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Auburn Rallies Against the Aggies! (Grading Auburn’s 28–24 Win Over Texas A&M)

By on November 4th, 2018 in Football 6 Comments »

Miracle grabs save the Tigers!
(AP Photo/Todd Kirkland)

     War Eagle everybody! It’s time now for the Acid Reign Report on a shocking Auburn day, hosting the Texas A&M Aggies. The offensive line had little success moving the Texas A&M front, and as a result Auburn was historically bad running the football, picking up only 19 net yards. Meanwhile the defense missed open-field tackles and at times got blown off the ball as Texas A&M frequently moved effortlessly into Tiger territory. The Aggies’ failure to punch in an icing score in the 4th quarter opened the door for an amazing Tiger comeback.

     It is very tough on a defense when the opposing offense can just do a simple hand off and pick up 5–8 yards on first down. That was a repeated theme for most of the day for the Auburn defense. Credit Texas A&M, though. They made the blocks, and Auburn defenders did not do a good job getting off of blocks. Auburn did shore up coverage on Texas A&M’s outside receivers, and there wasn’t much chance for Aggie quarterback Kellen Mond to get it down the field. Those throws up the boundary that Auburn has been susceptible to this year were mainly just a waste of a down this afternoon. This season, Auburn has been pretty good limiting backs out of the backfield in the passing game, but not on this day. Trayveyon Williams was either wide open or made Tigers miss in the open field regularly. I’ve seen it written elsewhere that Auburn did a better job on Williams in the second half, but it wasn’t really so to these eyes. For some inexplicable reason, the Aggie coaches sat Williams on the bench for much of the second half and went with Jashaun Corbin, who was much less effective.

     This was a terrible week on offense for the Auburn Tigers for basically 3 quarters. Through 3 and a half quarters, Auburn had 2 touchdowns, one on a trick play and another on a heave-it-up-for-grabs throw in the back of the end zone. On Auburn’s first 11 possessions, the Tigers went 2 or 3 downs and out on 7 possessions. There was no room to run, and protection was spotty. When passes were thrown, receivers often dropped them. There were several perfectly thrown passes that hit receivers in both hands, only to be dropped and the drive killed. Even the routes were simple and uninspired for much of the game. I counted numerous plays where Auburn had 3 receivers that just ran about 10 yards downfield and stopped in traffic. I had given up hope, well before midway of the 4th quarter, as Auburn seemed unlikely to even make another first down much less erase a 24–14 deficit.

     I’m not sure what happened after the interception by Noah Igbinoghene midway through the 4th quarter. It was like a different team took the field, and the Tiger offense went as full Air Raid as I have ever seen. Auburn had a clean pocket most of the time, and quarterback Jarrett Stidham was able to step up and deliver the ball. Against a zone-prevent defense, Auburn actually had some crossing patterns called. One of those was actually thrown to Ryan Davis, and he made most of the Aggie defense miss on a miraculous 47-yard pickup. Mostly, though, Stidham was allowed to take shot after shot. He put the balls up high and gave the Auburn receivers a chance to go get them. With pass playing being executed, Auburn took the game away from an Aggie team that had dominated most of the day.

     Special teams had a mostly good day, and punt fielding was good with the exception of Ryan Davis fielding one punt at the 2-yard line. Had another near disaster this week on kickoff fielding with a fumble forward, but luckily Auburn was able to fall on it. That was the kickoff after Texas A&M had taken a 24–14 lead. Turning it over deep at that juncture would have probably iced the ball game early in the 3rd quarter. Arryn Siposs was a weapon punting the football, and almost single handedly kept Auburn in the game. Siposs outdueled the nation’s leading punter, Braden Mann, in very impressive fashion. Anders Carlson continues to hit kickoffs for touchbacks, and even when he had the occasional kickoff returned, Auburn’s coverage unit usually squashed the return man short of the 20-yard line.

Unit grades after the jump!

Defensive Line: C+. This grade could have been a lot lower as I felt for the first time this year that Auburn was often manhandled up front. The line didn’t really get it together till the offense started clicking in the 4th quarter. Out of nowhere, the line pressured Kellen Mond and forced mistakes. Overall, the line was credited with 17 tackles, 7 for a loss, and 2 sacks.

Linebackers: C-. There were lots of missed tackles in this one, and more tackles were made going backwards after big gains. To this unit’s credit, though, it isn’t the first unit that Trayveon Williams has made look silly. Again, thanks so much to Aggie head coach Jimbo Fisher, who benched Williams in the second half. Auburn linebackers contributed just 19 tackles, only 2 for a loss. When the other team runs the ball 47 times, you’d like to see a lot more linebacker tackles than this.

