We operate on deadlines. As much as possible, must get things done as games happen to produce a volume of coverage.
From every game I cover, I write the feature we call “Analysis Points” and did on the fly during No. 6 Auburn’s dramatic, 43-38 victory over Georgia on Saturday. The object is always to hit “send” as soon as the game ends or the outcome becomes apparent.
A draft was written at halftime, when Auburn led 27-7.
Adjustments were made in the third quarter, but the game analysis remained largely intact as Auburn took a 37-17 lead with 12:39 to play.
From that point on, the analysis underwent quite an evolution. I was just about to hit “send” when Auburn faced fourth-and-18 from its 27-yard line and thought, “What will it hurt to wait out this last play?”
One Hail Mary pass and one last-gasp Georgia drive later, the “Analysis Points” underwent massive reworking.
It reminded me of 1996 and the four-overtime Auburn-Georgia game. Exactly 17 years to the day before Saturday’s game, it was my second game as a sports writer in the Deep South.
Auburn had led 28-7 and was winning 28-21 when reporters went down to field level for interviews. Corey Allen’s game-tying touchdown catch at the end of regulation happened right in front of me, and all I could think was the uselessness of everything I had written to that point.
For four overtimes, I felt Jordan-Hare Stadium rock. It rocked every time Georgia lined up for an extra point and fans stomped and chanted, “Block that kick! Block that kick!”
I left the stadium that night realizing that I had, for the first time, experienced the thrill of high drama in major-college football … followed by the agony of “delete.”
Some thoughts about the Auburn-Georgia game, top-ranked Alabama’s 20-7 victory at Mississippi State and Football Championship Subdivision No. 22 Jacksonville State’s 52-14 loss at No. 2 Eastern Illinois:
Auburn: Another grow-up game
It’s understandable that this Auburn team came into this season behind the curve on how to handle the big games. The Tigers have a new coaching staff, new quarterback and several freshmen playing. Most of the returning players went through a 3-9 nightmare a year ago, and they had suffered blowouts against most of their brand-name opponents for two years.
Auburn’s maturity in those games remains a work in progress. It seemed to arrive after a bad first half at LSU in September, and progress seemed to carry into a close, thrilling game at Texas A&M in October.
The Tigers came out dominant for a half against Georgia and led 37-17 early in the fourth quarter, but they showed immaturity in handling dominance in such a game.
Aaron Murray, Georgia’s quarterback and one of the best to play in the SEC, had a lot to do with it, but Auburn withered. Even Steven Clark, a Ray Guy Award semifinalist for the third year in a row, shanked a punt in a crucial situation.
The good news for Auburn is that it survived the experience with its 10th victory of this turnaround season.
It’ll be interesting to see how the lessons of the Tigers’ latest big game carry into games to come against Alabama, a bowl opponent and, maybe, an SEC Championship opponent.
Alabama: What else is new?
Who didn’t see a lackluster, emotionless victory at Mississippi State coming?
The first sign came a week before Saturday’s game, when Alabama coach Nick Saban jumped in quarterback AJ McCarron’s arms after the Tide scored the final 21 points in a 38-17 handling of LSU.
Alabama always invests a lot in the LSU game, and the next game? Not so much.
We saw it in 2011, when Alabama lost the “Game of the Century” against LSU then punched its timecard at Mississippi State a week later, winning by nearly the same score … 24-7.
We saw it last season, when Alabama mounted a dramatic, game-winning drive at LSU then, a week later, fell behind 20-0 in the loss to Texas A&M.
The best spot to fall on Alabama’s schedule these days is right after LSU, but the Tide will have this week’s tune-up against Chattanooga before playing rival Auburn for the SEC West Division title Nov. 30.
Even in a lackluster performance Saturday, Alabama showed signs of continued strength. The Tide’s defense stood up when State had chances to capitalize on Alabama mistakes. The Tide extended its Football Bowl Subdivision-best winning streak away from home to 18 games and held an opponent to less than 100 rushing yards for the 42nd time in 63 games over five years and fifth time this season.
It is what it is.
Much like Alabama, it seems JSU invested a lot in its game previous to playing Eastern Illinois on Saturday. That 68-10, home venting of frustrations in the series against Eastern Kentucky clearly didn’t leave much emotion for a road game against the second-ranked Panthers.
What the Gamecocks did have in the tank going to Charleston, the wind and EIU took away. The Panthers are that good.
They were good enough to beat JSU with the running game when wind and JSU’s defense hampered their vaunted passing game.
It’s disappointing that the Gamecocks didn’t at least make a better showing a week after such a show of strength, but they came closer to playing an FBS opponent Saturday than when they actually played an FBS opponent, Georgia State.
Look for EIU to carry the Ohio Valley Conference banner deep into the FCS playoffs.
Look for JSU to do everything it can to make its case for a playoff berth this week at home against Southeastern Missouri State, but a 9-3 record with three losses against OVC opponents likely won’t be enough.
Sports Columnist Joe Medley: 256-235-3576. On Twitter @jmedley_star.