Auburn shows it’s not coming apart at the seams yet

Onterio McCalebb has no trouble filling in for suspended Michael Dyer as Auburn rolled past Virginia. (AP photo)

Auburn running back Onterio McCalebb has no trouble filling in for the suspended Michael Dyer as the Tigers rolled past Virginia. (AP photo)

A year after Cam Newton and Auburn’s slightly lesser beings descended on Atlanta and destroyed South Carolina for the SEC championship (to be followed by a BCS title), the Tigers returned to the Georgia Dome to finish a season with blemishes Saturday night.

Auburn didn’t go undefeated. It didn’t win a conference championship or go to a BCS bowl.

This time, Auburn showed up with a lame-duck offensive coordinator, no defensive coordinator, a backup running back (because the starter was suspended), and a team whose last three SEC losses came to LSU, Georgia and Alabama by a composite score of 132-28.

It’s hard to say exactly what the Tigers projected with their performance Saturday for next season in the SEC. But at the very least, they showed they’re not coming apart. They rushed for 273 yards without the suspended Michael Dyer. They blocked two points, recovered an onside kick and basically took apart Virginia 43-24 in the Chick-fil-A Bowl.

So all is well again. For now. Auburn will be back in the Dome to start next season against Clemson in nine months.

“Our future is extremely bright,” coach Gene Chizik said. “Any time you can win your last game it’s big. It give you momentum going into the offseason and going into next year. It gives you an idea the direction that you are going. I’m just happy for our players, with all that they’ve had to endure this year. We had a lot of highs and we had some lows. The highs were high and the lows were low.”

Very low, lately. There was reason to wonder about the stability of the Auburn program. Gus Malzahn, Auburn’s touted offensive coordinator, announced he was leaving Chizik’s staff for a head coaching job in the Sun Belt Conference (Arkansas State). Defensive coordinator Ted Roof left for the same position with a team (Central Florida) in Conference USA. (Malzahn coached in the bowl game, Roof didn’t.)

As a general rule, SEC coordinators from the defending BCS championship team’s coaching staff don’t bolt for jobs in the Sun Belt and Conference USA.

So some have wondered: What’s going on in Gene Chizik’s kingdom?

He’ll tell you nothing.

Chizik also says little about why running back Michael Dyer was suspended for the Chick-fil-A Bowl (though suspensions this time of year generally are academically related). When asked about Dyer’s future, Chizik’s words seemed to leave the door open to the running back’s career at Auburn being over. Quoting: “If he does the things we’ve asked him to do, you’ll see him back in a uniform. If he doesn’t, you won’t.”

Add to this that SEC West Division schools Alabama and LSU will be playing each for the BCS championship, and it’s easy to see why the afterglow of the Tigers’ national title has long since faded.

Gene Chizik has endured some tough times after winning the BCS championship last season. (AP photo)

Auburn coach Gene Chizik has endured some tough times after winning the BCS championship last season. (AP photo)

Fortunately for Auburn, its opponent Saturday night was Virginia. So the chances of Auburn becoming the first defending BCS champion to lose six games the following season were … well, again, the opponent was Virginia.

The Cavaliers showed up looking like a Sherwin Williams plant had exploded on their uniforms. Orange jerseys and bright orange helmets, possibly visible from Neptune, with blue pants made it clear Virginia just didn’t know how to dress for a bowl game. But then, postseason appearances don’t come naturally to the Cavs.

After taking an early 7-0 lead, Virginia imploded. It had a punt blocked (leading to a two-play, 15-yard Auburn touchdown drive). It fumbled on its own 32 (Auburn couldn’t drive and missed a field goal). Early in the second quarter, Auburn drove to a touchdown to tie the score at 14-14, then surprised Virginia with an onside kick and recovered. That led to another Tigers touchdown.

Later in the quarter, on fourth-and-6 from the Auburn 15, Virginia had one of the worst fake field goals in history: a slow developing running back by a slow runner. It failed — and then Auburn drove 88 yards in 3:32 to another touchdown. From the time Virginia led 14-7, Auburn went on a 28-3 tear to take a 35-17 lead. Malzahn looked like he wanted to sample something from every part of the playbook  before he left town.

Dyer’s replacement, Onterio McCalebb: He ran for a touchdown and 96 yards (including a 60-yarder) in the first half alone.

