published Monday, November 18th, 2013

5-at-10: Auburn's miracle, college football rewind and three questions

Gang, how was your weekend? Anything happen that was exciting? Nope, didn't think so.

From the "Talks too much" studios, sweet buckets and show stoppers did that just happen? We're pretty lucky Verne didn't have a heart attack. Brick killed a guy.

Auburn's miracle

  • photo
    Georgia cornerback Damian Swann (5) breaks up a pass in the end zone intended for Auburn wide receiver Sammie Coates (18) during their NCAA football game in Auburn, Ala., Saturday, Nov. 16, 2013.
    Photo by Associated Press /Chattanooga Times Free Press.


Auburn got lucky. Georgia got lucky before that. It's football, and it's magical and maddening and mystifying.

By now everyone knows of Auburn's 43-38 win over Georgia that was punctuated by a 73-yard, tipped Hail Mary touchdown on fourth-and-18. If you haven't seen the replay, tough break about that 48-hour coma you caught. Hope that wears off.

It was the signature moment of a crazy ride on the Plains. It was the play that never should have been in the season that never could happen. Auburn is 10-1 with a week off before Alabama comes to town. Yes, the same bunch that was 3-9 and bagel-for-the-SEC last year.

And while the Bulldogs dodgeball nightmare that was Nick Marshall's heave that bounced off fighting UGA safeties and into the bobbled hands of Ricardo Louis for the miracle TD was impossible, it's the third time this season Auburn has had the ball down by three points or less with less than two minutes to play. In each occasion — at Texas A&M and vs. Mississippi State were the other two — Auburn scored a TD.

The play fizzled what would have been an epic Georgia comeback/Auburn meltdown. The Tigers led 37-17 before Aaron Murray started doing Aaron Murray things. His run on fourth down that was ruled a TD gave the Bulldogs a 38-37 lead.

It was the stage from which Georgia could have in some ways salvaged a disappointing, injury-ravaged year. It was the stage from which the Tigers could have cascaded, ending the storybook season in the game before the game of the year. It was the stage from which the Bulldogs' recent grip on the Deep South's Oldest Rivalry would have grown exponentially stronger considering the stakes for the hosts.

It was none of those stages, however. No, it was the stage from which the ultimate SEC stage is set. Now the Auburn dream takes a Saturday off, with the unthinkable dream of an Iron Bowl for all the marbles a fortnight away.

It's an impossible end to an impossible season for Auburn that now is possible because of an impossible play.


College football rewind

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    Auburn wide receiver Ricardo Louis (5) makes the catches to score the game-winning touchdown as Georgia strong safety Josh Harvey-Clemons (25) looks on late in their NCAA college football game at Jordan-Hare Stadium on Saturday, Nov. 17, 2013. Auburn won 43-38.
    Photo by Associated Press /Chattanooga Times Free Press.

The Auburn-Georgia game was the college football story of the weekend. It was unbelievable. (And yes, we have watched the replay at least once, and the Marshall-to-Louis play is such a shocker, we're surprised when it happens even when we know it's going to happen.)

But that's hardly the only story line from a full Saturday in November. Let's do work.

— More times than not, the BCS has found a way to work its kinks out down the stretch. The traffic jam of title contenders meets an off-ramp of upsets and the field gets cleansed. That's looking a little doubtful this year. Here's what we know:

There currently are four major conference unbeatens — Alabama, FSU, THE Ohio State and Baylor. Alabama has UTC this week and top-10 dates at Auburn and in the SEC title game. Baylor has a trip to No. 10-ranked Oklahoma State this weekend. FSU and THE Buckeyes will continue their cream-puff carpet ride schedules into unbeaten bliss. (THE Ohio State has beaten one ranked team; FSU rolled at Clemson but the rest of its wins are against teams outside the top-25 and the Seminoles finish with Idaho, Florida and most likely Duke in the ACC title game.)

And for those of you thinking this would be the perfect year for a four-team playoff, we say, "What about No. 5 Oregon, which would likely be favored over every team in the country other than Bama on a neutral field?"

Crazy indeed.

— After losing at South Carolina — in a game in which South Carolina played about as bad as it can — Florida now has to win out against Georgia Southern and FSU to avoid its first losing season since 1979. What's the baseline number of wins Will Muschamp must get next year to save his gig? We'll set the over/under at 9. Thoughts?

