Fans Need to Enjoy These Great Athletes
They love to criticize. They love to second guess. And, they love to jump on and off the wagon. I know a lot are jumping on right now.
This game has been building since the first of the year. The coaches have been going about their business of getting their best players ready and on the field.
I've heard all kinds of comments about Matt Jones and how he couldn't play quarterback. I've maintained from the start that he could and would be a fine SEC quarterback. He is not full throttle yet, and might not be this season. He's getting bits and pieces of it ready each game. But, he's not all the way ready to take the controls. He is a cool, tough hombre with great athletic ability. And, he's going to be fun to watch.
Now, on the running backs, those of you who insist on hammering on Cedric Cobbs, back off. He's fine, and he played well and hard today. He dropped one pass, and that was a big play. But, he was better at hitting the right holes and he played tough. He did not miss assignments.
Fred Talley was not perfect at the outset, and that's the reason he got the early hook. He missed some assignments and was in motion on one of the pass plays that was called back. He did play well on a lot of other plays, when the blocking was pretty good.
The two TD runs ... one by Cobbs and one by Talley ... were things of beauty.
But, don't worry about which one plays, because both are needed. You can't make it with just one tailback in the SEC.
And, by the way, Matt Jones praised Decori Birmingham for a great block on the linebacker on his TD run.
It's fun for a lot of folks to put down one back while praising the other, but it's time to enjoy what we've got. We don't lack for ability at tailback, that's for sure.
Arkansas Football ... Great Coaching:
This game was a classic illustration of Arkansas football. You may not have the best players, but you can still win with antiseptic play. If you limit your turnovers and penalties, you can win against better players.
I don't think there is any question that Auburn has great talent. We have some talent, but much of it is extremely young.
What this game reminded me of was some of the Arkansas-Texas A&M games in the SWC. A&M almost always had better players ... bigger, faster athletes ... but Arkansas managed to win its share of the games with better coaching.
If you are sound in the kicking game, and you don't turn the ball over ... sometimes you can beat the team with better talent.
Arkansas was ready to play. It had an open week and top coaching. Auburn looked flat, and appeared to me as if it had not prepared for what Arkansas does on both sides of the ball.
No Preparation Versus the Option
Asked if he expected Arkansas to run that much option, Tom Terrific had a one word answer, "No."
Matt Jones said Auburn stayed in their same basic defense throughout the second half.
"That made it easy," he said. "They quit blitzing and they were where we expected them to be as far as the ends and linebackers. I guess we expected them to adjust, but they never did. I guess they didn't expect us to run the option much."
That makes no sense to me, since a lot of the same plays were shown in the South Carolina game.
The New Tight End
Jason Peters caught three passes (one was taken off the books by a penalty against Auburn), and they called about four more for him. But he was well covered. The good news was that he was occupying two men on some of those plays. Just because a guy doesn't catch many passes, it could be that his number was called more times.
And, he's still learning the offense. It will be neat when he knows all of the pass plays, instead of just 3-4. And, there are only a couple of running plays that he has down just yet. He is still learning the check system. Give him time. He has the tools, just be patient while his knowledge of the offense catches up to the tools.
Matt Jones and the Option
David Lee congratulated Matt Jones for a sterling performance in his execution of the option, both kinds.
"We ran the triple, and we ran the mid-line today," said Lee, the quarterback coach. "I was awfully proud of Matt Jones today. And, I was proud of the way Zak Clark played, too. He was hot early and made some plays and that really helped loosen up their defense."
Lee said he is also proud of the way Ryan Sorahan has worked in the last two weeks.
"We've got three good ones," Lee said. "Matt is pretty good with the option, but isn't quite ready in the throwing game. Zak is good in the throwing game, and the checks, but can't run the option. And, Ryan, dad gum, he's worked so hard to improve in every area. He may be the best as far as being able to run it all. He can run the option, he can do the throwing game. He is working so hard and I'm proud of him, too.
"On the mid-line option, what a great play. You remember the way Quinn Grovey ran the triple option. Well, if we had the mid-line for Quinn, he would have gotten another 1,000 yards rushing. It's a great play."
Retooling Late Friday Night
John Thompson had to revise his game plan a bit Friday night after the decision to bench Batman Carroll. He didn't object to the decision. He just redid a few things.
"It's been a long 24 hours," he said. "I was up until 2:50 a.m. this morning. I'm not sure how much I was working on things, as it was I just couldn't sleep.
"We just moved Eddie Jackson inside, and gave Marvin Jackson a lot more snaps. They both did what they could do.
"I do wish we'd caught a few more of those interceptions, and made a few more plays. But that was a good offense we saw today. They have good backs and they have a heckuva team. They give you lots of problems.
"On the counter option for the TD, we'd seen them run it once, and that's all. We did show it to our defense in practice, but it was something we should have shown them a lot more."
Letting Some Gifts Escape
After the game, both Caleb Miller and Tony Bua said they were sorry for so many dropped interceptions. Bua said, "We had about five turnovers we gave back today. I had a fumble on the goal line and knocked it back to the receiver. I know Caleb dropped two or three sure picks, and I dropped one, too. That's said that we couldn't make those plays or this might have been an even better game."