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Auburn Squashes Arkansas! (Grading Auburn vs. Arkansas)

By on September 23rd, 2018 in Football 15 Comments »

Having the angle on Igbinoghene did not matter!

     War Eagle everybody! It’s time now for the Acid Reign Report on Auburn’s bruising 34–3 win over the Arkansas Razorbacks. Offensively, it was not a thing of beauty, but Auburn used opportunistic special teams plays and bone-jarring defense to carry the day and cover the ridiculous 30-point spread in this one. We are now officially into fall, and Auburn is sitting at 3–1 on the season, about where most pundits had prognosticated.

     It was a curious week from the officials. Against Washington and LSU, Auburn played tight coverage on the outside and picked up 6 pass interference penalties, several of them costly. I’m guessing Auburn privately complained to the SEC office, particularly regarding phantom calls. It’s one thing for an official to call what he sees. It’s quite another to call a penalty, just guessing. As a result, in this game, no pass interference penalties were called on either defense, despite more hand fighting, pushing and, in one case, Auburn’s Anthony Schwartz being pulled down by the shoulder pad with the ball in the air. Arkansas tried to float it up to the sideline, and with the handcuffs off the Auburn secondary, it did not go so well for the Razorbacks.

     During the game, it was frustrating to see Arkansas pick up a few first downs on 3rd and 4th down early in the game. These opportunities faded as the game went on. I and others bemoaned a lack of a pass rush during the game, but a rewatch reveals otherwise. Arkansas quarterback Ty Storey took a beating. Credit to the guy,when pressured he managed to dump the ball off into the dirt most of the time. Still, 13 completions out of 32 passing plays resulted in Arkansas not getting into the end zone. About the only defensive quibble I can come up with is that there were about 3 long runs given up that set up Arkansas for scoring opportunities. In particular, there was a 45-yard sweep early in the 3rd by Rakeem Boyd where Auburn was caught seriously out of position on the edge. Still, Auburn slammed the door in the red zone, and Arkansas was never a serious threat to score a touchdown.

     Folks, the offensive line regressed this week. I hated to see that. What Auburn likes to do in the running game is pull guards and get a blocking advantage on the edge. When you pull guards, you leave a defensive lineman unblocked. Hopefully the play design leaves that lineman chasing air. For that to happen, the center and the tackles MUST neutralize their linemen. That did not happen very often in this game. Auburn running backs were often caught from behind by the unblocked guy because there was nowhere to go with defensive linemen in the backfield.

     Auburn seriously missed the usual contributions by departed receivers Nate Craig-Myers and Jalen Harris. As a result, overall team blocking ability went down, and plays that used to work well were blown up. I really can’t blame either guy for leaving as they were rarely targeted in the passing game.

     Auburn had a fantastic day on special teams with 2 long punt returns, a kick return for a touchdown, and a couple of blocked punts. I can’t be too upset with a couple of field goal misses from 50+ yards away. If you’re having to try kicks like that, it means that the offense is falling down on the job.

Unit grades after the jump!

Defensive Line: A. It was a pretty dominant performance up front. If there is anything to complain about, it’s guys finishing the tackle in the backfield. I would not mind seeing that “Nick Fairly mentality” come into play. Auburn needs to generate some of that “deer in the headlights” fear in quarterbacks. Auburn got to Arkansas quarterback Ty Storey as the game went on. This day, the Auburn line generated 25 tackles, which is a pretty high number.

Linebackers: A-. I’ve mentioned a couple of loss-of-contain errors above. Otherwise, this unit did very well. One thing I’ve not mentioned much this year is the job these guys do in underneath coverage. Arkansas wanted to dump the ball off to running backs, and it really did not work against the Auburn linebackers. Either the coverage was tight, or a tackle was made to limit the gain. Auburn’s run fills continue to be very good. Auburn linebackers contributed 15 total tackles, which is a good number considering that Auburn ran a nickel defense most of the day.

Secondary: A-. Auburn had just a few coverage errors, mostly on the 8-12 yard square-in patterns run by the outside receiver. That’s a typical zone-defense weakness, and it has hurt Auburn some this year. Otherwise, Auburn’s guys do a good job of staying with their guy, playing man coverage. The safeties did a much better job this week of preventing the deep ball. The secondary is also pretty sure tacklers across the lineup. Auburn did a good job calling the safety blitz during this game. That nearly always disrupted whatever play Arkansas was running. The secondary contributed 27 total tackles in this game.

Punting: A. Arryn Siposs averaged 47.2 yards on 5 punts, and only 1 was returned for 13 yards. The lone return was aided by a couple of blocks in the back.

Punt Returns: A. Ryan Davis was a weapon this week. He was able to pick up 84 yards on 2 returns and had a couple more fair catches. Arkansas started kicking away from Davis after that. I was really intrigued with Auburn’s pressure on the punter. Apparently, a few things were found on the tape. First off, the punter had a long approach and wind-up. Then, Auburn was able to overload the A gap, and get defensive backs through the line without being touched. Arkansas seemed to plan on the protection backs picking these guys up, but it’s hard to block a shifty defensive back racing in on the punter at a dead run. Arkansas found that out the hard way. Officially, Jordyn Peters got credit for just one block, but I believe he tipped a kick, earlier. Peters also altered punter Reid Bower’s approach on another punt, causing a short kick. Finally, kudos to K. J. Britt, for a heads-up play, picking up a blocked punt and getting 10 yards on it.