— The Fab 4-plus-4-plus-1 picks went 5-4 last week. We're now 40-28-1 for the year. And yes, we're a little frustrated with the one step forward, one step backward entertainment accrual. So it goes.

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    Mocs defensive back Chaz Moore pumps up his fellow defensive backs before the loss against Samford on Saturday. Moore and his teammates must now wait to see if they get into the playoffs.
    Photo by C. B. Schmelter /Chattanooga Times Free Press.

— The Mocs suffered a tough loss Saturday, falling 17-14 in overtime at Samford. The injuries have taken a large toll on the UTC roster, but everyone fights injuries in November. It's football. It's a disappointing loss to be sure, but we know these two things to be fact: 1) Wes Dothard is a stud duck; 2) Losses that sting the most, in retrospect, are the ones that have the most on the line. And that the Mocs are playing meaningful games in November is a great thing. (That said, which team goes to its reserves more quickly Saturday, Alabama or UTC, which hardly can afford any more injuries with the playoffs looming?)

— And yes, the Mocs should be a playoff team.

— Has anything more negatively affected Lane Kiffin's already less-than-stellar reputation than the fact that after he got run, Ed Orgeron looks like Steve Spurrier by comparison? Wow, the Orgeron experience landed another big win when USC topped Stanford on Saturday night. Tell 'em about it JoJo.


NFL rewind

Sunday was a crazy day in the NFL. The Windy City had a weather delay. Well, that's not that crazy.

Andre Ellington was tackled by his ponytail, Jason Babin pulling down the Cards running back by his dreadlocks. If those are extensions, we have to ask why? If those are not extensions, we have to ask, good gracious how bad did that hurt?

The Steelers have started playing like the Steelers and have moved back into the playoff picture. Of course if they continue to wear those brutally bad throwback uniforms with the stripes, that's a picture no one wants to see.

The Falcons really stink. That is all.

In a game so big Tiger Woods and Lindsey Vonn were on the sideline, the Denver Peytons outlasted the Kansas City Chiefs. That's not a shock, and the teams will reconvene in 13 days in Kansas City.

The Philadelphia Eagles won again on Sunday, taking over first place in the dreadful NFC East. So after a painful start to the season — the Riley Cooper mess, the injuries, et al. — Chip Kelly's team and offense are starting to click. Heck, his offense has turned Nick Foles into one of the league's leading MVP candidates not named Peyton Manning. It also attacks the notion about the zone read system succeeding or failing in the NFL. More on that below.

We're legitimately excited for tonight's Monday night game — Patriots-Panthers. More on that below.


This and that

— Jimmie Johnson captured his sixth NASCAR points title. He enters next year as the favorite to win a record-tying seventh championship. Considering the competition and the challenges, we're prepared to say Jimmie Johnson is the best NASCAR driver ever. (Sorry, Dale.)

— Former LSU AD Joe Dean died this weekend. He was 83. And if you do not remember him as an administrator, you likely recall him as the college basketball broadcaster that coined the term "string music" and in a lot of ways was Dickie V before Dickie V, and without the screaming and kissing up to the coaches.

— UNC lost to Belmont. We're not prepared for a college sports landscape in which UNC hoops and Florida football are blah-tastic. They are two programs that, whether you like them or not, it's more fun when they are good because it gives you a vested interest pulling for or against them.

— Some D-III kid scored 109 points in a game this weekend. And amazingly it's 29 points short of his career best. Yep, Jack Taylor scored 109 for shot-happy Grinnell College in a 173-123 win over Crossroads. Taylor is averaging 90 points a game this season, and if he continues at that pace, it would be a record.

— Sounds like there were some seriously good high school football games in the area last Friday. We saw an awesome one as East Hamilton scored on a 53-yard pass with 16 seconds left for a 26-19 win over Ooltewah. Sounds like Signal played a barn-burner in a 38-37 loss to Knox Catholic, too.


Today's question(s)

A ton of stuff to discuss today. In fact, we had to limit the questions. Here we go:

— What's your Rushmore of "Oh My Goodness" moments? Saturday's Auburn miracle is on our list for sure. Douglas dropping Tyson, too.

