Tigers lost the lead early, but prevailed

Published 12:00 am Saturday, September 19, 2009

I was sweating like a chubby kid at summer camp when Mississippi State returned a blocked punt for a touchdown to take the lead in the second quarter.

I couldn’t believe that our dream season was over after only six quarters. How depressing.

Twenty-eight points later and we had a comfortable 25-point lead. Talk about a mood change.

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It’s hard to believe that two teams that are a year removed from a 3-2 game would hookup in a 49-24 shootout. Auburn’s diversified offense had 589 total yards against the Bulldogs, which bested the 556-yard outburst against Louisiana Tech.

I hate to continue to restate the obvious, but this is definitely different than the bad ole days of offense under Tommy Tuberville. Consider that Auburn scored only seven touchdowns in eight SEC games last year, and we scored six against MSU on Saturday.

Offensive coordinator Gus Malzahn’s no-huddle spread offense has put a tremendous amount of pressure on opposing defenses. The overmatched Bulldogs wore down on defense trying to keep up with an offense that was able to run more than 80 plays.

It’s true. The Auburn offense is so fast that it can do a minute in 30 seconds.

Antonio Coleman’s interception return for a touchdown was the highlight of another great defensive effort.

On the flip side, our special teams need some work. We had a punt block returned for a State touchdown, and we still don’t seem to have anyone who can run back punts. That will get us beat by the good teams that we have left on our schedule.

Auburn cruised to easy victories over Louisiana Tech and Mississippi State, but the competition will get turned up a notch this week as West Virginia visits the Plains. The last time we saw these guys they were scoring 31 unanswered points in a 34-17 blowout in Morgantown.

It’s revenge game No. 1 for a Tiger team that has a lot of payback to dish out after a miserable year in 2008.

Our recent successes have gotten the attention of the boys in Vegas as they have us listed as a 7-point favorite. Unlike our previous two opponents, West Virginia will be up to our talent level.

Get ready to watch us chase their lightning-quick running back Noel Devine all night. He racked up 207 yards on us last year so limiting his yards will be a key.

I’m glad we are playing this one at home. The hostile atmosphere in Jordan-Hare Stadium will be too much for Mountaineer first-year starting quarterback Jarrett Brown. Look for the Tiger defense to force the young QB into a few crucial mistakes. That will be the difference in what looks to be an offensive shootout.

I’m wearing the same lucky visor to this game as I did to our last two victories so bank on a victory. The Tigers win it 38-28.

War Eagle!

Andy Stewart lives in Selma and graduated from Auburn University in 1990 with a degree in business administration. He is the local president of Wachovia Bank.