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Cautiously Optimistic About Auburn Football

By on October 3rd, 2017 in Football 18 Comments »
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Auburn's offensive line gives Jarrett Stidham time to pass against Miss State Saturday Sept. 30, 2017 (photo: Julie Bennett/al.com)

In the wake of a dismal offensive showing against Clemson and homecoming foe Mercer, many questioned whether Auburn could win its SEC opener against Missouri. The Tigers answered with a 51–14 beatdown of their conference opponent. But the resounding defeat of Mizzou was tempered by the fact the Tigers from Columbia are not a good measuring stick.

Surely the No. 24 Mississippi State Bulldogs would present a bigger challenge. The opponent was different Saturday, but the result was the same—Auburn 49, Mississippi State 10.  

Those 10 points allowed are special because Auburn remains the only team in the nation to surrender no more than 14 points in a game this season. The defense kept dual threat quarterback Nick Fitzgerald contained most of the night, harassing him and sacking the signal caller twice—a feat that had only been accomplished one time this season. But for the second week in a row, this night also belonged to the offense. 

What is the reason for the apparent turnaround on offense?

The question may have multiple answers. To begin, is there any doubt that new offensive coordinator Chip Lindsey is running the show?  He demonstrated aggressive play calling, taking chances such as calling for a 57-yard bomb to Eli Stove with his quarterback standing in the end zone. I can’t imagine his predecessor living on the edge like that. 

Then there is that quarterback, Jarrett Stidham. It looks like it took the gunslinger a couple of games to shake off the rust from his 20-month layoff from playing football. The sophomore has been on fire the last three games, completing more than 80 percent of his passes. He completed 13 of 16, passing for 264 yards and two touchdowns. And his 261.1 efficiency rating for the game is the highest by an Auburn quarterback since Cam Newton did it against UT-Chattanooga in 2010. 

However the real reason for the offensive renaissance may be the play of the front five. The offensive line seems to be playing at a more consistent level since Casey Dunn was put at center and Austin Golson moved out to left tackle. 

The former starting five gave up 23 tackles for a loss, including 14 sacks in the first two games. The new-look line has only surrendered one sack against two good SEC defensive fronts. That says a lot about the Tigers’ success the last two weeks. The last two wins mark the first time in 30 years that an Auburn team has had back-to-back SEC victories with at least 30 point margins.

Running back Kerryon Johnson gained 116 yards against the Bulldogs and gave credit to the big uglies. “They all seem to be operating as one unit, and that goes a long way for any offensive line … they’re all thinking the same, they all block the same, getting hats on hats, and that makes my job a lot easier.”

With an offense clicking on all cylinders and a defense that ranks ninth in the country in total defense, the Tigers just may be on their way to a special season. As a fan in the stands Saturday night, it surely felt that way. However, I remember a six-game winning streak last season so I won’t allow myself to get too excited. Until the Tigers play the same way in the upcoming three-game road series, I remain cautiously optimistic. 

One game at a time folks … one game at a time.

18 Comments

  1. audude audude says:

    Well put ATM. Let’s take this one game at a time. We need to continue to show we can beat the teams we’re supposed to beat. It would seem that the SEC West isn’t as deep as in the past with Ole Miss, Arkansas, and LSU reeling. We really need to take care of business in these games, stay healthy, to be I’m good shape heading into Amen Corner.

    WDE

  2. easyedwin easyedwin says:

    On that 57 yard bomb from our end zone, I was praying there would be no holding called on Auburn [holding in the end zone is a safety]. Wow, I loved that play call.

  3. SEC_Eric SEC_Eric says:

    Good read this morning Tigerman and good advice.

  4. Col.Angus Col.Angus says:

    Can't agree with you more ATM. It all starts up front, on both sides of the ball. You have to control the line of scrimmage to be successful in football, especially in the SEC.

    We are having much more success on the offensive side of the ball because the O Line is protecting Stidham and giving him time to throw. If we continue our aggressive play calling, and can get some healthy running back in the mix, i do not doubt that we will continue to make big plays and score points by the bushel.

    The key is to stay healthy and aggressive. We have the talent to run the table, we just have to execute and take advantage of opportunities and limit our mistakes. Let me see, did I miss any cliches??? Nope, I got most of them!
    WAREAGLE

  5. Tigerstripe Tigerstripe says:

    All signs point that we're trending in the right direction. The O line seems to have some things figured out, receivers seem to be getting separation, Stidham seems to be getting comfortable with the offense, defense is still getting the work done, the kids are having a blast on the field and the stands are full and we need something good right now after the softball debacle and the current basketball situation.