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    Carolina Panthers quarterback Cam Newton. (AP Photo/Paul Connors)

— Is Jimmie Johnson the best ever?

— We mentioned before we are legit excited for tonight's Patriots-Packers game, and here's why: We think Cam Newton is in the top 10 among league quarterbacks and is behind only Andrew Luck in the next generation crop of guys who have been in the league three years or fewer. What's your top three of young NFL QBs (three years or fewer in the NFL)?

— And we'll ask it, if you are the Panthers front office, do you not consider hiring Gus Malzahn and teaming Malzahn and Newton together again? Or what about Kevin Sumlin, who's offense has made some three-star recruit/transfer named John Manziel into Johnny Flippin' Football for crying out loud? Chip Kelly's recent run of success — and the insane numbers of QBs running the zone read — could open a lot of doors for the offensive gurus for the NFL.


about Jay Greeson...

Jay was named the Sports Editor of the Times Free Press in 2003 and started with the newspaper in May 2002 as the Deputy Sports Editor. He was born and raised in Smyrna, Ga., and graduated from Auburn University before starting his newspaper career in 1997 with the Newnan (Ga.) Times Herald. Stops in Clayton and Henry counties in Georgia and two years as the Sports Editor of the Marietta (Ga.) Daily Journal preceded Jay’s ...

Comments do not represent the opinions of the Chattanooga Times Free Press, nor does it review every comment. Profanities, slurs and libelous remarks are prohibited. For more information you can view our Terms & Conditions and/or Ethics policy.
chas9 said...

I like both Auburn and Gawga, so I was just there to enjoy a great game. It seems cosmically fair to me that The Plainsmen won, even if it was by fluke, because I think Murray's knee was probably down before the ball crossed the goal line. No video proves that, so they had to go with the call on the field.

OK. Which of these is not like the others? Belmont beats UNC by 3, The Vols squeak by SC Upstate by 9, and UK mashes Robert Morris by 38.

The Vols need Barton to have more than one assist. Period.

After being cbs sports' player of the week last week, JR got his third double double in three games. He's just fun to watch.

The Cats don't play hard consistently enough yet and the guards need to talk more.

But they are powerful, skilled and deep. It's going to be a great passing team, which I love. Unlike last year. They can hit the long shot, unlike last year. That's important, because their foes will pack it in defensively. Surprisingly for this early playing together, their alley oop timing is crisp.

They rebound like crazy and they are running now.You may say it was only a cupcake game, but it look like UK could run on anybody. They won't be ranked #1 this week, but I think they are now the nation's best team. The Cats improved a lot since last game.

If I were still doing the Top Tenn poll, Belmont would be #1 today.

November 18, 2013 at 10:10 a.m.
Stewwie said...

Auburn's big play reminded me of the freak play in the '02 LSU/Kentucky game. I just happened to flip to that game to see that crazy play live 11 years ago.

Heartbreaking. Disappointing. Deja vu. Take your pick. How many times have poor special teams play (especially field goals) cost the Mocs a big win in the Huesman era? Too many to count, unfortunately.

Not sure how many teams the selection committee will take from our conference, but at this point, I can't see it being more than 2. So if both Samford and Furman win this weekend, I don't like the Mocs' chances of getting in. Our conference is unexpectedly down this year and our best team is well outside of the top 30 according to Sagarin. How can you justify sending 3 teams from a bad conference to a 24-team field?

The Mocs have 8 wins, but our schedule has been easy. Both of our non-conference wins have come against teams that STILL have not won a single game this year. Despite the easy schedule, we should have taken care of BID-ness when the opportunities came. The losses to Martin and Samford sting badly. At the end of the season, it looks like our biggest win will have come against...Furman? And they're not even a top-50 team at this point. I hope that we're able to make it to the big dance, but without the automatic bid, we may not have a strong enough case for ourselves.

November 18, 2013 at 10:27 a.m.
dawg747 said...

Ten Cup: The Auburn game was a microcosim of the Georgia season. Murray being Murray and the defense being well the defense. Grantham has got to go after this season because the defense stinks. Both teams played a great game that could have gone either way.

