GAME DAY, Auburn vs. NM State
I kid. I kid.
I'm here with about 60% of the fans I'd see for an SEC game. The stadium is pretty full, though.
As a personal aside: Big up to Louisville for their fine work this afternoon. I'm the only Kentucky graduate in an extended family loaded with U of L graduates and attendees.
Thanks again for your support of the HOTTEST Auburn blog on the 'net.
AUBU -- 55
NMSU -- 20
Final thoughts: Excellent finish for the Tigers. First half wasn't much. Brandon Cox went in for Kodi Burns in the second quarter. The offense started playing much more effectively. Brandon looked more willing to make quick decisions. You remember how he looked passive at times earlier this year? He wasn't that way today. When it was time to do something, he did it. I even saw Brandon throw away some passes. Can you imagine?
The defense made, by my count, four major pass-coverage busts in the first half. That's why NMSU scored 20 in the first half. They got shut out in the second half. Why? No busts. The line was playing more aggressively. That played into it. Still, I liked the way Wilhite, Zac Etheridge, Brock and Powers played after halftime.
I didn't see much offensive innovation. Borges said he actually scaled BACK the offensive complexity tonight. Not sure how that will play against Florida. Maybe now that Brandon showed that he can play "normally," they'll expand the offense for him this week. Or not. The coaching staff won't give up on Burns. I still expect this to be a two-quarterback system.
Rob Dunn had a horrendous drop during the second quarter. He was free on a deep post route and Cox managed to get the ball all the way there ahead of the NMSU defense. Ball hit Dunn in the hands. Dropped it. Just awful. Worst drop of the year.
Dunn made amends during the third quarter. He caught a pretty routine out route that would have gone for a 2-yard gain. Still, he kept pushing and fighting and refused to go down. He was brawling for those extra yards. This went on for like 10 seconds. The ref was standing there waiting for Dunn's knee to fall. Dunn turned it into a 6-yard gain. Not a big play in the grand scheme of things. I thought it was one of the most memorable moments of the game. That was a serious show of desire.
Sounds to me like the new linemen are going to stick. Hugh Nall, the line coach, said afterward that he wasn't happy with some of the things happening. So he changed things. I asked Borges if he thought the freshmen would play against Florida. He said yes. Nall seemed pretty optimistic. He loves the way Pugh and Ramsey go out there with a thirst for knocking someone on their butt. I think that affects playing time at Auburn more than most places. I thought the offensive line looked better as a whole. I'm not bright enough to assess Pugh and Ramsey individually.
End of third quarter: Things have picked up substantially for the Tigers. The defense had an outstanding quarter. Jae Wilhite picked off two passes. Sen'Derrick picked off a pass. Auburn's offense, led now by Cox, moved the ball pretty freely. I still contend that Ben Tate is being overexposed at 25+ carries per game. Rob Dunn and Rod Smith have played very well. Maybe they can provide some game-breaking ability.
Third quarter update: Jae Wilhite intercepted a pass with a swell drive-and-catch move. Cox still in at quarterback, where he's been since mid-way though the first quarter. Still looking pretty basic, which surprises me. Here is your OL: Ryan Pugh at LT, Ty Green at LG, Bosley at C, Chaz Ramsey at RG, Lee Ziemba at RT. Three true freshmen. Cox hits Rod Smith for an 18-yard scoring pass. Offense looks like it's making progress.
Second quarter update: Brandon Cox is in. His first drive, he fumbled a snap that prefaced an NMSU touchdown drive. NMSU led 20-14 briefly. Cox led a long drive that ended with a 1-yard run from Mario Fannin. No fumble. The drive was a real tour de force. It included seven running plays. Three went for at least 9 yards apiece.
Scoring update: DT Pat Sims scored on a 21-yard fumble return. A hard hit by Jerraud Powers knocked the ball loose and Sims had a straightforward shot at the end zone. Auburn also scored on a long pass from Kodi Burns to Rod Smith. It was the first play of Auburn's third drive. The pass was underthrown. The defender became confused while trying to play the ball. Smith adjusted, caught the ball and pulled away for a score. Not sure that counts and innovation per se, but it's more creative than inside zones over and over and over.
First two possessions: Awful. The first series was three Kodi Burns keepers. No first downs. The second series was three Ben Tate runs. No first downs. Where's the innovation? This looks like a train wreck.
Lineup changes: Freshman Ryan Pugh and Chaz Ramsey are playing at guard. RG Mike Berry is hurt. Pugh and Ramsey are splitting time in that spot. Ryan Pugh is playing for King Dunlap at LT.