BIRMINGHAM, AL (WBRC) - The following is a commentary blog from FOX6 Sports Director Rick Karle:
By now you have heard the ruckus surrounding Gus Malzahn's comments to ESPN.com's Chris Low. As part of an all-access day with the coach, the subject of the 2014 Iron Bowl came up.
Does that 55-44 Auburn loss still stick in Malzahn's craw? You better believe it, as the coach is quoted as saying, "We didn't score touchdowns in the red zone. We should have put 60 on them, and we didn't. That was the most disappointing thing, when you have a chance to do something special and don't, and then we gave up all those fourth-quarter points. We let them off the hook, but we've got them at home this year."
Those words have received lots of attention and created varying emotions from fans depending on the team for which they root. Most Auburn fans are
thinking, "Gus is 100 percent correct." Many Bama fans are thinking, "Should have put 60 on them? Let them off the hook? Auburn still lost the game!"
So then, who's right and who's wrong? Just like a football game, let's break down Malzahn's statements, pour over the numbers and tell you if the Auburn coach is RIGHT ON or TOTALLY WRONG. Are ya ready?
"We didn't score touchdowns in the red zone." Malzahn is RIGHT ON:
It was a trend that developed quickly for the Aubun Tigers: The offense consistently punched the ball near the Bama goal line, only to fail to score a touchdown. Five times the Tigers kicked field goals after being stopped by a tough red zone Crimson Tide defense. Gus Malzahn saw drives stall at the Bama 3, 7, 7, 3 and 16 yard lines, resulting in field goals of 20, 24, 24, 20 and 33 yards. To a hurry-up offensive coach like Malzahn, kicking a field goal in the Iron Bowl is far worse than say, kissing a sister- it's a lost opportunity, and 20 less points on the scoreboard.
"We should have put 60 on them, and we didn't." Malzahn is TOTALLY WRONG:
If Malzahn had said "We COULD have put 60 on them," I could buy it, but the fact remains that while the Auburn coach thinks he SHOULD have put up 60 points (and that's what good coaches should believe), the fact remains that what was a leaky Alabama defense stood tall when it mattered most. It's a bit like my golf game. I SHOULD have shot a 72 my last time out, but I hit in the water twice, missed a half a dozen four-foot putts and had two snowmen on my card. I SHOULD have shot a 72 but I didn't. And on the flip side? One could argue the Crimson Tide could have hung 70 on the Tigers defense as Saban and Kiffin ran the clock with more conservative play in the fourth quarter.
"We had a chance to do something special and we didn't." Malzahn is RIGHT ON:
It's not often that a football team gets to go into Bryant-Denny Stadium and hang 630 yards on an Alabama defense. Think about it: Those 630 yards were the most allowed by a Crimson Tide football team…ever! Nick Marshall had over 500 yards himself (456 passing yards) as the Tigers gashed Bama between the 20 yard lines. The Tigers owned a 33-21 lead late in the third quarter but could not close.
"We gave up all of those fourth quarter points." Malzahn is RIGHT ON:
A quick glimpse at the box score spells this one out. During one stretch Bama went on a 34-3 run as the Tide offense amassed 539 total yards for the game. Amari Cooper alone had 224 receiving yards as Lane Kiffin found himself celebrating TD plays before his receivers found the end zone. From three minutes remaining in the third quarter to three minutes remaining in the fourth quarter, the Crimson Tide scored 28 straight points. How bad was the Auburn defense down the stretch? While Malzahn fired defensive coordinator Ellis Johnson hours after the game, you have to wonder if he had put out feelers for a new DC midway through the fourth quarter.
"We let them off the hook." A SPLIT DECISION:
While you can argue that Auburn DID let the Tide off the hook what with that third quarter lead and a Bama defense that was back on its heels, I usually think that a team that let another team off the hook led very late in the game. Now if Alabama let the Tigers come back to win after leading Auburn 55-36 with just over three minutes remaining, THAT would be a case of letting a team off the hook. Still, nothing wrong with Malzahn's train of thought.
"We've got them at home this year." Malzahn is RIGHT ON:
Of course the coach is right on, and you know he's been thinking about this one since last fall. November 28, 2015 can't come soon enough for the Auburn coach, as he recently told me, "My head is full of football thoughts as soon as I lay my head down on the pillow at night." You can bet that brain of his harkens back to November 29, 2014 each and every minute, every hour. And that spells great news for college football fans everywhere as this fall's Iron Bowl is sure to be another classic!
What do you think of Coach Malzahn's comments? As always, your feedback is welcomed!