Auburn Survives the Golden Eagles! (Grading Auburn’s 24–13 Win Over Southern Mississippi)
Seth Williams skies for a touchdown!
(AP Photo/Vasha Hunt)
War Eagle everybody! It’s time now for the Acid Reign Report on Auburn’s epically long homecoming win over Southern Mississippi. It was a tale of two games, almost. A couple of hours plus a lightning delay meant that this game kicked off at 3:01 PM and did not end till 9:02 PM. Auburn seemed primed to have a chance to drive and take a 3-score lead into halftime when the clouds started popping. The teams had to wait out the long delay while rain poured at times.
When the delay was over, the narrative seemed to have changed. I’ve never seen the Jordan-Hare Stadium turf as loose and slick as it was, after the rain delay. From that point forward, the Auburn offensive line appeared to be playing on skates. Pressure came every down on Auburn quarterback Jarrett Stidham, and drives bogged down into incomplete passes and very short dump-off passes. Auburn wound up losing both starting tackles to injury due to the poor turf. From there, the game became a tense defensive slugfest. It was quite reminiscent of last year’s homecoming game against Mercer, where Auburn had to hold off the scrappy Group of Five opponent, and put together a late drive to salt away a close win.
After 5 games, I feel it is safe to say that this year’s team is not going to have a great offense. There are just too many issues up front for the team to come out and be consistently explosive. Auburn’s running game was largely shut down in this one, and the quick screen game was usually not enough to move the ball down the field methodically. Auburn lived off of big plays on offense for the most part. The reason Auburn did not lose this game was that the offensive skill players were able to hold onto the wet ball, and Auburn had only 1 turnover on the day.
Auburn’s defense was once again stifling except for a very few plays. On the season, Auburn has allowed just 1 touchdown per game or less on defense except against LSU. Even against LSU, Auburn allowed just 2 touchdowns, and those were a freaky long pass and run and an early score after Auburn turned it over quickly in its own end. Southern Miss was a pesky, dangerous offensive opponent. Holding them to 13 points was a great feat.
Auburn had a good day on special teams, but not as good as the Arkansas game. There was another missed field goal from outside of 50 yards that was tipped at the line. Auburn very nearly gave up a turnover on a sky kick, something Southern Miss decided to do rather than kick off to Auburn’s dangerous return men. Auburn did a great job with the punt team, flipping field position consistently. The rare times USM was able to get a return, coverage was good.
Unit grades after the jump!
Defensive Line: A. There was nowhere to go for Southern Miss up front. Auburn plugged holes, harrassed the quarterback and made tackles. Despite facing a quick-throwing team, the line made 15 total tackles, including 4.5 behind the line of scrimmage.
Linebackers: A+. I continue to be amazed at how fast these guys track down ball carriers and plant them in the turf. Auburn allowed just 2.1 yards per rush and 4.9 yards per pass in this game. Deshaun Davis and Darrell Williams combined for 19 total tackles, including 4.5 tackles for a loss.
Secondary: A-. For the most part, Auburn did a good job choking down on the short passing game employed by Southern Mississippi. Tackling was largely sure, balls thrown into coverage were contested and there were few free receivers running around. As one would expect in a game where the other team threw the ball 44 times, the secondary was called upon to make plays. The secondary contributed 27 total tackles, had a couple of interceptions, and broke up 5 passes.
Punting: A. Arryn Siposs averaged 44.1 yards on 8 punts, and only 1 was returned for 11 yards. Siposs killed 2 of those deep in USM territory.
Punt Returns: B. Ryan Davis only had 2 returns for 3 yards net, but there wasn’t much opportunity in this game. The Southern Miss punter tried to line it away from Davis for much of the day and sacrificed yardage to do it, averaging just 40.9 yards per punt.
Kick Returns: B-. USM made the decision to kick off short and not give Noah Igbinoghene a chance to score. On 4 kickoffs, USM netted just 38 yards per kickoff, giving Auburn average field position at the 27-yard line. There was one dangerous bouncing ball than USM nearly recovered at the Auburn 25 before Auburn fell on it.
Place Kicking: A. I can’t count off for misses beyond 50 yards. Anders Carlson did hit his field goal attempt from 23 yards, and most of his kickoffs went for touchbacks. Carlson has yet to miss an extra point.
Offensive Line: F. This was a very poor outing against a non-Power-Five opponent. Not only were these guys often beaten at the point of attack, but they racked up numerous penalties, including 4 for false starts. If these guys are moving early with a partisan crowd, what will they do next week with the cowbells clanking?
Running Backs: B+. It’s hard to give a grade here because there wasn’t much up front. Auburn backs just had to make what they could on their own. Kam Martin got 90 yards on 24 very tough carries. JaTarvious Whitlow is a more patient runner and had a few good runs before he left with a shoulder injury. Auburn did make an effort to throw to the running backs some, and good things tended to happen. Auburn needs more of this in the game plan. 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. Auburn continues to have issues blocking quick screens. Auburn did not have much success there, aside from one tunnel screen to Darius Slayton. This was a tough game to be a receiver. Auburn wasn’t getting much protection for the quarterback, and time for long-developing routes was usually not there. Auburn was able to hook up with Seth Williams and Darius Slayton down the field a couple of times.
Quarterback: B+. Considering the spotty protection he got, Jarrett Stidham had a pretty good game with the only serious issue being one strip-sack fumble that he lost. With pressure in his face much of the game, Stidham connected on 19 of 33 passes, or 57 percent. Auburn generated 7.2 yards per pass, which is average in the SEC these days. Stidham threw for 2 touchdowns and no interceptions.
Homecoming is in the books, and Auburn hits the road next week to Starkville, Mississippi. While Auburn has struggled on offense the past couple of weeks, that side of the ball has been an absolute tire fire for the Mississippi State Bulldogs. In the past couple of weeks, MSU has managed just a single touchdown and 13 total points on offense against Kentucky and Florida. I expect Auburn to have defensive success in this game, as well.
Offensively, Auburn must continue to take care of the football. Auburn will have to try to improve piecemeal on the offensive line. We’ll await news on injuries, but it’s unlikely that much will be learned on severity of injuries suffered by Prince Tega Wanagho and Jack Driscoll till game time next weekend. Hopefully, both of those guys can go at full strength against a very tough Mississippi State defensive line.