Auburn's third drive: Good one. Mario Fannin scores on a 35-yard run, capping an unexpected drive. The Tigers had to convert a fourth-and-inches deep in its own territory early in the drive. (11 plays, 90 yards)
AUBURN 13, GEORGIA 10
Georgia's third drive: Stafford to AJ Green 17 pass. TOUCHDOWN. UGA kept it rolling, no problems. (6 plays, 60 yards)
Hey everyone. Welcome to another Auburn football Saturday on the Plains.
I expected rain. What I'm seeing is partly cloudy skies, temperatures in the high 50s and lots of wind. That means Kodi Burns' wobbly passes are going to hang more than usual when he's throwing from L to R on your television screen.
Traffic sure wasn't bad. I'd say it was only a little worse than UT-Martin, which is a big surprise to me. Then again, toe is meeting leather at 11:30 a.m. That's a factor.
Mario Fannin starts at TB
Chris Evans starts at WLB. His platoon partner, Merrill Johnson, is injured but likely will play today.
Here are a few things I'm pondering in the hours leading up to The Georgia Game.
Are we really going to The Mario Fannin Well again?: Assistant coach Eddie Gran said Thursday that the Tigers may move Fannin into the featured role against Georgia in an effort to find a front-line guy. Does Auburn have one? I thought Ben Tate was that guy, but it's clear the coaching staff doesn't see it that way. He's been splitting carries pretty evenly with Fannin and Lester of late, which is a messy decision. The Tigers need a No. 1 guy. Going into the Georgia game without a decision on that front is weird to me.
I think Fannin has some skills. I don't think he'll be a No. 1 guy. He doesn't seem all that quick to me (in relative terms) and he misses assignments. He's not a freshman anymore.
So what happens with Chris Todd? Since Neil Caudle relieved quarterback Kodi Burns during the late stages last week, that means 19 is the backup. Todd is becoming a distant memory. It's a shame in a sense because Todd is a very nice kid. He's frustrated about his shoulder. He's not the player he once was. Nobody knows that better than Todd himself. My best guess is that he stays for his final season in a backup-backup role. It would take one heck of a salesman to convince a program -- any program -- that Todd could help them immediately next season. He has one year of eligibilty remaining.
What's up with the offensive line?: Auburn was prepared to outlast opponents this season. Remember how Tony Franklin wanted to run 80-90 plays per game? The line was built to handle that. The "smash-mouth" stuff was ditched. Then Franklin was fired, Steve Ensminger and Hugh Nall went back to the offense they know -- smash-mouth stuff -- and now the line isn't ready for it.
Look, LT Lee Ziemba is listed at 285 pounds. He's a lean guy. He's also playing with a bum knee.
RT Ryan Pugh is listed at 6-foot-4 (he's more like 6-2) and 280 pounds. Pugh doesn't look that heavy to me.
Those are exceptionally light tackles in an era where guys at that position routinely exceed 300 pounds.
Let's go through the SEC. SEC WEST
Auburn -- Lee Ziemba (6-8, 285) and Ryan Pugh ("6-4", 280)
Alabama -- Andre Smith (6-4, 330) and Drew Davis (6-7, 300)
Arkansas -- Ray Dominguez (6-4, 315) and Jose Valdez (6-5, 313)
LSU -- Ciron Black (6-5, 327) and Joe Barksdale (6-5, 315)
Miss. State -- Derek Sherrod (6-5, 303) and *Quentin Saulsberry (6-3, 293)
Ole Miss -- Michael Oher (6-5, 318) and John Jerry (6-5, 350)
Florida -- Phil Trautwein (6-6, 310) and Jason Watkins (6-6, 310)
Georgia -- Clint Boling (6-5, 290) and Josh Davis (6-6, 293)
Kentucky -- Garry Williams (6-3, 300) and Justin Jeffries (6-6, 310)
South Carolina -- Jarriel King (6-7, 285) and Justin Sorenson (6-7, 315)
Tennessee -- Chris Scott (6-5, 310) and Ramon Foster (6-6, 325)
Vanderbilt -- Kyle Fischer (6-6, 305) and Thomas Welch (6-7, 305)
Auburn and Georgia are the only schools with both tackles under 300. Playing straight-ahead football with the smallest offensive line in the league is not a formula for success.
Hey everyone. This is a list of the HOTTIES who have expressed interest in getting a HABOTN tee. My goal is to get everything handled by next Friday so Scottie's peeps can start cranking them out. I'm pretty geeked.
So here's the list. If you don't see your name here but still want a shirt, just add a comment. We'll start taking money next week.
