Monday, January 10, 2011

EXPATS going Live on the BCS championship game . . .

You didn't ask for it. You may not even want it. But that's the great thing about the Web, we don't have to care. We'll be streaming live from the BCS Championship game.

Join us. Your humble scribe here is in a wonderful place, a state of grace. He doesn't give a hoot who wins. So I'll let it rip on the ebb and flows while I figure out if I can actually pull for Auburn, an unnatural act I last performed my freshman year in college.

But then an Auburn guy almost pushed me off a third-story balcony when he learned I went to school in Tuscaloosa, and the aftermath of Auburn's miraculous 17-16 win in '72 -- the Year of Rotting Teeth, I like to call it -- sealed it. Gridiron bi-partisanship and I parted ways.

Which brings us back to tonight. I admit openly that I despise Auburn. But I don't despise this team. What they did in Tuscaloosa, though it removed the nails of my thumbs and big toes, was an extraordinary thing to watch. And Auburn, despite all is right and fair, is still part of the SEC.

Do I think they're shady? Yes. Do I think they're crass? By all means. But they are home. And home still tugs at my blackened heart.

This is troubling, these almost human responses my lizard brain are having toward the Tigers. Still, as kickoff approaches, I carry a Swiss flag.

See you in a few minutes.


8:15: Tomlinson just texted me. He says he's pulling for the Oregon cheerleaders.

A moment later my twin brother sends in his two cents: "I hate them" his message said.

I do, too, I wrote back. "But I may pull for them anyway."

His response: ??

I tried to explain: The Ducks can be real punks.

A minute later my phone croaked with his reply. "I'll reserve judgment," he wrote back. "AU scores pretty high on the punk meter."

I couldn't argue. So this may decide it. In the biggest game of the year, can I find a team that doesn't want to make me puke?

8:20It's an SEC world, isn't it? Auburn in the game; four wins in a row and now Saban and Meyer on ESPN breaking it down. They're both very good, but Nick Saban's presence on the ESPN podium must grate the hell out of Auburn. Relax, y'all. The TV gig is temporary. But Nick will be back plotting how to beat you next November.

In the meantime, God Bless America -- and all the victims of the weekend shootings. I wish public discourse in America had as clear set of rules as this football game.

8:23 Nick at Night: Saban wonders aloud if Auburn's big people -- you know who you are, Nick Fairley -- can play at Oregon's pace. Still, he and the other SEC guy pick Auburn. Desmond Howard orders the Duck.

8:25: Bald eagle gets a roar at the stadium. My wife and I saw four of them on a walk along the Catawba River on Sunday. Auburn must think it's a portent. Can Auburn fans spell portent?

8:28: The Ducks appear and their uniforms are, for Oregon, generic. Oh, god, I just saw the shoes. I take it all back. They look like they've been wading in radioactive Oregon duck poop.

Now we turn to The Auburn Family -- and Musburger's first comments about Auburn is a hosanna to Cam Newton's smile. My brother just texted in: "Like I said, I hate them . . . deeply."

It's time.

Lee Corso has presented the coin. He is not wearing a Duck or a Tiger head. Ducks get the ball. Josh Bynes looks like he has a plate of Duck tar-tar in front of him. Chizik looks ready. 5-19 to this. Only in America. Only at Auburn.

8:35 Cam is doing his sissy dance on the sideline. But this looks like it will be a war. Here we go.

And, oh that's a surprise, first play and the pushing and jawing starts immediately. An Auburn player is down, and the Oregon crowd boos, as if Auburn would take a dive on the first play to slow down the Duck offense. Early punk points: Oregon.

That Bud light commercial just came on, you know where the beautiful aliens come down and collect all the guys to mate, and their wives and girlfriends act as if they're happy to see them go. Sorry, the guys are getting the best of that deal.

8:44: Oregon, let's see what you got. QB makes a nice little pass, followed by as stupid a pitch as you'd ever see. First down becomes third down, and now fourth. Quickest three and out we've seen this year. Followed by a shank. Auburn starts the game outside of the 40.

8:45 Boom. We have liftoff. Auburn for 15. And then we have a blast. Cam goes down like a tree. Third and 17, and Cam puts the ball right on Darvin Adams' fingertips. Oregon takes it back, and it feels meaningful.

