Auburn Takes Down Ole Miss (Grading Auburn’s 31–16 Win at Ole Miss)
Auburn runners got cranked up
(AP Photo/Rogelio V. Solis)
War Eagle everybody! It’s time now for the Acid Reign Report on a winning Auburn day at the Ole Miss Rebels in Oxford, Mississippi. The offensive line had its best outing of the season, and the offense avoided turning the ball over. There were a number of balls dropped on the ground, but Auburn recovered each time. A much maligned, short-handed secondary improved dramatically in a week’s time. Ole Miss roared up and down the field with underneath throws, but things dried up dramatically for the Rebels in the red zone.
Auburn did a solid job up front on defense, limiting the Rebels to 123 rushing yards on 39 carries for just 3.2 yards per carry. Star Ole Miss quarterback Jordan Ta’amu diced up the Auburn defense for 324 yards, mostly in the middle of the field. When it counted on 3rd down or in the Auburn red zone, the Rebels did not manage a touchdown till there was only 2:24 left in the ball game. Auburn was able to get pressure on the quarterback, and Ole Miss converted just 6 of 17 3rd down conversions. The ability to just heave up sideline fade routes on Auburn disappeared this week.
This was an improved week on offense for the Auburn Tigers, but it is important to remember that this was against likely the worst defense in the SEC. Ole Miss got pushed around up front at times and missed a lot of tackles. Once Auburn really got the offense rolling in the 3rd quarter, the Ole Miss players were back on their heels. On particular play I remember was the 1 yard Malik Miller touchdown run to start the second half scoring. On that give, every Auburn offensive lineman pushed his man well back into the end zone. In fact, every Auburn lineman was also in the end zone on that run. That’s what will make this offense go!
Probably the most negative aspect of this game offensively was dropped passes and a couple of fumbles. There were at least 5 dropped passes, including a couple of “unassisted” drops where the receiver was just unable to hold onto the ball. Auburn runners fumbled twice, but both were recovered by a teammate. Auburn still needs to work on not sticking the ball out and losing control near the goal line.
Special teams had a decent day, overall, and punt fielding was shored up. Where Auburn had a near-disaster this week was fielding a pooch/sky kickoff. Two Auburn guys tried to field the ball at the same time, there was a collision, and the ball rolled toward the Auburn goal line. Auburn recovered at the 4-yard line, thankfully. That could have been a devastating blow if the Tigers had given up an easy touchdown to Ole Miss just before the half! Long field goal woes continue to plague kicker Anders Carlson. Brilliant in every other aspect of his game, Carlson continues to miss the long ones. The coaching staff keeps saying that they aren’t going to call for those anymore and still end up trying. The decision to try the 47-yard miss this week was on 4th and 2 at the Ole Miss 29-yard line. Auburn has a quarterback hitting well over 50 percent of his passes and a running back that averaged 8.9 yards per carry in the game. Instead, Auburn elected to try a field goal with a kicker that had only hit 1 of 8 field goals from that distance.
Unit grades after the jump!
Defensive Line: A. Auburn’s gap control continues to be excellent, and the line got pressure on the quarterback with just a 4-man rush most of the day. Kudos to Nick Coe and Marlon Davidson, who were able to put the elusive Jordan Ta’amu on the ground several times. The line had 16 total tackles, including 6 for loss, 5 sacks and 3 quarterback hurries.
Linebackers: A-. Ole Miss just wasn’t able to get much done in the box, aside from a few quarterback draws that succeeded. Those quarterback run plays dried up as the game progressed. Auburn linebackers were credited with 25 total tackles.
Secondary: B. Auburn gave up some passing yards against a very dangerous receiving corps. Auburn also had several favorable calls from the officials with a lucky noncall on what could have been pass interference. There was a big hit from Smoke Monday that was initially ruled targeting, but the flag was picked up after review. I’ve seen plenty of guys ejected for far less. The Auburn corners really came through, picking up the slack after starter Jamel Dean missed this game due to injury. Ole Miss really wanted to pick on these guys, and they were having none of it. Auburn did a good job of keeping Ole Miss receivers in front and making the tackle. Ole Miss was always going to get some completions, as it will against anybody. What Auburn did was to make them work the whole length of the field, and Ole Miss couldn’t convert drives for touchdowns.
