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Monday, May 25, 2015

Auburn’s Girls Softball  The First World Series 

After winning a historic Regional and Super Regional, the Auburn Tigers Softball team is now headed to Oklahoma City to play for that coveted “World Series” ring. They will play the LSU Tigers which they did face in Baton Rouge where they won 2 out of 3 games. It will be double elimination  and a best of 3 games in the Championship Series. Auburn will begin their journey at 1:30 P.M. CDT  this Thursday on ESPN. If Auburn wins the game with LSU, they will then face the winner of the Florida/Tennessee game on Friday at 6 P.M. CDT.  Auburn has not played the Gators this season so I would look forward to a game between these two teams. 

I am expecting a close game between Auburn and LSU. It will be the fourth appearance in the World Series for LSU. They appeared in 2001, 2004, and 2012 and lost. The LSU girls are coached by Beth Torina who was a pitcher for the Florida Gators from 1997-2000. I expect most of the pitching to be handled by Allie Walljasper with middle relief coming from Carley Hoover. LSU has a lot of speed on the bases and one of the best hitters in the SEC named Sandra Simmons. She had 5 RBIs in the win over Arizona on Sunday.

The Auburn girls have a great shot at winning this World Series since the pitching will be even for most of the teams and they do have some of the best hitters in the SEC. Some of the Auburn hitters to watch are Kasey Cooper, Emily Carosone, Brandi Melero and Jade Rhodes. The pitching duties will be handled by Lexi Davis, Marcy Harper and Rachael Walters with Carly Wallace calling the signals behind the plate. 

Clint Meyers and his staff has done a remarkable job turning around the Auburn Softball program and they will be even better next season. 

It is possible that Auburn and Alabama could play for the Championship and a historic World Series win over Auburn’s biggest rival would be a great entry for the record books.

Enjoy the games and if you do go to Oklahoma City and be sure to check out the Bar-B-Q.  


Sunday, May 24, 2015

Historic Auburn Softball

It was a historic day in Auburn Girls Softball history on May 23, 2015. The Auburn Girls defeated the Ragin Cajuns to win their first "Super Regional" since the softball program was started.  I never thought that I would see a sold out softball stadium at Auburn University. The atmosphere almost rivaled an SEC football game at Auburn on a smaller scale. I even saw several Auburn baseball and football players in attendance. To say that the Auburn girls were happy, would be an understatement. They came into the stands after the game to thank the fans and pose for photos. It does appear that Jay Jacobs has hit a "Home Run" with the hiring of Clint myers and his staff.

Congratulations girls! 

Saturday, May 23, 2015

Guts and Glory

Auburn softball made an announcement today. They said, to the rest of the softball world, "Hello softball world. This is Auburn softball. Get used to us because we are not going away." 
This Auburn softball team has been a joy to watch. I mean it. Even if they are down in the score, they believe they can and will win. Some people today mentioned it looked like they were playing to 'not lose' but I disagree. I saw something completely different. I saw a team playing with a sureness so they did not overswing or panic. 

They have gotten a lot of attention for their home runs and offense which is deserved. However, that is one amazing defense. I love softball. I played it most of my life. At the time I went to college, there was not much college softball, so after high school I didn't play much competitively. I loved every second of it. I love that now my nieces play so I can still be a part of it. 

The last team I played for was something special. We had played together when we were young. There were some years when we were split up because of age gaps in grouping. There were years when we were not very good. We stuck together. By the time I was in 10th grade, we had something special. I see that something special in this team. The double plays made today were truly spectacular. If you have not played, those kind of 'unusual' double plays must be practiced hundreds of times to be that automatic. I love to see how they respond to their coaches and each other. No one is selfish; they play as part of a whole.

I also have to say this. Carlee Wallace has guts. I have mentioned before that I played catcher. I am about the same exact size as Carlee. I had my share of injuries from home plate collisions, but never anything as scary as what she experienced last week. I've broken my thumb twice, my nose (2 surgeries to correct it) and cracked my wrist. It can be scary after an injury to get in front of that plate again, but today I saw Carlee grab that ball and make a play, unafraid.  Every one of these players is contributing each game and it is really something special to see. 

I don't know about you, but I cannot wait to see what they can do in OKC. I wish I could go! Hope lots of you are going to cheer for our girls!

Thursday, May 21, 2015

Auburn played Kentucky in the first round of the SEC Baseball Tournament. The Tigers won this one, and here are the highlights:

Then the Tigers drew LSU. The #1 ranked team in the country. Leading 8-3 going into the 6th inning, things began to unravel.

Auburn is currently facing Florida, and not doing so well.

War Eagle!

