Auburn Downs Ole Miss! (Grading Auburn’s 44–23 win over Mississippi)
Rebel Scum Can’t Stop Kerryon Johnson!
(John Reed-USA TODAY Sports)
War Eagle everybody! It’s time now for the Acid Reign Report on Auburn’s 44–23 home win over the Ole Miss Rebels. Last week, Auburn used the deep passing game to run out to a big lead. This week, it wasn’t necessary as a dormant running game awoke, and Auburn was able to grind out considerable yardage on the ground and via short passes against a backed-off Ole Miss defense. On offense, Ole Miss was able to complete pass after pass but kept bogging down in the red zone. Auburn ripped out to a 35–3 halftime lead and coasted home from there.
We are now halfway through Auburn’s football season, and the Tigers are 5 wins versus 1 loss and undefeated in the SEC. Auburn has wins of 37, 39 and, now, 21 points over SEC rivals. Auburn will face formidable tests in the coming weeks, traveling to Baton Rouge next weekend to take on LSU. Fortunately, that will be the CBS afternoon headliner, and Auburn will have a great chance to take down LSU in the bayou for the first time since 1999. A road trip to slumping Arkansas follows, then a bye week and another road trip to Texas A&M. A lot of folks had written the Aggies off, but they surely gave Alabama all it wanted last night.
Auburn finishes its season in November with 3 straight “amen corner” games at Jordan-Hare Stadium.
Auburn continues to introduce new facets to an offense that was stagnant early this year but has been getting stronger and stronger. Ole Miss played a lot of Tampa-2 zone defense, determined not to allow Auburn to burn it with long passes. The Rebels paid a price for that with only 6 defenders in the box. The Auburn running game gashed Ole Miss for 326 yards, with over 200 coming in the first half. When Auburn threw the ball, it was carving up a secondary underneath. Numbers fell off a bit in the second half as Auburn was content just to run the ball up the middle and use as much clock as possible with the big lead.
A couple of Auburn offensive players this week really caught my eye. The first was running back Kerryon Johnson. Still hobbled a bit by a hamstring injury, Kerryon had a career day with 204 yards on the ground and a couple of receptions for 23 yards. What doesn’t show on the stat sheet was some great blitz pickup on Johnson’s part, too. The first defender never gets Johnson down. Johnson can run over them, or around them, every time. Then, I have to tip my hat to Austin Golson on the line. He was playing left tackle at the start of this game, then had to move in to play left guard after Mike Horton was banged up. This season, Golson started at center, then moved to right tackle, then left tackle, and finished yesterday at guard. A lot of guys can’t even play one position on the line well. Golson has done it all! My favorite play that Golson had yesterday was on Ryan Davis’ 75-yard quick screen catch and run. At tackle, Golson was able to sprint all the way to the sideline and bury Davis’ defender on a reach block. That pass gains nothing if not for Golson.
Defensively, Auburn took a bit of a step back against probably the best receiving corps the Tigers have seen this season. Ole Miss was able to protect quarterback Shea Patterson, and he methodically carved up the Auburn secondary, which had to make tackle after tackle. Ole Miss attempted 51 passes on the day, and Auburn managed 1 sack and 4 quarterback hurries. Where Ole Miss got nothing done was on the ground. Auburn held the Rebels to just 83 rushing yards.
Special teams highlights included 3 field goals in the second half to account for all of Auburn’s scoring after halftime. Daniel Carlson became the all-time scoring leader in SEC history, passing Georgia’s Blair Walsh. Carlson still has at least 7 more games to pile on the points, too! Noah Igbinoghene had the first long kickoff return Auburn has managed in a while, starting the 3rd quarter with a big 70-yard return that got Auburn off to a good start.
Unit grades after the jump!
Defensive Line: B+. The highlight of line play in this game was the play of tackle Derrick Brown. Ole Miss had to double team him, and even then it had had to roll the quarterback away from Brown as he was really disruptive. Brown had 6 tackles on the day, including 2 of Auburn’s 3 tackles for loss. The message, I think, was for the line to slide and contain and not allow Ole Miss to get around the corner, and for the most part, I think they were successful. The longest Ole Miss run of the day was 26 yards, and it came in the 4th quarter against the Auburn scout team. The defensive line contributed 15 total tackles.
