War Eagle, everyone. I’m crying today, because the last realistic hope for Auburn to reach a third-tier bowl game this season went down the toilet in Vaught Hemmingway Stadium. Auburn falls in Oxford to the Ole Miss Rebels, 17-7. While I was writing this, I had my media player on shuffle mode, and this song came up. Fitting, huh? In this case, we’ve still got the blues, for Campbell, Williams, Brown, Aromashodu, Rogers, Rosegreen, McClover… A little Acid taste in tunes, on this dreary day, for you. Enjoy.
The Tigers came out flat in this early game, and we displayed more strange offensive strategy. The I formation set that was so successful in the first half of the West Virginia game, was used only on two third quarter plays. One was a 27-yard touchdown gallop for Auburn’s only points, the second was the same play, less blocking and no gain. Otherwise, Auburn ran nearly exclusively from the shotgun, with myriad handoffs into the short side of the field. Take away Tate’s bolt, and the running backs tallied just 25 yards on 15 carries.
In the second half, the coaches decided to let Burns take some shots. It was the right thing to do, even if we tossed up three interceptions. Burns will never get any better, if we don’t do that. Amazingly, we had receivers fighting for deep balls, and making plays. Very few drops, either. Burns joins some elite company, with his first 300 yard passing game as an Auburn Tiger. Auburn 300 yard passers are: Pat Sullivan, Stan White, Patrick Nix, Dameyune Craig, Ben Leard, Daniel Cobb, Jason Campbell, Brandon Cox, and now Kodi Burns. He’ll get better, and our running game will too, if we keep taking those shots.
Auburn’s defense played soft up front at times, and played way off in coverage, due to injuries. Ole Miss piled up over 200 rushing yards, and their lowest yards-per-carry average among their backs was 5.8, by Brandon Bolden. Jevan Snead made numerous poor throws, which derailed Ole Miss drives. Had the Auburn defense been playing Georgia or Alabama, they might have given up 70 points. It was, unfortunately, that bad.
Special teams got off to a shaky start, with several short punts in the 1st quarter. Ole Miss nearly got to the punter, several times. Durst kicked better as the game went on, but we had no spark on the return games, and failed to do much in coverage, despite some Ole Miss mistakes.
I don’t usually grade coaching, but our game management this time was terrible. We closed out the first half with all three time-outs left, 30 seconds left, and the ball at midfield. Had we thrown a few Hail Mary’s, at worst it would have been like a punt, and Ole Miss would have been backed up. In a game where you only score single digit points, you need every opportunity you can get. Tuberville and crew flat squandered that. After nine games, coaches, you need to get this: short-side handoffs, out of the shotgun, against eight in the box? Won’t work. Won’t ever work. Why beat up our running backs with that play? Why? I did like the decision to let Burns throw some deep balls against man coverage. And I liked how the receivers caught ‘em. Didn’t know they had it in ‘em!
Defensive Line: C. At times we got pressure, and made some run stops, at times we had all four men being stood up and driven back. Ends lost contain at times. I’m not sure that we’re playing with the same fire here, as earlier in the season.
Linebackers: F. I really don’t know how to explain how poorly these guys played. They don’t fill holes. They don’t contain to the outside. They don’t cover. They don’t pass rush. I don’t think I’ve ever seen a more confused, ineffective Auburn linebacker corps, and that includes 1998, after we had lost three starters late. If we did make a tackle here, it was usually hanging on, near the first down stake, way past the line of scrimmage.
Secondary: D+. There was some improvement over last week, especially at safety. We’re so banged up, though, that we’re just giving away the hitches, outs, and screens. Any team with an accurate quarterback can get 8-10 yards against us whenever they want to, with throws in the flats. We continue to drop sure interceptions. Passing grade is due to keeping Ole Miss from hitting the deep ball, which they’ve done to practically everyone else.
Punting: C. Our protection was spotty, our coverage missed a couple of tackles, and Durst hit several short punts early. And he dropped a snap! Still, we were good enough to bottle up Marshay Green for only 9 yards. Durst improved as the game went on, but a 40.9 yard average is sub-par in the SEC.
Punt Returns: D. We pass because we didn’t turn it over, but we didn’t block these at all. We had return men BLANKETED, with the only choice being a fair catch. We let two balls hit and roll, and pin us deep.
Kick Returns: C. Ole Miss covered well. We blocked poorly, and averaged only 17 yards per return. Bonus points on Gabe McKenzie’s recovery of the squib. We wasted that opportunity, though.
Place Kicking: A. Only a single extra point attempt here, and Wes Byrum hit it well.
Kickoffs: C+. No touchbacks, but we did kick it fairly deep. Coverage held Mike Wallace to just 15 yards per return, but with one muff, this should have been even lower.
Offensive Line: B-. I know some folks are going to question this grade, when we ran for next to nothing. It’s the scheme, though. You can’t expect a five-man line to block 8 or 9. Our line held up pretty darned well. We had one bad stretch near the end of the first half, but for the most part, our guys held up well, giving Kodi Burns time. Points off on stupid penalties.
Receivers: A-. When was the last time you saw an Auburn wide receiver catch a deep ball? 2004 SEC Championship Game? We caught a bucket full of ‘em, today. Chris Slaughter caught 8 for 131 yards. We haven’t had that kind of production in a long while! One drop by Robert Dunn in the first half, and a holding call on Tommy Trott were the main demerits. Otherwise, this was easily the best effort of the year by the receiving corps.
Running Backs: B. Excellent pass protection, but often went down with the first hit. It’s hard to give a better grade, when they only picked up 50 yards. Frankly, though, it was the scheme. We averaged 13.5 yards per carry out of the I formation, but didn’t use it but twice in the running game.
Quarterback: C+. Three interceptions, all poor throws into coverage mar this grade. Kodi did a good job of giving his receivers a chance, though, for the most part, and avoiding sacks. We’re headed in the right direction, here. Definitely. Kodi has to play, and gun it, to get better. He will.
In the end, we lost due to a lack of ability to stop the run. If it weren’t for the D-line, we’d never stop anybody. Snead kept us in the game till the end, with bad throws. We got McFadden hurt, and now I think our only healthy corners are Harry Adams and D’Antoine Hood. I can understand playing hurt, and hobbled. The linebacker corps, though, really need to step it up, and play better. We have used small linebackers for most of this decade, and it only works when they are aggressive, and use good tackling technique.
It’s time to get back to work, and get ready for homecoming. Hopefully, we can break a four game losing streak, the second longest in the Tuberville administration. War Eagle, everybody. It’s great to be an Auburn Tiger! Enjoy the music. At least something good came out of this blog, today!