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Auburn Comes Up Short Against Georgia (Grading Auburn’s 21–14 loss to Georgia)

By on November 17th, 2019 in Football 20 Comments »

Auburn’s freshman quarterback almost saved the day.
(AP Photo/John Reed.)

     War Eagle everybody. It’s time now for the Acid Reign Report on a tough 21–14 loss to the Georgia Bulldogs. Despite holding Georgia to just 251 yards of offense, Auburn managed only a couple of late touchdowns and had to try to pull to a tie near the end of the game. It was said before the game that the Tigers would have to run the ball effectively to win this game. Unfortunately, they finished with just 84 yards on the ground.

     It was certainly a punters’ duel in the first half. Aside from one blown coverage, Auburn shut Georgia down and appeared to be headed to halftime only a single touchdown behind. Instead, some questionable strategy backfired. Earlier, Auburn erred on the side of conservatism, missing a 47-yard field goal instead of trying to pick up the first down. Late in the half, Auburn had Georgia pinned deep with about a minute and a half to go. Georgia handed off and appeared to be willing to run the clock out on the half. Despite the Bulldogs gaining over 5 yards on the play, Auburn called timeout, hoping to get the ball back one more time. There was little to gain by that strategy as Georgia still would have been able to run the clock down under a minute before punting, and the Auburn offense was struggling mightily. The next play, Auburn gambled on an all-out A-gap blitz. Unfortunately, Georgia had a quick outside pitch called, and no one from Auburn had contain on the edge. Georgia picked up a big chunk of yards and marched smartly downfield against a dazed Auburn defense to take a 14–0 lead into halftime. The timeout call was especially risky as Georgia was also going to get the ball first to start the second half.

     Auburn stopped Georgia twice in the 3rd quarter, but the 3rd time was the charm for the Bulldogs. Auburn’s defense had some miscues, being flagged for personal fouls twice on the drive, and tried to cover 3 receivers with 1 man near the goal line. Georgia had an easy short screen pass completion with 2 blockers out front and got its 3rd touchdown of the day.

     Down 21–0 to start the 4th quarter, Auburn finally started running some hurry-up offense. The result was a long touchdown drive. Auburn appeared to recover an onside kick attempt, but the officials reviewed the play and added a penalty that was not called on the field for an illegal block. I was furious, as I didn’t think a penalty could be assessed after the fact. Unfortunately, I was wrong. There are a few penalties that can be added on review. Those include targeting, number of players on the field, illegal touching on pass plays, players offside on kicking plays, and the one that got Auburn, blocking before a kickoff travels 10 yards.

     Georgia was only able to run about a minute off the clock before giving it back to Auburn. Tigers hurried up again and scored quickly. Georgia again went 3 and out, helping Auburn with 2 clock-stopping incomplete passes. Auburn got the ball back with 6 minutes left and plenty of time for a tying touchdown. The drive stalled on a not great throw and not-caught-on-4th-down play. Auburn got the ball back a last time but after burning all of its timeouts and forcing Georgia to go 3 and out again. A trio of incomplete passes and a sack ended the day for the Tigers. A good defensive and special teams day was wasted.

Unit grades after the jump!

Defensive Line: B+. The line did a fine job against a really tough offensive line for the most part. I thought Auburn lost the outside edge a few times and picked up some penalties that kept Georgia drives alive. The line tallied 15 total tackles, including 6 by Derrick Brown.

Linebackers: B-. I felt like Kenny Britt had a good day, but the rest of the linebackers were largely neutralized by Georgia blocking. Linebackers made just 7 total tackles all day, 6 of them by Britt.

Secondary: A-. I counted off for a couple of costly coverage busts that awarded Georgia 14 points, but this group covered well and made tackles. The secondary had 32 total tackles and several passes broken up.

Punting: A. Arryn Siposs had a busy day, punting 7 times for a 45.1 yard average, with 3 killed inside the Georgia 20. Auburn’s coverage allowed no punt-return yards.

Punt Returns: A-. Christian Tutt made only 1 mistake, fielding a ball at the 6-yard line, but he returned it out over the 20 yard line, so there was no harm done. Tutt was able to return 3 punts for 43 yards and helped field position on those returns.

Kick Returns: n.a. Georgia’s Rodrigo Blankenship booted the ball deep, and Auburn did not have the opportunity to return any kickoffs.

