A fabulous catch and run by Seth Williams!
(Photo: Rogelio V. Solis, AP.)
War Eagle everybody! It’s time now for the Acid Reign Report on Auburn’s wild 35-28 win over the Ole Miss Rebels. A grinding ground game shootout nearly got away when a tiring Auburn defense gave up a go-ahead touchdown and extra point in the late going, then Auburn nearly muffed away a controversial kickoff. The Tigers put together a last ditch offensive drive for a score and a two-pointer, then the defense held off the Rebels for the win.
While Auburn did win the game, there was a lot to worry about in the coaching department. After a slow start by both teams, it had begun to look like the last team with the ball would win the game by the time Auburn got the ball back with 3:35 left in the half. Even better, Auburn was set to receive the second half kickoff. It was a great opportunity to possibly go up by 2 scores. Instead, for the second week in a row, Auburn piddled away the 2nd quarter clock without producing anything, and 2 timeouts still in their pocket.
Ole Miss can complain about the officiating all they want, but Auburn was robbed of a second half kick return touchdown by a phantom holding call. Backed up to the 20, Auburn could only make it to midfield before trying to punt back to Ole Miss, and having a muffed punt snap and giving Ole Miss the ball at the Auburn 24 yard line. This was just a collosal waste of potential on 2 consecutive drives.
Much has been made of the kickoff in the 4th quarter that may or may not have been touched by Auburn’s Shaun Shivers. This is one of my pet peeves on kickoffs for a long time. We routinely see balls kicked into the endzone and lie on the turf, and everyone walks away. By rule, that is still supposed to be a live ball till someone downs it or the kicking team recovers. Instead, both players and referees have gotten lazy, and have been just letting the ball lie. I would like to see Auburn shore this up, and make sure the ball is secure. Don’t walk away till it is marked down! Ole Miss lost out on a touchdown because the refs had blown the play dead, on what should have still been a live ball. On a side note, Auburn muffed 2 kickoffs deep, and lived to tell the tale. That is certainly the sort of thing that can lose a game.
I was stunned that Ole Miss did not try to throw more against the Auburn secondary. Perhaps it was the wet conditions, or maybe Ole Miss coach Lane Kiffin wanted to protect his suspect defense via ball-control. Running the ball worked well for the Rebels, as they were able to keep Auburn off balance on defense and kept the Auburn offense on the sidelines for long stretches. As much as I’ve complained about Auburn strategy, some of Kiffin’s plan blew up during the game, as well. There was a forced pass picked off in the end zone early, where Ole Miss could have just thrown the ball away and taken an easy 3 points. Then after failing to convert Auburn’s muffed punt snap, Ole Miss tried a fake field goal and didn’t make it. If Ole Miss had just taken the points on those 2 opportunities, it might have been a whole different ball game.
The Auburn offense continues to improve, but was not without issues once again. Line play is a lot better, and Auburn did damage on the ground. For the most part, Bo Nix was much better throwing the ball this week, and with one exception, did not force the ball into tight coverage. I can still quibble about some of his hand-it-or-give-it decisions on the ground game. When Ole Miss got a free defender in the backfield, that defender was taking the running back EVERY time. One thing I did like was Auburn’s use of the triple wide receiver look this game against the Ole Miss zone coverage. Auburn would have 2 receivers run the coverage off deep, while Seth Williams would stop at the stake and get an easy toss for a first down. Auburn will have to eventually show willingness to throw to the deeper guys, especially facing a mostly man-to-man defense like LSU will likely show Saturday.
Defensively Auburn is still having trouble covering tight ends and backs out of the backfield. Fortunately, Ole Miss didn’t even throw much to their backs. Tight end Kenny Yeboah was a big issue, and Auburn was fortunate that Yeboah dropped the next to last Ole Miss pass, or he might have scored. Auburn failed to cover him on a hail-Mary situation. It is also highly concerning to give up 283 rushing yards in a game. Auburn did bite the bullet and played some of the younger back-seven players, who really need the experience. The defense has had to play a lot of long stretches this year, and if the defense can’t get off the field, depth is sorely needed.
Auburn had been having trouble fielding punts, and made the switch at return man to veteran Eli Stove. I don’t think Stove is as elusive a return man as Tutt is, but he did field both of his opportunities and kept the ball from rolling dead inside the ten. The rest of the special teams units had been really solid this year, till this game. Auburn put 2 kickoffs on the ground, and had muffed extra point and punt snaps.
Unit grades after the jump!
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