Tuesday, October 23, 2012

Ag Football Preview: Auburn

Auburn is very interesting program.  They remind me of A&M because they were a fellow land grant university and were named early on the Agricultural & Mechanical College of Alabama.

In the broad picture, they are also like A&M in that their fellow large state school arrogantly looks down their nose at them.

The Tigers claim three national championships (1913, 1957, and 2010) and three Heisman Trophy winners - QB Pat Sullivan in 1957, RB Bo Jackson in 1985, and QB Cam Newton in 2010.

When I was a kid, Bo Jackson was like a mythical creature.  He couldn't have been human.  I read his 218 page autobiography in one day while in 3rd grade.  I was just entering the crazy world of sports fandom in the late-80s/early-90s and at that time there were no bigger names than Bo Jackson, Nolan Ryan, Joe Montana, and Magic/Bird.

You could have made a sports Mount Rushmore those would be the faces on it, albeit the Magic/Bird half-and-half would be a bit weird looking. 

I never played Tecmo Bowl but I knew who Bo Jackson was.  He was a rare two-sport athlete - not just a guy who could play both games, but a guy who was good at both games. 

I was a baseball nut so I remember him hitting a lead-off HR in the '89 All-Star game - a BOMB to center field.....he ran up walls and threw strikes to home plate while still halfway up the wall.....he splintered bats over his knee like toothpicks.  The guy was like a cyborg. 

He broke his hip, in what would essentially end his sports careers, but not before building his legend just a little more....he HRed in his first at-bat back a vow he made to his mother before she passed.

Cam Newton is another story entirely.  This was recently, so you all know the story.  He was a freshman at Florida but was kicked off the team following an arrest for stealing a laptop.  He went to Blinn JC in Brenham and then his father was paid a large sum of money to push Cam to Auburn.  In his single season at Auburn he had one of the greatest seasons in college football history.  It was cemented with a 24 point comeback victory in the Iron Bowl against #9 Alabama (in Tuscaloosa).  He went on to win the Heisman and the National Championship.  A tainted Heisman and tainted National Championship.

Sir Charles has an eagle on his arm
The Tigers also love eagles.  Their battle cry is "War Eagle!" and I expect we'll hear it at least 100 times this weekend.  One of the stories of the origin was that a Civil War soldier had found an eagle on the battlefield and kept it as a pet.  He brought it to a game and the eagle flew over the stadium and Auburn marched down the field against arch-rival Georgia for the win.

A great tradition came from that and Auburn now has a golden eagle (named War Eagle VII) that circles around the field prior to kickoff.  I'm excited to experience that in person - I love seeing other school's traditions.

Toomer's Corner after a victory
The other tradition that Auburn is most well known for is wrapping Toomer's Corner.  The corner is downtown Auburn and Toomer's Drug store is on it.  That's not the cool part though - there are two old oak trees at the corner and after big wins the Auburn faithful wrap the trees with paper.

Unfortunately, after Auburn won the national championship in 2010 an outraged 'Bama fan (Harvey Updyke) poisoned the oaks and they are dying.

Only in Alabama would someone be stupid enough to commit a crime of this magnitude and then call into the most popular radio show in the south and brag about it.  That happened.  His children's names are Crimson Tyde Updyke and Bear Bryant Updyke.  We can't make this stuff up, these are real people.

This was the biggest reason I decided to make the trip to Auburn this season over going to Ole Miss or Alabama - I want to see the trees before they're completely gone.  They're not in great shape, or even good shape, but they are still there.  It's a complete shame that someone took the liberty of single handedly killing one of the cooler traditions in college football.
Pat Dye Field at Jordan-Hare Stadium
The Tigers play their home games at Pat Dye Field at Jordan-Hare Stadium, which is located on-campus.  It is named after Shug Jordan (the winningest coach in Auburn history), Cliff Hare (a member of their first football team and later a dean at the school), and Pat Dye (who coached the Tigers from '81-'92).  It has a seating capacity of 87,000+.  Side note: it is pronounced "JURD-an"

This is only the second meeting between the two schools, which somewhat surprised me.  We beat them in College Station back in 1911 by a score of 16-0 and then again in the 50th Cotton Bowl at the end of the 1985 season.
Wrecking Crew > Bo Jackson
That game is probably considered one of our school's signature wins - mostly because of the incredible goal line stand that kept Heisman winner, Bo Jackson, out of the endzone on 4 consecutive plays.  Kevin Murray went nuts and the Ags won on a cold, blustery New Year's Day in Dallas.  That goal line stand was the epitome of Wrecking Crew defense, and the photo above hung on R.C. Slocum's wall in his office as a reminder.

This season's Tiger squad is pretty bad.  I don't think anyone expected them to win the division or conference but that isn't the problem....they are 1-6 on the season (0-5 in SEC play).  The only team they beat was Louisiana-Monroe.....in overtime.

Only once have they scored more than 20 points.  That was bad in the 1960s.  They are kind of terrible at football.
   Auburn O v. aTm D                aTm O v. Auburn D
========================       =======================
 122 (97)   R   138 (45)        221 (19)  R   194 (95)
 154 (113)  P   254 (86)        303 (17)  P   217 (47)
 276 (119)  T   392 (62)        524 (9)   T   411 (75)
15.7 (118)  S  22.1 (38)       43.0 (9)   S  25.1 (55)
Not only are those stats there, but they have also given up 24 sacks in 7 games (que Demontre Moore) and have turned the ball over 19 times (11 INTs and 8 fumbles) compared to their defenses' 9 forced turnovers.

Defensive coordinator, Brian VanGorder, is most likely a registered sex offender, probably.  There is no way he's not, right?  And there is no space in their last name.  There is no way you would hire this guy and then send him into the homes of a teenage boys to meet the parents with the goal of wooing them into letting their boy go with him.

At the helm of this squad is Gene Chizik.  He has a national championship ring from just two long seasons ago - but is about to lose his job.  You see, his glory is completely resting on his ability to have purchased the services of Cam Newton.  If you take Cam Newton out of his record, Chizik is just 16-16 overall and .7-14 in SEC play.  Before that he was 5-19 as the head coach at Iowa State.

Sadly, Chizik's mother passed away on Monday.  I wish to send him and his family condolences in this time of  sorrow.

It just hasn't been a good 3 months for him.  I'm not really even sure how to follow that up.

So I will leave it at this....

I am really excited about the trip - we're leaving on Friday and will likely spend the night in either Baton Rouge or New Orleans and then finish the drive Saturday morning.   It should be pretty fun - this is why I wanted to go to the SEC....I love road trips.

BTHO Auburn!  WHOOP!

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