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Post-game notations

I'll just use this space as a clearinghouse for stuff I come upon as I write ... and review stuff.
  • Coach Tommy Tuberville said Chris Todd is his starter now.

  • Chris Slaughter has been suspended "indefinitely." I asked Tuberville if this one will last a while, he nodded his head in approval. I wouldn't count on seeing Sgt. Slaughter for a while.

  • I got the feeling talking with Ben Tate that Todd was the guy he referenced a few weeks ago.

    ``I've known he has those kinds of games in him," Tate said. ``I've seen that from him all along. He went out there today and made the plays. He did exactly what you'd expect from a quarterback. He was great today.

  • Auburn's offense in the first half: 36 plays for 230 yards.
    Auburn's offense in the second half: 39 plays for 150 yards.

  • Tony Franklin on his (curious) decision to play Kodi Burns more during the second half:

    ``I just felt at halftime: OK, if we get a stop I'm going to go with Kodi for a series and let him get in and see what happens," Franklin said. ``It never did click for him. We broke our rhythm in the second half. A lot of that was our fault for not doing things at the right time."

  • Franklin on TE Tommy Trott, who had three catches today. He had zero last week:

    ``I am stupid for not throwing the football to him last week," Franklin said. ``I was stupid. I'm trying to get more un-stupid. He needs the ball and we need to find ways to get it to him."

Fourth quarter

AUBURN 24, USM 13: Nelson scores on a 17-yard pass from Davis. That capped a 90-yard drive. And, yes, that was against the Tigers' top defense. Auburn's attack probably needs to achieve something here to curb overall anxiety.

AUBURN 27, USM 13: Byrun hits a 23-yard FG to cap a 70-yard drive. It's timely. The Tigers' offense has tailed off during the second half.
  • Wow. The rain is really coming down. I haven't ever seen rain this hard at J-H. Unreal.

Total offense
AUBURN: 313 yards (78 run, 235 pass)
USM: 145 yards (24 run, 121 pass)

Halftime ... and Third Quarter

Pretty decent half of football for the Auburn Tigers.

The offense was just short of dominant. Fourteen points isn't awe-inspiring, but two fumbles near the goal line undermined a pair of productive drives. Defense? Dominant. Check the numbers.


AUBURN 24, USM 6: TE Shawn Nelson scores on a 1-yard pass from Austin Davis. Drive covered only 25 yards. An errant pass from Kodi Burns was intercepted, giving USM lovely field position. Two-point conversion failed.

AUBURN 24, USM 0: Kodi Burns scores on a 1-yard run. He came in for the final snap of a 12-play drive. It covered 75 yards.

AUBURN 17, USM 0: Wes Byrum hits a 52-yard FG. That's a career best. His previous best was 49 yards against South Florida last year. Drive covered minus-2 yards in four plays.

  • Kodi Burns now in at quarterback to begin the third quarter. Todd regained the starting role during the second drive.

  • Southern Miss currently has nine drives to its credit. Six of them have been three-and-outs. Only one USM drive has progressed beyond the AU 45.

  • Southern Miss has 24 rushing yards. Total.

  • Auburn's defense opened the season with 102 minutes of shutout work.

  • Robert Dunn appeared to score on a punt return, but the play was diluted by an illegal block. I'm not sure who was responsible for the penalty.

  • Tristan Davis went down with an injury. He's getting treatment on his right ankle. Doesn't look particularly serious. They're taping it up now ... I'm guessing a relatively mild sprain. He returned a few minutes later on kickoff return.

AUBURN: 230 (63 run, 167 pass)
USM: 83 (21 run, 62 pass)

Chris Todd: Playing well
Kodi Burns: Not playing. See above.

Second quarter

AUBURN 14, USM 0: Tristan Davis scores on a 13-yard run. Yes sir. TD is back. Drive covered 76 yards in seven plays. Auburn now has 234 yards of offense. More than eight minutes remain in the second quarter.

