N is for Nitwits: Nowhere is there a greater chasm of total dropoff in broadcasting than between Verne and Gary on CBS and the number two crew, Craig Bolerjack and Steve Beuerlein. It's easy to criticize broadcasters: they have to appear on television, which is instantly mockable, and then have to evaluate live events as they happen for the ears of the listening millions. They make mistakes. It happens. Conditions granted. Moving to next paragraph where we rip the innards out of them anyway.
Bolerjack and Beuerlein together got nothing--repeat, nothing--right in calling Alabama/Auburn right Saturday. They announced the temperature as "purple o'clock." They belched into live mikes and referred to Saban as "Sheila." They drew elaborate games of tic-tac-toe on the screen during plays. At one point, both fell asleep during the broadcast in the most enjoyable five minutes of the production.
None of this happened, by the way, but it would have been an improvement over what did. Bolerjack missed Ingram's short run on 4th and 1 by confidently calling out "GOT IT!" even though Ingram was clearly a full two yards short. He bellowed over much of the game pointlessly while Beuerlein got paid to say things like this: "Gilbert Arenas still gets nervous before every punt. That's amazing."
Not at all. Punt returns involve 11 men running full-speed at you, with many of them intent on shattering any bones they can get a helmet on in the process. If you're not nervous doing this in front of 90K people, you're not human. As much as Bolerjack wrestled with making sensical statements, Beuerlein was worse, suggesting things like "Auburn came to play today!" when he wasn't blandly mumbling out the box score, making declarative statements about the sun being sun-like and the air being particularly air-y, and saying that Doug Flutie completed his famous Hail Mary to Brian Brennan in 1984. Gerard Phelan probably didn't watch this game, but he wouldn't appreciate you airbrushing him out of history, Steve.
If they're calling a game I care about in the future, I'll just turn on that endless loop of dying mules I have on iTunes just for such occasions.
Bolerjack started the game by describing a 3.5 yard run by Mark Ingram as a two-yard gain. He and Beuerlein got amorous about Mount Cody's block on the Tide's first touchdown, even though Cody blocked left and Trent Richardson ran right. Beuerlein touted a "great block" from an Alabama offensive lineman on a screen pass, but on the replay, the lineman whiffed and Roy Upchurch made a nify move. Every five minutes, I found myself thinking "what would Dr. Z do with this atrocious performance?" Like Spencer, I was put off by the Chip Caray-esque "Got it!" call when Bama obviously had been stopped on a fourth and one. He also managed to identify Auburn's starting quarterback in the historic 1989 game as Gary Hollingsworth, which is probably news to Tigers' starter Reggie Slack, who played the game of his life in upsetting the #2 Crimson Tide.
I guess my issue is more with CBS than with Bolerjack and Beuerlein. They made a "Dave O'Brien calling the World Cup" decision. Bolerjack is a non-descript NFL play-by-play guy. Beuerlein is a former Notre Dame quarterback with no obvious connection to the SEC. I associate them with a forgettable Tennessee-Jacksonville 1 p.m. game that's on in Atlanta because the Georgia Dome isn't sold out and the Jags are this market's "home" AFC team. I don't associate them with the Iron Bowl. They don't know the players or coaches very well. They certainly don't know the history between the teams. This is kind of an issue when you're paying $55M annually for the right to show games. The least you can do is to find a second string announcing pairing that won't piss off the core audience by not confusing Auburn's starting quarterback with Alabama's.
1a. I'm fairly confident that Spencer Tillman is about the last person who would have sources on the Notre Dame coaching search. That said, plead G-d, let the Irish hire Brian Billick. An arrogant NFL offensive "guru" whose success came in the reflected glory of others? When hasn't that worked for Notre Dame before?
2. During the game, I wrote the following note to myself: "Julio Jones: most overrated receiver since..." He came into the game with a whopping 462 yards receiving on the year. I follow SEC football with a high degree of interest and that number surprised me as being low. Does Bama just suck at coming up with ways to get him the ball? Is this a Greg McElroy issue? In September, I thought that McElroy was a significant improvement over John Parker Wilson, but the last two months have disabused me of that notion. Anyway, McElroy did a nice job on Bama's last drive. With their backs against the wall, the Tide used Auburn's fear of Jones to hit Julio underneath several times.
3. Was I the only one who was waiting for Bama to line Mark Ingram up in the Wildcat and then throw the ball? Auburn sure looked like they were crashing down on Ingram every time he lined up to take the snap. I'd be surprised if we don't see that look on Saturday.
4. Best touch on the winning touchdown: Bama having Cody on the field, which screams "run between the tackles." Second best touch: Saban not being content with the field goal like 90% of coaches.
5. Underrated play of the game: Auburn leads 21-20 and has second and nine at the Alabama 43 with nine minutes to go. Auburn lines up, then gets their read from the sideline. At the last second, Bama suddenly changes their alignment and moves their corners up to press the Auburn receivers. Auburn runs an option to the wide side, most likely based on Bama's look before they changed at the last second. Bama throws Ben Tate for a seven-yard loss, puts Auburn into long yardage, and then gets the ball back down one with plenty of time for their Daniel Moore moment. Beautiful defensive coaching by Alabama.