Monday, September 20, 2010

New At Rivals: Catch A Tiger By His Toe

My postgame column for Clemson is up at Here's a preview:

I can't recall ever seeing an Auburn team play that badly, for that long, against a good opponent and still win.

The closest analogues might be the 1990 comebacks to beat Florida State and tie Tennessee, but even there the Tigers did better than being outgained roughly 15-to-one and failing to get a first down for the first 24 minutes.

Yes, Clemson had nine months to prep for this game, and it showed. Beyond one quick snap and that nifty pump-fake, trickery got Auburn almost nowhere on offense, and CU's Kyle Parker put on a clinic for aficionados of the blocker-release screen pass.

The ACC Tigers were immensely well-prepared, utterly dominating the first half. Making things worse, on the rare occasions when Auburn did get on track in the second quarter, AU reverted to bad habits, giving up a turnover and blowing drives with dumb penalties.

While the half-ending field goal drive wasn't half-bad, and a welcome display of good clock management, it was about the only thing that went right for Auburn in those first 30 minutes.

The dismal 17-3 score probably should have been even worse. Of course, things did get better.

While Auburn doesn't deserve any awards for coaching excellence in a game where they were so soundly outmatched for 30 minutes, the real measure of a staff is how it responds to adversity (or as Brent Musburger memorably mumbled, "diversity").

By all accounts, the coaches challenged the team in the dressing room, coming up with an entirely new game plan on the spot. AU's third-quarter explosion for 21 unanswered points (even after an early interception) indicated as strong a halftime adjustment as you're ever likely to see.

The rest is on the subscription side, but Rivals is offering a free first month to new subscribers coming over from FTB.

I had way more materiel than I could fit into one column for this one, so there will be more about Tigers vs. Tigers I here at FTB later on in the week.

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