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Auburn “holds on” in Manhattan

By on September 19th, 2014 in Football 30 Comments »
USA Today Sports

My instincts told me that I should be worried. Primetime game, on the road in unknown territory, against a relatively unknown opponent, along with a key loss in safety Jermaine Whitehead – it was set up for failure from the start. But who knew our troubles wouldn’t come on defense, but instead on the offensive side of the ball?

Let’s start with a positive note, shall we?
Ellis Johnson and the Tigers’ defensive front managed to hold the Wildcats to just 40 yards on 30 carries in last night’s matchup – an impressive feat to say the least. Especially considering the Tigers were forced to contain QB Jake Waters all night, as he posed a serious threat to tuck the ball and run for a quick draw play due to his bulky frame and overall ability to make plays happen with his feet.

Defensive Player of the Game: Trovon Reed
In what was, in my opinion, his best game in an Auburn jersey, Trovon Reed looks as if he’s finally found his role on the team – and I’m thrilled for the kid, I truly am. The senior receiver turned cornerback was assigned to cover one of the top wide-outs in the nation for a good portion of the night in Tyler Lockett, and for the most part, he played lights out, as Lockett only managed to record 45 of the Wildcats’ 245 yards through the air on the night. An interception by Reed in the fourth quarter proved to make the difference for the Tigers’ defense, as the following Auburn drive resulted in a key field goal from Daniel Carlson to give the Tigers a 20-7 lead.

Can we blitz, please?!
I’m not sure that I understand Coach Ellis Johnson’s logic from last night. So you head on the road with a less than stellar pass defense (I think that’s fair to say), along with the fact that you’re now down a key contributor in safety Jermaine Whitehead, who has accounted for three interceptions on the year, and you refuse to send more than four pass rushers on the majority of plays? I don’t understand why our front-four couldn’t manage to apply any sort of pass pressure all night, but that’s on Coach Johnson to adjust his gameplan to throw one or two more blitzers in to rush the quarterback. Waters typically had all day to throw in the pocket, so it’s a bit worrisome that our defensive front wasn’t able to force any sort of penetration to the Wildcat offensive line – a definite warning flag with a brutal conference schedule looming our way.

Big 12 officiating…
I’m not one for placing blame on the referees, because most of the time the crew manages to do a fairly decent job at keeping the game even for both sides. If one team wins a controversial call, the other side will most likely get that make-up call later in the game to balance things out – it’s only natural. Auburn was flagged six times for a total of 46 yards. Kansas State? Aside from the opening kickoff out of bounds, zero penalties. Blatant holds, a block in the back here and there, and some pretty questionable calls thrown Auburn’s way certainly did not give the Big 12 the greatest name in last night’s showing. Have you ever seen a more slanted showing from game officials?

Nick Marshall
Although it’s not popular opinion, as I saw on Twitter when I put out a tweet regarding the topic, I do not think that Nick Marshall will win the Auburn Tigers any kind of championship this season with the type of performance shown last night. Frankly, I’m shocked that we didn’t see more of Jeremy Johnson in last night’s affair, as Nick struggled through the air once again. In his defense, it certainly doesn’t help when your receivers can’t catch the ball on a consistent basis, however, a plethora of overthrown and batted down balls stalled the offense’s drives, as well as prevented any sort of “big play magic” that Malzahn was gunning for all night. On the ground, Nick looked extremely stiff – we never saw the senior quarterback plant his foot in the dirt and use his blistering speed to obtain gashing gains – it looked as if his go-to move was to hug the sidelines and hope for a block or two to come his direction. That’s just not the Nick Marshall way.

The offensive play-calling
I have a theory that was received fairly well on social media late last night: Is it at all possible that Gus Malzahn was calling the absolute bare-minimum in an attempt to conserve this offense’s capabilities before conference play starts back up in a few weeks? The offensive play-calling, for some reason, just looked extremely limited in Thursday’s endeavors. My theory appears to be the only reasonable explanation to the sudden lack of variety in Auburn’s offense. Why else would Gus run an unnecessary play from the wildcat formation in the red zone on second and short when he has the most mobile quarterback in the SEC within his arsenal? Last night seemed a bit like an experimentation game for the Auburn offense. Now why Gus decided that a road game against a ranked opponent would be the best time to test those waters is a mystery to me.

Kansas State’s offensive blunders
A total of 16 points were taken off of the Wildcats’ score column by the end of the game – a dropped touchdown catch turned interception in the first quarter, as well as three missed field goals throughout the game. Now I hate drawing more attention to the kid, as I’m sure he’s heard quite an earful from his hometown faithful after Thursday night’s performance, but did it not look exactly like Cade Foster 2.0? The tagline for the week in Manhattan was “Roll Snyd”, but I don’t think KSU ever expected that they would instead be kicking like Bama before the week’s end.