I want to give a shoutout to the Ringgold Tigers. They won their first EVER playoff game Friday night 55-54. It was the best High School Football Game i have seen in person since I saw Valdosta and Southwest Dekalb play in the Georgia Dome when Quincey Carter was a junior. In that game Valdosta came from 20 points down to beat SD. The come back started when a defensive end from Valdosta tatooed Carter in the end zone for a safety. Good time for the Wilcats that night just like for the Tigers this past Friday. Due to an upset Ringgold gets to host Cedar Grove this Friday.

All i can say about the Falcons is the stink worse than a pole cat!!

November 18, 2013 at 10:34 a.m.
Walden said...

I hate when a team wins on a bad call, and had Georgia won the game, with Murray's "touchdown" making the difference, I would have hated that outcome. Not that any Georgia fans would have cared though, because hey, a Dubya is a Dubya, right Dawgs? Glad Auburn won in the end because Murray's "touchdown" would have been a tragic way for the Dawgs to win (from the perspective of anyone other than a Dawg fan that is).

November 18, 2013 at 10:44 a.m.
chas9 said...

Yes, Stew, it did look a lot like the Bluegrass Miracle. Put that heartbreaker together with the Laetner shot through the heart and it looks like God hates UK. But we got back at LS&U in '07 by beating the then #1 ranked Bayou Bengals in triple overtime.

OK, how big is this Grinnell phenom? And what's a Grinnell?

Bet he's not as big as high school running back Tony Picard (6'4" 400 lbs.) whose video you need to see. How big was The Refrigerator?

November 18, 2013 at 11:47 a.m.
riverman said...

From a UT fan kudos to both teams for playing their hearts out in a great game. Have always said a regular season SEC game between two of the traditional powers is the greatest athletic in the world. Would much prefer to see the Iron Bowl than the Super bowl.

November 18, 2013 at 11:51 a.m.
Stewwie said...

Chas, the '07 win was huge for KY.

I thought the Murray TD was so close that it'd be hard to fault the ref for making the call either way. Why was there not another camera set up on the other side of the goal line? That would have provided much better evidence either way.

November 18, 2013 at 11:58 a.m.
BIspy4 said...

As exciting as the Auburn-Georgia game became, the NASCAR season was less than interesting from start to finish. Seemed like a season-long caution flag was out.

I've seen some bad Falcons teams. But this one may be the worst because there are actually some good players on it. That offensive line, though, is more permissive than hippie parents. You are now as bad as the Buccaneers, who cut loose their first-round draft pick QB (by the way, Josh Freeman. it wasn't them. It really was you. Um, Lane Kiffin, don't hide back there in the class. The same goes for you).

And in a world where Belmont beats UNC in hoops (which makes me happy), Duke beats Miami. By 15. In football. Repeat, in football. Duke, your No. 25 team in the nation.

November 18, 2013 at noon
chas9 said...

R.I.P., Mr. String Music.

November 18, 2013 at 12:15 p.m.
dawg747 said...

Ten Cup: I forgot to mention that Joe Dean was one of the best Jay, one of the best. Nothing like hearing String Music on a Saturday afternoon in the winter.

November 18, 2013 at 12:28 p.m.
BIspy4 said...

And Duke just got a commitment from Zach Morris. Boy is Kelly Kapowski gonna be mad. No word on where AC Slater will be going to college or Lisa Turtle.

November 18, 2013 at 12:39 p.m.
chas9 said...

In the Bluegrass Miracle game UK players prematurely doused the coach with Gatorade, only to regret it. Contariwise, Aaron Murray was nervous, almost scared looking on the sidelines as Auburn attempted (and achieved) the impossible. Then, when he stepped into the game at the end he looked cool as a Gawga cucumber. Don't know who you'd want better to attempt the comeback miracle after the comeback miracle.

November 18, 2013 at 12:45 p.m.
jgreeson said...

9er —

No doubt Barton needs to do more or the Vols will do less and The Conz will be The Gonz.

Joe Dean was an original, like Al McGuire with a Southern accent.

And was speaking with Paschall in the office, and the legend of Aaron Murray was only enhanced Saturday, regardless of whom grabbed the Dubya.

Stewwie —

There you go using logic again. Sadly, your math looks like a better argument than our emotion in regard to UTC's playoff hopes. Scary times indeed.