    "Tempered" is a good description of the expectations since we looked good against Mizzou and MSU. But let's be honest…the SEC is down this year for some reason and we should enjoy being the favored for a while until UGA and bama. Even though I'm still salty about Clemson and our coaches not having all this figured out during the offseason, I'm just going to enjoy it for as long as it lasts. Just want to be 8-1 going into Georgia.

  6. AUNation AUNation says:

    One small edit: AU only sacked Fitzgerald once, and Big Cat Bryant sacked the second string guy in garbage time. I noticed that because it was the most frustrating thing about watching this game to me… our DL was in the backfield all night but just couldn't seem to quite make the play or get Fitzgerald down.

    Not saying the D didn't do an incredible job, but watching from my upper deck perch on the 50 yard line, its amazing how close this game was to being much uglier for Cousin Eddie. Holland was an absolute terror, and while you can attribute a lot of the false starts to the crowd noise, a good bit of that was the tackle being scared to death of getting his doors blown off by Holland on a rush. It was funny to watch the big Bulldog's frustration.

    • AubTigerman AubTigerman says:

      Yeah, I noticed that too.

      It’s hard to sack a dual threat who has a quick release. But Holland came ever so close several times. He definitely made Fitzjerald feel the pressure.

    • GreenvilleAUfan GreenvilleAUfan says:

      Expect to see more double teams of Holland just like teams did against Carl Lawson. When they do, it will release someone else to disrupt the play.

  7. fasttimes says:

    bama is only giving up 8.5 points per game an Auburn is 9.4. perhaps that should have said “Those 10 points allowed are special because Auburn remains the only team in the nation to surrender no more than 14 points in a game this season.”

  8. DothanTiger DothanTiger says:

    As goes the offensive line so goes a team’s chances at success.

    Keep it up boys!

  9. Jonathon Jonathon says:

    Yes, “one game at a time.” It’s hard not to look ahead and think of the ‘what-ifs.’ Articles like these will keep picking up steam:
    https://www.seccountry.com/auburn/espns-heather-dinich-auburn-among-teams-no-margin-error-college-football-playoff-discussion

    “Win out and avoid a letdown” – That’s beating Georgia then Bama and then the SEC East Champion in the SEC Championship game which could very well be a strong Georgia team for the second time… That’s a tall task.

  10. AUNation AUNation says:

    I agree it is a tall task, but I will argue that this team is better built for a championship run than the 2010 team was and they had to do something similar. They beat a stout SC team twice. The key factor keeping me hopeful is that this team has a defense that is leaps and bounds better than ’13 or ’10. We won’t be out of reach in any game we play, even if the offense has some struggles down the stretch. Plus with UGA and UA coming to us, I like the odds of seeing something special more and more every day.

  11. audad says:

    Good column Tigerman. Just one question. Was this really the first time in 30 years they had back-to-back conf. wins in which they have scored 30 points or more? That seems hard to believe. Did you perhaps mean the first back-to-back conf. wins with a margin greater than 30 points in 30 years? Just curious.

    21 pt. favorites against Ole Miss. No reason we can’t keep that streak going that you referred to. But 11 a.m. kickoffs historically have been scary. Maybe this group will be different with Stidham.

    • Acid Reign Acid Reign says:

      ….I’m not really sure where the “30 point margin” was said, but that’s an interesting question! In terms of SEC games, this phenom has tended to happen only sporadically, even in the best of Auburn times, and certainly not usually back to back!

      …..In 1987, Auburn beat Vandy 48-15, then Mississippi State 38-7 in the next SEC game. It happened!

      …..In 1988, Auburn beat Tennessee 38-6, then MSU 33-0, but there was a 6-7 loss to LSU in-between.

      …..From there, sporadic 30 point margins happened. Auburn 56, Vandy 6, in 1990. Auburn 46, Ole Miss 13 in 1995. Auburn 49, MSU 15 in 1996. Auburn 33, Vandy 0 in 2000. Auburn 45, Vandy 7 in 2003. Auburn 42, KY 10, in 2004. Auburn 48, USCe 7, in 2005. Auburn 34, MSU 0 in 2006. Then a bit of a drought, then Auburn 56, USCe 17 in 2010 in the Atl, for the SEC title game. Auburn 55, UT 23, in 2013. Auburn 41, LSU 7 in 2014. Then Auburn Auburn 56, Arkansas 3 in 2016.

      …..This year, Auburn 51, Mizzou 14, and Auburn 49, MSU 10, back to back! Wooooooo!

      • audad says:

        Acid, thanks for all of that info. And to clarify, my question was about the sentence Tigerman had at the end of one of his paragraphs where it said “the last two wins marked the first time in 30 years that an Auburn team has scored more than 30 points in back-to-back SEC victories.”

        And now let’s do it again on Saturday!!

        • AubTigerman AubTigerman says:

          And you were right AUdad. For clarity, I should have had the word "margin" in the sentence. I've made the edit. War Eagle!