Place Kicking: A. All of Anders Carlson’s kickoffs made the end zone. Georgia foolishly tried to run one out, and got dumped by Auburn’s coverage team at the 20. I did not count off for the missed 47-yard field goal. The decision to try that field goal in that situation goes on the coaches.

Offensive Line: B. Auburn actually got some push in the middle at times and pass protected pretty well. Georgia was running some really unorthodox looks on defense, and Auburn was unable to take advantage strategically. Bo Nix was sacked twice and hurried only once, according to the stat sheet.

Running Backs: C. Auburn had only a little success running right at Georgia. This worked because a lot of the time, Georgia was only rushing 2 or 3 linemen and dropping everyone else out in coverage/contain mode. That strategy kept Auburn from having much success on sweeps. When Auburn did start showing a commitment to run up the gut, Georgia would send a run blitz and force Auburn into 2nd and 3rd and long situations.

Receivers: B. Had a few dropped passes, but not many, considering that the Tigers threw 50 passes. Seth Williams had a great day, facing a good secondary.

Quarterback: B-. My main critique of Bo Nix this week was the tendency to run out of the pocket. I still think he is leaving his protection too early at times. Georgia did all it could to rattle Nix with weird looks, faking big blitzes and mixing up coverages. I did count off for the lost fumble but have to question the coaches for the decision to run several quarterback draws this week with only 1 other scholarship quarterback on the roster. When finally allowed to operate at pace in the 4th quarter, Nix made plays. Nix scored the first touchdown on the ground that Georgia has allowed all year.

     It was a disappointing loss, because Auburn could have won the game with better decisions from the sideline. I have to give Georgia credit for playing tough in a hostile venue against a tough team. I’ll be interested to see what that defense does with LSU in a few weeks.

     I noticed some “fake news” while I was hunting through Google Images today. I saw a post uploaded to YouTube stating that a Georgia photography intern was paralyzed from a collision on the sideline. I wanted to assure everyone that the post is not true. We were all pretty horrified at the time, especially with the precautions the medical staff took. The young lady was discharged from East Alabama Medical Center Saturday night with bruises and a concussion. I am glad it was not more serious.

     Sometimes we forget that football is a violent game and that there are occasionally consequences, even to those on the sideline. Count me among those who is very sad about the dislocated hip suffered by Alabama quarterback Tua Tagovailoa Saturday. I love to see Auburn beat Alabama in any sport, but I also respect its football team and players. My sympathy goes out to a great player and an even better person. May he make a full recovery!

20 Comments

  1. Sullivan013 Sullivan013 says:

    I second the expression of sadness for a worthy athlete and competitor like Tua going down to such a devastating injury. Bo Jackson’s professional career was tragically cut short by a similar mishap, so no true Auburn Fan would dare revel in such an horrific event.

    Prayers for a full and speedy recovery for the young man.

  2. zotus zotus says:

    Acid, do you remember back last December when Auburn folks were astonished to see Ol’ Gus bring in the still wet-behind-the-ears Kenny Dillingham, and very inexperienced Carnell Williams to (supposedly) beef-up, coach-up and fire-up Auburn’s impotent offense?

    And, do you remember what did Ol’ Gus did next? Well, he tried to comfort the concerned Auburn folks by announcing that he (Ol’ Gus) was going to (personally) take control of the offense … and, he (Ol’ Gus) said we were going to see a “New Gus” from now on. And, Ol’ Gus said, “I’m best when I call the plays.”

    Apparently, what we’re seeing this year is the best that Gus Malzahn (the offensive coach) has got to give.

    So, fast forward to Amen Corner, what does Gus Malzahn (the Head Coach) have to say about the under-performing Auburn offense as we near the end of the 2019 season?

    “Well, the offense is a work in progress,” said Gus Malzahn (the Head Coach) on 11/17/2019 — right after Auburn’s 3rd straight loss to UGA. Yes, that’s what he said folks.

    P.S. But, Ol’ Gus went on to say he was proud of the Auburn defensive performance. (Well, aren’t we all.)

    P.P.S. We are going to look back to the great defenses that Auburn has had the last few years and shake our heads with regret over the wasted opportunity. Keep hope alive. WDE!

  3. Acid Reign Acid Reign says:

    ….I can’t disagree. I sure hoping offensive ineptitude doesn’t doom us against Bama with a caretaker backup QB running the Bama show.

  4. easyedwin easyedwin says:

    this one was painful. But,,,,,,not as painful as the LSU loss.