Auburn hadn’t looked this good since, well, Auburn was good. It didn’t even matter that the Tigers lost starting quarterback Clint Moseley in the first quarter to an ankle injury. Remember, this is a team that in the last five weeks of the season got body-slammed by LSU (45-10), Georgia (45-7) and Alabama (42-14). The Tigers’ only wins in that stretch came over Mississippi and Samford, who don’t really count.

If Auburn is coming apart, it didn’t show Saturday.

By Jeff Schultz

Follow me on Twitter (@JeffSchultzAJC). Friend me on Facebook (Facebook.com/JeffSchultzAJC).

127 comments Add your comment

doc

December 31st, 2011
11:26 pm

it was virginia.

doc

December 31st, 2011
11:26 pm

maybe uva doesnt count either.

huntdawg

December 31st, 2011
11:30 pm

always a few minutes behind

huntdawg

December 31st, 2011
11:31 pm

by the way this is a great picture of Gene C. His nick name is Ole Square Jaw. Auburn is nothing without Scam Newton I mean Cam.

AuburnATL

December 31st, 2011
11:39 pm

War Eagle! Great to see Emory Blake healthy. Special teams were a force as usual. Defense played better. Tre Mason and Quan Bray looked really good. McCalebb looked incredible. 2012 can’t get here soon enough.

Blackoutanyone?

December 31st, 2011
11:43 pm

42-14 MikeP where u at?

Blackoutanyone?

December 31st, 2011
11:44 pm

T.J. Yeldon says hello

dawggirl

December 31st, 2011
11:50 pm

The offense was very entertaining, I really liked all of the creativity. Nice showing for the SEC, way to go Tigers.

Red Stick

January 1st, 2012
12:03 am

Congrats on a nice win War Eagles!

Geaux Tigers
SEC Champions

Cloudodust

January 1st, 2012
12:15 am

Always considered New Years a waste of a reason to get wasted. I’ll do a 4 mile run tomorrow AM sometime and celebrate the day my way. Happy New Year, congrats to the War Tigers and good luck today, SEC. Sympathies to the Porter family.

Geneva Ala Tiger fan

January 1st, 2012
12:17 am

Great game War Eagle!!!!! Looking forward to 2012 season.
Happy New Year all u Auburn fans…

J Clay

January 1st, 2012
12:21 am

Ga Tech and UVA doing the ACC proud

[...] Atlanta Journal Constitution [...]

red&black

January 1st, 2012
12:31 am

Tech lost……………………………heeheehee

Terry

January 1st, 2012
12:47 am

Virginia was doomed when they came out in those roller derby colors. That was tacky. Poor Virginia looked awfully slow playing a middle of the road SEC team. I guess that 1 point OT win at home over an absolutely awful Idaho team should have raised many questions.

Merrill Guice

January 1st, 2012
12:51 am

Laughter in the SEC = Pure Death against anyone in the ACC.

GTBob

January 1st, 2012
1:00 am

They beat UVA. That isn’t exactly something to brag about. That makes them slightly better then Idaho.

AuburnGuy

January 1st, 2012
1:08 am

Very original, HuntDawg. Very original indeed. At least my team had the foresight to allow Cam ( who did nothing wrong in case you haven’t heard, not that you would care about the truth anyway ) to play quarterback where he did rather well. Doing rather well in the NFL too, in case you haven’t heard. The geniuses at your school thought he would be a really good tight end, by the way. War Eagle.

george

January 1st, 2012
1:12 am

yet…. HA HA HA IDIOTS

BLOOD TYPE: RED & BLACK

January 1st, 2012
1:16 am

I plan on getting up 45 minutes to 7….how bout you George. “but you beat a pitiful Virginia team” …sound like someone you know?

4.29 GPA

January 1st, 2012
1:18 am

SEC enjoys a 15-10 advantage in Chick-fil-A Peach Bowl games against the ACC head-to-head, despite the fact that the ACC gets paid more than The SEC, despite the fact that the ACC sends its 1st top-rated ACC team after the BCS, and despite the fact that The SEC gets paid less monies than the ACC, and despite the fact that The SEC sends its 5th overall ranked SEC team.

Georgia tek is 0-4 in the Chick-fil-A Peach Bowl. Auburn is now 4-1. Congratulations to Auburn Tigers War Eagle. Only LSU has won this bowl game more than Auburn at 5-0. The worst team in this bowl’s history is Georgia tek at 0-4, although Climpson Farmers are 2-5. The vols, who stated they don’t play in this bowl game, are correct on that point at 1-4. Congratulations to Georgia tek, losers of 10 of their last 15 bowl games, losers of 7 consecutive bowl games, and for Georgia tek’s record as the worst team in this bowl’s history at 0-4.