Auburn did not look like a championship caliber team – they’d be lucky to even reach ten wins with the product placed on the Kansas turf, Thursday night. It’s time for Malzahn and the Tigers to head back home, regroup, and make the necessary adjustments next week against Louisiana Tech in preparation for October 4th at home against LSU. It’s been done before, folks. In 2010, Auburn had a disappointing road showing against Mississippi State early in the year – on a Thursday night, no less. The obvious loss against LSU sticks out in my mind as the turning point of Auburn’s championship run last season, so it certainly can be done. The Tigers can, and I think will rebound to make this season another one to remember on the Plains. It all comes down to how this team faces adversity. Everyone will be gunning for us, because right now, Auburn is at the top of the food chain. Each and every week, regardless of the opponent, will be an utter grind until the clock strikes zero. Thursday night was a test, because this is still a growing football team. “I’m glad it was tough,” Coach Malzahn told ESPN after the game, “that’ll help us in the long run.”

30 Comments

  1. wpleagle wpleagle says:

    As I said on the open thread last night, this was a good win, albeit ugly, against a tough and well prepared opponent on the road. K State’s defense showed remarkable discipline against the run, and I think that had a lot to do with Nick’s lack of success with the zone read as well as CAP and Corey having relatively little to show for their efforts. I am mystified at Sammie Coates’ inability to hold on to passes last night as well as Marshall’s hitting the hands of the defense three times.
    Not mentioned by Cole was the remarkable success that Waters had in hitting #14 on the run. He was in big trouble several times and managed to bail out of bad situations with “not short” bullets for first downs.
    I, too, think that the Tigers will rebound. Knowing that you can do it against a tough team on the road in a lot of enthusiastic noise goes a long way.
    WAR EAGLE! GO BIG BLUE!!

  2. wpleagle wpleagle says:

    Also, let’s hope our punt coverage’s inability to stop Lockett was more his running skill that our inadequacy. AU was fortunate that none of Lockett’s returns went all the way!

  3. Cole Locascio Cole Locascio says:

    Exactly! Forgot to mention it, but I don’t understand why we continued to kick to him.

  4. War_Eagle_2010 War_Eagle_2010 says:

    The Refs essentially gave KSU a mulligan on their final TD play. I was so ticked off, I mean you can’t stop a LIVE play to do a review! Those refs sucked big time and I hope the SEC office calls the Big 12 to tell them we won’t put up with that kind of crap.

    All in all I’m not too worried about how AU played last night on offense. You could tell they weren’t in sync. So if the defense plays like this the rest of the year and the offense returns to form, it’ll be the playoffs for sure. This is all assuming the refs won’t continue to persecute Auburn of course.

  5. sullivan013 sullivan013 says:

    I acknowledge all of the above, the misgivings about the offensive production, the play calling and add to it the lack of a consistent edge rush. We’re really missing Lawson.

    However, there were some silver linings after the first half concerns. Third down passing in the second half was some of the best I’ve ever seen from this team all year, and we’ve steadily developed some talent at linebacker and cornerback that answers my biggest concern from the preseason.

  6. uglyjoe says:

    Big picture…..biggest OOC game for K-State since ’69. They were jacked up. On the road, new environment, Thursday night…..trap written all over it. We escaped. Still undefeated. Lots of time to digest and adjust. War Eagle.

  7. Acid Reign Acid Reign says:

    …..There was a lot of adversity to overcome, and our Tigers did it! Auburn basically WHACKED a BCS team on the road, by a touchdown. Be happy…

  8. win4au says:

    Officiating- I’m not one to bitch about the refs, but that was just horrible. It’s funny to me that k-state played a “perfect game”. We had pass interference calls on balls that were not catchable, when Marshall was trying to hit Uzomah in the end zone he couldn’t catch the damn ball because he was being tackled, they were blocks in the back never called… I mean the list goes on and on. Really bad calls and no-calls.
    Nick Marshall – I was a little frustrated with his play last night. He has got to get that long ball dialed in. All I read or heard this summer was how much he improved with passing. Well, I saw a lot of missed opportunities last night. On a positive note, he came up big when we needed it.
    Gus Malzahn has huge kahunas!!! 3rd and 9 at the Auburn 37, he calls for Nick Marshall to throw a long pass to Duke Williams for a 39 yard 1ST down!? Are you kidding me?! That call takes nuts and proves that CGM has a lot of confidence in NM! And what a clutch play by both NM and DW.
    That was a quality road win for Auburn against a very good opponent in K-State and there Refs.
    Today, I am proud to say were 3-0!
    WDE!!!

  9. uglyjoe says:

    And, maybe this is the 2014 equivalent of last years LSU game. And, at least our QB doesn’t stand on tables in the student union.

  10. AubTigerman AubTigerman says:

    You said it UglyJoe – agree on both points.