  5. neonbets says:

    Malzahn’s timeout at the end of the half was terribly inept. The offense was struggling. He had no reason to think that getting the ball back with a minute left was going to be a positive result. It’s a joke that he commands the salary he receives.

    I thought the first FG miss was significant, not only for the loss of 3 pts, but also b/c it gave UGA good field position and allowed them to keep Auburn pinned.

    Nix, again, was not very good. Regardless of one’s opinion on play-calling, Nix keeps missing open receivers. No play calling is going to be effective without adequate execution.

    Gus Malzahn with Bo Nix is like Gus Malzahn with Sean White. Only, instead of throwing 40 shovel passes a game (as he did with White), Malzahn has Nix throwing 40 quick-outs (or slants). Hell, I’m almost happy Nix was sacked to end the game. Had there been time for a Hail Marry, Malzahn would have dialed up a ‘Hail Quick Slant’.

    We’ve all been here for too long now. Malzahn and his singular, obsessive game-plans. His refusal to adapt. On Saturday—once again–he was like the character in that Police song from the 80s.

    Every breath you take
    You’ll be throwing a Quick Slant

    Forget the ‘Gus Bus’. Malzahn is the ‘Hammer Head’. When all you have is a hammer, everything looks like a nail Quick Slant.

  6. audad says:

    Well done Acid as always. Glad to see you point out the ludicrous timeout Gus called late in the first half that ultimately helped GA score their 2nd TD after they had pretty much shown a willingness to let the clock run out and go in with their 7-0 halftime lead. That was his second huge blunder of the quarter. The back to back plays that were called on 3rd and 3 and then 4th and 3 inside the GA 40 yard line were inexplicable. For a supposed offensive genius, the guy too often comes across as clueless. And wasn’t it incredible that in the 4th qtr on the scoring drives on at least two occasions Nix found a wide open receiver 20-25 yds downfield right in the middle of GA’s coverage. Only time those plays were called the entire game. Incredible.

    My son tells me smoke is billowing out of Auburn this morning with rumors of Auburn and Arky possibly doing a mutual deal to move Gus back to his home state. I’ve resisted jumping off the bus over the past few years, and it hasn’t been easy. But this year has been terribly frustrating and this team could be possibly 10-0 or easily 9-1 with better coaching and a little better execution on the offensive side of the ball.

    • friedca friedca says:

      The only way I would think it is smart to get rid of Malzahn right now is if there was some sort of “share the cost” with another team. Was reading an article this weekend that said if Malzahn is fired without cause before the end of the 2020 season, it would be the biggest buyout in college football history. Same article said that Jetgate was the catalyst for all these large buyout clauses. If they are going to fire him, it has to be done with a way to save money, otherwise this is not going to look good for the university.

  7. wde1988 wde1988 says:

    Great write up! It was horrible news about bama's QB. Nobody likes to see a young man get hurt. It probably should be said more for those that have never played it but are too blind to see… football IS a VERY dangerous sport indeed.

    I read on drudge that Gary Danielson took some flack over his coverage of the injury to the young lady on the side lines. I appreciate the update on her status. That gal was out cold for a couple of minutes. You could look at her and tell she was scared to death.

    Now, about Auburn outcome on Saturday's game with our oldest rival… I am not happy. Not so much just because we lost. To me it's the WAY we loss.

    Based on what I see, it is obvious the offense has been neglected for awhile. Yeah, the play calling stinks. For three quarters we did nothing but punt… with a single field goal miss… and that was it. Gus couldn't figure out how to jump start his offense. Then all of a sudden, it's like he backed into the first touchdown. He looked as surprised as UGA's defense.

    WDE

  8. WDE7385 WDE7385 says:

    WAR EAGLE, EVERYBODY.
    I’m disappointed. At one time it was “4 yards and a cloud of dust” but, apparently, 4 wide outs and run up the middle is supposed to work better (some how?).

  9. Acid Reign Acid Reign says:

    …..Just for the record, I think the quick slant pass is a great recipe for easy throws, and backing linebackers out of the box so you can run it. It’s not going to help you on 3rd and long. You need to call those plays on first down. Georgia’s defensive strategy was amazing, I thought. They showed massive blitz to the young quarterback, then backed out of the box on most downs and covered and pursued. Well done, I say. Auburn didn’t have much of an answer till late.

    • neonbets says:

      Of course a quick slant has its purpose. I can say the same thing about every play in the playbook.

