I happened to work Auburn’s 41-34 victory over Mississippi State in Jordan-Hare Stadium, and a few thoughts occurred as a lonely trumpet hushed nearly 90,000 people for a poignant rendition of “Taps.”
First, I noted the brief pause after the final note. Maybe no one wanted to be the first to yell out. Maybe everyone needed a second to steady their emotions and reclaim game excitement.
Next, the stadium could have been full of Auburn and Alabama fans, as it will be on Nov. 26. For at least that rendition of “Taps” and a moment or so afterward, they all would have pulled for the same team.
Lastly, we were moments away from college football, something none of us had on the weekend that followed the 2001 attacks on New York and Washington, D.C.
Ten years after Alabama fans didn’t watch the Crimson Tide’s postponed game against Southern Miss, they watched the second-ranked Tide handle No. 23 Penn State, 27-11. Those who made the trip watched from 104 miles northeast of Shanksville, where United Airlines Flight 93 crashed and heroic passengers died with the terrorists they thwarted.
Ten years after Auburn fans didn’t see the Tigers play at LSU, they saw Auburn mount a goal-line stand to secure yet another improbable victory.
Ten years after Jacksonville State fans didn’t see the Gamecocks play McNeese State, they’re fretting what they saw Saturday in a 38-17 loss at Chattanooga. Good to see college football fans are long since back to fretting such frivolities.
Those who kept watching college football Saturday saw South Carolina outlast Georgia in a 45-42 thriller. A similar late-game flourish marked Michigan’s 35-31 victory over Notre Dame before an NCAA-record crowd of 114,804 in the “Big House.”
Profound thoughts? Nah.
Just good to see so many schools put on well-done pregame ceremonies, and great to see a pearl in the American way of life rise to the occasion and shine so brightly on a fine September Saturday.
Bama: Now that that’s settled Now that Alabama’s quarterback situation is settled (we think), talk of comparing this Crimson Tide team to the 2009 national champions can take off.
Many already compare Alabama’s defense to that dominant 2009 unit, and it looked the part Saturday. It took the Tide exactly one drive to adjust to Penn State’s new wrinkles, and that 17-play drive resulted in a field goal.
Now, Alabama fans can work on comparing quarterback AJ McCarron to Greg McElroy, the ever-efficient starter who threw just nine interceptions through 2009 and 2010. McCarron threw none at Penn State, and Alabama’s offense did enough while staying out of the defense’s way.
Sound like 2009, any one?
One disquieting thought: Georgia’s loss to South Carolina on Saturday raised the likelihood that Alabama defensive coordinator Kirby Smart, who drew up those masterful adjustments Saturday, will get a call from his alma mater after this season.
Jacksonville State: Back to the future Let’s size up JSU’s plight.
The team billed as the school’s most talented in 12 years is missing injured starting quarterback Marques Ivory and playing backup Coty Blanchard. Based on what JSU coach Jack Crowe said Saturday, the system wasn’t designed for Blanchard, who played a change-of-pace role behind Ivory.
While the offense works it out, the defense continues to play like it did at the lowest points of 2009 — or worse.
An open date would be nice, but that’s a month away.
JSU’s season won’t come down to talent so much as it will come down to a restructured coaching staff, complete with a new defensive coordinator, finding workable solutions.
On the upside, JSU’s problems have yet to impact the Ohio Valley Conference race.
They found a way to survive the opener against OVC foe Tennessee-Martin, and Chattanooga was a non-conference foe.
JSU has another non-conference game against Georgia State this week, and it’s at home.
There’s a window, gentleman coaches. So, as the Marines say, improvise, adapt and overcome.
Auburn: Hold the wouldas, couldas One can point to a lot of stats and say Mississippi State should have beaten Auburn, but don’t go woulda-coulda on the game’s decisive play.
Yes, State had time to run two plays with a second-down pass and then a third-down call, likely a run. State is not a passing team, and the Bulldogs did what they do with Chris Relf at quarterback.
Yes, Relf could have made the option pitch for a likely tying or even game-winning touchdown with a 2-point conversion. He would have had to not believe his own eyes.
The defender that would normally trigger the quarterback pitch was nowhere to be found. State had cleared out the right side of Auburn’s defensive front.
It’s likely that Relf never saw Auburn safety Ryan Smith, who came from the defensive backfield and more toward the middle of the field. With any chance to react, the long-armed Relf would have at least stretched the ball over the goal line.
Smith came out of nowhere and cut Relf down, just enough to keep the 6-foot-4, 240-pound Relf’s upper torso in the field of play.
A game of inches, indeed.
Joe Medley is The Star’s sports columnist. He can be reached at 256-235-3576 or email@example.com. Follow on Twitter @jmedley_star.