AUBURN 7, USM 0: Ben Tate scores on a taxing 1-yard run. Drive covered 26 yards in six plays. Why such good field position? Doghouse Dunn returns a punt 33 yards. (@13:10)

Total offense
AUBURN: 135 (42 rush, 93 pass)
USM: 16

BIG UP: To blogging ace Chris Low, who graciously mentioned me in one of entries today. He's covering the game today.
To put that into perspective, Jay Tate of the Montgomery Advertiser dug up a telling statistic this week. Under former offensive coordinator Al Borges, the Tigers threw for fewer than 100 yards in a game only once in four years (50 games).

First quarter

  • Auburn's offense was rolling right along during the first drive. Said drive ended in the endzone ... with a USM defender celebrating his recovered fumble. Brad Lester coughed it up at the 3.

  • Second drive ... second fumble. Ben Tate this time. Auburn has 122 yards of offense ... and we have 7 minutes remaining in the first quarter. Still no scoring.

  • Third drive ... undone by a false start and a broken play. Offense at 132 yards.

Auburn pregame video, 9/6

Check it out.

Pregame scene

I'm working on video right now. Here is the current situation from my seat here at Jordan-Hare Stadium on an overcast (but nice) morning.
  • Kodi Burns is down there warming up. No signs of problems. He is wearing a wrap (Kobe Bryant style) on his left leg. He looks a tad more than "questionable."

  • Brad Lester will start at tailback.

  • Chris Todd will start at quarterback.

  • Tim Hawthorne will start in place of Chris Slaughter at the "X" outside receiver spot. Slaughter has drawn a one-game suspension.

  • Today's conditions: partly cloudy, 84 degrees, winds SW @ 5 mph, humidity is 59%

Getting things started, 9/6

Hey everyone. It's game day. I'm happy. You're happy. You could be happier than me at kickoff, though, because you can drink. I'm on the clock. I knew that going in, but you still can raise one to the HABOTN if you so choose.

Here is some new shizzle for you to ingest.

My weekly column has a Run-DMC flava.

9/6: My weekly "First and 10" column: An Auburn vs. Run-DMC mash-up
9/6: Franklin fine-tunes QB rotation

9/4: Doolittle sees much better days
9/3: Todd gets starting nod at QB
9/2: Tigers hunt far and wide for wideouts

SCHEDULE UPDATE: Josh Moon and I will be heading up there around 8. I'm aiming to get some Tiger Walk footage and other stuff before the game. I'll be around these parts full-time after 11 or so.

Scouting Auburn-Southern Miss, 9/5

Hey everyone. Had a good time during my radio segment. Didn't really delve into controversy, though I reiterated my (firm) belief that Kodi Burns isn't seriously injured. He'll play tomorrow.

Also, as a plug, Forest Avenue Academic Magnet is holding its annual "Back To School Bash" tonight on the grounds. Yours truly will be helping distribute food. Good prices abound.

OK. Let's get to business.

Advantage: Southern Miss
How can USM get the check here with a freshman playing? Austin Davis went 14-of-21 for 206 yards last week. That's more than double what Auburn's two guys accomplished. Can either one of them throw?

Advantage: Auburn
Ben Tate looks like a franchise-type back. Brad Lester's quick moves provide an ideal complement to Tate's pugnacious style. And hear this: Eric Smith could start on several teams. He's only 18.

Advantage: Southern Miss
Auburn's fastest receiver is out for the season. It's most consistent one hyperextended a knee last week. Coach Tommy Tuberville said the veterans weren't even running the correct routes last week. USM's DeAndre Brown is a legitimate player.

Advantage: Auburn
The Tigers' first-team guys played more effectively than expected last week -- and the expectations were high. The run-game work was obvious. Three hundred yards affirms that. The pass protection was above average as well. Offensive problems last week had nothing to do with protection.

Advantage: Auburn
With Tez Doolittle now apparently ready for a big role, the Tigers are oozing skill and depth. Few offensive lines can handle this group. Few teams in America have this kind of speed off the edge.

Advantage: Auburn
Auburn's group was remarkably productive last week, thanks in large part to backup middle linebacker Josh Bynes. The sophomore flourished. The Tigers have a lot of good players here. Still, I believe the best linebacker in this game is USM's Gerald McRath.

