Well, I hate to say "I told you so," but...
Now everybody who said, "How could it get any worse than this?" after the Vandy game has their answer. What's worse than Tony Franklin calling plays? Steve Ensminger calling plays, of course.
Why anybody should have been surprised at Auburn's offensive ineptitude against Arkansas is entirely beyond me. We knew Ensminger was incompetent one game in back in 2003. Saturday's pathetic showing was just one more brick in that particular wall. Terrible game plan, terrible play calling, panic in key situations, check, check, check. There wasn't anything new about any of the above. Franklin was a bad fit for Auburn, but Ensminger was, is and ever will be a terrible football coach.
Nothing new: Ensminger's compatriot Hugh Nall turned in yet another clunker up front, as there was no pass protection, and no blocking in the running game worthy of the term. Receivers dropped easy catches, and the quarterbacks overthrew open receivers. From the five yard line with the game on the line and facing the SEC's worst rushing defense, AU had no solution other than three incompletions from the shotgun. It was a pathetic sight.
I will allow a compliment: Tommy Trott made one great reception. He appears to be one of those guys who can't catch anything that hits him in the hands, but make him go acrobatic and he can somehow reel them in. Go figure.
I frankly think I would have been more embarrassed if Auburn had managed to hang on and win Saturday night. The Tigers would have had no business whatsoever winning that game. Not only was the offense execrable, their awfulness finally bled over to the defense. Arkansas came in to the game last in the SEC in giving up quarterback sacks, but AU's once-proud defensive front never so much as threatened to put Casey Dick in the dirt.
Yes, a lot of guys are out hurt. Certainly it's a big deal that Jerraud Powers didn't play at all. But there's still no excuse for giving up over 400 yards to that team. None. Whether it was due to the injuries, or the week of turmoil, or just plain coaching and playing badly, Auburn was not prepared to play on either side of the ball Saturday, and when that happens, you usually lose.
It's worth at least noting that AU had its best day of the season in the kicking game, and that was all that made the Tigers competitive. Tristan Davis single-handedly pushed Auburn into the lead and kept them there with that 97-yard return, and later forcing a fumble on the second half kickoff. Auburn's kickoffs were much better, finally getting one into the end zone, and kick coverage appears to have improved since early in the season. It wasn't enough, but it was something.
There's not much I can add here to the overall impression that Auburn is playing terrible football. I'd like to think that a week and a half off would make a difference, but the shadow of the Nallsminger combined with Saturday's defensive breakdown makes me suspect otherwise.
Auburn has been running a nice video on the Jordan-Hare big screen going into the fourth quarter this season. It's a riff on the Auburn Creed, with players and coaches and former stars saying "I Believe..." This week, looking at a 25-yards-a-quarter offensive output next to one of the conference's worst teams pushing 400 as that last quarter started, I turned to an old buddy sitting next to me and murmured, "I believe we're going 5-7 this year."
Sorry to say, I believed that even more a half-hour later.