  11. NoVaFan34 says:

    Hat’s off to Bill Snyder and his defensive coordinator Tom Hayes. These guys can coach. The K State defense was physical and disciplined. The CW on Auburn is that you have to put them in third and long, and they did that and put their team in a position to win. Unfortunately for them, their secondary was no match for AU’s receivers, who consistently got open last night despite all the drops and errant throws.

    Bottom line is that AU went into a tough environment against a team that desperately wanted to take their scalp, and despite an uninspired offensive performance, they still walked out with a win. I think Gus was spot on when he said after the game that this would serve the team well in the long run.

  12. CapnVegetto says:

    I was going to write a post this morning, and the stupid thing is down…….

    Just some quick notes:

    1. I’ll reiterate about the refs. It was RIDICULOUS. KSU got NOTHING called on them all night, despite BLATANT holds and PI’s. Hell, the last damn series, Elijah Daniel, EVERY SINGLE PLAY, was being held. And I’m not talking ticky-tack holds, I mean the KSU guy had him basically in a damn headlock. I’ve never seen a more absolutely blatant bias from refs. That kind of crap is shameful and unacceptable. I sincerely hope the SEC reviews this game from an officiating standpoint and raises hell. It was the WORST I HAVE EVER SEEN IN PROBABLY 25 YEARS OF WATCHING FOOTBALL.

    2. That was the worst offensive performance I have ever seen from a Gus Malzhan coached team. I will give KSU some credit, as they played literally as good as they could, but between Nick Marshall missing wide open receivers, and the DROPS, DROPS, AND MORE DROPS, to what is supposed to be one of the best OL’s in the country not really looking that great, to the typical Gus Malzhan playcalling where when he finally found something that was working (in the 4th quarter) he got away from it, that was just flat out awful. KSU is NOT THAT GOOD. We made their defense look awesome. Granted, they made some plays, but we made a LOT more miscues. How many other QB’s have you seen get FOUR damn passes batted down at the line of scrimmage? Just……wow.

    3. Now for the positive: We went on the road, to a ranked team in a power conference, in prime time, with INCREDIBLY biased officiating, played like an absolute freaking dumpster fire on offense, and STILL MANAGED TO WIN. There is as least something you can take away from that.

    I’ll elaborate more when I’m able to write a friggin column. Especially on the defense, who saved the night for us.

  13. BhamTiger99 BhamTiger99 says:

    ^^^This. A thousand, million, jillion times this. Other than last year’s game against Georgia, I have never been so ready for a game to be over as I was last night. WDE for the win!

  14. NoVaFan34 says:

    “…at least our QB doesn’t stand on tables in the student union.”

    At this rate, JW will be lucky if he ends up waiting on tables. Worst case, the table he’s standing on is in the mess hall of C block.

  15. broken_towel broken_towel says:

    Why do teams keep accusing Gus of signal stealing? Beginning to fear might be true.

  16. BhamTiger99 BhamTiger99 says:

    My comment above was supposed to be a reply/reference to CapnVegetto’s. Not sure why it’s not showing up that way.

  17. AubTigerman AubTigerman says:

    Sorry BhamTiger, new platform has a few issues, we are working on it. I manually moved your reply underneath Capn’s comment.

  18. SandMountainTiger SandMountainTiger says:

    Man, am I glad that you guys saw the bad officiating too. I hate blaming the refs, but last night I became enraged. It started with some blatant, jersey pulling holds, right in front of the official. My wife (who was reading a book while I watched) told me “Jimmy, you’re starting to sound like those Alabama fans at work.” I then found it necessary to pause the game every time the KSU QB dropped back to pass, and then on every other play and point out the grabbing and out-right tackling by the KSU O-line. After a while, she said “Wow, so when you complain about that, you mean it.” It actually got her into the game. She started watching for it live, and for a girl that cares next to nothing about sports in general, she sure got stirred up, yelling “There’s another one!” and “Oh my god, are all those refs from Kansas?!?” My favorite was when she actually said “Is there someone we can call? If I did my job that bad, I’d get fired!”

    As far as Nick Marshall goes, I disagree with your sentiment. There were a lot of dropped balls. He’s definitely a leader on our team. That being said, I wonder how well Johnson would have done if we were going to pass that much. The way we used him baffled me. I loved Nick’s fade to Duke in the corner. Couldn’t get much better than that.

    The outcome of this game does not concern me. KSU showed why they have been successful against superior teams for years: Defensive discipline. Bill Snyder does not get the recruits a lot of other BIG 12 teams get, but does well nonetheless. I don’t think we’ll see another disciplined team like that the rest of our schedule. Taking advantage of over-pursuits is our bag.

  19. War_Eagle_2010 War_Eagle_2010 says:

    I don’t get the bellyaching over signal stealing, if your too dumb to effectivly disguise your calls then your just too dumb to call them in the first place.

