who was two rows in front of me and TBH in the endzone ((and, yes, we'll get to her in a minute)). He was turned around looking at the jumbotron behind us for the entire game. It was found out that he is legally blind and can, kind of, make out images on a screen. He just asked that we tell him what's going on every once in a while.

The win is for people like that who have long-suffered and can now see an end result. It's for TBH's parents, long-suffering alums of the school who catch it from the Crimson-clad obnoxious ones 13 months out of the year in their home state.

It's for everyone who made the pilgrimage and swore that they weren't going to cry if Auburn won- and did anyway like it was the end of one of those Lifetime movies.

Like TBH... and for her, it was...
Merry Christmas every one... and here's to hoping your pilgrimage home doesn't take as long as it did for you to get there...

You couldn't have pried the tickets for this game out of her hands. While you could place a value on the rectangles that gave her the chance to sit in the endzone, there is no way in hell that you could place a value on the experience tied to the entire weekend...

**ED NOTE** For those who didn't see the game, here is a really good capsule of the game from our friends at the 4-letter (ESPN):

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