Auburn Was Blown Out by the Tide (Grading Auburn’s 52-21 Loss at Alabama)
Auburn did not get Tua on the ground with the ball in his hand the whole game
(AP Photo/Butch Dill)
War Eagle everybody. It’s time now for the Acid Reign Report on a disappointing Auburn Iron Bowl visiting the Alabama Crimson Tide. The offensive line actually had some success moving the Alabama front, but aside from one punishing 2nd quarter drive, the coaches chose to abandon that philosophy for the most part. Meanwhile, the defense did a pretty good job limiting the Alabama running game but placed little pressure on Alabama quarterback Tua Tagovailoa. Alabama receivers took the Auburn defensive backs to school in Auburn’s worst performance of the season in the secondary. Even when Auburn players got their hands on Tagovailoa, they never made a tackle. Auburn was credited with 1 sack, but it was an intentional grounding call, not a tackle.
I have to seriously question the Auburn coaching decision to run 2 and a half minutes off the 2nd quarter clock at the end without trying to score again. The coaches sent a resounding message to the team with that decision, that there was no confidence in the offense. The Auburn offense has a quarterback that has excelled in the 2-minute offense. Instead, the coaches opted to fold, trailing by just 3 points. Alabama smelled blood at that point, came out with renewed confidence, and took it to a dispirited Tiger squad in the second half.
This was a disjointed week on offense for the Auburn Tigers for much of the game. Auburn came into the game tight and dropped several quick passes. Surprisingly, Auburn’s power run game had some success, but the coaches chose not to lean on it. I’ll never understand this staff’s thinking. We’ll see a play or concept work well, and the coaches choose not to run that play again. We again saw obvious packages. I was astounded when one of them worked for a touchdown on the double pass. We saw it when Ryan Davis lined up way back from the line of scrimmage, and designated screen receiver Malik Miller was shuttled into the game. How Alabama didn’t recognize that play before the snap, I could not tell you.
Special teams contributed little to this game, except for a blocked punt that set up a touchdown. Auburn has 7 blocked punts or kicks this season, the most since 1950. Other than that, we had a kickoff out of bounds, short punts, and no help at all from the return team.
Unit grades after the jump!
Defensive Line: C+. The line fit the running plays pretty well, aside from getting quick-snapped out of position on several plays. No Alabama rusher totaled over 41 yards, and Auburn held Alabama running backs to just 94 yards on the ground. The pass rush from the line was nonexistent, recording no stats. The line did not have a tackle for a loss and contributed just 10 total tackles.
Linebackers: C. The linebackers contributed 20 tackles, including 1.5 for a loss. The linebackers were a liability in coverage, allowing Bama backs and tight ends to rack up 9 catches and move the chains.
Secondary: F. Auburn gave up 5 touchdown passes, over 11.4 yards per pass, and broke up just 1 pass. The secondary did make 29 total tackles, almost half of Auburn’s total.
Punting: C. Arryn Siposs averaged 40.3 yards on 7 punts, with 2 killed inside the 20-yard line. A crucial punt catch interference penalty set up a short field for a Bama touchdown.
Punt Returns: B-. I give a grade this high due to the blocked punt, and Auburn did not let balls hit and roll. On the other hand, the unit managed just 3 returns for 6 total yards.
Kick Returns: C. My lasting memory of this unit from the game was all the 2nd half fair catches instead of trying to score and catch up. I was ready to fail this unit, but a fair review does have to include Noah Igbinoghene averaging 21.7 yards on 3 returns. That’s about average in this league. I suspect the fair catches were called by the coaches, again trying to get the game over with instead of trying to win.
Place Kicking: B+. I counted off a letter grade for a kickoff that went out of bounds. Otherwise, Anders Carlson did what was asked of him, at least when kicking the ball. He took a pass in on a swinging gate play and failed to pick up the first down, but that call is on the coaches. On a team with a bushel of 4-star receivers, they were throwing to the kicker to try and convert a possession play. Again, packages. Auburn ran Malik Willis out there, and Alabama knew he was not part of the regular field goal team.
Offensive Line: C. The line opened up some running lanes, but pass protection was very spotty. I was very disappointed to see the quarterback flushed out of the pocket on a 3-man rush, several times. Alabama racked up 8 quarterback hurries and 3 sacks as well as 5 tackles for loss.
Running Backs: C. For the day, Auburn did not have a run longer than 9 yards and had several dropped passes. Lead blocking more or less disappeared with Chandler Cox used more as a decoy than a battering ram. Alabama didn’t buy the decoys, and Auburn never targeted Cox. There were a couple of good receptions, a long dumpoff catch by JaTarvious Whitlow that resulted in a big first down, and Malik Miller caught the double pass for a touchdown.
Receivers: C-. The drops continue, and that really got Auburn off to a bad start to open the game. Auburn routinely lines up 3 or 4 wide receivers, but 90 percent of the time the team looks to Ryan Davis short and Darius Slayton long and ignores the other guys on the field. Auburn completed just one real pass of note to the receiving corps, a long bomb to Darius Slayton.
Quarterback: D. I will give a passing grade due to Stidham having a long touchdown pass, but after his first couple of passes were dropped, he was locked in on 2 receivers and could not make accurate throws. The stat line was abysmal, just 13 completions on 30 attempts for 127 yards, a TD and an interception. That works out to 4.2 yards per pass.
Auburn completes the regular season at 7–5, 3–5 in the SEC. We’ll wait until after the championship games and makeup games are completed next weekend for a bowl destination, although I can speculate that Auburn’s chances took a hit with its November finish this year.
As the SEC season wound down, several of the middle of the pack teams had strong November showings and passed Auburn in the standings. Texas A&M and Mississippi State finished strong and passed Auburn. The Tigers stand at 5th in the SEC West, ahead of only woeful Arkansas and probation-laden Ole Miss. In the East, Kentucky, Florida, South Carolina, and Missouri finished better than Auburn did. Overall in the league, Auburn finished 10th out of 14 teams. Of the 11 bowl-eligible SEC teams, Auburn has the advantage only over Vanderbilt.
Here’s a speculation on how the bowl destinations will shake out. Alabama will beat Georgia and be in the playoff as the number-one seed. Georgia will get an at-large bid to the Sugar Bowl. 3rd place in the conference goes to the Citrus, and 4th would be the Outback. Kentucky and Florida will get those bowls in some order. The tier is the TaxSlayer, the Belk, Music City, Texas and Liberty bowls. The SEC has four 8–4 teams, Missouri, Texas A&M, LSU, and Mississippi State. That leaves an open slot in the Liberty bowl between Auburn and South Carolina. The Gamecocks are currently 6–5 and have a makeup game against Akron for which they will be heavily favored. If both Auburn and USCe are 7–5, the Gamecocks have a better SEC record at 4–4.
That likely shunts Auburn and Vanderbilt down to the 3rd tier bowls, the Birmingham and the Independence. At best, Auburn ends up in Memphis. More likely, it’s Birmingham or Shreveport. At least the team will have bowl practices. It needs them.