Brian -- 2 BinOBA -- 1 Taylor -- 1 Joshua -- 1 jhag -- 1 matt01 -- at least 1 The Frontrims -- 2 shesaid -- 2 SteveFC -- 1 Wareaglerk -- 1 Phred -- 2 Trey S -- 2 Lme11659 -- 2 Atlantatiger -- 2 Will -- 1 Josh In Leeds -- 1 FSJ -- 1 Muschamp Wuz Here -- 1 Kaleb -- 1 Monica -- 2 Alan -- 1 Biscuitator -- 2 DennyCrum -- 1 Caleb Rotton -- 1 Just win AU -- 1 Eddie -- 2 Cory -- 1 Im4au -- 1 Auwade -- 1 Aubigcat -- 1 AUMom -- 1 Jim in Scranton -- 1 War eagle girl -- 1 Dan -- 1 Sean -- 1 Tracy -- 1 Throc -- 1 Aubtigers -- 1 Kody -- 1 AunMobile -- 2 Mrdude -- 1 Jaywall14 -- 1 CPF -- 1 wartiger -- 1 (Mr. Broccoli) -- 1 (Jennifer L.) -- 1
We discussed many issues important to the HABOTN nation like Carnell Williams' knee ligaments, the real stars at Ole Miss, morning tailgates, Tony Franklin's feelings about fingernail hygiene and other stuff.
Hey everyone. Hope you enjoyed The Roundtable today. My segment wasn't all that long because The Trivia Girls had to get their giggle on. I don't see the draw. Apparently you don't, either.
Here's a great shot of the Auburn helmet with a Virgil Starks sticker affixed. I uploaded this in full size, so if you click on it ... it'll be an image big enough for you to use as a screen saver or wallpaper or whatever you want.
Hey everyone. I will be on The (WMSP) Roundtable during the 1 o'clock hour today. For the influx of new HOTTIES, all of whom we adore, the HABOTN enjoys a close relationship with The Roudtable. They stream over the internets.
So check that out.
T-SHIRT UPDATE: We're moving forward with the HABOTN T-shirt Initiative. A member of the RoF has graciously offered to be our conduit toward textile nirvana. I thought Taylor's initial design, which he created more than a month ago, was pretty hot.
If you have suggestions, please comment below. Early ideas include a two-color front, some type of mono-tone slogan or logo on the upper back. That's very similar to what Taylor postulated all those days ago.
I'll have a more involved entry later in the day.
Wifey and I hang out on Thursday afternoons because, well, she doesn't see much of me during the weekends.
I tried. I really did. I pretended to be comfortable with the comment count extending beyond 200, but it's just not happening.
Let's continue our discussion about Tray Blackmon, LG televisions, my future at ESPN, how much we love our canines and everything else here.
BLACKMON UPDATE: Tuberville said after practice that linebacker Tray Blackmon has taken a part-time job to help support his three children and may not return next season.
"He's got to make it for what's best for his family," Tuberville said. ``I think a lot of times when guys get injured they tend to look at the other side: Do I need to keep doing this? He's a football player and I think he'll make a decision based on his future -- and for his family. We'll be supportive of it."
Hey everyone. Just spoke with Tuberville about this alleged situation involving Tray Blackmon.
The coach said he hasn't spoken with Blackmon in a few days, but wasn't aware of any major career-changing decisions involving the injured linebacker. Blackmon is out for the season after undergoing wrist surgery last month.
Rumors began to swirl when Blackmon, who has one year of eligibilty remaining, wasn't spotted on the Auburn sideline last weekend.
"It's up to him," Tuberville said. "As far as I know, he's going to be here."
ALSO OF NOTE: Blackmon has family commitments that could prompt him to consider some form of professional football or other employment options. If that happens, Tuberville might not be the first guy on Blackmon's call list. I'm working to talk directly with Blackmon ...
So I get in my vehicle today for some Sirius radio -- specifically some old-school rap on "BackSpin" -- but that didn't happen according to plan. The Sirius/XM merger became final today. With that evolution came a major change in channels which, sadly, claimed my man Dana Dane and Kurtis Blow and the whole crew at BackSpin.
Tommy Tuberville is holding his weekly press conference at 1 p.m. Check below for a live synopsis of what's discussed.
Here we go ...
Two players are doubtful for the UGA game. Merrill Johnson broke a bone in his hand. He's out. Montez Billings, as we discussed here, has a broken nose. He's out for the UGA game. Both could be back for Alabama.
On UGA: "Everybody's done everything against them. Some have worked. Some haven't worked. They've been their own worst enemy this year. Their defense -- a lot of speed, but they're not as big as they've been in the past. (The schemes) are a mirror what they've done in seasons past."
Who starts in place of Billings?: "He's going to get some practice time in. He has a better chance (of playing) than Merrill."
When you get to these teams -- you can count on (players) on both sides. It's a special occasion. It's a fun game for the fans also. They always get into it. It doesn't make any difference what time you play -- the stands are full."