Kick Returns: A+. Auburn only had one opportunity, and Noah Igbinoghene took it to the house. He made a nice cut in the middle of the field. As pictured above, Arkansas had at least 3 defenders with the angle, but it did not matter. Noah torched them all, just running away from it! He was just playing at a different speed on that one.

Place Kicking: A. I can’t count off for misses beyond 50 yards. Anders Carlson did hit field goals of 18 and 43 yards, and all of his kickoffs went for touchbacks. Arkansas got a single return opportunity late in the game when Ian Shannon kicked off. The coverage team smothered that one at the 20.

Offensive Line: D-. I’m not going to belabor this much further. There was confusion and there were errors, across the board. Good runs do happen, and Auburn occasionally got everyone on the same page but not often this game.

Running Backs: B+. It’s hard to give a grade here, because there wasn’t much there up front. Auburn backs just had to make what they could on their own. Kam Martin got his yards by hitting the line quickly. JaTarvious Whitlow is a more patient runner, which sometimes helps. I did not feel like the game plan helped H-back Chandler Cox, at all. It was like Cox was asked to do both his job and that of departed Jalen Harris at the same time. Auburn tried a couple of times to get Kam Martin going in the screen game and telegraphed it both times. I have to give the backs credit on ball security. They took some hard licks and held onto the ball.

Receivers: B. There was just 1 drop this week. Where Auburn had issues was blocking the quick screens. Auburn did have some success there, but it was because guys like Ryan Davis and Anthony Schwartz made defenders miss. This was a tough game to be a receiver. Auburn wasn’t getting much protection for the quarterback, and long-developing routes were a waste of time.

Quarterback: B-. I cannot fault Jarrett Stidham for the lack of passing production after a pedestrian 6.1 yards per pass. There was no time to set up and go through progressions most of the time. When there was, it seemed that Stidham tended to hold the ball too long, which is an ongoing issue for him. However, he did distribute the ball accurately with pressure in his face, hitting 15 of 22 passes for a 68 percent completion percentage. There were a couple of misses on deep balls, but one of those was blatant pass interference that wasn’t called.

     Auburn has one more week to work against a lesser opponent to try and firm things up, particularly on the offensive line, and to tinker with the receiver rotation. Southern Mississippi comes to town next Saturday and could be trouble with a prolific offense. Well, prolific against Jax State and Rice. Against Louisiana Monroe, USM lost, 21–20. After the Golden Eagles, Auburn visits Mississippi State.

     The Bulldogs, expected to be a dark horse contender for the SEC West this year, were exposed in Lexington yesterday as they lost to Kentucky, 28–7. The blueprint for stopping big MSU quarterback Nick Fitzgerald is to stop the run and make Fitzgerald beat the defense throwing. He wasn’t able to do that against the Wildcats and wasn’t able to do it against Auburn last year, either. Auburn has the defense to force the same thing this year. Unfortunately, MSU might have the toughest defensive line Auburn will have faced this year. That does not bode well.

15 Comments

  1. neonbets says:

    This year is playing out in similar fashion as the 2017 campaign: A frustrating LSU loss– that never should have happened–followed up by a convincing (but strangely troubling) Arkansas win.

    Despite my cynicism over the laughable claims that the O-Line is different because a new coach is somehow able to magically instill toughness and internal fortitude, I continue to have hopes the Grimes and the boys will turn this around. Last year, it took a while — but in the last third of the season that O-line was firing on all cylinders. There’s still plenty to like about this team and optimism isn’t delusional.

  2. wpleagle wpleagle says:

    Neon touched in this a bit, but after all the commentary about Herb Hand being replaced by Grimes, do you think Grimes just has his hands tied with the personnel available to him? Is there hope that the O-line can turn it around before it's too late?

    • KungFuPanda9 KungFuPanda9 says:

      When your best O lineman is a kid who never played much football before he got to college, you have to know you’re going to have problems.

      Couple a weak offensive line with average running back production, and this is what you get. The weak line also hampers the passing game because the QB has zero time to let receivers go deep.

      Gus needs to decide what he wants to do and use appropriate personnel to achieve it.
      Other teams bring in additional heavy guys to beef up the offensive line. I don’t know why we almost never do. As Acid pointed out, the departure of Nate and Jalen should cause a personnel realignment.

    • dyingculture dyingculture says:

      It does seem to start at the center position. My observation was that Kaleb Kim is technically proficient at the position, but he’s just physically overmatched by top competition. Nothing against Kim at all, just he doesn’t seem to be an SEC starter physically. With Brahms, well, you see the result. Brahms probably is physically able to handle the load, but he might not be ready to lead the team at this point.

      I think the answer could well be have Horton slide over to center, and start Calvin Ashley at guard. Then we have the makings of a beefy, physical, SEC offensive line.