Monday, May 18, 2015

Auburn Softball Advances

On a sunny Sunday afternoon in Auburn, Alabama you could hear the hit. A mighty a collision to rival the ferocity of those experienced on the other side of campus in Jordan-Hare Stadium. This wasn't football, or even a practice preparing for the distant football season. This was Auburn softball.

The visiting South Alabama Jaguars are a well coached team. They play the game as it should be played. Still, some question whether the slide into home plate was a legal attempt to slide at all. It became evident while watching the replay that Amanda Minahan simply lost her balance while preparing for the collision at home plate with Auburn's Carlee Wallace.

Wallace stood her ground at home plate and took the hit, although she never had possession of the ball. During the collision the true Freshman's head hit the ground very hard. As the 37 minute delay filled inning ended, South Alabama had scored 3 runs to go ahead of Auburn 4-2.

When asked in post game interview about that inning, Kasey Cooper stated  "After the incident at home plate, we were playing for her. We just needed to control and contain them that inning, and we told Rachael, you get us out of this inning, we will win for you."

Win it they did. As the last inning unfolded their injured team mate was in the dugout watching and cheering them on to vict'ry. 

The very next inning Auburn recaptured the lead by scoring 4 runs. Adding an insurance run in the 6th inning, the celebration was on.

This historic run by a gutsy and competitive bunch of girls is moving on in the NCAA Tournament. Auburn will play host to the Super Regional with the opportunity to move onto Oklahoma City in the Women's College World Series.


Sunday, May 17, 2015

What Must Auburn Do: Louisville Cardinals

 2015 Auburn Football Schedule
Date Game Location Time

09/05/15 vs. Louisville TV Atlanta TBA
09/12/15 vs. Jacksonville State TV Auburn TBA
09/19/15 at LSU TV Baton Rouge TBA
09/26/15 vs. Mississippi State TV Auburn TBA
10/03/15 vs. San Jose State (HC) TV Auburn TBA
10/15/15 at Kentucky TV Lexington TBA
10/24/15 at Arkansas TV Fayetteville TBA
10/31/15 vs. Ole Miss TV Auburn TBA
11/07/15 at Texas A&M TV College Station TBA
11/14/15 vs. Georgia TV Auburn TBA
11/21/15 vs. Idaho TV Auburn TBA
11/28/15 vs. Alabama TV Auburn TBA
SEC Championship

We have looked in depth at what these Tigers must accomplish to be a better football team. First we looked at the defense, then the offense.

It's the time of year when the players are working with their strength and conditioning coaches, and participating in voluntary workouts. This is where team chemistry, and trust, the two essential building blocks of any successful team are built.

Like Gus Malzahn, our head football coach, always says "We need to worry about us." Meaning that the players need to work hard on continuing to get better. Improve on the fundamentals, and get in the best physical shape of all the teams they will face.

The schedule, although not as brutal as the 2014 campaign, is still a tough and demanding course in which our Tigers must navigate unscathed if another national championship is to be achieved.

Lets look now at our first opponent of the upcoming football season, the Louisville Cardinals

Date: September 5th, 2015
Chick-fil-A Kickoff Classic
Atalanta, GA 

Head Coach: Bobby Petrino
Offensive Coordinator: Garrick McGee
Defensive Coordinator: Todd Grantham
Pertinent Info: Schedule  Roster

The Cardinals run a pro-style run and gun offense that will mimic what we saw when Petrino and McGee were teamed together in Arkansas.The following video shows basically the type of offense we will see from the Cards.

Petrino was once the Offensive Coordinator at Auburn under Tommy Tuberville. In his book titled Orange is Our Color: The Tuberville Years Through Navy-tinted Glasses, Josh Dowdy writes: 

"So in 2002 Tuberville faced the challenge of restructuring, of refocusing. He needed coordinators who could translate Auburn's success in recruiting into more wins on the field." 
Auburn and Tuberville picked Bobby Petrino to run the offensive attack. All that Bobby Petrino had accomplished at Auburn has been overshadowed by his deeds away from Jordan-Hare Stadium. First there was "Jetgate", and later while at Arkansas "The Ride."

We know full well what type of offense Auburn will run, and so too the staff at Louisville.

Arguably, the man with the most success at stopping the Gus Malzahn attack resided in the state of Georgia for four years. Todd Grantham's UGA defenses finished those 4 seasons ranked 23rd, 5th, 32nd, and 45th respectfully in Total Defense.  

Grantham's defenses were particularly good vs. teams on 3rd down. Allowing less than 40% in his final three seasons he was with the 'Dawgs.

What Must Auburn Do?

First the Tigers must not turn the ball over. Fumbles and interceptions will be costly in any game, and Louisville will not need added adrenaline in this game. The Tigers will come into the contest with at least a Top10 ranking, and the Cardinal would love nothing more than to knock off the Plainsmen. Add to that the ACC vs SEC factor, and the hype will give the winner lots of carry into the playoff selections near seasons end.

