War Eagle, everybody. It’s time now for the Acid Reign report on Auburn’s historic 63-21 loss to the Texas A&M Aggies. Never before had any Auburn opponent scored 60 or more points in Jordan Hare Stadium. The 42 point loss tied the record for biggest margin of Auburn defeat since color television was invented. In many ways, this loss was worse than the 42-0 beat down Tennessee administered in 1980. The Aggies had 42 points by halftime, and kindly took their foot off the accelerator after producing another easy touchdown drive to open the second half.
Last week, we saw the Auburn defense perform horribly to open each half in Nashville. This week, evidently the plan was to stay at that level the entire game. Texas A&M set records against this unit, including 671 total offensive yards, a mark never reached by any other opponent in Auburn history. LSU defensive coordinator Jon Chavis showed us the way last weekend to slow down the A&M offense and force mistakes. That strategy was to utilize the corner blitz to neutralize A&M’s superior strength up front, and rattle the young Aggie quarterback. Auburn never tried such a blitz. The VanGorder answer was to blitz both linebackers off the edge. Every time Aggie quarterback Johnny Manziel saw that blitz coming, he checked to a handoff up the middle, which invariably gashed the vacated Tiger middle horribly. VanGorder stuck stubbornly to his game plan regardless, and Auburn paid the price on the scoreboard.
Earlier this week, I kind of tried to downplay the significance of Texas A&M’s powerful offensive line, easily the best Auburn has seen this season. That line completely neutralized Auburn up front, and the back seven players could do little but try to swarm down enemy ball carriers well down the field, or swat a handful of passes away. The Tigers don’t dare bring any sort of defensive back blitz, because somehow we’ve come to the point of starting two true freshmen on the outside, and we don’t trust them to play man to man. This was a team that was supposed to be deep at cornerback, but we’re starting true freshmen, which should indicate that things have gone very wrong in preparation.
Loeffler’s latest rearranging of the deck chairs.
That’s the ticket for a struggling offense. Waste valuable practice time installing even more formations, rather than focusing on execution. That play yielded an instant sack.
I can’t say that anyone was terribly surprised that the Auburn offense was once again dysfunctional. We knew that to have any chance to keep pace with Texas A&M, Auburn would have to run the ball, eat up the clock, and limit Aggie chances. Loeffler’s first crack at play calling trailing 7-0? Play action pass to tight end C. J. Uzomah. Not that we had set it up in any way with a successful running game, or anything. Clint Moseley missed the throw horribly. With 2nd and 10, Auburn removed fullback Jay Prosch, and ran Mason up the middle with no lead blocker, for only 1 yard. On 3rd and 9, Auburn motioned guys around like crazy, but no one thought to block the middle linebacker on a blitz. Moseley was ripped down by the ankle, and knocked out of the game.
On Auburn’s second possession, trailing 14-0, Auburn opened with a short side screen pass attempt to Onterio McCalebb, with a host of defenders waiting. Khiel Frazier sailed the pass wide. Then Auburn went Wildcat, with receiver Ricardo Lewis taking the direct snap and going up the gut, once again with no lead blocker. No one blocked linebacker Steven Jenkins, and Lewis gained nothing. It was then 3rd and 10 once again, and Khiel Frazier didn’t even look downfield. Right tackle Patrick Miller forgot the snap count, and didn’t even come out of his stance. An unblocked end raced in, and Frazier had to dump it well short of the first down to Trovon Reed. Then, the game was 21-0 in the first quarter, and so badly out of hand that no one had any illusions of any Auburn victory. And the Tiger offense had yet to even attempt a power run with Jay Prosch and Brandon Fulse leading it. The sad thing is that we’ve come to expect foolish play calling on offense, with no end in sight. (“And things of that nature, day to day, keep forging ahead.” And the band played on.)
It was a so-so day on special teams, with erratic kicking from Cody Parkey and Steven Clark in the swirling wind. Quan Bray returned Texas A&M’s only punt for 10 yards. Onterio McCalebb had three kick returns, but lackluster blocking produced only 18.6 yards per return.
Unit Grades, after the jump!
Defensive Line: F. The line got no pressure, filled no holes and did very little against a stout Aggie line. Most of their ten tackles were made late in the game against the Texas A&M reserves. The lone bright spot for the starters was Nosa Eguae getting the game’s lone sack on Johnny Manziel.
Linebackers: F. Texas A&M averaged 7.3 yards per carry on the day, and 8.3 yards per play. Auburn’s linebackers were schemed completely out of many plays, and offered little resistance. Texas A&M ran 71 plays, and Auburn’s starting linebackers were in on only 13 tackles, despite 48 rushing plays. Auburn had three offsides penalties on linebackers who helped keep Aggie drives alive.
Secondary: F. The Aggies spread the ball around to ten different receivers, but Auburn could not effectively cover even the two primary threats, Ryan Swope and Mike Evans. They were open underneath, and open deep. Occasionally, an Auburn DB would swat a ball away from a receiver. It didn’t matter. Someone would be found wide open on the next play for another big gain.
Punting: B-. The wind played tricks on Steven Clark’s punts, and he didn’t hit them well for the most part, but he continues to get pretty good height, and got a few lucky rolls. This game yielded 6 punts for a 40.3 yard average, with no returns. It wasn’t very pretty, but that’s a good net average.