GTBob

January 1st, 2012
1:23 am

SEC enjoys a 15-10 advantage in Chick-fil-A Peach Bowl games against the ACC head-to-head

That is pretty embarrassing for the SEC. I thought they were head and shoulders ahead of the ACC? Shouldn’t they be 25-0 or at the very worst 24-1? Why would any SEC team ever lose to any ACC team?

SWGADAWG

January 1st, 2012
1:26 am

It was Virginia……I mean really.

4.29 GPA

January 1st, 2012
1:27 am

40 percent win percentage for ACC vs SEC in Chick-fil-A Peach Bowl vs The SEC head-to-head, despite the fact that the ACC sends its top-ranked 1st team after the BCS, while The SEC sends our 5th-ranked team.

Typicially sorry effort their Georgia tek fan, and again congratulations on your 7 bowl losing streak, 10 losses in your last 15 bowl games, and 0-4 worst record ever in this Chick-Fil-A Peach Bowl Game.

Is there anything else Georgia tek fans (both of you) would like to discuss about Bowl Games, Chick-fil-A Peach Bowl Games, or bowl games in general

BTBob

?

4.29 GPA

January 1st, 2012
1:29 am

Virginia was the top-ranked ACC team after the BCS Bowls

SWGADAWG

While Auburn was the 5th-ranked SEC team.

4.29 GPA

January 1st, 2012
1:33 am

Since The SEC has two teams in The BCS National Championship Game, Auburn is the 6th-ranked SEC team, with the Five (5) SEC teams ranked in all the Polls, then Auburn unranked in either the AP Poll or the Coaches’ Poll. Auburn will climb, but doubt that they make the top 25 of either the AP Poll or the Coaches’ Poll, although it will be close.

Georgia tek on the other hand, also was not ranked in either the AP Poll or the Coaches’ Poll and surely will get zero votes for either poll. Note please that Georgia tek has NEVER finished any season being ranked # 1 in the AP Poll

NOT EVER.

Barn Burner

January 1st, 2012
1:38 am

Whoa nellie.

The barn just whipped a crappy team that is a member of a crappy conference.

Amazing what this bunch of pay-for-play can do. LOL

BTW: Why are the Barn’s coordinators leaving for lessor jobs?

Tide Rising

January 1st, 2012
2:22 am

Makes you wonder why the ACC even bothers to show up to play an SEC in the bowl games. The SEC whacked the ACC 3-1 on the last weekend of the season and continued the pace with this asskicking of UVA which came into the game 8-4 and was respectable in the ACC. The ACC just plain sucks.

4.29 GPA

January 1st, 2012
2:25 am

10-2 Arkansas State returns its team intact next season, and is the warm-up game the night before The BCS National Championship Game to go to maybe 11-2 against another 10-Win team this season 10-3 now Northern Illinois. There are three (3) 10-Win teams currently not ranked, and these are two of the 3 with Arkansas State # 28 in the AP Poll today before the bowls.

I think it is a good decision on Gus Malzahn’s part and he did a wonderful job tonight in the bowl game, and in beating South Carolina # 10 in the AP Poll and playing in the more prestigious CapitalOne Bowl with payouts of $9.2 million in the popular tourist locale Orlando, while we are # 18 in the AP Poll 8 place worse than South Carolina and while we play at 1 pm on ABC a lousy channel with a payout of only $7 million. Note please that Auburn beat a team who ends up in the top 25, something we haven’t done since beating # 13 AP Poll 2009 Georgia tek, and that’s 3 seasons ago now.

Beat Michigan State.

Give Mark Richt his extension, now Greg McGarity.

Auburn was found NOT GUILTY of any payments to Cam Newton. Nor any conspiracy to pay Cam Newton. This was an impressive win, close to making Auburn the # 6 SEC team to end the season in the top 25 – very close to that. Auburn beat Virginia the # 1 top-ranked ACC team after the BCS bowls.