And yes it was close and would have been tough to over turn it either way. And we have no idea why there was not another camera there.

Dawg —

Had to double check to make sure it wasn't a basketball score from Ringgold. Wow, what a game. We saw a good one too. Remember that SW DeKalb team. Quincy was a bad man in high school. And that night in Baton Rouge.

Walden —


Riverman —

Welcome to the show. And there is nothing like the energy of an SEC rivalry. The Iron Bowl is going to be off the charts.

Spy —

Duke has been money, and Cutcliffe really is the only one out there that can give Gus much in the Coach of the Year race. Maybe Art Briles or Gary Pinkel.

Morris is headed to Duke, and there could be some NCAA investigating about whether Mr. Belding was trying to pull some UTC strings. (Kidding. Dennis Haskin is a Moc alum.)

November 18, 2013 at 1:04 p.m.
jgreeson said...

From friend of the show StuckinKent

You're completely ignoring the game that OSU will lose- the Big Ten Championship Game, against a one loss Michigan State that is ranked #13. Sparty wins big. If OSU doesn't lose before then. They struggle to put away Illinois? Who's to say they'll beat Indiana and Michigan. I know those teams aren't good. But they may be the two best teams they've played outside of the Wisconsin game.

Baylor probably gets beaten by Oklahoma State this weekend.

That leaves FSU and Alabama, and anyone who has watched Missouri, South Carolina or Auburn should think that there are teams out there who could upset Alabama. This thing could still go to an SEC champ not named Alabama.

I'm laughing a lot about Orgeron. The same thing I said back when they fired Kiffin still holds- if I'm a USC fan, I'm scared to death. Why in the world would you want Orgeron, a guy who went 10-25 at Ole Miss and was a disaster, coaching your football team? It would be the second straight time that USC hired a coach who kept on failing and getting promoted anyway. "Hey! You couldn't win at Ole Miss at all even though the coach before you won a lot of games. Then you followed Kiffin around to all his bumbling stops. Let's hire you to be our head coach at USC!" When they fired Kiffin, I said, "Why do this right now unless you are trying to give Orgeron a tryout as head coach? And why would you want to give Orgeron a tryout as head coach?" If I'm a fan of another Pac 12 team, I'm rooting for USC like crazy, because then they may actually hire Orgeron, and that will set them back five years. And yes, it is completely embarrassing to Kiffin that he is getting outcoached by Orgeron. I said to my Dad on Saturday night, "The Lane Kiffin story keeps getting weirder. Just when think more odd things couldn't happen, then they do."

I was making a Rushmore of finishes to college football games that I watched and could not believe how they ended. Colorado-Michigan 1994, Missouri-Nebraska 1997, Auburn-Georgia 2013, and I'm leaning towards Arkansas-Tennessee 1998 as the fourth, but may be swayed if someone has another one that I've forgotten. You got a Rushmore? I didn't see live the Bluegrass Miracle, the Flutie Miracle, or the Cal-Stanford "Band Is Out on the Field!" game, but I'm sure there is one I've seen that I missed.

November 18, 2013 at 2 p.m.
mcpell3 said...

Wow, still celebrating the immaculate deflection from Saturday night.

I have to agree with Stucky on 2 of his finishes, but I'd add the Tenn-Ark game from 98, especially since I had sat through the rain on that one with Mrs Mcpell, who is a UT fan.

Gus is COY lock if Auburn beats Bama.

November 18, 2013 at 2:35 p.m.
MocTastic said...

I am not on the Joe Dean as an announcer bandwagon. I remember quite well the tv broadcasts of the SEC basketball game of the week every Saturday afernoon during the winter in the 70s with Joe Dean doing color. Joe Dean was the ultimate homer for the SEC. Regardless of who was playing on the game of the week they had at least two players who were of All American caliber, some of the greatest players he had ever seen. Each game there would be at least one play it seemed he proclaimed as one the best plays he had ever seen, one for the ages. I am sorry, but there weren't always All Americans in the game and sometimes the play stunk, but not with Joe Dean. I guess he was like a carnival barker, selling SEC basketball. I could just see through his hype though. He probably knew much more basketball than I ever will, but, if you listened to his broadcasts back in the 70s with a critical ear, he was just way too over the top in his praise.