For the second time, the Duck return guy slips. "Sue Phil Knight," my brother texts.

9:49 Mr. Thomas meet Mr. Fairley. Two yard loss. But chunks of this turf are flying around like the players. Not as fast as LaMichael James, though. Quite the burst on that screen play.

Oregon's plays are being pushed wide, and when they are, Auburn is making the tackles.

First turnover, a dump pass was badly thrown, leading to a tip, leading to an interception, leading to another commercial. Everybody seems to have been making money this college football season. Why stop now?

8:55: Auburn's second possession. Both teams play-calling reminds me of an ice-dancing routine, except the Duck shoes are brighter than sequins. It's all very pretty and stuff, but somebody needs to knock somebody on the ground. And Cam Newton just threw the worst pass I've seen him throw all year -- a bullet that hit the Duck DB like he had a target on his chest. Oregon at midfield.

Third and 5, and I don't know how James picked it up. He did. Big change of momentum there. James takes a short pass for another first. Oregon paring down all the hijinks. Boy they run these plays in a hurry.

Oregon continues to let the Auburn line come in, then drop the ball over them in front of the linebackers. Fairley just put a stop on that. He planted Thomas who threw too quickly: Another pick. Auburn's got it back. Fairley is an animal, and I mean more than half of that as a compliment. Could he be the Panthers' No. 1 pick?

Newton had all day on second down, 12 yard pass to Adams. Too easy.

Seven yards on first, but Newton is leveled. 3 and 5: Quarterback draw and 24 Oregon players are waiting. Fourth down. We have a switch of field position. Oregon takes over at its 28. Auburn has 21 yards of offense. Patience, America, we in the SEC have seen this charade before.

9:07: Like we just said, Auburn has 21 yards. Oregon has 4 first downs and two turnovers. Make that five. James again, then a missed tackle on a Thomas pass and Oregon is back in Auburn land. Oregon picking up rhythm. Auburn looking a little gassed for the first time. An Auburn lineman can't get off the field. Another Duck first down. First and goal, and boom, Michael Goggans gets four of the yards back. Second and 14. The last play of the first half: Auburn's secondary caught napping, perhaps REM sleeping. An uncovered Duck receiver reaches the 4.

That's it. We have one in the book, and the Ugly Yellow Shoes have found their footing first.

Quarter II We have a 3 and 2. First really big play of the game. And there's Fairley again, putting 300 pounds of blue sod on the Oregon QB. Oregon breaks up the no-hitter: It's 3-0 Ducks.

9:18: Kickoff. Oregon is awfully quick. Auburn didn't have a chance to reach the 20. Michael Dyer makes his debut and gets five. Newton's pass gets a first down. And here comes Dyer again. He gets 11. Zachary on the quick out, gets 12 more. Auburn looks like Auburn, at last.

Another Newton thrust into traffic. Adams bails him out with a fine catch. It gains 9. And then Newton makes the play of the game. The turf gives way, Newton twists and turns and contorts and manages to find a receiver for a first down. The receiver also slips. Six weeks between games and you think you can grow some grass.

Newton seems to slip again and his long pass down the sideline is picked off. Or is it. Play under review. I question whether they can overturn the call of an incomplete pass. I question a lot of things. Doesn't mean I'm right. This time I am. Auburn's ball. And now Oregon plays hide-n-seek. Kodi Burns is wide open and makes the most of it. Gotta love that kid. 5-star quarterback who gets benched. He doesn't sulk. He doesn't transfer. He doesn't call a press conference. He becomes a receiver. And he just scored a touchdown in the biggest game of his life. 7-3 Auburn.

9:27: Enough cute. Oregon tries a reverse and gets nailed inside the 10. What does Herbie say: Oregon is too cute. And now their yellow shoes are backed up to Auburn's orange pom-poms.

Perfect time for Auburn's bonehead secondary to make its presence felt. Nico Thorpe, burned again, gives up an 81-yard reception to a kid who looks like he should be playing in The Game, the Harvard-Yale Game.