Linebackers: A-. The Auburn linebackers continue to do a good job of filling lanes and hunting the football down. We got to see a bit of Tré Williams back in the game, which was good to see, as the unit soldiered on. Deshaun Davis tied for the lead in tackles with 7. Linebackers were credited with 27 total tackles.
Secondary: C+. The starters in this one played decently, the reserves not so much. Last week, Auburn broke up lots of passes. This week, Nick Ruffin, Jamel Dean, Stephen Roberts and Carlton Davis had 1 pass breakup each. Ole Miss completed 34 passes in this game, which meant a lot of tackling work for the Tigers on the back end.
Punting: B. New punter Aidan Marshall punted 3 times for 41.0 yards, an average improvement of over 4 yards per punt against last week’s average. However, one touchback on a punt brought the net down to just 34 yards. Marshall hit the ball pretty high and did not allow a punt return.
Punt Returns: B. On 6 Ole Miss punts, Stephen Roberts made 3 good fair catches and returned a couple for 9 yards. Roberts took a vicious hit to the head on one return but shook it off admirably. Roberts hasn’t broken anything big this year, but he has fielded most punts and prevented punters from piling up “rolling yardage.” Roberts is a key piece in the field position battle thus far.
Kick Returns: A. Noah Igbinoghene has established himself as a serious threat in the return game with 2 returns for 87 yards, including a 70-yarder to start the second half. I expect that we will see teams start to kick away from him in the future.
Place Kicking: A+. Daniel Carlson hit all 3 of his field goal attempts and all of his extra points. Carlson has not missed an extra point in his entire career. Carlson also boomed 7 of 9 kickoffs for touchbacks. On the season, Carlson has 37 touchbacks on 43 kickoffs.
Offensive Line: A. I felt like the line improved dramatically in recent weeks in pass protection, but this week it took another step forward in terms of run blocking. Even into the second team, this unit kept the Ole Miss line off of Auburn runners. Kerryon Johnson averaged 7.2 yards per carry, Kam Martin averaged 5.6, Malik Willis 8.0, and Devan Barrett 5.0. And, Eli Stove averaged 18 yards per carry on a couple of speed sweeps. That’s some good run blocking to compile those numbers.
Running Backs: A. With Kerryon Johnson getting healthier, numbers are trending up. Auburn piled up 326 rushing yards on the Rebels and pretty much had its way on the line of scrimmage. With both running and passing games clicking, Auburn shapes up to be one of the most dangerous offensive teams in the SEC.
Receivers: A-. I counted off for a couple of dropped passes this week, but both drops were with the game well in hand. Yards per catch were down in this game, but that was by design on Ole Miss’ part. Six different receivers caught balls in this one.
Quarterback: A. The passing game wasn’t featured as much in this game, but Jarrett Stidham did hit 14 of 21 passes for 11.2 yards per pass. The torrid completion percentage of recent weeks was down a bit this week. Stidham’s average was hurt by a couple of dropped balls, and Stidham also threw a couple of balls away. That is the right thing to do, protecting a big lead. No turnovers for Stidham and the passing game this week. Halfway through the regular season, Stidham has hit 99 of 139 passes, with 7 touchdowns and only 2 interceptions. Stidham has 1,345 passing yards and is averaging 9.7 yards per pass.
I’ve seen some grumbling about Auburn giving up 23 points in this game, but I can’t be unhappy about a 3-touchdown blowout of Ole Miss. A few weeks ago, I was wondering how Auburn would get to 6 wins and a bowl game. After a shaky, turnover-plagued homecoming, Auburn has beaten 3 SEC teams by the combined score of 144 to 47. These are good times!
Next week, I see a great effort on the way from LSU. The purple tigers got waxed at Mississippi State and beaten on homecoming by Troy. But, yesterday in Gainesville, they toughed out a win against the luckiest team in football. This gives the bayou Tigers hope for the future. Personally, I think they will find Auburn’s defense a big problem. LSU relies on a lot of presnap shifting and motion. Auburn has seen a good bit of that already and hasn’t seemed fazed. If Auburn can avoid turnovers and give a good effort, I think the crowd can be quieted and a successful day had in Baton Rouge.