Karle's Korner: Survival at Jordan-Scare Stadium: the good, the - WBRC FOX6 News - Birmingham, AL


Karle's Korner: Survival at Jordan-Scare Stadium: the good, the bad, the ugly

Montavious Atkinson (48) - Auburn vs. Vanderbilt (Source: Auburn Athletics) Montavious Atkinson (48) - Auburn vs. Vanderbilt (Source: Auburn Athletics)

The following is a commentary blog from WBRC FOX6 Sports Director Rick Karle:

Call it frightening, call it ugly, but Gus Malzahn calls it a sixth straight win. And don't look now, but if this team wins out, it will be the Auburn Tigers representing the SEC's western division at the SEC Championship game in Atlanta. The Tigers hung on to beat Vanderbilt Saturday 23-16 to improve to 5-1 in the SEC. And along the way, the guys handed a media type like me plenty of material to fill my weekly Good, Bad & Ugly column.

So here we go, starting with a lot of good that came from the victory.

The Good: Plenty

  • Kamryn Pettway ran for 173 yards to lead the Auburn offense. Along the way, the big guy became the first Auburn running back since a guy named Bo to run for at least 150 yards in four straight games.  Petty has now rushed for at least 100 yards in 7 of his last 8 games. Pettway's injury? Gus Malzahn would only say after the game that he "pulled something". At the time that this column was written, let's consider Pettway's status like our own: Day-to-day.
  • Sean White showed guts by, according to Coach Malzahn, insisting that he was ready to re-energize the offense in the second half despite battling injuries. What kind of injury was it? Said Malzahn after the game, "I'm not going to get into that... it was an injury." While White handled the offense efficiently (10-of-13, 106 yards and a TD), many feel that Malzahn did not handle the Sean White situation efficiently at all... more on that later.
  • Why not immediately elect Daniel Carlson mayor of Auburn? He'd be the only candidate that Trump and Clinton supports would all agree on. This young man kicked another three field goals on Saturday (45, 53 and 35 yards) and moved into first place in Auburn history with most field goals made in a career (61). Carlson also leaped into second place on the all-time Auburn career scoring list (321 points) behind former kicker Wes Byrum (363 points). If the Tigers do some great things through Amen Corner, it will be Carlson who leads the way.
  • The Auburn defense was good... or was it? While the Tigers had problems getting the Commodores offense off the field, it came through in the clutch. For the second straight week Josh Holsey came up big. And think about this: The Auburn defense has now held 8 of the last 9 opponents to less than 20 points. It has also held 9 straight opponents to under their game scoring average. And Carl Lawson? He now has 8.5 sacks this season while Darrell Williams had 11 tackles on Saturday. 
  • Texas A&M's 35-28 loss to Miss State sent a roar through Jordan-Hare Stadium moments after the Auburn game ended. Why? With the Aggies loss, Tiger fans realized immediately that if their team wins out they will play for the SEC championship as winners of the western division. Of course there is one team in front of them that is well, pretty good. Still, if the Tigers win their next three games, they are headed to the ATL. Can anyone say, "2013"?
  • *OK, he plays for Vanderbilt, but linebacker Zach Cunningham will be seen often on SportsCenter's Top Ten plays after his amazing leap. With the Tigers attempting a 36-yard field goal late in the game, the former Pinson Valley High School star leaped over the Auburn offensive line to block Carlson's kick. No, he was not offside. Yes, the play was legal as he did not touch any of the AU linemen. What we should all do in this instance is to tip our collective hats and visors to an incredible athlete who turned in an incredible play.

The Bad: What's with Gus Malzahn?

  • That's the question many are asking after the Auburn coach held out Sean White due to what the coach called injuries. And while some fans scratched their heads as they had no prior hint of White's aches and pains, the coach has every right to sit a player, especially if he is banged up. But what I have seen on social media are some wondering if Malzahn simply wanted to rest Sean White against a team the Tigers were supposed to smash. Malzahn's thoughts, say some? As long as John Franklin III was doing well, White would sit. If Franklin was not doing well, White would play. Malzahn's broad answer after the game, "I'm not going to get into Sean's injury" left some ready to Tweet about a Malzahn conspiracy theory. 
  • The bottom line here is that it's Gus Malzahn's team, and he can handle his players as he sees fit. So what if he did want to rest White? I'm here to tell you that unless proven otherwise, we should take Gus at his word. He said that White was injured, so as far as I'm concerned, White was injured.
  • While the Tiger's overall defensive effort was good, its third down defense was not. Vanderbilt was seven-of-16 on third down on Saturday  but it seemed as if the Commodores were more effective than that. Over a stretch in the first half, the Tigers could not get the Vandy offense off the field. Over the course of the game, it resulted in the 'Dores getting 22 first downs to the Tigers 16. Vanderbilt also won the time of possession battle 35 minutes to 25 (which is not always the worst thing in the world considering Auburn's HUNH offense).
  • Auburn's third down conversion rate was well, not good, as the Tigers converted only four times in 12 tries. While some of that can be credited to the less experienced John Franklin III running the show in the first half, Rhett Lashlee will be harping on this for days. ??

The Ugly: Not Much!

  • While I can label John Franklin III's performance ugly, I'm giving him an out in this case. He has not seen a lot of action, and stepping in to run an offense against a physical SEC defense is not the easiest thing to do. Franklin went 2-for4 through the air and totaled 9 yards while also fumbling. But the kid showed flashes of brilliance with his legs. Just gotta work on that arm, big fella!
  • These 11 am kickoff times have to go. I'm not sure why early starts are affecting the team, but it could simply be a matter of the players not being truly awake before noon- trust me, I have son in college, so I know how that goes. The second halves of these games usually start just before 1 pm, which on a Saturday is when most college kids wake up. For the Auburn nation, let's hope the last three games don't fall anywhere close to 11 am.

My bottom line? A win is a win, and now the Tigers need to heal those bumps and bruises before the stretch run. Malzahn is off the hot seat, so focus should not be a problem. The Tigers controlling their own destiny? Who'da thunk it six weeks ago? But this is college football, and the Auburn Tigers should be proud that they are indeed back. Hang on, for it's going to be a wild finish!

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