3rd and 6: An Oregon lineman is on the ground, and now the Auburn crowd is booing. This game has become fun in a big hurry. And just as quickly, a misdirection screen pass to James and he walks in. Touchdown Oregon. Adding a mound of salt to the wound, a trick two-point conversion with the holder pitching to the kicker. 11-7, UO And an indefensible defensive showing by the Tigers.

Auburn ball: Another big throw for Newton on third down, and Auburn is back across midfield. Newton hasn't found any room to run, but he's playing patiently. 3rd and 4, and another Newton rope to Zachary. First down, AU.

Hello Cam: Hit in the backfield on a third and 2, he jammed an Oregon defender four yards down the field. First down, great open-field tackle to keep Cam's scramble at 3. On second down, Dyer slips. I thought it was a DRY heat out there. Auburn inside the 20, but 3rd and 8. And Mario Fanning, wait for it, puts the ball on the ground. He's bailed out: Oregon offside. 3rd and 3.

Tight shot of Newton. He looks perfectly calm.

Cue to Musburger: Cecil Newton makes his debut. Brent mentions the $180K and Cam's one-day suspension, and Cecil's in town but not at the stadium. Meanwhile back to our amateur hour: Cam gets 3. First down. Newton to Zachary: Auburn at the 2. Dyer stacked up. Let the big guy do it. He does and he's stopped outside the 1. Auburn is going.

And Auburn chokes. In fact, Cam does. Forget that earlier post. This is the worst pass Newton has thrown in his life. Wide open receiver and the Heisman guy short-arms the pass. Oregon dodges a sure TD. "They're making plays we haven't seen them make all year," my brother tells me. "But I hate 'em. I try to pull for them. Then I see Trooper Taylor on the sideline and it's all for naught."

In a lovely home off Providence Road, Peter and Courtney St. Onge just gasped.

Oregon ball: Momentarily. James snuffed for a safety. It's 11-9. Washington slips on the return. Auburn -- I almost typed 'we,' that was really creepy -- has the ball at the 34.

Auburn begins driving again. A pass and two runs by Dyer gain 20. Blake for 9 on a swing pass. Dyer to the 30. Auburn has a real flow on the last two drives. 2 minutes to go. And Auburn is back in the end zone. Newton doesn't short-arm it this time. Blake for 30, after Newton shakes off a tackle. 16-11 Auburn. What a second quarter.

1:47 to go. And the turf looks like it was aerated with a Gatling gun. Too bad. Oregon gets to the 22, and then a bunch of yellow flags come out. A stupid hit by Eric Smith. Punk points: Auburn. The replay shows Smith kicking the Oregon player between the legs after he knocked him down. Way to control yourself, son, and then he had the nerve to argue about it when Trooper confronts him on the sideline. Congratulation, Eric, you get the night's first Punk bonus points.

Ducks for 10 on first down. Same play gets them 12 more. 15 seconds used. Oregon at the AU 41. Incompletion. Then a great tackle by an Auburn DB. It's 3rd and 8. And splatt, more dead Ducks. The Auburn line has started to slap people around. The SEC has seen a lot of that.

Weird call of the night. Why in the world would Auburn call timeout there? Oregon kicks them down to the goal line and now Auburn has to run a play from the end zone. They do, without error. Second down. Cool visual aid from ESPN: Both QBs are 15-19, and Thomas has a few more yards. But Newton has started to dominate the game.

An Oregon penalty gives Auburn a first down. Does Malzahn wire one up? Sort of. An end around get to the 32. 19 seconds left.
Twenty yard pass and a spike. 11 seconds from the 46. Newton throws it away. The next one is going to the end zone. It does, and darn, if Adams doesn't get his hands on it.

That's it for the half. Erin Andrews' gets 20 seconds air time. I figured Dancing with the Stars would have been more of a career boost. Bring on Nick and Urban.

Halftime: Weirdest commercial of the night. The Master's preview, and a black man's voice says how eager he is to have the best players in the world comes to play HIS fairways and HIS greens. At Augusta National? Since when?

Third quarter Auburn at its 28. And they've owned the ball, 16 first downs in the second quarter alone. Karma: Eric Smith: he of the perfectly innocent kung fu kick, is on the sideline being attended to. There's an Oregon player still on the field, and Newtown looks a little dinged. Two plays into the second quarter and suddenly we have Shiloh. Third and one: Who do you think will handle the ball here? Like I said. First down, Newton, to the 41.