Congratulations to Auburn. Too bad you lost in a blow-out to us. But, this clearly puts a good taste into the mouths of the Auburn Family All In, whether or not you can make the AP Poll or the Coaches’ Poll, both of which I highly doubt. Note too, that rather than Mark Richt carrying an athlete like Isaiah Crowell, Gene Chizik kicked Michael Dyer off the team and still won going-away, while Michael Dyer is rumored to be transferring to this same Arkansas State we just discussed. Arkansas State is a top 25 team, a 10-win team in the NCAA Division 1-A FBS, the same as Auburn and Georgia. Arkansas State is RANKED AHEAD OF AUBURN, today.

Might want to get your facts correct, sir.

Barn Burner, your entire post is WRONG.

01HAWK

January 1st, 2012
2:30 am

AUBARN is back where they usually are…………………………In the middle of the pack in the SEC.

4.29 GPA

January 1st, 2012
2:38 am

Auburn beat South Carolina, today a top 10 AP Poll team. There are 4 SEC Teams in the Top 10.

Georgia is NOT one of them.

# 18 Georgia has a tough game against Michigan State in a yuk city Tampa (They do have Clearwater.)

If Georgia loses this game, where do we end up in the polls, having beat NO ONE ? # 24 ? # 25 maybe ? Auburn isn’t ranked in either the AP or the Coaches’ – in fact today has zero votes in either the Coaches’ or the AP Poll.

If Auburn is MIDDLE OF THE PACK.

What are we ? We haven’t beat a team who ended the season in the Top 10 since 2006, Six (6) Seasons ago, when we lost 4 games including to 8-Loss Vandie.

Auburn beat South Carolina, something we didn’t accomplish and a feat we haven’t accomplished in SIX (6) SEASONS.

LSU
Alabama
Arkansas
South Carolina

All 4 Top 10 teams today, still.

There are 4 SEC teams, and Auburn and Georgia are also rans compared to them. The 2 could end up about the same ranking. We beat Auburn handily, but they beat South Carolina, a much more impressive win than anything we have put up in 6 seasons.

William

January 1st, 2012
5:07 am

Congratulations Auburn. Makes the SEC look good. Georgia has a tougher opponent in Mich. St. than Virginia. If we lose and end up ranked behind Auburn what a joke. 45-7. Mich. St. is not Virginia or Auburn. They are a good football team. 10-3 in the Big Ten. It will take a monumental effort to beat them. The Dogs will have to play their best of the year to beat Mich St. Go SEC, Go Dawgs. By the way Auburn is the 6th best team in the SEC not 5th.

William

January 1st, 2012
5:11 am

Happy New Year….. Lets hope this is the start of something big for the Dogs.

Dawg Fan

January 1st, 2012
6:01 am

Not coming apart at the seams?? 7-5 regular season and you’re saying there are still seams? My friend Jeff, those seams snapped long time ago and there is no needle and thread to be found. Face it Auburn fans, your glory season ended with Cam’s exit and your tree burning down.

RedandBlackDAWG

January 1st, 2012
6:18 am

The one weakness Auburn showed for the future yesterday is QB. Trotter seemed to be the only QB, that showed he knew how to manage the offense somewhat and he is gone now. I think they have a freshman coming in that is suppose to be very good, so that might help. I also think it is going to be pretty hard to replace the OC.
Thanks to Auburn for once again showing, how the SEC is superior to the ACC yet again. This bowl season, it is 3-0 in favor of the SEC and that’s a sweep. So far, the SEC is 3-1, with a chance to be 6-2 when the bowl season is over. It is a shame that the SEC will win one and lose one when the BCS NC is played. I am not sure though that Florida will beat OSU, but I see UGA and S.C. winning. The SEC is still the best conference in the NCAA once again.

heeldawg

January 1st, 2012
7:03 am

Congrats, Tigers. You represented the conference well.

Malzahn took the Arkansas State job because it was in his home state, the ASU program was in good shape, and because his stock had been falling this year somewhat (fairly or unfairly) as the Tigers’ offense was shackled by a lack of next-level talent at QB. Malzahn’s wife’s bizarre YouTube performance did nothing to help his marketability. He got the job he could.

Ted Roof left because if he hadn’t, Chizik would have fired him. I’m mystified that Chizik, as a defensive guy, hired that moron in the first place. Roof’s been a bust everywhere he’s gone. Look how much better the Auburn D played in the bowl game with the head coach calling defensive signals!

Auburn will be better in 2012–they are young, and it shows. But the lack of talent at QB will continue to be their Achilles’ Heel. And in the West, with Georgia as their traditional East opponent, Auburn still is a virtual lock for a minimum of four losses next season (LSU, Bama, Arkansas and Georgia).

