GAME DAY, Auburn vs. K-State
Watch the game responsibly.
Auburn 23, Kansas State 13: What a drive. Cox made some great decisions. The touchdown play was outstanding. It was a play-action situation with flood routes to the left. Too many receivers over there for KSU to handle.
Then another touchdown! Quentin Groves forces a fumble and Antonio Coleman returns it 34 yards for a score. Auburn's fortunes just took an abrupt turn. Wow.
Middle of the fourth quarter: Auburn has a chance to win this game, but the offense refuses to improve. Cox is having a terrible game. He's playing as poorly as he did against Georgia Tech in '05. He's making mental mistakes. Also, where is Mario Fannin? I know Tommy Tuberville said he was going to lean on experienced players early in the season. Fannin can run away from some people. Ben Tate clearly cannot. Just something to think about. Cox, by the way, is 12-for-24 with two interceptions.
Fourth quarter begins: Auburn is 2 for 11 on third-down conversions. Really not good. At this point, I have to start working on items for our Sunday print edition. My stories are due around 11 p.m., so I have to get working. I'll update as conditions merit.
Thanks for watching along with me.
Kansas State 13, Auburn 9: Rob Dunn gave Auburn great field position with a 57-yard punt return. The offense gained zero yards. Nothing. Ben Tate gained four yards on first down. Sack on second down. Incomplete pass on third down. Cox went down hard on his right shoulder. He's been diagnosed with a bruised shoulder. He's expected to return.
Auburn's second and third possessions of the second half: The Tigers have nothing now. It's clear that Cox doesn't have it. Ben Tate tried to bully his way through with a string of draws during the third possession. It works to a degree. He broke off a few decent run. It's just that the holes don't open consistently. I don't see how Auburn is going to pull out of this funk. It's going to have to be Cox. He's the third-year starter. He needs to make some plays.
Kansas State 13, Auburn 6: Kansas State isn't even running. They just pass, pass, pass. It's working. At one point during this drive, the Wildcats ran three reverses in a row. Freeman still is working on the periphery and Auburn can't get to him. CB Jae Wilhite is out now as well.
Kansas State 10, Auburn 6: Kansas State's scoring drive required six plays. Four of them went for at least 13 yards apiece. Auburn's defense had been dominating to that point. KSU made a nice adjustment by asking Freeman to roll out. Auburn was pounding him in the pocket with powerful bull rushing. Allowing Freeman to create on the flanks negates the Tigers' strength up front. Tray Blackmon is out right now with an ankle injury.
Auburn's first possession of the second half: That was quick. Cox was intercepted on a deep pass intended for Rob Dunn. That's two or three really bad reads by Cox. He doesn't look very good tonight. The offense simply isn't playing very well at all. Can't really pinpoint one problem, though.
Halftime: I'm still here. I have to do stuff for the print edition during halftime. I'll continue with the blog updates momentarily.
Auburn's fifth possession: Just awful. Terrible. Ben Tate breaks off a long gain that comes back on a holding penalty. Then a sack. Then a second sack. Terrible blocking up front. KSU is getting aggressive with its weak-side linebacker. Auburn is slanting toward KSU DE Ian Campbell to help support Lee Ziemba and Mike Berry over there. So that's leaving the weak side open. Auburn has to get that fixed before Cox gets killed.
KSU's fifth possession: Still nothing. The Wildcats got a first down. Then it went flatline. The key play came from Pat Sims, who batted a third-down pass. That's a pretty advanced task. He was pushing his blocker backward. By keeping his head up and paying attention, Sims knew when to throw his right arm up. He's playing with that fire Auburn coaches cherish.
Auburn 6, Kansas State 3: Good drive by Auburn in some ways. The team is gaining yards easily on its side of the 50-yard line. A screen pass to Ben Tate went for 22 yards. A nifty floating pass from Cox to TE Gabe McKenzie went for a 16-yard gain. Yet when it's time to get tough closer to the goal line, the Tigers are faltering. Settled for a field goal.
KSU's fourth possession: Nothing. I can't tell if Auburn adjusted to those drag routes because KSU can't get to that point. Pat Sims broke free and forced a worthless pass. A running play was stuffed. Then a delay. Then an incomplete pass. Auburn is overpowering the Wildcats up front.