Advantage: Auburn
The first-team guys are very good on the whole. They're experienced, skilled and unflappable. I have some concerns about safety Mike McNeill, who is out of position more often than expected, but the other three starters make up for it.

Advantage: Auburn
Good kicker. Good punter. Coverage teams did their job last week. Robert Dunn scored on a punt return. All systems go.

Advantage: Auburn
USM's decision to hire Larry Fedora during the offseason was shrewd. He's a great offensive mind. Still, Tommy Tuberville has a track record. Tuberville also has a pile of credentials. He's the better pick.


Damion Fletcher (No. 25)
5-10, 177, Jr.
Last week: 222 rushing yards on 21 attempts, 2 Tds (vs. Louisiana-Lafayette)
Scouting report: He's a compact back in the Brad Lester mold. Fletcher isn't a punisher by any means. He's also not particularly fast for a small back. What makes him good? Fletcher is patient. He knows how to let his blockers work for him. He doesn't freelance unless it's necessary. Fletcher also runs with remarkable aggression once a tackler arrives. He'll kick his legs and spin and work harder than most backs to break away from tackles.

RB Ben Tate (No. 44)
5-11, 215, Jr.
Last week: 115 yards on 13 attempts (vs. Louisiana-Monroe)
Scouting report: Tate insisted before the season that he had enough speed to thrive in Auburn's new spread offense. He wasn't kidding. The junior broke free for a pair of long runs in the Monroe game, adding allure to his already intriguing mix of skills. Tate has enough acceleration to get though many holes and enough power to break tackles. He also has excellent hands. Tate could be a slot receiver if needed.

DT Sen'Derrick Marks (No. 94)
6-1, 295, Jr.
Last week: 2 tackles; both were for a loss (vs. Louisiana-Monroe)
Scouting report: Marks blows people away with his quick feet, which allows him to exploit blockers more easily. He can sense when an offensive lineman is off-balance. Marks then is able to accelerate into an advantageous position more quickly than other tackles. He's also a top-rate tackler. There's a reason so many NFL teams are tracking Marks this season.

Last week was a mess. Quarterbacks Kodi Burns and Chris Todd seemed confused at times and made only a few memorable throws. Though it's easy to lie problems at the quarterbacks' feet, Auburn's receivers were a big issue. They missed routes. They didn't get open. Remember that Auburn's receivers were considered the team's weakest link last season. It's unreasonable to suddenly believe those same guys are excellent now just because Tony Franklin is in charge. The Tigers need to pay closer attention to which routes create open space. Those routes need to be used more often. It's clear that the running game is alive and well. Finding ways to supplement that ground work through the air is Auburn's top overall priority right now.

Auburn was nearly flawless last week. Sure, defensive coordinator Paul Rhoads counted eight missed tackles. That's eight too many for his tastes. Still, Monroe's offense accomplished almost nothing -- even after the second- and third-team defenses hit the field. The Tigers must remain sharp at the point of attack. USM tailback Damion Fletcher is a smart runner who will find holes if they exist. The Golden Eagles desperately need Fletcher to break free, which gives freshman quarterback Austin Davis some extra confidence. Masking coverages should yield some dividends today, particularly if Davis feels like he has to make something happen in the passing game.

Photo credit: Todd Van Emst/Auburn University

Questions? Comments? Post directly to the blog below or email me at

Radio appearance forthcoming

Hey everyone. Happy Friday. I'm scheduled to appear on WMSP 740's afternoon show a little after noon today. I'm planning to discuss several issues surrounding these Auburn Tigers.

If you care to have a listen, please do.

They stream (well, I might add) from their homepage.

I'll return after lunch to provide my weekly "Glance At This Week's Game" breakdown. It was such a hit last week (people unhappy I gave ULM the edge at linebacker) that it just HAD to be done again.

I'll get that up around 1:30.

Auburn video report, 9/4

I didn't want you to wait.

So here is today's video. Enjoy.

Getting things started, 9/4

Hey everyone. Here's a chance for you to catch up on some of the stories I've been cranking out of late. Some are really good. Some are eh. It's like that with life.

