By Dr. John Huang
Auburn 29, Kentucky 13
When the Kentucky-Auburn football game was first announced on the schedule a couple of years earlier, I marked it down as a game you had to see in person. Jordan-Hare Stadium—the 10th largest on-campus stadium in the country—with 87,000 rabid fans in attendance was perched near the top of any SEC visitor’s bucket list.
The Coronavirus Pandemic, however, put all plans on a temporary hold. For a while, no one even knew if the game would be played. Once the decision came down, though, I knew I had to be there come hell or high water…Be careful what you wish for.
The setting was eerie
I’m told that on a normal game day, the “loveliest village on the plains” swells by an additional 100,000 citizens. Not so today. The streets to the stadium had no traffic whatsoever. Outside the front gates, however, were 16,000 or so Auburn students—up early, packed together with no social distancing and very few masks, awaiting their turn to pass through security. Once inside the stadium, spread out at 20 percent capacity, their presence was still surprisingly impressive and LOUD!
The bogus no call on Chris Rodriguez’s touchdown
You saw it on the TV replays. We all saw it in the press box. Why didn’t the refs see it? Seems like Kentucky always gets it share of incredulous game-changing calls. With Rodriguez’s body clearly over the goal line, the ball had to have broken the plane. That missed call at the end of the half was the difference in the ball game.
Auburn quarterback Bo Nix lived up to his billing. Last year’s SEC Freshman of the Year often made it look easy against Kentucky’s much ballyhooed secondary. Remember that the 6’2” 213-pound sophomore set freshman records for attempts, completions, yardage, and TDs last season. He picked up today right where he left off, completing 16 of 27 passes for 233 yards, 3 touchdowns, and no interceptions. His ability to scramble and make tacklers miss was beyond frustrating for Brad White’s unit.
Auburn wide receivers are really good
Auburn’s Seth Williams is the kind of receiver Kentucky is looking for—a guy who can step up and make plays when needed. His two spectacular endzone grabs were just part of his 6-catch, 112-yard, 2-touchdown day at the office. Cats receiving corps performed well today—but they need playmakers like Williams in the worst way.
Good Terry, Bad Terry
Coming into the season, Terry Wilson’s return from his patellar injury was the game’s biggest story. Overall, he performed decently, showing minimal effects from his year of inaction. Stat wise, he was 24 of 37 for 239 yards and a touchdown. However, his interception at the end of the half and that critical fumble on Kentucky’s potential go-ahead drive left a sour taste in everyone’s mouth. A lot of good to build on, but the jury is still out on this one.
Physicality and Turnovers
All week, Kentucky’s coaches and players spoke of imposing their physical will on their opponents and limiting turnovers. Although Kentucky outgained Auburn in total yards 384 – 324, neither the offense or the defense did anything to earn gold stars or steak dinners in those categories.
Ultimately, a couple of key plays–a missed call, a fumble, a holding penalty, and an unsuccessful fake punt attempt ruined the party.
It’s going to be a long drive back tonight.