Punt Returns: A. Auburn only forced one Texas A&M punt. Quan Bray fielded it, and got ten yards by cutting directly upfield and not messing around. If you can get a “first down” out of every punt return, you’re doing well.
Kick Returns: D+. I never thought I’d see Cody Parkey get out-kicked, but wow did A&M kicker Taylor Bertolet have a leg! However the wind did hold up several kicks by each team. Onterio McCalebb looked reluctant to even field the short ones, and he averaged only 18.6 yards per return. He probably knew that the blocking was going to be half-hearted at best. Kick returns have progressed from being a weapon early in the season, to a liability now.
Place-kicking: B. Cody Parkey hit his extra points, and I’m not going to count off for missing a 48 yard field goal attempt in that breeze. Parkey hit two of four kickoffs for touchbacks, but the two that were returned both went for 20 yards or more. Auburn’s coverage isn’t the terror it once was.
Offensive Line: C+. The sad thing in this game was that most of the line pretty much dominated their man in this game. The game plan totally failed to take advantage of that. However, we’re wildly inconsistent at right tackle. Patrick Miller will just annihilate an end on an off tackle play from time to time. Then he’s late out of his stance, or starts with the wrong foot, and turns a guy loose. He may be a really good one in the future, but right now he’s a liability. Khiel Frazier took several really hard blind side hits because of this. No Auburn running back was tackled for a loss in this game. It’s just too bad the staff didn’t lean on this line, and run the ball from the get go. Points off on a wild snap from normally stout Reese Dismukes.
Running Backs: A-. I had to count off a little on two Tre Mason pass blocking misreads, but these guys were there this game, when called on. The backs averaged 6.8 yards per carry, but were only handed the ball 13 times the whole game. The coaches dithered around the first two series, then we were already behind 21-0, and it was probably too late to go run-heavy.
Receivers: A-. Problems have become so widespread on this team that even the sure handed Emory Blake dropped a pass. However, if anything improved in this stinker of a game, it was the receivers. They blocked pretty well downfield, and got open. After Clint Moseley got hurt early, it looked like route adjustments (read: confusion generators) were taken out of the game plan. Auburn got some big passing plays on the deep square-in, when Frazier and Wallace had time to throw it. C. J. Uzomah looks like he’s trying to make the most of his opportunity, and was the primary tight end used in this game. He looks dangerous after the catch, too.
Quarterback: C+. Clint Moseley was in for only two passes before he was taken out on an ankle injury, and Khiel Frazier took several hard licks that seemed to affect him as the game went on. Frazier did look sharp throwing the ball early several times, before pass rushers were let loose to have a crowbar party on him. Frazier started the second half, and a disappointing round of boos echoed around the stadium at the decision. Down 49-7, the remaining 30,000 or so Auburn fans left in the stands wanted to see freshman Jonathan Wallace. In the second series, they got their wish. Wallace threw some crisp balls, going three for three with a 27 yard pass and run to C. J. Uzomah for his first career TD pass. A&M lifted their starters, and Wallace produced a second touchdown drive, but then Scot Loeffler began to call predominately Wildcat quarterback keepers, which Wallace converted for 71 yards on 13 carries. On the night, Wallace was 6 of 9 passing, for 122 yards and two touchdowns.
Prior to this game, I had not put any stock in the notion of starting quarterback Jonathan Wallace. This game, we finally got to see him run a bit of a passing attack, and he did pretty well. The team ran the ball far more than they threw it with Wallace in the game, so bear in mind that it’s a very small sample set against Texas A&M’s reserve defenders. Still, I’m now not sure that Wallace shouldn’t be the starter. Clint Moseley will likely be limited the rest of the year with the ankle injury, and Khiel Frazier’s accuracy problems returned as the first half wore on. The coaches say he’s only playing at 80 percent due to the shoulder injury. With Wallace in the game, Scot Loeffler was forced to simplify the offense, which was something badly needed. Should we start Wallace, and run the ball two thirds of the time, Auburn will have little difficulty dispatching New Mexico State and Alabama A&M. Against the Georgia and Alabama 3-4 schemes, it probably doesn’t matter which quarterback is in there. My vote is to get Wallace all the snaps we can, to prepare him for next season. However, if Georgia and Alabama are able to tee off on the pass rush and really pound our quarterbacks, let’s put a veteran back out there.
With the 42 point loss to Texas A&M, Auburn closes out a miserable October, having lost to Arkansas, Ole Miss, Vanderbilt, and the Aggies by a total of 84 points. At 1-7, Auburn has been mathematically eliminated from bowl contention for the first time since the 2008 Iron Bowl. November awaits, with two cupcakes and two top ten teams. At this point, I really hope the coaches put the emphasis on developing young players. Whether the coaches return next season, or not, that’s what’s in everyone’s best interest at this time.
I’ll say it again, it’s great to be an Auburn Tiger! We’ll keep supporting this team, and watching their struggles. Next week, Auburn has New Mexico State for homecoming. It’s an early game, and it will be broadcast on the CSS network. We’ll be back here at TrackEmTigers.com, with another stab at a live thread play by play. War Eagle, folks! Like my fellow fans who were in Jordan Hare Stadium till the very end, we stand un-bowed. We are Auburn family, and always will be.
Tags: Auburn Texas A&M grades football