Marshall: There Is Crying In Football

Phillip Marshall writes about Auburn football and Southeastern Conference and picks this week's winners and losers.

In November 1992, Auburn was mere inches from beating favored Georgia in Pat Dye's final home game.

As quarterback Stan White turned to hand off, an offensive lineman hit him and the ball came loose. Auburn recovered, but a Georgia player slapped the ball away as Auburn scrambled to line up. Officials should have stopped the clock, but they didn't. As a result, Auburn could not get another play off and Georgia won 14-10.

Dye's response when asked about the play? "The game is over. We lost."

On Jan. 1, 1965, national champion Alabama lost 21-17 to Texas in the Orange Bowl. It was considered a huge upset.

The game ended in controversy when Alabama quarterback Joe Namath seemed to have gone over the goal line on a quarterback sneak for the winning touchdown in the final seconds. The officials said he didn't.

Asked about the play after the game, Alabama coach Bear Bryant said that Namath should have gotten far enough into the end zone that it didn't matter.

Obviously, times have changed.

When LSU didn't like a pass interference call being waved off in Auburn's 7-3 victory in September, coach Les Miles and athletic director Skip Bertman wailed for days. It didn't matter that Rogers Redding, the SEC's director of officials, said it was the proper call.

Last Saturday, when a quarterback Chris Leak's fumble ended Florida's only second-half scoring threat, Gator coach Urban Meyer challenged the ruling on the field, claiming it should have been ruled an incomplete pass. Replay official Al Ford upheld the call.

The whining, sadly led by ESPN analyst Lee Corso, hasn't stopped yet. Again, Redding reviewed the tape and said the call was proper. Again, he was widely ignored.

The most ridiculous aspect of the whole thing is Corso and others saying that Ford, a retired official whose integrity is above reproach, is suspect because he lives in Florence. Take that stance to its logical conclusion, and no official who lives in same state as an SEC school could call games involving that school. Or maybe Auburn should complain because two of the officials in the Florida game--Georgia Ranager and Mike Washington--are former Alabama players.

Instead of complaining about one call, LSU coaches should have been trying to figure out how a team with as much talent as any in the college game could be held without a touchdown.

Instead of complaining, Florida coaches ought to be asking why their senior quarterback, supposedly a Heisman Trophy candidate, fell apart when Auburn put the pressure on in the second half. They should be asking why Auburn's offense romped up and down the field against a supposedly impregnable defense.

I like what Auburn defensive coordinator Will Muschamp had to say about the whole made-up controversy:

"If the official calls it a fumble, it's a fumble. I'm one of those coaches if they call holding, it's holding. If they don't call it, it's not. If they call pass interference, it's pass interference. If they don't, it's not.

"Some of these coaches sit there and complain in the paper and talk about woulda, coulda, shoulda. That's not going to get you a W. They're not going to change the score. Five years from now it's still going to be 27-17."

Anyway, enough of last week. It's time to take a look at another football Saturday. Your fearless picker was a mediocre 4-2 last week. For the season, the record is 42-11.

Tulane (2-4) at Auburn (6-1, 4-0):. Tulane is certainly no Florida or LSU. But it's no Buffalo either. The Green Wave is good enough on offense to present some problems.

Cornerback David Irons and the rest of the Auburn secondary are expected to see plenty of footballs thrown their way by Tulane.

The real question isn't whether the Tigers will win. They will. It's whether they will build on the momentum gained from the second half against Florida. They'll probably have to do it with several starters watching from the bench.

Look for Tulane to have some success moving the ball, but not nearly enough. Auburn 41, Tulane 14.

Alabama (5-2, 2-2) at Tennessee (6-1, 1-1): Is there a team out there harder to figure out than Alabama? The Crimson Tide is 5-2. It should have won at Arkansas and could even have won at Florida. Yet, it could have lost to Hawaii, Vanderbilt, Ole Miss and even hapless Duke.

The Vols have rallied from last season's 5-6 disaster, their only loss by a single point to Florida. They are two-touchdown favorites over the Tide at Neyland Stadium.

That seems a little high, but it's difficult to see Alabama winning this one on the road. Tennessee 24, Alabama 17.

Mississippi State (2-5, 0-3) at Georgia (5-2, 2-2): These are not happy times at Georgia. The past two weeks have surely been the worst of Mark Richt's tenure as head coach. First, there was an embarrassing 51-33 loss to Tennessee. Then came, horror of horrors, a loss to Vanderbilt. Both games were at Sanford Stadium.

Mississippi State is a bad team. Could it be that Georgia is also a bad team? Probably not. Georgia 35, Mississippi State 14.

South Carolina (4-2, 2-2) at Vanderbilt (3-4, 1-3): The Commodores are ever so close to having a banner season. It might turn out that last Saturday's win at Georgia wasn't so much of an upset. Vanderbilt 28, South Carolina 24.

Ole Miss (2-5, 1-3) at Arkansas (5-1, 3-0): Arkansas, winner of five straight, has some more losing to do. But it won't happen Saturday. The Rebels struggle to stop the run, and nobody in the SEC runs it as well as the Razorbacks. Arkansas 31, Ole Miss 13.

Fresno State (1-5) at LSU (5-2, 2-2): In some seasons, this might have been a test for LSU. But a team that gave up 63 points to Hawaii will be in a lot of trouble at Tiger Stadium. LSU 52, Fresno State 14.

Until next time...

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