Dyer for 5. And then the L-word, for 40. Where does that guy come from? 2nd and 10: Newton to the 11. 3rd and 5. Oregon has to go all in here. And Newton throws it away. 4th and 5: Auburn can make it an 8-point lead, and do. It's 19-11, but Duck fans can catch a breath. Meanwhile, I'm channeling my twin brother for the next few minutes: The quick shot of the "Auburn Family: All In" sign, has set back some of the progress I've made tonight toward neutrality. I believe I'm going to need a little more work.

Oregon ball. Fake reverse this time. Ducks at the 19. And then Fairley gets another stupid penalty. His forearm shivver in the pile costs Auburn 15. Auburn has taken control of the game within the game: Punkage. 3rd and 9: and James makes an all-American run. He breaks about four arm tackles, including those of his assailant Fairley for a first down.

Fairley responds. Boy does he. Big sack and a fumble. An Oregon hold on a scramble: a hold so expertly done that the Oregon lineman didn't even need a rope. 2nd and 16, and the dive play gets 3. Josh Bynes acting injured. The Oregon fans boo. James and Fairley jaw away. This one getting more than a little chippy. Thomas scrambling for his life. Pocket collapsing. Fourth down.

Auburn takes over at its 20. Midway through the third quarter, it feels like Auburn has taken over the game, too.

Now we have our explanation for the field. It's brand new, brought in after the Fiesta Bowl. It has a root structure that's 10 days old. What a great idea.

Big play for Oregon: 3rd and 7, and Newton jet streams a wide open Adams. The National Championship was just overthrown by about five yards. J grabs the Maalox. Oregon has a life.

There's 6 minutes left. And James gets almost 20. He gets 4 more. 3rd and 6: After delivering a big blow, Etheridge looks like he's cramped up. The Duck fans boo. Zack Clayton cracks Thomas down for a loss. It's fourth down. And a fake punt. Auburn was waiting, and the Oregon punter drop-puts a perfect pass. Thomas: 43 yards to the tight end. Remarkable catch. It's first and goal from the 3. James injured on the sideline. Three yard loss on first down.

Thomas fakes the dive and runs for his life to the 5. One yard. It's third down. The game is here. James back on the field. Four yards to the 1, with Fairley making the stop. Here we go. No way. Tomlinson sends a text: "Oregon looks out of ideas."

He may be right. The Ducks don't make it. Auburn takes over. Newton on the dive. The L-word for a first down. We're down to the last minute of the third quarter. First down -- wait. A holding flag thrown on Ziemba. Big turn of events there. Auburn is back at its 10, 2nd and 13. Just like that Newton gets it back: a scramble and a first down.

Dyer gets 1 and now the fourth quarter is upon us. Does everybody hold up four fingers? Fifteen more minutes and for one of these teams, four fingers will become one.

Here we go And the entire Auburn team is apparently hit by a mass outbreak of Tim Tebow Syndrome, running up and down the field, exhorting their fans. How cute!

Dyer gets a first down and Newton throws one away. Three points will be killer here. Auburn time out. Oregon needs a play.

14 minutes left: Scramble by Newton. 3rd and 4. And Blake drops one that would still be going if he held on. Oregon gets its play. Sort of. Auburn punts to the Duck 15. Somehow, it's still a one-possession game. Oregon needs an 85-yard call.

13:24 left Brent tells us that Oregon is trailing for the first time in the fourth quarter all year. Incomplete pass, and now a hold on Oregon. 2nd and 18, inside the 10. Fairley smacks down James. Brent says: "I wonder how he likes Carolina blue." That would be Panther blue, bud.

3rd and 18. Thomas heaves one, and the Auburn defense bails him out for 33 yards. How can a team be undefeated with DBs like that? Another throw, another first down. Oregon at the 50. Bad throw by Thomas. Second and 10, the flanker screen for 2.

Third and 8: Bynes plants Thomas deeper into the turf than the grass. Incompletion, it's fourth down. Oregon remains shut out in the second half.

Those web feet are having trouble punting the ball tonight. A floater followed by a bad bounce gives Auburn the ball at the 21. Again, one good drive will do it. Auburn has already stopped itself on its last two possessions.

