It would be a nice gesture after JSU offensive coordinator Ronnie Letson’s pat on the press box glass when things weren’t going well early in JSU’s 22-21 victory at Southeastern Missouri on Saturday. The not-Plexiglas window broke into pieces and rained down into the stands.
No injuries or arrests, thank goodness, but Letson saw lots of crossed arms and hard looks from both athletics directors. JSU’s Warren Koegle says his school will foot the bill, and JSU is still trying to pay for its own stadium.
Alabama’s Jim McElwain has probably felt like breaking things lately, and the Crimson Tide’s 24-7 victory at Mississippi State on Saturday was no different. A week after the Tide went without a touchdown in a potentially season-wrecking loss to LSU, Mac’s pack saw more unfinished drives and struggles for quarterback AJ McCarron.
Oh, and there were more calls from the boss to pass on first down.
But more than with Letson and McElwain, someone should keep sharp objects from Auburn’s Gus Malzahn. Months after his raise to $1.3 million a year, Auburn once again showed it can’t block the best defenses it plays in a 45-7 humiliation at Georgia.
The nation’s top-ranked defense still looms when Alabama visits Auburn in two weeks. Considering how poorly Auburn’s defense plays, Malzahn is staring at the possibility of McElwain’s offense outperforming his.
JSU: Cleaning up nicely
After SEMO stadium workers cleaned up the shards below the visiting coaches’ box, JSU picked up the pieces of a three-game losing streak and bad first half at SEMO.
Sans injured running back Washaun Ealey and suspended linebacker Clarence Jackson — and with quarterback Coty Blanchard fighting back spasms — the Gamecocks managed to rally from a 21-9 hole.
There’s still a chance, be it ever so slight, that JSU could win the Ohio Valley Conference. There’s still a chance the Gamecocks could make the Football Championship Subdivision playoffs.
Those chances are probably greater than those of JSU’s fans getting over yet another promising season turned into a disappointment, but at least fans have a win to consider this week.
Considering how frustrations in JSU’s camp literally spilled into the public domain Saturday, that’s probably a good thing.
Alabama: McElwain’s pain
SEC defenses have solved McCarron, and those that can stop Alabama’s passing game are stopping it. Very telling was this quote from Alabama coach Nick Saban.
“Most of the good plays we made on passing plays came on first down,” he said.
In other words, Alabama’s best chance to make plays in the passing game comes when defenses least expect it. Those good passing plays come when defenses clearly gear to top the run.
So, if Alabama runs and gets stopped, throws incomplete or gets sacked on first down, the Tide winds up in more down-and-distance situations that call for passes.
That makes it hard to solve another recurring problem — the inability to finish drives against good defenses.
That latter problem leads to more pressure for McElwain, because we all know what happens when Alabama doesn’t finish drives — field goals.
Or attempted field goals, that is.
Auburn: Dis-Gus-ting show
For sure, Malzahn’s misery has company in Auburn’s camp. The Tigers are bad on both sides of the ball.
Against the best teams on Auburn’s schedule, the defense can’t get off the field on third down and can’t keep the game in reach for the offense, which can’t muster cushion. That’s why Auburn has lost to No. 1 LSU, No. 6 Arkansas, No. 7 Clemson and No. 13 Georgia by an average of 27.8 points.
Clearly, personnel losses from Auburn’s 2010 national championship team account for much of the Tigers’ woes on offense, and Auburn fans just got another reminder that Auburn lost more than Cam Newton. The Tigers sorely miss the senior offensive line that protected him.
But hard to explain is why Malzahn so abandoned the run in the decisive early going at Georgia. It’s the thing that Auburn does least badly, as evidenced by running back Michael Dyer’s 1,000-yard season despite it all.
We all heard head coach Gene Chizik’s “take-what-the-defense-gives” explanation, but Auburn clearly needs to take time off the clock against good teams. The best way to do that has always been to run the ball.
Again, it’s the thing that Auburn does least badly. It’s also the thing Malzahn has always said he wants to do above all.