    • Acid Reign Acid Reign says:

      …..Horton might be physically overmatched against big SEC tackles, as well, having to post them up one on one like a Malzahn center has to.

    • wpleagle wpleagle says:

      So, we write off 2018 because the O-line ain’t gonna be there!!!

      • Acid Reign Acid Reign says:

        …..We never give up! We get these little nagging injuries healed up, keep working them in practice, and the light could come on at any time. If it's any consolation, most SEC West teams are having O-line problems. Alabama is masking theirs, because Tua has such a quick release.

  3. Acid Reign Acid Reign says:

    …..We finally got the power back on here, and I’ve been enjoying a late supper and some Kerryon Johnson on Sunday night football! It is amazing to watch a healthy Kerryon, especially on artificial turf.

    …..On a related note, what’s up, Alabama Power, with the current going out for 3-4 hours, every weekend?

  4. Jonathon Jonathon says:

    We’re in trouble… North Texas whipped Arky. We’ve been sleep walking out of the gate and that’s going to continue to kill us vs quality SEC opponents. Not to mention that at this rate, there’s no 1,000 yd. rusher in sight. Stidham ain’t what we thought at this point nor is our D. A Lot of work needs to be done. It might get done but I hate having to watch this painful startup to such a promising, verbally robust season. Heisman, best D-Line, etc…. UGH. Gimme a break.

    • greyfox says:

      PISH. First of all, you can’t compare us to North Texas. North Texas was playing amped up in their biggest game of the year with literally nothing to lose, and we’re coming off one of the most physical games we play all year (and a disappointing loss, at that). Maaaaaybe Arkansas was looking ahead? Maaaaybe their DC (someone familiar with Malzahn) saw something he could exploit. Maaaaaybe we were waiting for a weak defense (first since game 2, hardly a time to try things out) to experiment with a new OL look?

      Stop allowing yourself to ride the hype roller coaster.

      Our defense IS really good. LSU needed an INT to set up a 34 yard drive and an incredibly lucky 71-yard pass to set up their only two TDs. They didn’t drive and score touchdowns. At all. And the game-winning FG was a 50 yard drive, 30 of which came from VERY questionable PI calls. In fact, six of their nine 3rd down conversions came via penalty. Some were legitimate; some weren’t, but that’s fishy. We’re definitely missing Carlton Davis and our stellar safeties from last year, but we knew this. The penalties are a technical issue that will be cleared up in the coming weeks (actually we saw that much improved against Arky). The only real ??? on defense is the lack of an outside pass rush, mostly bc the lackluster performance from our would-be Buck star, TD Moultry. But Coe, Davidson, Brown, Russell, Big Kat, Andrew Williams are all living up to their billing. And Steele is figuring out how to get pressure on the QB with the lack of a true pass rusher (something he’s had the luxury of in recent years).

      If you want predictable, don’t watch football.

      War Eagle.

  5. zotus zotus says:

    Acid, I woke up this morning and found that the Auburn HC and the Auburn HC’s trusted sidekick and OC has a Monday morning revelation for the Auburn Faithful:

    “Offense’s struggles more than just offensive line.” … so says the sidekick, supposedly speaking for the entire Auburn Offensive Brain Trust.

    Every Defensive Coordinator in the SEC is probably saying, “No sh*t Sherlock, who gave you the clue!”

    Here’s what we heard when Auburn’s HC weighted in on the subject: “Yeah, we didn’t do a very good job in pass protection,” Auburn coach Gus Malzahn said. “We didn’t do a great job running. I’m not going to sit here and say it’s all our offensive line. I’m the type that really likes to look at the overall picture and dissect everything and have a better feel for it. You’ve got to give credit to Arkansas and their defense. I think they had a good plan, and I think they did a good job executing that.”

    Let me try to translate that coach-speak:
    “John Chavis and his defensive staff were prepared for, and stopped pretty much everything we tried to do offensively. Simply put, we were out-coached, start to finish. Duh!!”

    Thanks for that, coach. Next question.

  6. Tiger4Life says:

    Can someone explain to me why- after we score a touchdown- we line up in a weird formation, only to reassemble and kick a normal PAT?
    I must have seen it 50 times and once– MAYBE once– we tried a 2 point conversion. Just curious.

  7. Acid Reign Acid Reign says:

    …..It’s the old “swinging gate” play philosophy. It was really popular 15-20 years ago, in high-school games. Basically, the “quarterback” in the play counts defenders, and if the defense doesn’t line up for it, a quick snap and run the ball thing goes off for an easy two-point conversion. If the defense accounts for the strange formation, then pull everyone in and kick the extra point. This Auburn staff calls it the “Batman” formation.

    …..Auburn actually ran this thing for a score, way back in the first game that Gus Malzahn was the Auburn head coach. Ryan Smith took the snap and dove in, against Washington State in Mike Leach’s first game as a head coach at Wazoo.

    …..The ruse has not worked, since. Auburn played at it, against Arkansas, and got called for a delay of game. Didn’t matter, because Anders Carlson hit the backed-up extra point, anyway.

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