AUBURN, Ala. – One by one they filed to the lectern after the 48-3 beating and each one had their own “explanation.”
Each answer was different but they all drank out of a glass that was half full.
It didn’t matter which stat was used against them, or which play failed, each explanation was almost the same.
Despite suffering their worst defeat in 55 weeks, four players and coach David Elson searched for ways to spin a positive message.
They started with the first half. After trailing at halftime 38-0, morale could have been low. Somehow it wasn’t.
“We wanted to win the second half,” quarterback Justin Haddix said. “We wanted it to be 0-0 and we wanted to win the second half.”
But the only way Western could have won the second half was if Auburn coach Tommy Tuberville got 11 of the 85,046 orange crazies from the crowd. Because even with the Tigers’ third string units in, they still won the second half.
Next up to the mic was defensive tackle Chad Kincaid. Apparently there wasn’t a problem with Auburn kicking a 57-yard field goal with three seconds left in the first half – after taking two timeouts in the last 17 seconds of the half – to make the score 38-0.
Even in a close game most teams take a knee, but Kincaid didn’t seem surprised – or upset – with Auburn’s decision.
“I didn’t think he made it because I was on the sideline,” said Kincaid, who must’ve not heard the crowd cheering after the ball easily cleared the crossbar.
“Well, I don’t really know how they play this big-time football. I guess they’re trying to look good for the other teams they play.”
But the worst part is this isn’t a surprise. Each week, players and coaches from every team tailor their comments to fit the respective opponent.
Coaches want their players believing they can beat anybody. It doesn’t matter if it’s a flag football team or a I-A school.
Defensive coordinator Don Martindale was visibly concerned, at least on the outside, the week of the West Virginia Tech game because Tech’s running back had made a habit of stamping his name all over the stat sheet.
Martindale described Kalem McRae as “not a power running back but he is a slasher, and if he gets out in the open field, he can hurt us.”
McRae is probably a fine back but he isn’t in the category of runners who can “hurt” Western. Martindale was probably trying to avoid bulletin board material because in Western’s 67-3 win Sept. 6, McRae managed 16 yards on 14 carries. Just a sparkling performance.
More often than not, coaches and players will shy away from saying what they really mean to keep from giving the other team something they can use against them.
And it’s not just Western’s personnel.
Tuberville couldn’t have been serious when he talked to reporters after Saturday’s game.
“We were concerned about these guys,” Tuberville said of Western. “They are not big but they’re really quick. We were scared to death. They have played really well all year and haven’t given up a touchdown. Our coaches did a good job of convincing our guys of what they needed to do.”
Why even bother saying that? Keep in mind Tuberville’s boys just out-gained Western by 404 yards. And his starting lineup played less than a half.
Give me a break.
Keith Farner is a sports columnist and sports editor for the Herald. He can be reached at [email protected]