November 18, 2013 at 2:47 p.m.
GratefulDawg said...

Lost in all the talk of "miracles", "luck", and "fluke" plays is the fact that Auburn dominated the majority of Saturday's game. The first half went decisively in AU's favor. Particularly a first quarter that was the worst since the first quarter of last year's South Carolina game. Georgia played better for about nine-minutes in the fourth quarter. That's 15% of the game we won leaving 85% that we lost. We should have lost by more than five-points.

As for the miracle, the fluke, or the immaculate deflection depending on preference...I'm not ready to chalk that play up to bad luck or any kind of astrological doom and hocus-pocus. When we lined up I said aloud, "Oh (expletive deleted), we're only rushing three." SEC quarterbacks raise your hand if you've made hay against Georgia when we rushed only three down linemen. Nick Marshall, welcome to the club. Zach Mettenberger, good to see you again. Austyn Carta-Samuels, you're the guy from Vanderbilt right? Only this time, we only rushed two and dropped a lineman (Bailey or Smith, not sure which one) out to spy Marshall. Todd Grantham apparently liked the odds of a 300 pound lineman chasing down Nick Marshall in the open field if he decided to tuck it and run. Grantham also likes the Washington Generals chances against the Globetrotters. Then the defensive backs displayed no situational awareness as Tray tried to intercept the ball and Josh, for reasons that will never be understood, broke up the interception attempt by his teammate and tipped the ball up like a volleyball player setting it up for a spike. It's amazing how "unlucky" you get when you do the same stupid stuff over and over again.

If you want an idea of how low the bar has been set for our defensive unit consider this, following Saturday's game on the Plains I have heard several people comment that the Bulldog Defense "looked better" against Auburn. We gave up 43 points and 566 yards, but hey...we got a few stops and held 'em under 50. Participation badges for everyone.

I don't typically discuss officiating and questionable calls after a game. There has been much discussion about Murray's knee on that final UGA touchdown, many of you state with some degree of certainty that he was down. I will admit that I don't know if he was or wasn't. I didn't have access to any angles not presented. Since I do not possess the instinct of seeing what is not shown, I must ask if Georgia actually should have been awarded possession on that stripped ball and apparent fumble recovery that was ruled in Auburn's favor earlier in the game. This is why I don't typically mention close calls by the refs. Everybody focuses on one call that goes against them and conveniently forgets those close calls that favored them. Typically, these things balance out in the end.

"It came out of the sky landed just a little south of Moline..."

November 18, 2013 at 2:48 p.m.
jgreeson said...

Stuck —

Excellent Rushmore, and we were watching the Flutie-to-Phelan game. So that's on there. We were watching the Bluegrass Miracle too. The UT-Arkansas game, wow.

No way — NO WAY — Pat Haden hired Coach O. Period.

McPell —

If Gus beats Bama, he's a lock for sainthood.

November 18, 2013 at 2:50 p.m.
jgreeson said...

GD —

Great analysis.

And fair point about the ebb and flow of officiating. So it goes.

And Jody fell out of his tractor, couldn't believe what he seen.

November 18, 2013 at 3:01 p.m.
BIspy4 said...

Great finish? Tech-Clemson during Calvin Johnson's freshman year. Tech needs a miracle, gets it on a bad Clemson punt snap, then Reggie Ball hits Calvin in the end zone on a jump ball over the kid the Jets drafted pretty high to play corner. I'll also go Jasper Sanks fumble at the goal line and Antone Smith's fumble at the goal line against Tech in 98.

On a pro tackle football level, Tom Brady to Kenbrell Thompkins with 5 seconds left against the Saints works for me, too.

November 18, 2013 at 3:20 p.m.
MocTastic said...

Anybody mention the Immaculate Reception?

November 18, 2013 at 3:23 p.m.
BIspy4 said...

5, you know how much I detest sports talk radio, for the most part (you and Paschall the rare exception). But Dan Patrick really brought the mood in the room, or rather the cab of my pickup, the Champagne Room, down umpteen notches this morning.

He said today would have been Len Bias' 50th birthday.

November 18, 2013 at 4:26 p.m.
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July 22, 2014 at 8:09 a.m.
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