9/4: Doolittle sees much better days
9/4: AU notebook

9/3: Todd gets starting nod at QB
9/2: Tigers hunt far and wide for wideouts
9/1: Back to the drawing board for AU offense
8/31: AU offense works out kinks
8/31: Game notebook
8/30: My weekly "First and 10" column

SCHEDULE UPDATE: I have created a video for release this afternoon. I'm planning to debut that puppy around noon.

PERSONAL NEWS: My wife and I are going to get tattoos today. I got my first one exactly one year ago. I think this is The New Tate Tradition. What am I gettin'? Two yellow stars on my neck. They'll symbolize my guiding lights, better known as my wifey and daughter. Court's getting a sun/star thingy. It's a girl tat.

One other beat writer has a tat. Care to guess?

Breakfast for Babies

One of the HOTTIES referenced earlier today, Jeff from Wetumpka, is helping run the "Breakfast for Babies" shindig here in Montgomery on Friday morning.

It's one way the March of Dimes raises money. You roll by the Chappy's on Carmichael, pay them $6, they give you a hot breakfast (curbside service) and everyone's happy.

Here's overview.
  • What: "Breakfast for Babies" to benefit March of Dimes
  • Where: Chappy's Deli, corner of Carmichael & Perry Hill Rd.
  • When: Friday, 5:30-8:30 a.m.
  • Cost: $6
  • What you get: Warm breakfast served curbside, the uplifting splendor associated with saving babies.

Weekend look-ahead

Friday, September 5, 2008
4 p.m. - Campus opens for tailgating

Saturday, September 6, 2008

9:00 a.m. - Tiger Team Village open
9:30 a.m. - Stadium gates open
9:30 a.m. - Tiger Walk
10:00 a.m. - Spirit March
11:14 a.m. - Pre-Game begins
11:34 a.m. - Auburn vs. Southern Miss

A limited number of tickets remain for the Southern Miss game and are $45. Visit or call 1-800-AUB-1957 to purchase.

ATMs - Six ATMs are located in and around the stadium for use on game day. The ATMs are located at the following locations: Coliseum concourse behind Section 11, Coliseum concourse behind Section 36, Stadium at Gate 12, Stadium at student section - 2 locations and Stadium inside Gate 1.

Disabled Parking
Parking for vehicles with handicap placards is available in Lot Y on W. Magnolia Avenue near the AU Credit Union. Parking is free and first-come, first-served. Shuttle service is available before, during and after the game.

On quarterbacks, 9/3

Hey everyone. We've had a surge of new readers this season. Pageviews are up about 300% of what they were last season. I occasionally get emails about what "HABOTN" means ... why do I refer to male readers as "HOTTIES" ... other stuff.

Lemme lay a few things out.

This is the Hottest Auburn Blog on The Net. We call it The HABOTN for brevity. I pronounce it "ha-BOT-un." If you're wondering why I chose hot as the key adjective there, well, that's because it's impossible to disprove.

Anyone who willingly inhales the HABOTN is referred to as a HOTTIE regardless of gender. We have HOTTIES from California. We have HOTTIES in New York. I think we even have HOTTIES in Grenada, which drew 11 hits last week.

So that's the deal.

So we have a new starting quarterback at Auburn. I know this because I read it on the ESPN crawl last night. Amazing.

So we're looking at Chris Todd. I agree with several HOTTIES who observed that Todd's arm strength last week was less that exemplary. He looked really good during two-a-days. He didn't look good last weekend. What's the deal? Who knows.

One thing we definitely know: His arm isn't perfect from a structural perspective. His arm strength is going to be inconsistent.

Something else we know: Kodi Burns' injury really isn't that bad. One of my friends, Jeff from Wetumpka, said The WMSP Morning Guys were saying Burns' laceration went all the way to the bone. I don't think so. He was back at practice yesterday and players reported that Burns appeared to be his usual self.

That doesn't sound like someone who is seriously injured.

I believe Burns is going to emerge soon. He's the more dynamic player. He has a stronger arm. He knows the offense. If Chris Slaughter catches that long pass and Rod Smith is in bounds on that almost touchdown last weekend, Burns finishes the game 6-of-9 for 100+ yards and two touchdowns.

I'm supposed to believe Todd still would be this weekend's starter?