Punting: A. Arryn Siposs had another good day, overall, with only one short punt that went 35 yards. On the day, Siposs had 3 punts for a 44.7 yard average, and only one return for next to nothing.
Punt Returns: B. On 4 Ole Miss punts, Ryan Davis had 1 fair catch and 1 reception in traffic and a 4 yard return. Ole Miss did their best to kick away from Davis with low, liner punts, and Davis did a decent job keeping rollers from happening.
Kick Returns: B. After Noah Igbinoghene crossed the entire width of the field and gained 39 yards on a return, Ole Miss went to sky-kicks and forcing Auburn upbacks to make a fair catch. There was a the aforementioned muff, but otherwise this was a good day for the Auburn return unit as it cost Ole Miss yardage on every other kick.
Place Kicking: A. There were field goal misses from 47 and 45 yards, but a made field goal from closer in. Carlson nailed touchbacks on 4 of 6 kickoffs, and the Ole Miss return unit was ineffective.
Offensive Line: B+. Auburn’s offensive line actually looked like a unit. They weren’t always overwhelming, but protection was good on most pass attempts, and these guys were able to help the running game take off. There was one holding call on reserve tackle Austin Troxell, who was forced into action due to an injury to starting right tackle Jack Driscoll. The holding call was so poor that it caused Auburn head coach Gus Malzahn to go into tirade mode, and the head coach drew a 15-yard penalty on top of it all.
Running Backs: B+. I have to count off for a few ball security issues here, but none resulted in turnovers. I really loved how the guys ran hard in this game, and JaTarvious Whitlow is really a guy who knows how to use his blockers. Some of the other guys aren’t as patient. Auburn made a big effort this week to mix in more sweeps and off-tackle plays, but some of Auburn’s runners don’t wait for the pulling guards to get around and engage defenders.
Receivers: B-. There were more drops in this one, including a couple that were uncontested, We have been calling for involving speedy freshmen Anthony Schwartz and Seth Williams to get the ball more. That pair contributed 5 touches for 125 yards. Darius Slayton had a couple of clutch catches, 1 inside the 5, and the other converted a crucial 3rd down late in the game and allowed Auburn to run the clock.
Quarterback: A-. Stidham showed vast improvement. He did not throw any balls at Ole Miss defenders and looked comfortable in the pocket for the first time this season against an FBS foe. There were some wise throwaways, too, instead of forced balls. Stidham is still throwing some balls a bit too high, but this week he was close enough that receivers were mostly able to go get them. The stat line shows 13 completions in 22 attempts, but in reality there were about 5 dropped passes in this one, which translates to a pretty good day statistically. Even with the drops, Stidham managed 9.7 yards per pass, which is a good performance.
I am glad to see the “no bowl” bugaboo get mostly put to rest, this week. Now, Auburn can focus on just getting better and better each week. I’m not feeling at all confident that Auburn can beat Alabama this year, or that anyone can, for that matter. I got my first extended viewing of the Tide since opening week, yesterday. Scary football team! However, I think Auburn has the talent to beat the rest of the teams on the schedule with a defense that can play with anybody. It’s just a matter of eliminating the awful mistakes.
Thankfully, Auburn has a bye week next Saturday, which should allow some of the walking wounded to heal. The off-week comes at a good time after a positive outing against Ole Miss. Coming off the bye on November 3rd, Auburn hosts Texas A&M, then visits Georgia. The Aggies tend to wilt a bit in November, which should help Auburn. LSU gave us the blueprint for how to beat Georgia. Shut down its running game, and make the quarterback perform. That didn’t happen against LSU, and Auburn has the players to repeat that performance. Auburn hosts Liberty the week before the Iron Bowl, presumably a tune-up game. However, Liberty has been winning this year and beat Troy a couple of Saturdays ago. I don’t see it getting the upset at Jordan-Hare, though.