As we all know, SportsChump is a website of the people, by the people and for the people. That’s why when I saw that a friend and former contributor to the site attended this season’s Iron Bowl, I asked him share his experience. He graciously accepted.
Ladies and gentlemen, we proudly welcome back… Rising Storms. Sir, the floor is yours.
You know, when the Chump first asked me to put this piece together, I didn’t hesitate to say yes. It’s been a minute since I’ve last written anything to submit here, and I suddenly find myself with something I need to get off my chest.
This past weekend I had the opportunity to return to my alma mater, Auburn University, for the Iron Bowl. It was my first trip back to the loveliest little village on the plains in over a decade, and my first Iron Bowl since 1998. The 1998 game was held at the god-awful Legion Field in Birmingham, so this was also my first opportunity to attend an Iron Bowl at Jordan-Hare stadium.
I was excited to return to a town I love so much, and for the most part, I had a fantastic time. We had prime tailgating real estate, just adjacent to the main gate of the stadium, and I was in the company of some damn fine people. We had some laughs, lots of drinks, and the added joy of watching THE Ohio State University take a beating that I feel they richly deserved.
It was an absolutely gorgeous fall day in south-central Alabama, so what if the juggernaut that is the Crimson Tide was barreling straight at us? I mean, we were probably already headed for a beat down, right? After all, our starting QB had a season ending ankle injury two weeks prior, our defense had melted down the last two games (in spite of double digit halftime leads), and, of course, ‘Bama is ‘Bama. In every practical sense, I was pretty sure what was coming, But, as it goes in rivalry games, I still had a little hope, foolish as it may have been. Then, through 3 quarters and most of the 4th, the Auburn defense played the game of their young lives. Foolish hope springs eternal, indeed.
However, as well as the defense played that day, the Auburn offense did exactly that – it offended. The game, which ended up going 4 overtimes, produced an Auburn stat line that read like a mediocre high school team’s: 137 yards passing and 22 on the ground. And, yes, you are reading that correctly. Auburn running back Tank Bigsby in actuality rushed for 63 on the day, but backup QB T.J. Finley set the bar for futility on the ground with his -42 yards. Granted, a few of those negative yards were from the 6 times he was sacked that day, but you get my point. It was awful. And, though I had no real expectations going in, hope had sprung up, and then been snuffed out.
I was left with what can only be described as a white hot, pants-shitting rage. Even more angering to me now is that immediately after the game, I was the only one in our group who refused to be upset. As someone who played defense in my younger days, I was proud of the way our defense kept us in it, and I’d be damned if I was going to be upset in front of any Bama fan that might have wandered by. But, though time heals most wounds, for some time causes them to fester. In this case, I’m positively gangrenous.
A closer look at Bama’s last regulation drive showed me a few things. Namely, that the Tide got away with no less than 5 uncalled penalties, any of which probably would have led to Auburn regaining possession with just seconds left to hang on. 2 holds, 2 intentional groundings, and one of the most egregious facemasks I’ve seen in my adult life. Surely, the refs had it in for the Tigers. Of course! Can anyone prove that Saban didn’t slip them an envelope filled with cash? Suddenly, my rage felt justified. More than that, it felt GOOD!
For a moment, I understood the power of the dark side of the force. But, as is usually the case, my calmer self returned. And, upon reflection, I realized that scapegoating the refs, though it felt good, really wasn’t reflective of the reality of the situation. The reality was that the defense and their monster night wasn’t enough, not nearly, to overcome Auburn’s offensive ineptitude. Just like against Mississippi State. And, just like against South Carolina. As if to reinforce this point, the aptly named Mike Bobo was summarily fired as offensive coordinator yesterday, throwing the nascent Bryan Harsin era into turmoil. Which brings me back, conveniently, to the present.
I’ve calmed down a bit in the last 18 hours or so, mostly because my girlfriend neither needs nor deserves to be subjected to my absolutely irrational anger over this game. Besides, she gets it – she IS dating an Auburn man, after all. And with the way my Philadelphia Eagles have played this year, I’m sure she’ll see me plenty upset over football again in the very near future. But, my Eagles related rage is another story entirely. Until next time,