The Auburn/Vanderbilt game was an incredible display of incompetence and a lack of execution by the Auburn offense.
Just hours before I wrote this, Tony Franklin, Auburn's offensive coordinator, was fired.
Here are my thoughts not only on the Auburn game, but also on the state of the Auburn program:
- Auburn looked like a Tommy Tuberville-coached football team in the first quarter. Even though the first drive stalled at the one, they moved the ball on each of the first three possessions either for a touchdown or to the Vandy 1. All of that was predicated on a physical running game led by Ben Tate. The defense played well, and things looked to be finally turning in Auburn's direction. Then...
- Inexplicably, Auburn moved away from the running game. Yes, Vanderbilt was beginning to stack the box to stop the run. However, Auburn came out with two tight ends many times early in the game. Even if the other team puts 8 men in the box defensively, seven linemen can pick up 7, while you hope your running back can avoid the 8th. I don't mind passing trying to loosen up the defense, but I do mind totally giving up on the running game that gave you the lead in the first place. It was the total opposite of every complaint Auburn fans have had over the years. Usually, fans complain that Tommy Tuberville sits on leads, and tends to run out the clock a little too early. During this game, after taking a 13-0 lead (and dominating more than that score indicates), Tony Franklin got aggressive, going five-wide on numerous occasions. That is one of the big reasons I believe Franklin was dismissed.
- The Auburn defense played well. They only gave up two touchdown drives and made big plays with a Jerraud Powers interception and a blocked field goal attempt. Despite injuries to Powers, Senderrick Marks, Antonio Coleman, Tray Blackmon, and Craig Stevens, the defense gave Auburn every opportunity to win this football game. My hat is off to Paul Rhoads and all of the defensive coaches, along with the players. They have been truly remarkable this season.
- Wes Byrum needs to be benched. You can't win games in the SEC when your kicking game is subpar. You can't miss extra points in big games, or it will come back to bite you. Morgan Hull needs to be inserted to kick field goals and extra points, if nothing else to show Wes that results are all that matters for a kicker.
- To me, the most disappointing part of the game was the one drive in the second half that nearly turned into points. Kodi Burns was quarterback, and completed a pass to Mario Fannin to get inside the Vanderbilt 30 yard line. Then, the offense moved back because of a penalty and bad decision making. Auburn still had a chance at a 50 yard field goal, but their was loads of indecision as to whether to kick the field goal or punt. With the way Wes Byrum has been kicking, the try probably would have been no good. But most fans realized that this drive might be the closest we got to points. Instead, Auburn took a delay of game penalty and punted the ball. After that, the Auburn offense never threatened to score.
- Both quarterbacks again showed their inability to run Franklin's offense. While Franklin's play calling has left much to be desired, Chris Todd and Kodi Burns have been mediocre at best all year. Todd at least threw two touchdowns and moved the ball with great help from Ben Tate. I believe Kodi Burns only got one first down, and was only 2-for-6 throwing. I personally am sick of both quarterbacks being unable to take the job and run with it. I wouldn't even mind seeing third-string Neil Caudle or freshman Barrett Trotter getting a chance.
- The penalties have been ridiculous. After only committing one penalty in the first half, Auburn committed TEN in the second half. That is simply inexcusable. These mistakes need to be corrected.
- Give credit to Vanderbilt. They did what Mississippi State and Tennessee couldn't do. They took advantage of Auburn's inability to get out of their own way on offense, and managed to make them pay for their mistakes.
- I'm unsure as to how I feel about Tony Franklin being fired. While I do think it will help things this year, I'm not sure about the future. There will in all likelihood be many decommitments from what was expected to be a star-studded recruiting class, and the offense seems to be just as lost if not more-so, than it was last year. I feel for Tony Franklin not getting even a year to show what he can do, but this is the SEC. Fans and boosters are too intense to allow multiple years for improvement. My guess is that Hugh Nall, offensive line coach, will be the new play-caller. He has experience in calling plays. Then, at the end of the year, Tommy Tuberville will have to make another new hire to run the offense.
- I hope Auburn fans realize that for things to stabilize, Tommy Tuberville must remain the head coach of this football team. He's been the only constant at this university in the last decade. Players have come and left, an Auburn president has been fired, Board of Trustee members have been forced out, but Tommy has remained. He has Auburn's program in one of the best positions it has ever been. Each year, the expectations are to win the SEC. Auburn's defenses have consistently been among the best in the country. He has 13, 9, 11, and 9 wins in the last four years in the toughest conference in America. He has beaten Alabama six straight times. He has dominated the other SEC competition, except for LSU and Georgia, whom he has about a .500 record against. Firing Tommy Tuberville or letting him leave would be the worst thing Auburn could do for their football program and their school.
- All of this drama sets up an interesting matchup against lowly Arkansas this week. The offense will be very intriguing to watch, and this team desperately needs an easy win. We will begin to see what this team is made of, after a tough loss to Vandy and coaching changes. I hope to see a team that shows up with a lot of effort and a hunger to win on Saturday afternoon. As always, War Eagle!