I swear I’ve been here before. If you are blessed to do this long enough – and I have been blessed to do this for more than three decades – you believe there’s not a stadium, a bowl game, a school that you haven’t been to in covering sports. And while I have covered Auburn football, and seen them play in bowl games in person, that was long ago. And now that I’m working at Auburn, I figured experiencing Jordan-Hare Stadium on a Saturday night would bring the War Eagle memory flooding back.
Nothing. I realized it, finally. I’ve seen men on horses, women on horses, covered wagons, bulldogs, cats (big ones) a bison, and a streaker all run on to the field at the start of a football game. But I had never actually experienced the War Eagle flight in person.
The fans and stadium didn’t disappoint. There are great football experiences at many places across the country, but this one, walking in, meeting fans, seeing the happiness, experiencing the family environment and a decided lack of bad fan behavior and nastiness you get in some places no matter who the opponent… Auburn’s game day experience was terrific. I would never have forgotten it.
Oh, and the football team lived up to the expectations. Fast. That’s what they say. I saw strong, too. I know this wasn’t an SEC game, but they did dominate the line on offense, they did have speed backs (especially QB Nick Marshall) take advantage series after series. If not for a couple of big plays, literally, this one was like a practice game. And San Jose State wasn’t to blame.
After the game, Gus Malzahn, who I have had heard so much about in terms of like-ability, positive attitude and more, focus on – oh my goodness – the positive. He’s been called by his players everything from quirky, to intense, to goofy. He doesn’t curse at his players but he does get excited about the game his team plays.
Some coaches will try to keep their team humble at the risk of sounding downright miserable after a 59-13 win. They do it to keep their team humble (or so they claim) and to keep the media at bay. They do this by overlooking the good and focusing instead on all the ways they failed to be perfect. But Malzahn seems to have a sense of accomplishment handy as a fuel for the real football hunger his players have shown the past couple of years. They have fun, because he likes figuring out ways to help them beat the other guys every week. And when you have a coach like that, you want to get better each and every game.
Moving forward, Auburn will have the chance to play for it all, or get very close. Next, a non-conference game at Kansas State is a huge obstacle in a week and a half. But if they approach each game with their eagle in mind – Spirit for winning football – and keep that terrific quarterback Nick Marshall healthy and on the field, I see no reason why they can’t be part of the playoffs. Of course, a couple of other teams – including one just to the north in this state – will weigh in.
Up next – the Tigers are at Kansas State on September 18, then home against Louisiana Tech and L.S.U. in the weeks that follow.
I’m Brent Weber and those are my Scorecard Scribblings from Jordan-Hare Stadium in Auburn, Alabama.