VIDEO UPDATE: I'm going to hold off on video today. I'll work up something for you all tomorrow afternoon, then drop another pre-game production before kickoff Saturday. Since it's an early game, I think I'll be able to produce a post-game piece as well.

Photo credit: Todd Van Emst/Auburn University

Questions? Comments? Post directly to the blog below or email me at

Radio appearance forthcoming

For those of you who subscribe to the HABOTN via RSS -- and therefore receive your HOTNESS immediately -- I will be on WMSP 740 later this hour.

They called around 8. I guess the appointment of Chris Todd as starter is big enough to summon me for another segment. Tune in for another 8 minutes of adversarial chatter.

Video report, 9/2


Auburn speaks, 9/2

Hey everyone. We've got some newsy new for you.

  • Chris Todd will start the Southern Miss game. Coach Tommy Tuberville said this had nothing to do with QB Kodi Burns' leg injury.

    ``Kodi is still a little questionable."

  • Tuberville said the plan all along was to give Kodi Burns the first start and let Todd start the second game. This was the first we heard about such an arrangement.

  • Burns practiced this morning. He participated in the usual slew of drills, so I'm 99% sure he'll be ready to roll against Southern Miss.

  • Tuberville said TB/KR Tristan Davis ``will play this week."

  • Auburn's defense is injury-free.

  • Asked about the offensive problems against Monroe, Tuberville quipped:

    ``I called all the running plays; (Tony Franklin) called all the passing plays."

  • Tuberville had this to say about WR Robert Dunn, who was demoted to the fourth-team offense last week:

    ``You've got to get him on the right path and not in that self-destruction mode. That's the way some guys are. You've got to be a player every day -- not just on Saturdays."

  • DT Mike Blanc, who is Haitian, has taught teammate S Mike McNeil how to speak creole. That's what most of the peeps speak on Haiti. You know why this is funny to me? McNeil and Blanc seem like an odd collaboration. Blanc is this massive, happy-go-lucky kid from south Florida. McNeil is this slender, button-down, quiet, reserved kid from Mobile.

  • Todd Dewey, the fine photojournalist from ABC 33/40 in Birmingham, asked a question of Tuberville today. It began as a simple query about QB Neil Caudle. It ended like this: "How confident are you in his positiveness?" I don't know what that means, either.

  • Video eta 2:30 p.m.

Video report, 9/1

Note: We lead with No. 27 as a shout-out to the HABOTN's Super Mario Bros.

(pronounced "BROZE")


Auburn speaks, 9/1

Hey everyone. Just finished a battery of interviews.

Here is The Important Stuff:
  • Coach Tommy Tuberville said QB Kodi Burns is "questionable" with that leg laceration, though I don't believe him. I'll bet cash money that Burns will play against Southern Miss this weekend.

  • Burns didn't practice today.

  • WR Mario Fannin didn't seem upset about the Franklin stuff from Sunday. Fannin said Franklin discussed things with him. The synopsis Fannin provided sounded like a transcript from yesterday, so there was no sugar-coating. Fannin said he understood what kind of improvements needed to happen. I guess that's put to bed.

  • DT Tez Doolittle said he was surprised at how well things went for him against Monroe. It's obvious that his own expectations for himself are up up up.

  • UPDATE: WR Robert Dunn said he was moved back to the first-team offense today. He later said his trip to Tuberville's "doghouse" was related to his mouth. He didn't provide any details.

  • UPDATE: Today is the first day coaches can offer scholarships to high-school juniors. It's also the first day coaches can contact those players on the phone, so, yeah, Auburn's phone bill is about to swell.

  • UPDATE: Tuberville said coaches have moved several wideouts to different spots to help recreate some depth. Recall that Frenchy, Montez Billings and James Swinton all either out for the season or on the mend. I know Darvin Adams was moonlighting on the outside today. Mario Fannin was out there as well.

    ``You've got to be 100 percent," Tuberville said. ``We're not going to do it just because somebody else offered a scholarship. It doesn't really make any difference. A lot of times, it's `They were the first to offer me,' but that has hurt us with very few over the years. We want to make sure that we're sure and they're sure."