Auburn 3, Kansas State 3: Started with a bang -- 55-yard pass from Cox to WR Rod Smith. He was wide open in the seam. Things seemed to stall at the KSU 9 when Auburn was flagged for delay of game. The call was reversed because the game clock began at 15 seconds rather than 25. Tuberville was all over that. Tate converted his second chance at that 4th-and-1, which has the drive alive at the KSU 6. Auburn settled for a 20-yard field goal.
Defensive update: Auburn hasn't fixed the drag-route problem yet. Added pressure up front is causing major problems for KSU right now, though, which is making a mess of those drag-route plans.
Auburn's second possession: Not much better. Brandon Cox didn't show much there. He made a nice third-down pass to WR Prechae Rodriguez to convert early in the drive. Cox was off on a pass to Tommy TE Trott that could have gone for more than six yards. Cox looked off Rodriguez on third down, he was open, and instead tucked it. Awkward decision. The play went for a loss. Things aren't clicking yet.
Auburn's first possession: Ben Tate gets the first carry of the season, off right guard for five yards. Then came two incomplete passes. Not a great start for the Tigers' offense. Too early to draw any substantive conclusions. I expect to see more running during the next few drives. Auburn has a pretty clear advantage up front. I think so, anyway. I'm not the biggest Tate fan in the world, but he can play.
KSU 3, Auburn 0: KSU converted three of its four third-down situations on that drive. Two of those conversion plays went for big yardage: 13 and 17. Not much pressure applied up front. KSU QB Josh Freeman looks like he's ready to play. He was sharp on that drive. Auburn must find a way to control the flats better. KSU's receivers are open out there.
6:46 p.m.:Kansas State wins the toss, elects to receive. Auburn defending the north end zone. I'm totally on board with the video board, so to speak. Now they're using the whole board and it's really outstanding. I'm sure everyone in the stadium is happy about this.
6:30 p.m.: No changes have been made to Auburn's starting lineup. Well, Ben Tate is the No. 1 tailback. You knew that already. Freshman Zac Etheridge is starting at safety ahead of senior Eric Brock. They were co-leaders coming into the game. Also, the pre-game eagle flight (Nova was the designated aviary star) has been canned due to weather. It's really comin' down out there.
6:20 p.m.: They're playing "Have You Ever Seen The Rain?" now ... as the raindrops fall with a fury. I'm sitting directly across from the students. They sign the chorus quite loudly. I like Creedence Clearwater Revival like this.
6:10 p.m.:Not raining yet, but the skies north and east of the stadium look ominous. A downpour is imminent.
6 p.m.: Brad Lester, suspended tailback, is not participating in pre-game workouts. Tackle King Dunlap (left ankle) is out there. Chris Slaughter, rail-thin wideout, looks awkward in the No. 23 jersey. He needs a single-digit number. The two-digit number envelops him.
5:50 p.m.: They're playing "Baba O'Riley" by The Who right now. One of my favorite songs ever. Thanks to my peeps in Game Operations.
5:35 p.m.: OK. Update on the video board. Much better now. They went full-screen mode on the eagle and handler. MUCH better. Brighter than Arkansas' board. Sharper, too. The problem is that Auburn, most of the time, is dedicating only a portion of the screen to live images. The other 35% of area is filled by stats, scores and graphic advertisements.
Just got some stats on the board.
*2,200 sq. feet. (30' x 75')
*1,800 x 720 resolution (HD)
*The "live action" window is 25' x 46'
*cost $2.9 million
*Auburn is one of only two colleges with HD boards. Texas is the other.
5:15 p.m.: I'm here at the stadium now. The new video board in the south endzone looks great as expected. I'll have to see how Auburn uses it during the game. My preliminary opinion is that Arkansas' board is a little better.
It was great to see Auburn and KSU fans partying together in front of the stadium. The KSU kids seemed unusually cool. A few offered me beer. I'd never imbibe prior to blogging on a HOT blog like this one, of course. I also ran across former Auburn center Cole Cubelic, who is a relatively svelte dude these days. He now teaches physicians how to operate new equipment.