Secondary: A-. Auburn gave up 220 passing yards in this game on 32 attempts, which works out to 6.8 yards per pass. That’s not a great number, but you have to consider that 91 yards of that was on screens to running backs. Auburn’s secondary basically kept it in the game, keeping play in front, and tightening up in the red zone. The secondary came up with 2 critical turnovers that led to touchdowns. Auburn defensive backs combined for 34 tackles, nearly half the defensive production on the day.

Punting: A+. Arryn Siposs and the punting unit were magnificent, averaging 48.2 yards on 8 punts with only 7 total punt-return yards.

Punt Returns: B-. Auburn was able to field all 5 Aggie punts with 2 fair catches. The negative aspect was that Ryan Davis fielded 2 of them inside his own 10-yard line. Late in the game, Auburn snuck freshman Christian Tutt out there in the afternoon shadows as a 2nd deep safety. Tutt came out of nowhere to field the last punt, ran right by the Aggie gunners, and picked up 28 yards. That set up Auburn’s last touchdown drive with good field position.

Kick Returns: D. Auburn only got one chance at this, and the ball caromed off the chest of Noah Igbinoghene. Fortunately, Auburn recovered.

Place Kicking: A. Auburn did not attempt a field goal in this game as the offense was unable to get close enough to even try any 50 yarders like normal. Anders Carlson hit all of his extra points and hit 4 of 5 kickoffs for touchbacks. The Aggies did return 1 kick and were spilled well short of the 20-yard line.

Offensive Line: D+. I did not see too many glaring mistakes this game, which worries me, given the offensive output. Auburn generally knew whom to block but the line was just outmanned most of the afternoon. I give a passing grade due to the pass blocking on the last 2 drives.

Running Backs: B+. Some will likely question this grade, but there was just nowhere to run. With any room, the backs did make plays. When you saw Jarrett Stidham step up in the pocket, that meant that Chandler Cox or Malik Miller or Boobee Whitlow had stoned a blitzer in his tracks. Whitlow picked up 3 crucial first downs in Auburn’s next-to-last drive, mostly on his own.

Receivers: B+. There were more drops in this one, including a couple that were uncontested. However, in the last 2 drives, Auburn receivers made some great catches. We have been calling for involving speedy freshmen Anthony Schwartz and Seth Williams more with the ball the past few games. That pair contributed 6 touches this week for just 31 yards. The Aggies had them scouted. Seth Williams did catch 2 in the end zone, both scores, including the game-winner. Darius Slayton had several clutch catches, and remains Stidham’s go-to guy despite a few dropped balls. I have to give a shout out to Ryan Davis, who made a couple of spectacular plays. I’ve mentioned the 47-yard catch and run on the last drive. Davis also threw a touchdown pass this week. It was on a reverse, and the defense had it contained. If Davis had tried to turn and set his feet, he would have been planted in the turf before he could throw. Instead, he was able to loft a perfect pass across his body. And, I am glad at least somebody on the Auburn offense realizes that Sal Cannella is running around not even covered most of the time he’s in the game.

Quarterback: A. Stidham had a tough outing this week, not of his own making. His balls were on target, and he had no turnovers despite a mostly lackluster effort by his receivers and no running game at all. Stidham was credited with 18 completions on 29 attempts. Considering that there were several balls he had to just throw away and probably 6 dropped passes, that’s laser accuracy. If Auburn gives this guy time to throw, he lights up defenses.

     With this win, Auburn goes to 6–3, and talk of not getting a bowl bid can be put to rest. It was nice to see the Texas A&M “home-team jinx” be ended, particularly in such dramatic fashion. It’s rare to see Auburn out coach another team these days, but it happened in this game. With the game in hand, and Auburn reeling, the Aggies made strategic mistake after mistake. They took their best play maker out of the game. They threw incompletions or an interception when they just needed to run clock and punt. The got fooled on a punt return late. They only called one blitz on Auburn’s last 2 drives. We can’t say that Auburn had a great coaching effort in this game, but it is a credit to this team that no one quit, even when it seemed hopeless.

     Amen Corner is here, folks. Auburn must get ready for a daunting trip to Georgia next Saturday. The only silver lining to this game is that Georgia has already clinched the SEC East title. Still, the Dawgs already have 1 loss. They likely can’t lose another and get into the playoff. Georgia is just as good at stopping the run as Texas A&M and better in the secondary. Kirby Smart will blitz with the game on the line, unlike the Aggie brain trust.