What will Malzahn call? A one-yard loss sweep to McCaleb. Oregon can gamble. Newton scrambles throws and the pass is tipped away by a diving linebacker. QB draw for 17. Newton slow getting up. IT'S A MIRACLE HE'S ALIVE!!!

Dyer for 6. Nine minutes left. Newton slips on a sweep. The best defense Auburn has faced all year is this turf. Third and 5: a dropoff to Fannin. He doesn't fumble. He actually runs a long time. First down from the Oregon 40. Dyer loses 2. Newton throws it away, it's 3rd down. Zachary down the sideline, but out of bounds. Auburn has to punt. 6:42 left. Oregon at the 13,

Bill Plaske of the L.A. Times wrote one of those awful columns that sports columnists write: about how the Pac 12 was far superior to the SEC, that Oregon would win this game easily, that Stanford and Andrew Luck will pistol whip Auburn too. Even if Oregon somehow wins, I wonder what Plaske is thinking? Not much I'd guess, given the thought that went into his original column.

Oregon ball: Incomplete pass. Tomlinson, for a Dawg, is a smart guy. Oregon does look short on ideas. Third down: Great throw to Maehl. Great throw. First down. What a clutch play.

Second down. Oregon has 75 yards rushing. It averages 300. Third down again, under 6:00 to go. Antoine Carter buries James. It's fourth and six. Oregon punts. Auburn has it back at the 26. Every possession, and another Auburn lineman has made himself known to America.

Newton gets one, Oregon calls a timeout. They just replayed Carter's run down the sideline, chasing Mark Ingram, causing a fumble that saved Auburn's season. To hell with them. And on cue: Newton fumbles. Oregon has it back. Punkage returns: 15 yard penalty sets Orgon back. First down pass for 15.

Bynes had the game on his fingers. Fairley plows into Thomas but his teammate couldn't hold onto the interception. Thomas scrambles. It's third and 5: Incomplete. 4th and 5: Oregon is all in. 4:18 to go. Zack Etheridge gets nailed by the umpire. The Ducks are running free. First down pass to the 4. Fairley jumps. It's second and 1. 3:30 to go. James loses 1. It's third and 1: Confusion in the Duck backfield. Timeout Oregon. Two great Oregon escapes on third and fourth down on this drive. 2:36 left.

Inside shuffle pass: James scores. It's 19-17. What will Oregon call? What will Auburn call? A throwback in the back of the endzone. Maehl has it. Oregon erupts. We are tied. Auburn has dominated the game, but we are tied. 2:33 left.

Oregon clawing at the ball, blasts through the wedge. Auburn to the 25: Newton has not been sharp for much of the fourth quarter. Blake for 15. Dyer gets 6: No, he didn't go down. He's loose down the sideline for 37 yards. The play was never blown dead. Play being reviewed: Zebras have the national championship trophy in their hands. I see nothing to overturn the call.

"Here comes the call of the night," Brent says. Says the ump: "The call on the field stands." 1:50 and running, Auburn at the 25. Dyer to the 19. 1:20 left.

Newton to the middle of the field: 40 seconds left. 3 and 4. 20 second left. And Dyer just gutted the Ducks. Dyer to the endzone. Play under review, he's down at the 1. And Chizik sends Wes Byrum onto the field. 10 seconds and two timeouts. Malzahn lobbying for a touchdown. Newton grabs his helmet. To hell with a field goal. Auburn is all in.

Newton does a modified dive play. We have two seconds. Neal Caudle on the hold. What must his fingers feel like at this moment. Mine have gone cold typing this, just thinking about the pressure. Here we go. It's an extra point. And it's over. Auburn has its second title. The SEC has its fifth in a row.

It's Auburn. 22-19. "I can tell you this," Chizik says on the field, " we are the best football team in America, and War Eagle."

My brother calls one last time: "I can't believe they beat us in Tuscaloosa," he says.

He hates Auburn. So do I. Fat lotta good that does. War Eagle.



Anonymous said...

what's wrong with the turf? why are they all slipping and sliding around??

Michael said...

Awful isn't it? And it came flying up on the very first play. What do you expect from a field named after an internet college?