      UGA was able to come up with the strategy because any review of Malzahn’s offense in 2019 suggested an over-reliance on quick slants. Malzahn had the exact same ineffective strategy against UF, and LSU. Quick, conservative throws—over and over.

      It didn’t take longer than the 1st quarter to sniff out the UGA game-plan. Even the CBS announcers—early in the 2nd qtr—questioned Malzahn’s lack of response.

      As for the Auburn comeback….Come on–Malzahn didn’t change tactics–not even close. It was UGA that changed tactics— to a soft zone. Only in desperation mode–down 21-0 in the 4th qtr against a prevent defense did Malzahn finally change course.

      • zotus zotus says:

        Of course your comments about the 2019 UGA game are on target here, neobets, they are spot on.

        And, of course, anybody who had hooked up an old VCR to the TV broadcast of any football game that Auburn has played — since Gus Malzahn became HC in 2013 — has the data to do a similar analysis. Doing the analysis with just the limited view you get of things from a commercial broadcast ain’t rocket science, but if you turn the TV sound off, and concentrate on the TV video feed, you can get a better look at what’s going on than the folks standing on the sidelines at field level.

        Anyway, just imagine the detailed analysis folks could do if they had the coach’s game-film, where you can see everything and everybody, about every play, from every angle possible.

        Now, that’s what CGM has when he gets the Auburn offense ready to play UGA. And, that’s what CKS has when he gets the Auburn defense ready to play UGA.

        It’s called coaching. But, UGA has coaches too. UGA coaches have game-film too. Coach Kirby Smart took his game-film and he got his offense and his defense ready to play Auburn. For 60 minutes.

        What happened against UGA is that Gus Malzahn was over-matched going against Kirby Smart. Kevin Steele was not over-matched going against Kirby Smart.

        It ain’t rocket science, it’s head-to-head competition. It ain’t High School football. It’s SEC football.

        Keep hope alive. WDE!

  10. Acid Reign Acid Reign says:

    …..On the injured young lady on the sideline, TV didn’t give us much of a view on that one. The view from the poorly positioned press box was probably worse. We really saw nothing on TV about the collision, just that the stretcher and back-board was being brought into play. I am glad she’s ok, and I am really stoked that she can’t wait to get back on the sideline and keep covering the Bulldogs! I always admire those that jump back into the saddle after adversity.

  11. MyAuburn MyAuburn says:

    OK, let me see if I can read between the lines of Acid's column.
    We have a coach (offensive genius they say) who can't call plays
    A quarterback who can't hit open receivers and sh***s his pants if a defensive player gets close to him
    No backup quarterback to speak of
    A defense that makes losses look better than they are.

    Hmmmm, if it looks like a duck etc. etc

  12. Tigers5711 says:

    Of course all Auburn fans were excited and amazed at the 4th quarter comeback attempt. Over the last 10 years Gus has recruited 3 fine/great qbs Cam, Marshall & Stidham. The other 5 years Gus has recruited duds and we’ve had dismal seasons as a result 2011, 2012, 2015, 2016 & 2019. That is not the case with GA, Bama & LSU etc. Maybe Nix has great potential but as of now he’s proven to not be ready to play big time SEC football. I blame Gus 100% for telling us about great quarterbacks he’s recruited but have not panned out. We do have a fine defense but WHY WHY do we nearly always call pass plays that go to Seth Williams right on the sideline where he many times has to go out of bounds to make the reception which of course do not count. Sorry about Tua as well but now we may have some semblance of a chance as I have a friend driving from Dallas to attend the game.

  13. Acid Reign Acid Reign says:

    ….Two weeks from now we face the best bunch of receiver/runner collection of talent we have seen all season. No time to go into a shell, for sure.

    …..On a different front, I’ve been hearing all day how much trouble Auburn was going to have with Patriot League Champion Colgate tonight, in Auburn Arena. Nope. Auburn leads Colgcate 80-47 with 6:24 left in the ball game.

  14. Acid Reign Acid Reign says:

    …..Colgate. My favorite toothpaste, but not more than an exercise for this basketball team.

  15. Acid Reign Acid Reign says:

    …..Auburn beats Colgate, 91-62. Tigers are 5-0 in basketball, first such start in the Bruce Pearl era! War Eagle!

  16. easyedwin easyedwin says:

    Get Cord ready for Samford. Let him play the entire second half. We may need him in the Iron Bowl.

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