October 25, 2010

Monday Morning Quarterback

Monday Morning QB
AU 24 LSU 17

AuburnSports.com's Monday Morning Quarterback will be out each Monday during the season. This week, several former Auburn players give their thoughts and opinions on the Tigers' win over LSU.


Former Auburn quarterback Ben Leard:
On the game…
"It was huge. It was without a doubt, and obviously there have been some big Iron Bowls since 2004, but nationally, that was the biggest game since the '04 Georgia game. Those kids rose to the occasion in all facets.

"I expected LSU to do what they did defensively, stack the box, play a lot of man and purposely line up (Patrick) Peterson 1-on-1 with Darvin Adams. In their eyes, they went best on best. They were able to neutralize the passing game, but I did not foresee Auburn having just the outright success on the ground as they did. I figured it would be a situation where Auburn would have to be successful through the air, multiple completions in key scenarios where LSU would have to drop the safeties back, running a little more zone, and that would in turn result in success in the running game. But it didn't work out that way.

"Auburn, at the point of attack, won the battle in the trenches. The offensive line played extremely well. LSU's star nosetackle (Drake Nevis), their Nick Fairley, had two tackles and one quarterback hurry. That's a tremendous job by Ryan Pugh and both guards. That was a great job by them. For the most part, Auburn, offensively dominated at the point of attack.

"One thing people aren't going to give credit to is in the passing game, although they weren't successful on them, Auburn went deep a handful of times. Although they aren't completions, it still sticks in the back of LSU's mind. That goes a lot farther in planting that seed in the mind of the guy in the secondary. He's got to be aware that he can't be playing the run all of the time. As soon as he does, Cam (Newton) will do the little fake, the little step up, lean over and then stand up and throw it for 80 yards. Unfortunately those plays weren't completions, but if you took a poll on every secondary guy that plays for LSU that they knew that play was always a potential play, it would be 100 percent.

"I was just as proud of the defense as I was the offense. They dominated not just the game, but really showed their presence in the second half. They only gave up three first downs in the second half. That's phenomenal. They dominated the line of scrimmage. They did a great job in the secondary. They made tackles in the open field. It was a great performance by the defense, by Ted Roof, Coach (Phillip) Lolley, Coach (Tracy) Rocker, Tommy Thigpen, all of those guys. Those coaches did a great job, and they've done a great job of keeping those players' confidence up. What has impressed me about this defense is they don't care what anyone says. They are going to line up and play you. They have the attitude of 'when you get done playing us, you might have scored 40, but you are going to know you were in a fight'. If that's what is working, keep on doing it. They are undefeated. They are 8-0. That's the bottom line."

On Newton…
"Everyone knows who Cam Newton is, but you really have to understand the fact that this is a team sport and Cam will be the first one to tell you that. That's why I'm such a big advocate of what he is doing. He has absolutely kicked the door down as far as his national notoriety, but he quickly leads you to understand that this is a team sport, that the offensive line plays well, that the receivers are making down-the-field pancake blocks like Terrell Zachery, Kodi Burns, Darvin Adams, Phillip Lutzenkirchen. Then you've got a stable of running backs in Onterio McCalebb breaking one for 70, Mario Fannin getting some key runs, and then you've got the freshman (Michael Dyer) that is stopped for two-yard gain, but is a freshman who can move the pile for an additional six. That's the thing that Cam lets you know first and foremost. And that's only on the offensive side of the ball.

"He also points out the fact that the defense, aside from a fluke toss-sweep pass that accounted for 40 yards, only gave up 200 yards of total offense. That is phenomenal. Cam quickly takes a back seat. He's the total package. He knows what's in his future, but at the same time he respects and knows that he's not bigger than the jersey, he's not bigger than this program. He understands that the other guys on that football team, the other guys in that program, from the water boy all the way to the starting quarterback, everybody carries equal importance because it is the ultimate team sport."

On Newton's passing performance (10-of-16 for 86 yards)…
"Percentage-wise, that's strong. The yards weren't there, but hey, beggars can't be choosers. It goes back to the old saying of 'it if ain't broke, don't fix it'. The running game was working. They were able to get ahead of the sticks. When you can get ahead of the sticks, when you can get in a situation where it's second-and-five or less, it is a huge advantage over the defense. I don't know what the percentages were, but a predominant amount of time, Auburn was in second-and-five or less. By doing that, it gives Coach (Gus) Malzahn a much, much broader playbook that he can choose from that doesn't gamble what they are wanting to accomplish. Even if they aren't successful on that second-and-five, I'll take Cam Newton, Terrell Zachery, Darvin Adams, Philip Lutzenkirchen, Mario Fannin, Kodi Burns, Onterio McCalebb, Michael Dyer, any day of the week."

On Newton's rushing performance (28 carries for 217 yards, 2 TD)…
"He ran for 217 yards and ran slap-over another free safety. He's doing things with the football that you would expect a tailback to be able to do. He's continuing to have success through the running game. He's breaking tackles. But most importantly, he does not turn the football over. That is huge. Late in the game when you are the offensive coordinator and you are working to milk the clock, you want your most reliable hands to be on the football. Right now, those hands are the quarterback's. The most reliable hands belong to No. 2."

If Newton is the best player in college football…
"Yes. Hands down. It's not even in question....

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