For your consideration… (Ole Miss Edition)
War Eagle! After watching the Auburn versus Ole Miss Game last night I am perplexed. And I mean perplexed in a good way. Things happened that simply weren’t supposed to happen. Other things that I thought were going to happen didn’t. In the final analysis a decent performance by a young football team against a nationally ranked opponent.
First, after four games in the season gone… I thought we knew our defensive front four were about the worst in the SEC. Hold the phone! Not so fast! Last night this unit inflicted its will on the Ole Miss Offense nearly every down. Amazing effort by the defensive front four! Their effort held the keys to this game. And Nosa Eguae… welcome to the first string! You played wonderfully. Ford, Eguae, Wright, Lawson had the right stuff to get to Bo Wallace for at least six sacks by my count. He was constantly hearing footsteps around him all night long. Remember, that was key #1 to winning the game. Because of that, and because Ole Miss didn’t have a power running attack… Ole Miss nearly abandoned the run altogether. They only mustered 124 yards for 39 attempts for a paltry 3.2 yards per carry. Again, remember, stopping their running attack was key #2.
Continuing the praise of the defense, our line backing corps, corners, and safeties… did a fabulous job. True, Ole Miss and Wallace had 340 yards passing on Auburn… and most of that came in the second half. Still, Ole Miss couldn’t convert drives into touch downs and it cost them the game. There were only two big plays that I recall and both were covered by AU defenders. It was a credit to the athleticism of Ole Miss’s receivers when they were able to catch the ball. Additionally, AU’s defensive backs were laying the wood. Let’s not overlook the play that had to put doubt into Wallace’s heart… when Therezie made the 78 yd interception for TD. Anytime to you take an opponent’s turnover and turn it into points… that is saying something. There were a total of two interceptions last night. And I think Wallace has only thrown two picks all season. And that was yet another sign that AU showed up to win.
There was some praise on the offense. But frankly, when compared to the defense it was very little. The overall output of the offense was intermittent. Inconsistency plagues Auburn at wide receiver. At times I question how we can be so one dimensional still.
The first positive nod on offense starts with our offensive line. They gave effort on every play. They established running lanes and provided good pass blocking for Marshall when he threw the ball. For AU to have any chance at winning games… this squad must continue to get better with every game. It was obvious they came to play last night. This was key #3.
The second nod goes to Auburn’s run offense. It was our bread and butter last night. And for whatever reason… Ole Miss couldn’t stop it, especially in the first half. Tre Mason was dependable, steady back that normally doesn’t commit errors. And last, Nick Marshall also contributed positively but mostly on the ground. He wasn’t a passing threat at all… which was surprising but he did make Ole Miss pay dearly when they didn’t cover him on the run plays. He showed some real guts running that ball in to traffic. AU had 282 yards rushing for 48 attempts at 5.8 yards per carry. Very respectable in my opinion. Marshall had 140 yards rushing and two touch downs. He was the offensive workhorse!
But there were still inconsistencies last night. Inconsistencies that will cost AU if they are not addressed when we play the tougher part of our schedule:
1) Ball control. Why AU had two fumbles last night I still do not understand. Mason uncharacteristically had one last night. It basically killed a drive when he was hit in the back field by an Ole Miss defender shortly after a handoff from Marshall. Marshall ended up having to run the Ole Miss Player down from behind. And then Cameron Artis Payne’s fumble is just sloppy ball handling and it was on a positive play. There is no other way to describe this. I have wondered many times why this kid doesn’t get the ball more… he is our biggest back by far. But after watching that play… I understand. I don’t know if he is as bad as Brandon Jacobs… (who played on the NY Giants) but he does have a problem.
2) Receivers. AU threw for 94 yards. The biggest contributor… Tre Mason! AU dropped six passes last night. Nick Marshall was 11 for 17. This phase of our offense didn’t dazzle anyone last night. Some of our team really needs to get a gut check, because they haven’t contributed all year long. Fulse, Bray, & Louis… why do you even dress out? Between the three of them… last night the contributed for 3 catches for 9 yards. Coates had two receptions for 13 yards. And where in the world is Uzomah? This group needs a lot of help!
3) Play calling. Say what you want about Malzahn and his philosophy. But the offensive play calling last night hampered at times. It got progressively worse as the game went on. I think AU could have put the game away early had they been able to finish drives in the first half. Instead it went to the locker room with a 20-6 lead when it could have been more. 3nd and four… and we go to the end zone? Really? Rhett Lashley, what about getting a first down to keep the drive alive? I think AU punted 3 or 4 times in the first half. In the second half, when Marshall got hurt… he wasn’t 100%… why not put in your back up QB? He is more than capable. Yet you’re going to run your best into the ground? The game was in doubt late into the game when it should not have been… I feel.
Regardless, there are signs that AU is getting better game by game. However, this is still a young team. No team on the schedule is a ‘gimme’ game in my opinion. If AU wants to go to a bowl game it will take their best effort week in and week out.
During this past week I heard on the site several fans talking about how UT and Arkansas games would be “wins”. I am still laughing at that one. After watching a tough Vol team takes UGA to overtime and end up losing by 3 points… I think we will be lucky to beat the Vols at home. Likewise, the Arkansas team has been criticized about its inability to stop opposing teams… and for its uncharacteristic lack of offensive output. Just remember, this team last week hung with A&M for nearly 4 Qtrs. Auburn better come to play every game. If it ‘takes games off’ or doesn’t provide best effort… losing will be inevitable.
In closing, I would like to congratulate Ellis Johnson and his staff. I don’t know what they did to get the response from these kids… but it obviously worked! War Eagle!!