Auburn must be able to run the football, especially needed is to convert on those 3rd and short situations. 

While Louisville is not completely settled on a starting QB yet, 5 different guys threw passes last season for the Cardinal. If the 2010 Arkansas game at Auburn is any indication of Bobby Petrino and his QB's, Louisville will have more than one QB ready to compete on September 5th.

Auburn must win the Special Teams. Kick off coverage, and Punt coverage must be very good to win this game. No breakdowns as in the 2013 BCS Championship game. Louisville will have plenty of speed on these return teams.

Most importantly Auburn has to come into this game with a mental toughness that they are here to win at all costs. Open field tackling is a desire, it's a mindset that the other guy will NOT beat you. Every play is important, every block, every run, every thing!

Accomplish these things and the season will be off to a wonderful start. 

Auburn 47  Louisville 23


Thursday, May 14, 2015

What Must Auburn Do: Offense

Coach Rhett Lashlee. photo via Dave Martin/AP

You would have to be rather picky to ask this Gus Malzahn offense to get better. Since we have a coach that will do exactly that, we decided to take a look at what we think some of those improvements might be.

To know where you're going, you must first examine where you've been. - old cliche'

Scoring: Points/Game35.5
Scoring: Games - Points13 - 461
First Downs: Total314
First Downs: Rushing - Passing - By Penalty172 - 132 - 10
Rushing: Yards / Attempt5.47
Rushing: Attempts - Yards - TD607 - 3321 - 32
Passing: Rating156.79
Passing: Yards2984
Passing: Attempts - Completions - Interceptions - TD332 - 208 - 7 - 23
Total Offense: Yards / Play6.71
Total Offense: Plays - Yards939 - 6305        
Time of Possession / Game     29:52.69
3rd Down Conversion % 52.51%
3rd Down Attempts - Conversions                                179 - 94
4th Down Conversion % 42.86%
4th Down Attempts - Conversions 7 - 3
Red Zone: Success % 87.93%
Red Zone: Attempts - Scores 58 - 51

 Last season our Tigers went along with some decent numbers offensively. At first glance you'd think scoring per game was good. Auburn finished 27th behind three SEC teams and Ga. Tech. Yes, you read that correctly, a Wishbone offense scored more points per game than our HUNH, that was anything but HUNH, for most of the season.

Rushing the ball, at least statistically was good, although down considerably in the ranks from 2013, where Auburn finished at the pinnacle of the football world.

Let's be honest, throwing the football was truly the Achilles's heel of this Auburn offense in 2014. As adamant as Gus Malzahn is about Nick Marshall being a really good QB, Auburn's passing numbers don't lie. 

A 156.79 passer rating, 23 TD's to only 7 INT's, and a total of 2,984 passing yards is a really good season. Inside those numbers one has to wonder why Auburn finished 67th nationally in passing offense. Yards per attempt were quite high at 9.0. The answer may be that Auburn only attempted throwing the football an average of 25.5 times per game, which is the lowest amount of any team in the Top 90 in passing offense. 

Our Tigers had the 6th highest passer rating of all the teams with higher rated passing offense in 2014. That's pretty good considering Gus Malzahn and Rhett Lashlee were calling running plays at nearly 2 to 1. 

However, our QB's failed to produce in the fashion that the coaches predicted. Coach Lashlee had stated prior to the start of the season, he wanted Nick Marshall to be a 65% to 70% completion rate passer. Although Auburn improved from it's 2013 numbers, the improvement was ever so slight. From 60.7% in 2013 to 62.7% 

It is here that I must say I am using total team numbers for the season. Taking into account Jeremy Johnson started the Arkansas game, these numbers do not totally reflect on Nick Marshall.

 Back to the question at hand: What must Auburn do offensively in 2015? 

Almost every pundit in college football is agreeing that Auburn has upgraded it's passing game simply by naming Jeremy Johnson the starter. Johnson has a good strong arm, and has exhibited remarkable touch on several occasions. 

The tigers are returning a very healthy amount of experience and talent at the Wide Out positions, along with nearly every member of the offensive line. Chad Slade moved on to the NFL, and Alex Kozan returns from the injured ranks. Bolstering an offensive line that must be able to control games late into the 4th quarter.

Running Back U has a trio of RB's able to start for most teams in the country. Pass protection by these 3 is a must. Holding onto the football when their number is called is even more important.

The positions that are of some concern are H-Back, and Tight End. Experience is the reason for that concern, there simply isn't any. 

The keys are simple. Fewer turnovers, fewer penalties, be better at 3rd down conversions, and stay healthy. If this 2015 version of Auburn offense can accomplish those key items, the sky is the limit as to production, and points.

War Eagle!

***All stats are courtesy of