…..Another Auburn season opener has ended, and it’s a moderately successful one for the Tigers. While the team struggled to throw the ball in the new spread offense, and the secondary had a few issues, Auburn looked like a LOT more solid ballclub, than at this time a year ago.
…..I was resigned to listening to this game on the radio, but unexpectedly, I was able to get the game on ESPN360.com, on the internet, despite warnings that the state of Alabama was blacked out. Surprisingly, AT&T delivered a better picture through the internet, than Charter does through their cable! Sound was pretty abysmal, though, and there’s about a half minute delay vs. the radio. I’m glad I have a headphone amp. What follows is a quick grade sheet, before I’ve had a chance to be influenced by coaches or media reports. Defensive Line: B+. There was dominant play from multiple folks, from Antonio Coleman, SenDerrick Marks, Antoine Carter, Tex Doolittle, Jake Ricks, Mike Blanc, and more. They got little help from linebacker blitzes, but were still able to shut ULM down on the ground, and make Lancaster’s life miserable. Even more impressive, Auburn’s ends were able to drop off into coverage, and actually be effective.
Linebackers: A-. These guys gave nothing up, and there were big plays from Tray Blackmon through Stevens, Johnson, and Evans, down all the way to Josh Bynes and Courtney Hardin. Only minus on the linebackers was that they lost the tight end underneath a bit. Luckily, the ULM tight ends were terrible catching the ball.
Secondary: C+. We had our problems, but also made plays, particularly the younger guys. Except for one big post that beat Jerraud Powers (and resulted in a drop), the safeties kept big plays from happening in the passing game. Younger DBs got a lot of action, and showed athleticism and talent, if not a great understanding of how to stay with a receiver. I think it will come together in the next couple of weeks, as long as we don’t get anyone hurt!
Punting: B-. I’m counting off a bit on consistency, but for a guy who was kicking Walmart balls a year ago, it was an amazing performance. Our coverage was good, too.
Punt Returns: A. Robert Dunn was in control, back there. Not even a hint of a fumble, and when he got a crack, he juked about 10 guys and took it to the house! Great decisions, for the most part, too.
Kick Returns: I. We got the opening kickoff, and freshman Phillip Pierre Louis seemed to have a great chance, but ran right at a defender, got popped at the 23, and didn’t return to the game. I hope he’s OK. No kickoffs after that, in the shutout.
Kickoffs: C+. We definitely got better distance than last year, even posting one touchback. Without combing stats, I’d guess we gave up in the mid-20s per return. Nothing really big, but not shut-down, either.
Place-kicking: C. No hard, or pressure kicks, and we missed a chip shot.
Offensive Line: B-. We had a handful of costly penalties on the line, a couple on Issom including a hold, some false starts, including one on 5th-year senior Jason Bosley. How does a center get a false start penalty? On the other hand, these guys opened some HOLES. And the QBs had lots of time, even on blitzes. You really didn’t see folks turned loose early. Overall, a good start against a seasoned front seven.
Receivers: C-. Same old problems, the dropped balls. Wow. Tommy Trott was supposed to be a threat, but got dominated by ULM safeties. Slaughter with drops. Rod Smith was his dynamic self, but we really didn’t have anyone step up otherwise.
Running Backs: B+. No fumbles, and nearly 300 yards. That’s particularly good, even against a Sun Belt team, when your passing game is rank! Eric Smith’s going to do some great things at Auburn, if he stays healthy! A couple of drops keep this grade out of the A range.
Quarterbacks: D+. We were lucky to be playing ULM. There were misses, bad decisions, and general standing around in the pocket. Panic and happy feet. In the end, there was only one QB turnover, but there should have been about five. If his shin is OK, I think Burns probably keeps his starting job, because he didn’t keep trying to hit wide-open white shirts. Fortunately, ULM defenders mostly can’t catch.
…..I think we’ll be OK against Southern Miss, because I think we’ll be playing a similarly overmatched team. We’ve GOT to improve in a lot of areas, though. You won’t see the “hundreds of comments” thread-bombing play-by play out of me, next week. I’ll be sitting in the stands for the Golden Eagles. Despite some bumps, we’re on track. I picked 38-13, but 34-0 is not bad, either.
…..War Eagle! And I hope to have a great time in Auburn, next Saturday!