     I regret that I’m going to miss live blogging this game. I’ve been able to do every game up until this point this season, which is a rarity. I have to work Saturday night, and will have to watch the DVR when I get home. I’ll be back in the saddle for Liberty and Bama.

6 Comments

  1. meathead530 says:

    Great analysis.

    If the tigers play Georgia like they did the last 7 minutes of the Aggie game, then they will win. War Eagle.

  2. easyedwin easyedwin says:

    I too had almost given up. Me and wifey were incredified with joy. What a great finish to an otherwise awful game.

  3. AUwaterboy AUwaterboy says:

    Thanks Acid for another great review. No matter what happens the rest of the way, Saturday was one of the best 7 and half minutes of football I ever watch in Jordan -Hare Stadium. I was so happy for our players, they needed that comeback winning feeling! War Eagle!

  4. WDEGirl says:

    In MOO, an A is generous for Stidham. There was a sack, when he clearly had time to throw the ball away.

    The 1st Qtr was classic stubborn Malzahn, I’m going to do what I do and I’m not going to change. The opposing team knows what we are going to do on offense before the offense even finishes lining up. The announcers for the game said on air that they could hear the A&M defensive coaches next door screaming into their mics what the AU Off play was going to be before the ball was snapped. And they were correct!

    Malzahn has lost these players. The Defense nor the Offense showed any motivation in the 1st Half. Only after the interception did AU show any life that they wanted to even be playing.

  5. dyingculture dyingculture says:

    For almost the entire game, this had the feel of a typical Auburn loss. The team just kept hanging around, and hanging around, never in the game but barely managing to stay within striking distance. Any other game, Auburn would have closed with a whimper with another frustrating loss in a game that would have been eminently winnable had one or two plays gone the other way. Today, the script was flipped.

    Auburn had no business winning this game. Not necessarily a bad thing, but it’s the truth. And when was the last time that Auburn won a game that they didn’t deserve to win??? Probably have to go back to the 2015 Jacksonville game.

    Ever since the 2014 A&M game, this team has been snakebit. Wouldn’t it be so very fitting if the 2018 A&M game is where the run of bad luck ends.

  6. Solojoe says:

    I didn’t see a team that no longer wanted (or believed in) their coach. These guys were still giving effort and it looked to me like Malzahn still had the team with him. What I did see was a team (with a struggling offensive line) that no longer expected good things to happen when they gave all out effort. From the LSU game (and maybe even the Washington game to some extent) these players have been giving maximum effort only to see a small thing here or there, a slip on a cut, a fumbled touchdown, an overthrown wide open receiver, mysterious (fictitious) pass interference calls, missed (or ignored) holding calls, bad calls that when reviewed were left to stand because of lack of a good camera angle, etc., kill any progress they made. All this leading them to feel like it doesn’t matter what they do it will not go their way. I guess ‘snakebit’ like dyingculture mentioned is a good word for it. That feeling is enough to discourage enthusiasm and hope and make you a split second late. I saw Deshaun Davis (our best tackler by far) miss on 2 tackles that he normally makes with ease. That feeling is enough to dull the edge. I saw our 2 biggest backs (Miller and Whitlow) get bowled over in pass protection. It was like a team in a funk. And then I saw one play go right and it appeared to pull the team right out of that funk. I saw Igbinoghene bait a pass from Mond and catch the interception. Something worked. All at once, the linemen who couldn’t block the wind were forming a wall around Stidham. Receivers started making spectacular catches and turning 5 yard plays into 40. Stidham got pinpoint accurate with his throws and fast with his decisions. The coaches were calling the right plays and the players were executing. The offense was playing like we expected them to play at the start of the year. Almost like they expected success. Then it passed over to the defense. They were making stops and pressuring the QB. Even the referee calls (holding, illegal touching, etc.) started going our way for a change. Guys were flying to the football. No more tackles were getting missed. In the end they were sacking the QB with just a 2-man rush. I saw a team celebrating in the locker room like I hadn’t seen them celebrate so far this year and much like they did last year. Offense celebrating defense and defense celebrating offense and the coaches celebrating with them all. It didn’t look like anyone lost anybody. Now will the funk stay away, will they still believe next Saturday, will it last, will the expectation of greatness still be there for the team? I don’t know. I hope so. But at least for this game it sure was a great thing to see. I couldn’t help but think, IT SURE IS GREAT TO BE AN AUBURN TIGER!

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