    I wonder if the artificial turf hurt AU last night as well, there were about 5-6 plays where the AU player went down due to slipping.

  20. tigertracker says:

    We played the worst most of us have seen the o play since 2012 and were still able to beat a power 5 team on the road. First 3rd down conversion 3 minutes before half! No first quarter TD! Run game stuffed! Insanity I tell you.

    We are still a team of destiny perhaps? Usually the “luck” is on our offense’s side. Last night seemed like an alternate universe where our o was terrible and the offensive luck was inverted to offensive DERP for our opponent.

    Nick was 17-31 (54.8%) passing with at least 4 drops right in the hands and 6 batted balls at the line according to the post game show. If just 4 of those 10 find their mark his completion percentage jumps to a very respectable 67.7%. Our passing game is fine.

    Once again the tigers respond when the game is on the line. CAP started the last drive to kill the clock and Marshall to Duke finished it. Last year we touted our “battle-testedness” prior to facing FSU. Put a notch in the belt. Road win against power 5, ALL the penalties went against us, we were without a key veteran DB, offense played like crap, AND WE WON!

    War Damn Eagle!

  21. AuburnMisfit AuburnMisfit says:

    At least it wasn’t a 3-2 affair. I’d need to review the offensive playing from the game to see why our running game suffered. It seems some blocking assignments were missed, especially in the first half. But the dropped balls…ugh! It’s easy to see how defenses will key into our running game and force NM to throw. To make those defenses pay, those passes must be caught!!!!

    Idiotic penalties that kept KSU’s drives alive…ugh!! Battered down balls, that just happens. Got to like how the defense played, tho. 40 rushing yards allowed is a good thing!

  22. Pine Mt Tiger Pine Mt Tiger says:

    I believe it was a quality win. Might not been pretty to everyone but go on the road on a thurs night, into a hostile environment where they have had the game circled for 9 months as their big statement game and win was big for Auburn. Proud of the Tigers! WDE! – Good read Cole.

  23. KungFuPanda9 KungFuPanda9 says:

    Cole, just having Nick Marshall on the field forces teams to account for the run threat. When Johnson is at QB the defense knows he will either pass or hand off, but not keep it. Thier linebackers can play more aggressively because of this.

    And speaking of linebackers, the reason we did not blitz more was to keep somebody in the middle and to contain Waters. In the second half, Ellis did send guys off the edge to get pressure, and that helped quite a bit.

  24. Pine Mt Tiger Pine Mt Tiger says:

    Maybe Acid will address that (^^^^) when he puts up his grade later.

  25. Third Generation Tiger Third Generation Tiger says:

    I think a lot of people are forgetting that KSU had the entire off season to prepare for Auburn. I have a herd of Unicorns to sell to anyone who thinks KSU spent one minute preparing for Stephen F Austin and Iowa St.

    I agree with War_Eagle_2010 about so-called signal stealing. If you are too stupid to change your signals from game to game, please see me later about my Unicorns.

  26. MyAuburn MyAuburn says:

    Home field
    Pretty darn good football team
    Hyper loud crowd
    Statement game
    Lots of time to prepare
    One of the best coaches in the biz
    Etc.
    K State had all these things in the hopper. Add it all up and i think this win is every bit as big as a SEC win.
    Officiating….Stat line reads
    AU 6/46 yards
    KState 0/0 yards
    Hmmmm, can you say home field bias?

  27. War_Eagle_2010 War_Eagle_2010 says:

    ^Home cookin’ is the best aint it? . . .

  28. Tigerstripe Tigerstripe says:

    Meh…just glad that’s over with. Disappointing outing by the offense. Really disappointed our running game wasn’t better but I know they were loading the box, blah, blah, blah. Let’s face, it doesn’t look like we’ll ever be the team that just forces our will on our opponents. And don’t tell me that was a hostile and loud environment. I think I actually heard the KSU reading club turning pages midway during the second qtr, so not buying it. Refs sucked, buying that as an excuse. Dropped balls – Oy!

    Remember how many close games we had in 2010? If we make another run at it, prepare for a stressful season. And what was up with using JJ to stall our own offensive drive???

  29. lionstigersjagsohmy10 says:

    I’m a new commenter but very old follower of TET.
    I view last night’s game as a huge learning experience. I guarantee Gus will analyze this with his microscope and make the appropriate adjustments. I too view this as last year’s LSU game where everything changed for the better afterwards. WDE!

  30. LeeBee says:

    If the receivers had caught the darned ball, Marshall would be touted for Heisman. No blitzing because:
    1. Don’t want to show all the defensive packages either.
    2. DB’s stayed home to prevent the scramble (and they did it very well)
    For the entire game, Auburn looked like the better team; but, one that could not, on this night, put it away.