Can a win salvage the season?: "I don't know if you call it salvage. When you lose five games ... we don't do that very often. You've still got a knot in your stomach. We've got a better chance to play better on both sides of the ball with the (formerly injuured) guys back."
Last time you had a healthy lineup: "The first quarter of the Vanderbilt game. We were playing pretty well up to that point. We had to make a lot of adjustments. That cut back on our execution."
Is this still a big game: "They were preseason No. 1. It didn't quite work out for them. For BCS rankings, it affects things a little bit. It doesn't affect fans or alumni any differently. We haven't been very successful over there since (2005). It's good to have it here. In the past, the home team has lost this game. I think that's just coincidence."
On UK's Randall Cobb being very successful against UGA last week: "They did have a problem with a quarterback last weekend who was very mobile."
"We didn't put much credence into that game we played last weekend."
The 2007 game at Georgia: "Our guys were mentally and physically tired. We played well at times. Third quarter -- we gave up a couple long pass plays that put us in a mind. We started missing tackles and it kinda got away from us. It looked like we let our guard down a little bit. I thought we played well enough to win in the first three quarters."
He's recalling his Middle East trip with Richt (and others) last summer. While we're here, isn't it interesting that the four major-college coaches on that trip (Tuberville, Richt, Notre Dame's Charlie Weis and Miami's Randy Shannon) have experienced disappointing seasons in 2008?
On how the Soulja Boy dancing annoyed them last season: "We don't use things for this game or the Alabama game. This is a lot easier on coaches than maybe that game last week. You have to have a sense of urgency. They're a little more attentive."
Coaches into this game?: "Oh yea. Over the years, I've had coaches from Georgia. Coach Nall always gets into it. He doesn't take many phone calls this season. His buddies from over there usually want to make predictions. He takes it personally."
On Virgil Starks, who died Saturday at 46: "Virgil has been like a second father to a lot of them. One minute he's here, one minute he's not. He was around these players every day. He was strong with these guys. He was directly with what he wanted. It's really going to affect this team. These guys will play for Virgil. We're going to have a sticker on our helmet with his initials on it. That stern voice is going to be missed."
Hey everyone. Sorry for running way behind today. I explained my tardiness in the "Video report, 11/9" thread, so I will not duplicate myself here.
We're always trying to innovate here, so let's try something new today.
Here are Three Reasons Auburn Fans Shouldn't Be Encouraged by what's going on.
(Don't hyperventilate. Better news awaits.)
This offense still is a patchwork solution: Tommy Tuberville's decision to fire Tony Franklin on Oct. 8 probably was a good one, but that doesn't absolve Tuberville of responsibility. It's clear that Auburn isn't equipped to run the ball properly right now. Is that strategy? Is that personnel? I think it's a combination of both. The problem for Auburn Fan is that neither issue can be solved during the next three weeks.
Beating UT-Martin wasn't easy: It really wasn't. The game was tied at 20 mid-way through the third quarter until Kodi Burns ran wild. He's just faster and better than the guys UT-Martin use on defense. That kind of freelancing probably won't work against Georgia and Alabama. When quarterback draws become The Main Reason your team beat UT-Martin, you know, things are beyond "troublesome."
Auburn hasn't said anything official about Tuberville: This coaching staff is uncertain about its future. Forget about Tuberville. He has, as Steve Spurrier would say, a $6 million lottery ticket awaiting him. The assistants, the guys who actually do the coaching, don't know if they'll be here next year or not. There is no lottery ticket awaiting them. That's an exceedingly tough work environment -- and no way to prepare for Amen Corner.
Let's now change speeds.
Here are Three Reasons Auburn Fans Should Be Encouraged by what's going on.
Kodi Burns is coming of age: You know I've been tough on Burns this season. He has really caught my attention since halftime at Ole Miss. Sure he was picked three times that day. He also showed patience in the pocket and was thinking about what to do next. His decisions weren't great, but at least he wasn't fleeing the pocket at the first sign of trouble. I now believe he can be a B/B+ kind of quarterback. He needs experience and some coaching. I've seen more improvement out of him during the past month than the nine months Franklin had him.
The defensive line is back: Sen'Derrick Marks, Tez Doolittle and Antonio Coleman are excellent players with different skill sets. Opponents don't like them. The trio missed the UT-Martin game and weren't effective against Ole Miss because of lingering health issues. That's all handled. They're ready to ball.
Tuberville's back is against the U-Haul*: He operates better when he can paint an us-against-the-world mentality among both coaches and players. Even if he's not playing for his job -- I still can't accurately judge what's going to happen there -- Tuberville certainly is playing to maintain his recruiting allure and his own relevance. He is at his best when challenged like this.
Here is the information some of you all requested:
Virgil Starks' visitation will be on Tuesday, Nov. 11, at Jeffcoat-Trant Funeral Home in Opelika from 6-8 p.m. CST. The memorial service will be held on Wednesday, Nov. 12, at First Baptist Church in Auburn beginning at 11 a.m.
