Saturday, September 20, 2014

Equal Time

Call this my "set the record straight" rant about Thursday night's clash between Auburn and Kansas State. It's kind of like the time last November when I had to correct the media's grossly inaccurate portrayal of the Auburn-Georgia game.

Regarding the AU-KSU game, Auburn went on the road, to an entirely different region of the country, to play a ranked opponent...and in the course of that night they overcame adversity, played very well in the exact parts of the game everyone thought to be their weaknesses, and they won legitimately...but of course you would never know that from the media coverage.

I am sure you've heard that Kansas State held Auburn to 55 rushing yards in the first half -- but have you heard that Auburn held Kansas State to 40 rushing yards for the entire game and 1.3 yards per carry, versus the 236 and 5.1 they were averaging coming in?

I am sure you've heard that KSU kicker Jack Cantele unfortunately missed three would-be field goals -- but have you heard that Auburn receiver D'haquille Williams unfortunately dropped a would-be touchdown in the second quarter?

And have you heard that Auburn receiver Sammie Coates left even more points on the field when he didn't lay out for a long bomb that missed his fingertips by the space of a fingernail? (Had he caught it, he would have either been tackled in field goal range or made it to the end zone.)

I am sure you've heard that K-State receiver Tyler Lockett "dropped" a touchdown pass that resulted in an interception -- but have you heard that the ball never even touched his hands? Have you heard that the pass was so fast and hard that he couldn't get his hands in position in time, and instead it bounced off his shoulder pads?

Have you heard that Auburn held K-State to its fewest yards per catch of the season despite playing without its best DB?

Have you heard that Auburn cornerback Trovon Reed, who made an outstanding fourth quarter interception that helped "seal the deal," is actually a receiver who was recently moved to the other side of the ball? (Obviously that makes the Tigers' defensive performance in Manhattan even more impressive).

Oh, and have you heard that the Big 12 refs called zero penalties on K-State after the opening kickoff? Despite the fact that K-State's offensive line committed several blatant, mugging-variety holds that were obvious even to toddlers?

I do not like to complain about officiating, as you might know if you read my recap of last season's national championship game, and that is especially true of holding since garden-variety holding happens on almost every play. However, when holds are flagrant, and in the open, and several of them against one team go uncalled in the same game that several questionable flags do get thrown against the other team -- and the team on the "blessed end" happens to be the home team, and happens to come from the same conference as the refs -- I do believe it's worth mentioning that confluence of facts. But true to form, the media has not bothered to mention the confluence when it comes to the AU-KSU contest.

Am I an Auburn partisan? Of course I am, where my heart and my cheering are concerned; but I am not a partisan where my viewing is concerned. I believe my recap of the national title game shows that I analyze games objectively, and I guarantee that if you were to ask anyone who has watched an Auburn game with me, they would tell you that my partisanship reveals itself in how critical I am of my team. I unfairly expect them to never surrender a point and never get stopped on a drive.

But when I see allegedly objective observers of college football report about my team in ways that are clearly not objective, I can't help but call them out and set the record straight.

Do the Tigers "look like a championship team" right now? No, they don't, but they do look like a championship contender, and Thursday night's win was as solid a road win as anyone in the country has posted up to now.

Auburn did not "look like" a championship team at this point last year, but they kept improving every week and wound up winning the SEC. They did not "look like" a championship team at this point in 2010, but they kept improving every week, finished 14-0, and won the national championship.

In fact, it is almost unheard of for the team that wins a sport's championship to "look like" a champion every single week. The 2007 LSU Tigers lost twice during the regular reason. The 1996 Florida Gators lost the final game of the regular season. The 1993 Florida State Seminoles got trampled by Notre Dame, only to get reinserted into the championship picture when Notre Dame lost the following week.

There are things this year's Auburn Tigers need to improve upon, including in the passing game. Yet every touchdown against K-State was through the air, and there would have been one more through the air if not for Williams's drop; and there might have been two more through the air if not for Coates pulling up short. Nick Marshall converted several clutch third down throws and made good decisions all night in a hostile environment.

Thursday night's game was a good one, and a big one, and a reason to smile. For whining, bedwetting media figures to suggest the opposite is a borderline disgrace.

Oh, and it also infuriates me that nobody is giving Auburn credit for being the only major power to have the balls to schedule a non-conference game at KSU since the Wildcats became a contender two decades ago. The last major power to go there was Penn State, in 1969, but of course the Wildcats were a doormat and laughing stock back then.  

War Eagle!