North Ga. Dawg

January 1st, 2012
7:03 am

The A.C.C. is again proving to the entire country what it stands for the A.thelticly C.challenged C.conference.

Thanks termites for keeping your bowl record unblemished with a win of course.Please keep Paul Johnson.

Win P

January 1st, 2012
7:43 am

The Auburn I saw last evening was not the one UGA beat 45-7. During most the 1st half, UVA looked very capable of beating Auburn. Thought Auburn would implode at any minute and lose. Auburn didn’t. Their tempo (speed) and use of the entire play book eventually enabled them to take UVA apart. Don’t remember when UGA players/coaches have played a game like that. Auburn’s future looks bright. The major flaw I saw was the way # 23 (McCalebb) carried the ball, exposed in this right arm. Hope Richt was watching and saw how useing more that one quarterback can be a positive thing.

Terrible Truth

January 1st, 2012
7:59 am

Hey, hey, hey, let’s be careful and not pile on and risk angering our friends; the sleeping giant that is the All Chumps Conference. After all, they are adding Pitt and Syracuse to their arsenal.

RedandBlackDAWG

January 1st, 2012
8:14 am

Win P,

Auburn is going to be OK next year, but I have to question your assertion of, “when was the last time UGA played like that?”
I would think when they beat Auburn 45-7 this year, and just tried to get the game over after the first half and not embarrass their opponent any further,might be one of those times. Had they come out firing again in the second half, they could easily have hung 60 points on Auburn in that game. I wonder if the Auburn coach would have done the same thing as CMR, and tried not to humiliate the other team, if the tables had been reversed. I know Spurrier wouldn’t for sure. About the only thing that UGA did wrong in that game, was not giving some playing time to the second team offense a little, so they could get some real time on the field. Of course UGA, didn’t do that real well, no matter the game, so hopefully we will see a change in philosophy in 2012.

Happy New Year Folks, May 2012 be a Better Year for Us All

Fan from SAV

January 1st, 2012
8:17 am

it’s time for Paul Johnson to go back to a lower level of football-way back

4.29 GPA

January 1st, 2012
8:18 am

Yes, I want to see Christian LeMay play too.

Time Will Tell

January 1st, 2012
8:26 am

Vandy would have beaten the Cavs.

Rabun Dawg

January 1st, 2012
8:26 am

Congrats to Auburn, you made the SEC proud with the pounding of UVA. Man, were those Wahoo unis ugly!! Mr. Gus used all of his play book last night, and UVA did not know what was hitting them. Please Mr. Bobo, take some lessons from that guy. Imagine what Mr. Gus might be able to accomplish with those skill players at UGA. Wishful thinking, huh?

joe

January 1st, 2012
8:32 am

Come on, a team with no academic standards always beats one with high academic standards. What did u expect?

Whatever happened to Chip Towers

January 1st, 2012
8:39 am

HAPPY NEW YEAR JEFF AND TO ALL DAWG FANS (and everyone else) God bless and keep you.

Va Dline was bad

January 1st, 2012
8:55 am

Auburn can run what they want when va d line was so bad. No attacking of the line of scrimmage. Look what auburn def. did against teams had big attacking dlines, NOT MUCH. Not hating on au, not their fault. Makes your play calling look much better. Those plays don’t look quite the same against Lu’s, Nama, or uga

Irving Johansen

January 1st, 2012
9:01 am

Lessons we have learned in 2011—I applaud CMR for taking a tough stance with Isiah Crowell by suspending him for the New Mexico State game. Yes, New Mexico State finished with a record of 4-9 this year but they were almost 6-7 if only they beat highly ranked UTEP and San Jose State. Hey, this is the SEC and not every coach in the SEC would’ve taken a tough stance such as CMR–other coaches in the conference, take note! CMR is a tough “SOB”, just ask Washaun. UGA is all about academic excellence and Isiah’s picture should be on a 2012 Poster representing all of Bulldawg Nation as one of the finest academic institutions in the entire USA. CMR, thank you for your efforts…It makes me proud to have spent 8-1/2 years in Athens to earn my BS. Gooooooo Dawgs!!

Schultz a

January 1st, 2012
9:09 am

Enter your comments here

Ted M

January 1st, 2012
9:10 am

I don’t get why the media thinks Paul Johnson is one of the top coaches in college football.