Well, at least the mystery of what happened to the Hogs' offense in the second half of Saturday's 45-21 season-opening loss at Auburn is solved. It got stuck in the elevator with OC Jim Chaney at halftime.
Give Auburn's D credit. Not surprisingly, the spotty mechanics of Jordan-Hare seemed to work for Auburn all day/night, and the Tigers' entire cadre of coaches was able to make it to the locker room to make halftime adjustments.
Chaney, meanwhile, communicated with the UA locker room via cell phone. After a first half of channeling Wisconsin power ball, our offense in the second half appeared to be phoned in as well.
Again, give Auburn credit. But really, our second-half play calling (and certainly our post-delay play calling) was Aubie's de facto 12th man. This seeming propensity in the Bielema era to abandon our bread-and-butter (and in the first half, we ran through Aubie like a knife through, well, more butter) is perplexing. Head scratching. Frustrating.
Granted, Auburn's defensive line stepped up in the second half, but how do we justify a mere handful of rushes (and those few were essentially dives) after halftime? The 3-headed monster of Williams/Collins/Marshall (and it's a legit monster) needs at least 35 touches a game. Get them the ball. In space.
The formula for beating us right now is simple, aside from playing pitch and catch when you're on offense - more on that in a sec - win first down. If Arkansas has a big first down, then buckle in, ‘cause we're fixin' to take your defense on a march down the field. You know, "move that ball right down the field" and all. (The "Never Yield" part remains a work in progress. Again, more on that forthwith.)
Force the Hogs into a second and long, and things get interesting.
None of this is on Brandon Allen. I tip my hat to that tough (physically and otherwise) young man. He made some throws. He made some good decisions. I just wish he'd felt that 3rd quarter pressure a half second earlier so he could've tucked.
This is not at all on BA, whose should-a-been TD pass to Hatcher was a beaut, but doesn’t it seem like our giving up a pick 6 is like some sort of autumnal rite of passage? "Martha, the Hogs threw a pick 6, time to send the boy off to school."
If I'm an opposing defensive back, I'm salivating at the prospect of getting my paws on an oskie, cause there's a very good chance I'm taking it to the house.
And, of course, yet another pick 6 proved to be a back breaker.
The receivers. Ugh. A few nice catches (D Wilson), but dropping TD passes doesn't help the cause. And why only stretch the field that one time? We proved we could get behind the D. Why not go right back to that and, by golly, catch the ball this time? And where were Henry and Derby (so glad he got a TD catch, and it was a nice one) in the second half? OK, so Auburn makes adjustments but we seem incapable of making counter adjustments to get guys open.
Defense remains an issue. Auburn receivers were wide open; Auburn backs ran through arm tackles. Once again, a backup QB was made to look Heisman candidate-ish. Of course, Musberger and Palmer did their bit to dress up Jeremy Johnson, who merely had to stand in the pocket unflustered and pitch to wide open receivers.
In the first half, Auburn receivers caught balls in seas of green -- with each catch there wasn't one Hog defender in the picture. Literally, it was pitch and catch. I know we have some talented young guys coming up, but right now we just can't cover anybody. Granted, we flew to the ball and we did appear more aggressive on D, but (sigh) it's gonna take a little time to stockpile talent, in the back 7 anyway.
That said, the D gave up yards but just 17 points to the Marshall-led offense (that read-option with a capable QB is tough to defend). That’s something most D’s would take. What doomed us in the second half wasn’t so much the D as the disappearance of the Wisconsin-like offense that punched Aubie in the mouth early.
And that first-half offense looked like what we all hoped would begin to blossom this year. If it does, then it's easy to envision more wins than expected this season. We won't face many O's as explosive as the one we faced on Saturday.
Saturday felt like one step forward (first half), and two steps back (second). But big picture it does feel like we're getting a little closer.
A few other game observations from the Man Cave couch:
I don't know what it is, but I've never felt intimidated by the Jordan-Hare crowd. It was loud, I guess, and the pom-pons look good and everything, but, I don't know...
Really disappointed we didn't come out of the lightning delay with more, ahem, charge. We score on that first possession and it's still a game.
I expected to thoroughly dislike Musberger and Palmer as an announcing team. After all, I've never cared for either individually as broadcasters, but I really can't complain about Saturday's performance. Aside from Musberger's desperate attempts to channel Dan Rather's awkward forced-folksiness, I thought they did OK.
Was this Musberger's first time to call a Hogs game? Bless his heart, he wants to be Keith Jackson so badly. And by KJ, of course, I mean the legendary CFB announcer whose mere voice is synonymous with Saturdays and not the OU Sooner who provides color for the RSN.
The SEC Network is awesome. Man, the days of Jefferson-Pilot aren't that long ago. We've gone from a Pinto to a Ferrari.
- I'm as traditional as you can get when it comes to uniforms, but I admit the all-whites were sharp. Very Stormtrooper. Unfortunately, the Force was against us on Saturday.