Auburn Exterminates the Hornets! (Grading Auburn’s 63-9 Victory Over ASU)
Anthony Schwartz breaks away!
(AP Photo/Vasha Hunt)
War Eagle everybody! It’s time now for the Acid Reign Report on Auburn’s home opening 63–9 win over Alabama State. Things looked a little shaky early as Auburn took the opening kickoff and went 3 and out. On Auburn’s second possession, the Tigers lost a fumble in the red zone. After that, points came in torrents, and Auburn ran away with the game as expected.
I have to give a shout-out to the Hornets. They came in seriously outmanned at most spots but put up the good fight. Well into the Auburn depth chart, the Tigers were just stronger and faster than the ASU squad. Auburn emptied the bench and was still moving the ball and stifling ASU drives well into the 4th quarter. The Tigers didn’t throw the ball much, relying on a run-heavy attack. This was by design to work on that portion of the offense after a less than stellar effort against Washington the week before.
There were a number of good things that happened on offense, starting with offensive line play. I was wondering how Auburn’s interior line would hold up against 373-pound nose tackle Christian Clark. Kaleb Kim kept his shoulders square and was able to neutralize the big man most of the time. If there was a concern with the line, it was injuries. Both guys on the right side, Mike Horton and Jack Driscoll, had to leave the game with injuries. With LSU coming up next weekend, that’s a big concern. The good news is that Austin Troxell and Calvin Ashley came in and did a good job. My only other offensive concern was lost fumbles, 3 of them on offense.
Defensively, no Auburn player was credited with more than 4 tackles in this game. The reason for that is that Auburn went deep into the depth chart and was substituting liberally on defense. There is weirdness on the stat page for this game. Auburn was credited with only 4 sacks, but I seem to remember ASU quarterbacks on the ground in the backfield more than that. Also, ASU was not credited with even a single sack, although I surely remember Malik Willis being sacked for a safety near halftime. I’m guessing a walk-on statistician put this package together!
Special teams were a mixed bag. Anders Carlson was perfect in the first half, nailing every extra point and booting 4 touchbacks on 6 attempts. On the pair that was returned, it looked like they were deliberately kicked short to work on coverage. And work was needed! Auburn allowed Ezra Gray to take one to the house, but that was erased by a penalty. Auburn only punted twice, with one average punt and one pooched just inside the ASU 20. On punt returns, 2 balls were muffed, including one lost by Griffin King late in the game.
Unit grades after the jump!
Defensive Line: A. This unit dominated. Other than a couple of offsides flags, there was little to complain about. Auburn lived in the Hornet backfield and contained things very well. Initial scouting reports indicated that quarterback Darryl Pearson was a big threat running the ball, and he finished with 7 yards on 4 carries.
Linebackers: A. These guys swallowed runners up, strung plays out wide, and played very well. Darryl Williams had a pass breakup as did Kenny Britt. Auburn allowed Alabama State just 47 rushing yards and 1.3 yards per carry.
Secondary: B+. There were a very few coverage busts, but Alabama State was unable to capitalize as balls were dropped or the receiver was run down by a much speedier Auburn secondary. Daniel Thomas showed a good nose for the ball with 2 interceptions, including a pick six. Auburn was able to get a lot of young guys playing time in this game, which bodes well for the future. Auburn is young in the secondary, but there is a lot of talent there. For the game, Auburn allowed just 5.4 yards per pass.
Punting: C+. Arryn Siposs only punted twice in this one. The first punt was a high, unreturnable 40-yard punt. The second was a pooch punt that only went 36 yards and was downed on the ASU 16-yard line. It would have been nice to see a few more yards on the second one. ASU’s punter hit several punts of over 50 yards.
Punt Returns: C. Fumbling a punt away is one of the most crippling things a team can do, and Auburn dropped 2 punts on the ground, losing 1. I’m not terribly worried that a walk-on down the depth chart dropped one. What worries me is when starter Ryan Davis does. Jordyn Peters and Christian Tutt got a chance to return balls and had returns of 12 and 32 yards, respectively.
Kick Returns: B+. Alabama State kicked to Noah Igbinoghene once, and Igbinoghene ripped out for 27 yards and was close to going all the way. ASU did not kick to him again. I really enjoyed watching them try a pooch kick, once. Usually, an upback handles those, and the ball usually winds up being spotted where it landed. This time, Spencer Nigh caught the ball, bulled forward for 14 yards, and gave Auburn great field position.
Place Kicking: A. I counted off a small amount for coverage issues. Anders Carlson delivered on everything that was asked of him, and I enjoyed seeing Ian Shannon getting in some kicking work in the 2nd half. Shannon did well, too.
Offensive Line: A. Auburn did allow a sack for a safety, but that wasn’t on the line. It was a zone-read play where a defensive end was deliberately left unblocked. Even having to replace a couple of starters during the game, the Auburn line had no penalties, did not “officially” give up a sack, and paved the way for Auburn to pile up 429 yards on the ground.
Running Backs: B. Lost fumbles are a concern, especially by JaTarvious Whitlow, who is likely to get a lot of carries in coming weeks. Auburn got runs of more than 10 yards out of 6 different backs. Auburn had 5 touchdown runs by 5 different players out of the backfield. I liked seeing backup H-backs such as Spencer Nigh and Robert Muschamp getting to play a lot, and both did pretty well.
Receivers: A-. Opportunities were limited in this game. The stat page shows no dropped balls, but I distinctly remember Auburn’s first drive being stopped by a dropped slant pass. Anthony Schwartz burst onto the scene in a big way with 3 receptions and a long touchdown. Schwartz also had a 23-yard touchdown run on a jet sweep. Ryan Davis added 3 catches before being benched early in favor of the younger guys.
Quarterback: B. This wasn’t Jarrett Stidham’s best day, hitting 6 of 11 passes. There were a few missed throws, which is quite uncharacteristic of Stidham. Stidham had a single touchdown pass and a touchdown run. I enjoyed getting to see Cord Sandberg and Devin Adams play some quarterback late. Sandberg rushed for 35 yards on 3 carries and hit Matthew Hill for a 22-yard gain on his single pass attempt.
I know that most people groan when these sorts of games are scheduled, but with the 12-game season, I don’t mind playing one FCS team per year. Really, everybody wins on these deals. The starters get some rest, and the hard-working backups and scout teamers get to get on the field. The FCS team gets a big-time experience and takes home a big paycheck. And of course, those 63–9 scores look good on the stat sheet.
All eyes now turn to LSU, who visits Auburn next Saturday on the CBS game of the week. I caught a few snaps of LSU’s 31–0 victory over Southeastern Louisiana. It did not look like an inspired performance, especially on offense. LSU managed just 335 total yards, and Joe Burrow was just 10 of 20 passing. Still, we Auburn fans certainly know what it looks like when our team sleep-walks through a cupcake game. The lackluster effort will mean nothing in next week’s clash. I expect an all-out slugfest. Here’s hoping the Auburn offensive line is healthy and ready to do battle!