Players of the game: Kodi Burns on offense, Chris Evans on defense.
"We wanted to kinda let the air out of it for a week and let them get back into it mentally. We didn't do a lot on offense. We didn't ask them to do much."
"We know what we're getting into: We're about to play the preseason No. 1 and the present No. 1 in a few weeks. We've got our work cut out for us."
On Kodi Burns' learning curve: "I think Kodi can be an excellent SEC quarterback. He's raw. He's a lot like Jason. As coaches, you have to learn the strengths and weaknesses of a player you haven't been around. We'll do that with Kodi. I thought (Neil Caudle) added something to our offense."
On losing two consecutive games to Georgia: "Last year, we thought we had a good chance. It was our 11th straight game without an open date. In the third quarter, it looked like we ran out of gas. They've beaten a lot of teams -- not just us."
On how Auburn's offense changed with Tony Franklin out: "It means we've put the finger on Kodi Burns. He's gotten a little bit better at times. His receivers haven't cooperated at times."
On how coaches handled the win: "Everybody's excited. We got a win. We work awfully hard for every game we play. We know the challenge ahead of us. I'm sure the players don't realize that like we do. It's a huge challenge for a team that hasn't been productive consistently."
Easier to come to work today: "Easier? Yeah, but we shift gears pretty quickly here. You have to go to the next game very quickly."
On Virgil Starks: "It's a shock to all of us. He's been a huge part of these kids being able to work toward their education, their degree, and being able to play football as well. We talked about this for a long time with the players. He's like a head coach with academics. He took his job seriously. He worked on it day and night. He did a lot for the program."
On "Amen Corner": "This is the fun time. This is what you fight for. These are a lot more fun. Tennessee-Martin? Homecoming? As coaches, we're thinking: It's over with. Now we're looking forward to these preparations. It's like two Iron Bowls back to back."
Tuberville said Tristan Davis's injury isn't serious.
On Burns' running: "He's going to take some licks. We tell him to protect himself as much as he can. Yesterday, he looked like a running back out there. In the next two games, he's going to have to protect himself more."
On Caudle being the backup: "He earned it. He looked athletic. He's really matured since he's been here."
On Jay Gogue's upcoming program review: "He's told us all that. He told us when he first got here that each coach would be evaluated after their season. He doesn't get involved. I think that's pretty good."
More on Burns' running: "When we're in shotgun, someone else can run the ball. Him running like that gives him another second or two to throw the ball. That's why you run -- to slow down the pass rush."
We had an "event" last night that needs to be discussed.
As many of you know, I get anxious when the number of comments on a given post exceeds 200. Comment pages hold only 200. So when we push beyond that numbers, we are forced to use a second comment page and it gets all confusing. I generally am able to start a new thread before calamity strikes.
Last night, some unscrupulous HOTTIES conspired to create an unseemly number of comments on the thread entitled "Saturday overflow." The train finally stopped rolling at approximately 860 comments.
Below, please find the list of bad boys and girls:
fake steve jobs
jet g. ate
war eagle girl
Using reverse psychology, I'm bumping many of these offenders either into the Hall of Fame or up one notch. This does not include current "Feeling The Heat" members. Jumping into the Ring of Fire requires votes and debates and tacit approval of Tony Franklin.
Auburn's game against Georgia next weekend will begin at 11:30 a.m. This will be the Tigers' third game of the season to be broadcast by the Three Daves. Seems like a lot, sure, but I'm not used to covering a .500 team. So it goes.
Other SEC games: South Carolina @ Florida -- 2:30 p.m. on CBS Mississippi State @ Alabama - 6:45 p.m. on ESPN Vanderbilt @ The University of Kentucky -- 8 p.m. on ESPN2
Virgil Starks, who served the athletic department for the past 10 years as its academic czar, died Saturday night. He turned 46 last week.
He was a very happy guy. I never saw him without a smile on his face.
"Words can’t express the feelings of sorrow and mourning that we have at the passing of our dear friend Virgil Starks," athletic director Jay Jacobs said. "Virgil was passionate about all facets of his life and cared for Auburn student-athletes as if they were his own children. He will be dearly missed by all that he touched. Our thoughts and prayers are with Virgil’s family, friends and our Auburn Family in these difficult times."
A native of Hartselle, Ala., Starks succumbed to cardiac arrest while returning home after the Auburn football game against Tennessee-Martin.
In lieu of flowers, the family requests donations to the Tigers Unlimited Foundation in memory of Virgil Starks. All donations will benefit Starks’ passion: The academic and life-skills enhancement of Auburn student-athletes.
Starks is survived by his wife, Donna, and three daughters, Carolyn, Victoria, and Anastasia.