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Auburn Was Blown Out by the Tide (Grading Auburn’s 52-21 Loss at Alabama)

By on November 25th, 2018 in Football 20 Comments »

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.

20 Comments

  1. meathead530 says:

    Great analysis as usual.

    I was surprised with the first half. But once again Gus couldn’t keep the enthusiasm going. That blunder late in the first half to let the clock go down was embarrassing. He lacks aggression.

    Well, if they get the Birmingham Bowl, I’ll get to go again. War Eagle.

  2. Randyc37 Randyc37 says:

    A great read Acid. That was a painful game to watch in the second half. I really felt that Auburn had a chance in this game until Gus Malzahn decided to run out the clock in the first half. That move shifted the momentum to Bama.

    Auburn is now 21-19 in SEC play for 5 years under Gus Malzahn. I now wonder if this football program can be salvaged before they continue to decline to the depths of mediocrity. It does seem that an offensive coordinator change is coming and perhaps a QB that is the right fit for the offense will be the cure.

    We have all heard the news about Kelly Bryant. He is scheduled to visit Auburn this week for his final visit and Auburn seems to be the right fit. If he does choose another school, I would just play Bo Nix. I have seen him play and he throws a much better ball than Joey Gatewood.

    If a new offensive coordinator is hired, he does need to have complete autonomy to succeed, but I doubt if that will happen unless it is Hugh Freeze.

    Recruiting is still looking good for now and Auburn does need to keep up with Bama and UGA who only seem to be getting better. I will just keep the faith and hope for an improvement next season. If not, I am sure that the money people at Auburn will make a move.
    War Eagle!

  3. domaucan1 domaucan1 says:

    Thanks, A.R.
    I will just repeat what I said in your last blog:
    Never forget, WIN or lose: IT’S GREAT TO BE AN AUBURN TIGER !!!
    WAR EAGLE !!!
    GO BIG BLUE !!!
    BEAT WHOEVER IN WHATEVER BOWL GAME !!!

  4. easyedwin easyedwin says:

    WTH! We should have driven down the field late in the first half and at LEAST tied the game with a field goal. Coach Thompson has the motto ATTACK. Where was our attack? This game was over at the end of the third quarter. Even Rod and Stan said it was over after the third quarter. I believe everyone, including our coaches gave up. GAVE UP!! We are no longer competitive in the SEC. What an underachieving team! Both coordinators will probably be gone. Maybe we should enter CUSA.

  5. audad says:

    Another good season of analysis, Acid. Thanks for your efforts. Your sentence that says Auburn finished better than only one of the 11 bowl eligible teams says it all. For a team expected to compete again for the SEC title and possibly even a playoff birth. Nothing more needs to be said. Absolutely nothing.

  6. Randyc37 Randyc37 says:

    If there was not a huge buyout for Gus Makzahn, I feel that Auburn University would be looking for another head coach this week. The Auburn fan base deserves better than what happened this season.

    I left the bus when Gus failed to go for a score with 2 minutes and 14 seconds left in the first half. A score at that time would have been a huge momentum boost for Auburn going into the second half. Gus was just letting the players know that he had no faith in the offense to score.

    One writer told me yesterday that he fears that Auburn is “heading towards an iceberg”. I just hope that someone in the Auburn Athletic Departnent can prevent this Auburn Football team from becoming irrelevant in the SEC.
    War Eagle!

  7. neonbets says:

    Gus made a great decision to opt for a passive approach to end the half. Think about it just for a second before making these rash, knee-jerk (and frankly unfair) assessments of Coach Malzahn. Had he, for example. been Mr. Macho Man and played to actually compete in the Iron Bowl–there is a good chance 'bama would have stopped the Tigers with time remaining in the first half.

    [For you people slow to comprehend let me repeat: 'bama would have gotten the ball back—WITH TIME REMAINING! Do you see where this is going? Do you understand the ramifications here? DO YOU?

    'bama would have had time remaining in the 1st half–with the ball(!). Not only that, but 'bama could have scored.

    Then what would the score of this game been? We would have lost by the humiliating score of 59-21!!! Instead, Coach Malzahn saved us that indignity and we only lost 52-21. YUGE!

    Kudos to Coach Malzahn. And thank you, coach for all you do.

    Psst! Hey, Coach Malzahn—I'm thinking someone just earned himself another guaranteed extension! 2030! 2030!

  8. …..I appreciate the tongue in cheek!

  9. War_Eagle_2010 War_Eagle_2010 says:

    Alabama is the only really good team in CFB this year, that’s a fact. Auburn could easily have been 9-3 this year and still lost in blowout fashion to Bama. They’ve blown out every team they’ve played by a similar margin. Frankly its just not fun to play them right now, not when you have to play a perfect game just to make it competitive.

    So, Auburn IMO is about as good as most of the top 25 teams. Think about it, Auburn beat a (once again) top ten Washington team that may very well win the Pac 12, Auburn beat a very good TAMU team that played even with Clemson and played Bama tougher than anyone else, Auburn had the LSU game stolen away by several bad PI calls. Next year maybe they do catch the breaks and everyone will feel better again, but Auburn won’t be able to catch Alabama as long as Saban is their coach.

    Feel free to argue, and pretend things could be so much better without Gus, but I doubt they would. I don’t think he’s cheating but it does suck that Saban is ruining the game by being so good. Life isn’t fair though, so I’m willing to wait this thing out. I just don’t want Auburn to make the mistake Nebraska and Tennessee made and fire a successful coach and never recover.

    • Zach Taylor Zach Taylor says:

      See, here’s the thing. How can you say that about Tennessee, who BEAT US INSIDE JHS?

      Also, Nebraska is going to get a LOT better. Trust me.

      • WarSamEagle WarSamEagle says:

        Tennessee lost never coulda, shoulda happened – no argument there! But them getting the win has nothing to do with the argument that you need to be careful about firing a coach who has won an SEC Championship and played for a Natty. 10 years after Tenn. fired the guy that brought them a National Title, they are still mired in mediocrity.

        And Nebraska? They fired a 9-4 Bo Pelini and now 4 years later they are sitting at 4-8. So I do trust you that they will get better… because all they have to do to show improvement is be 5-7 next year.

    • GreenvilleAUfan GreenvilleAUfan says:

      You are right WE_2010. We can’t let emotions of the moment set Auburn back several years.

  10. idnod idnod says:

    being competitive for a half against that Bama team is OK, so long as its not acceptable. Losing to Tennessee is NOT OK, no how, no way. Coaching has to get better. Go 7-5 Next year and SEE what happens.

  11. WarSamEagle WarSamEagle says:

    Another good article Acid. I Appreciate your work. Your one of the reasons I came to TET and stay with you guys.

  12. Randyc37 Randyc37 says:

    It is unacceptable to lose by 31 points to your biggest rival after being the head coach at Auburn University for 6 years.

  13. easyedwin easyedwin says:

    /\ /\ what he said!
    2008 Iron Bowl Tubbs quote”they were out for blood” we lost by 36 points.
    2018 Iron Bowl Malzhan quote “it snowballed on us” we lost by 31.

  14. meathead530 says:

    I wonder if Gus is aware of what others think about him. Surely he has some kind of pride and thinks that he needs to improve. Doesn’t he hate that people think he is an idiot? He lacks a sense of urgency, but I suppose when you have that kind of buy out why bother?

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