Auburn Quenches Liberty! (Grading Auburn’s 53-0 win over the Liberty Flames)
Auburn manhandled the Liberty offense
(AP Photo/Vasha Hunt)
War Eagle everybody. It’s time now for the Acid Reign Report on a fun day in Auburn. All of the Auburn seniors were able to take the field on their last game at Jordan Hare Stadium and put on quite a show in a 53–0 rout of the Flames in that team’s first year in FBS football. It was great fun watching senior Deshaun Davis lead the team in tackles, senior Darrell Williams get his first career pick six, and senior Ryan Davis adding 4 catches to his school-record total.
The much maligned Auburn offense sputtered early, settling for a couple of first quarter field goals and another in the 2nd quarter. However, the team got into a groove and began to score at will as the half drew to a close. For the game, Auburn managed 5.6 yards per carry and a gaudy 9.1 yards per pass. Ball security was great with no interceptions or balls on the ground. I also enjoyed seeing running back Kam Martin break the 100-yard rushing mark in less than a half.
Liberty came out firing quick slant passes and promptly marched the ball into Auburn territory, only to come up a couple of inches short of the stake on 4th down at the Auburn 33-yard line. From there, the Flames’ offense was shut down and out. Liberty gained 42 yards on its first drive, but between that drive and the next to last possession of the game, Liberty amassed just 58 offensive yards in 12 possessions. The Flames managed just 2.0 yards per rush and 2.8 yards per pass for 134 total yards of offense. The Auburn defense generated 3 turnovers on the day.
Special teams were again special this week. Auburn pinned 2 punts inside the 20-yard line and hit all field goal attempts and PATs. Auburn was able to return 4 of the 8 Flames’ punts and blocked another for a safety. Liberty tried short kickoffs twice, and Auburn backs made them pay with good returns. The Tigers booted 6 touchbacks on 10 kickoffs and allowed just 1 return for 17 yards. The only real mistake on special teams was a late kickoff out of bounds.
Unit grades after the jump!
Defensive Line: A. Missing star end Nick Coe for this game, others on the line stepped up. This unit played inspired ball this week and camped out in the Flames backfield. The line contributed 3 sacks, 4 tackles for loss and 20 total tackles. There were tackles made by 12 different defensive linemen in this game.
Linebackers: A. The linebackers contributed 16 tackles and were instrumental in stopping the quick slant passing game. After the Darrell Williams interception return for a touchdown, the Flames were hesitant to throw these with the starting linebackers in the slant lanes.
Secondary: A+. Liberty managed only 3 receptions of 10 yards or longer and none of 20 yards or longer. Auburn allowed 9 total receptions on 28 attempts and had 7 pass breakups by the secondary. As a team, Auburn had 9 pass breakups plus a couple of interceptions. It is pretty amazing that Auburn defenders got their hands on the ball more than the Liberty receivers did!
Punting: B+. Arryn Siposs and the punting unit averaged 40.7 yards on punts and did not allow any return yards. All of Siposs’ punts came on a short field, and there wasn’t really an opportunity to unload on any for distance. Siposs had 1 touchback, and 2 were killed inside the 20.
Punt Returns: A-. Liberty punted the ball 8 times, and Auburn fielded 6 of them and let a 7th go for a touchback. Ryan Davis had 33 yards on 3 returns. The big moment of the day was a blocked punt by Jordyn Peters, his 3rd of the season, which rolled through the end zone for a safety that opened up a 2-score lead for the Tigers early.
Kick Returns: A-. Liberty tried pooch kicks on both of their attempts. Chandler Cox handled the kickoff after the safety and bulled 18 yards up to midfield. On the 2nd-half kickoff, Spencer Nigh fielded the ball at the Auburn 22 and made it out to the 35. Liberty really sacrificed field position to avoid giving Noah Igbinoghene a chance.
Place Kicking: A-. Anders Carlson hit all of his place kicks this week, including field goals from 53 and 49 yards. Carlson also hit 4 of 7 kickoffs for touchbacks, and 2 were fair-caught. Liberty had just 1 return for 17 yards. Ian Shannon handled the second half kicking and was 1 of 2 on field goal attempts. On kickoffs, Shannon hit 2 of 3 for touchbacks but had 1 go out of bounds.
Offensive Line: A. Auburn’s offensive line was able to win most battles up front in this game. Liberty managed just 1 sack and 1 tackle for loss. Auburn rolled for 531 yards of total offense, and that was with backups playing a lot of minutes in the second half.
Running Backs: A. Auburn had 7 different backs record stats, and 4 of the 7 averaged 6.9 yards per carry or more. It was great to see guys like Asa Martin and C. J. Tolbert get extended snaps. I was really impressed with Tolbert. The first guy never gets him down.
Receivers: A. I saw only 1 real drop this week and some great catches. Auburn did not throw the ball as much with only 21 total pass attempts and 14 completions. Auburn receivers averaged 14.4 yards per catch on 13 catches. Seth Williams had a great game with 109 yards on 5 catches, including a highlight reel diving touchdown catch on a long bomb.
Quarterback: A. The quarterbacks had no turnovers and only took 1 sack. Jarrett Stidham was accurate and smart with the ball. Stidham threw a couple of deep touchdown passes and added a zone-read rushing touchdown as well. Malik Willis got in the game in the 2nd half and looked confident and accurate on his 3 throws. Willis also added a twisting, turning, elusive touchdown run.
Auburn moves to 7–4 on the season and likely avoids the dreaded Birmingham Bowl. It was nice to see an inspired team performance leading up to the Iron Bowl rather than the lackluster effort put forth this time last year. Auburn will need the team hitting on all cylinders next week.
Does Auburn have a chance this year in the Iron Bowl? I think so. The Auburn defensive backfield has really improved as the season progressed, and it will need to be their best against a really dynamic Tide receiving corps. An overlooked part of the Tide attack is a really solid running game. Auburn has shut down the run well in some games this yearbut has disappeared defensively in others. The biggest keys to winning this game will be generating some offense, some big plays, and forcing a few turnovers.
The Auburn at Alabama game will kick off at 2:30 PM Central Time next Saturday and will be nationally televised on CBS. I am on vacation this week and will be doing this game’s thread from my desktop workstation and high-def antenna television. I should have no sleep issues this week and should be pretty quick posting the play by play, bypassing the cable box. I’ll be ready to go with Chex Mix and freshly ground coffee!