Photo credit: Julie Bennett/Montgomery Advertiser

Questions? Comments? Post directly to the blog below or email me at

Getting things started, 9/1

Hey everyone. September is here. Can't believe it.

I meant to tell you all last night about all the traffic on I-85. On the way up there, I passed 17 consecutive cars from Louisiana around Shorter. Coming home around 8 o'clock, there were 15 cars headed north for every one headed south.

All that effort what what ended up being a strong thunderstorm. Sucks.

SCHEDULE UPDATE: Auburn practice begins at 3 p.m. Interviews expected to follow around 5:45. I'll go ahead and predict video debut at 7:30 or so. My main goal is Super Mario reaction.

9/1: Back to the drawing board for AU offense

8/31: AU offense works out kinks
8/31: Game notebook
8/30: My weekly "First and 10" column
8/29: Auburn's QBs deal with hype
8/28: Tigers' punter Durst able to live the dream


HABOTN life seemed to flow pretty smoothly Saturday night and Sunday, though I sense we can create some kind of post-game blogging tradition. Should we pick highs and lows? Or players of the game? Or good trends and bad trends?

You all have too much expertise. It shouldn't go to waste.

Photo credit: David Bundy/Montgomery Advertiser

Questions? Comments? Post directly to the blog below or email me at

Mario gets an interesting shout-out

For all you Super Mario Lovers out there ...

Tony Franklin this afternoon on Mario Fannin: "He's got to play better without the ball and he's got to show us he can be a good football player when he doesn't have the ball in his hands. Everybody knows he's good when he has it in his hands, but we can't put him in just to give him the ball. He's going to have to do the other stuff, too, and he hasn't done that."

Neiko Thorpe unleashed

There is no sound, but that doesn't diminish how cool I am to get this video up.


Video report, 8/31


Tuberville speaks, 8/31

Hey everyone. Welcome back to the HABOTN for the first "afternoon after" edition of 2008.

Coach Tommy Tuberville has spoken. Here are The Important Things:
  • Philip Pierre-Louis is out for the season. He injured a knee during the opening kick-off and that's a wrap. Tuberville said PPL will have surgery this week.

  • QB Kodi Burns suffered what Tuberville said was a "7-inch gash" on his shin. The injury required stitches. A Monroe helmet is to blame. Tuberville said he thinks Burns will miss practice Monday and resume work Tuesday.

  • WR James Swinton isn't in dire straits as once believed. His MRI revealed no damage. The injury is classified as a hyperextension. Tuberville believes Swinton will be back for Southern Miss.

  • WLB Merrill Johnson is dealing with a hamstring strain. He should be ready for Southern Miss.

  • WR Montez Billings missed the Monroe game with a hamstring problem. Tuberville said Billings may or may not be back in time for Southern Miss.

  • FB/WR John Douglas suffered a more serious knee injury. His long-term status is unknown. His short-term status is ... no go.

  • Tuberville said DE Raven Gray remains on the team. I received a few emails earlier in the week from folks who were hearing that Gray was on his way out.

  • C Jason Bosley was responsible for a few poor snaps (Tuberville said it was two; wasn't it more?) but Tuberville didn't seem concerned about it. Ryan Pugh spent a big chunk of the second half playing center. Bosley was on the sideline. I thought it may have been a punishment/demotion situation, but Tuberville said that's not the case.

  • Auburn finshed with 85 passing yards. Al Borges spent 50 games as the Tigers' offensive coordinator. Only once did his group fail to record at least 100 passing yards (against Georgia in 2006). Tony Franklin now has one below-100 game in two career Auburn appearances.

  • Tuberville said the Tigers may revisit the switch-with-each-possession deal at quarterback ... assuming Burns is ready to go Saturday.

  • UPDATED: Tommy Trott was named the team's offensive player of the game. Seriously. He caught zero balls for zero yards. He must have had a perfect blocking day?

  • UPDATED: Other players receiving POW honors included DE Mike Goggans (defense), LB Spencer Pybus (special teams), C Andrew Parmer (scout offense), DE Cam Henderson (scout defense).

Photo credit: Todd Van Emst/Auburn University

Questions? Comments? Post directly to the blog below or email me at

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