Regular Season Wrapup
It will be back to work for the Tigers as they prepare for a bowl game
(Photo by Acid Reign)
War Eagle, everybody! This week, I will not speculate about the head coach’s future but focus on performance we saw and didn’t see. But first, I have to offer a shout-out to the Auburn men’s basketball team, on a 99–49 win over St. Peters. I got a chance to watch the stream and really enjoyed it. Auburn dominated from the opening tip and never looked back.
Switching back to football, I’ll start with the defense. Overall, this was an inconsistent unit. The majority of the teams Auburn played had difficulty moving the ball and difficulty scoring touchdowns. However, sprinkled into the overall stats are some pretty poor outings against Mississippi State, Tennessee, Georgia and Alabama. One of the more telling stats is sacks. Auburn managed just 30 over the course of the season or just 2.5 per game. Considering what was expected of a heavily veteran front seven, that’s a low number. Auburn also had 34 official quarterback hurries. Auburn opponents threw the football 352 times, and the Auburn pass rush made the play just 64 times.
Auburn linebackers led the way in tackles as Deshaun Davis finished with 98 total and Darrell Williams had 67 to lead the Tigers. Of Auburn’s top ten tacklers, 6 were in the front seven of the defense. Broken down by position groupings, the defensive line totaled 196 tackles, the linebackers 247 and the secondary 294.
Auburn special teams were definitely up this season, even though field-goal kicking was down. Punter Arryn Siposs averaged 43.4 yards per punt on 47 punts. He had 3 touchbacks and 16 killed inside the opponent’s 20-yard line. One has to go back pretty far in the Auburn record book to find an average that good. Auburn had just 8 punt returns against for 30 yards. Meanwhile, Auburn was credited with 28 punt returns for 312 yards. Some of those yards were off punt blocks, of which Auburn had 4. The Tigers also blocked 3 field goal attempts on the season.
Auburn was shaky on field goals, hitting only 15 of 26 attempts. However, 9 of the 11 misses were from 40 yards or longer, and 7 of the misses were from 50+. On kickoffs, Auburn managed 48 touchbacks on 64 kickoffs. When opposing teams did return the ball, there were just 10 returns for 201 yards. Auburn averaged 22.4 yards per return.
Offensively, criticism of this team starts with the offensive line, although the numbers tell a different story. Auburn allowed just 20 sacks on the season or just 1.6 per game. Auburn was not the usual dominant rushing team, finishing with just 1,950 rushing yards. That works out to 162.5 yards per game and 4.4 yards per carry. Take out the pair of blowout offensive performances against Alabama State and Liberty, and those numbers go down. Auburn was led on the ground by freshman JaTarvious Whitlow, who picked up 761 net rushing yards.
The Auburn passing game accounted for 2,449 total yards or 204 per game. Starting quarterback Jarrett Stidham hit just 59.8 percent of his passes for 6.8 yards per pass. Stidham threw 11 touchdown passes to just 5 interceptions on the season. Dropped balls were an issue all year long. Ryan Davis finished with 59 catches, but no one else on the team had more than 24 catches. Seth Williams led the way in receiving yards with 457, followed by Ryan Davis with 448, Darius Slayton with 403, and Anthony Schwartz with 303.
Overall, Auburn averaged scoring 28.2 points per game while holding opponents to 19.2. If one were to take out the games against ASU and Liberty, those numbers become 19.5 points per game while giving up 20.2. I think the offensive dry spells were obvious. What’s more alarming is the gradual slide in defensive production in the 3 years that Will Muschamp has been gone. This is a pattern everywhere Muschamp coaches, then leaves. Auburn gave up 17.0 points per game in 2016, 18.5 in 2017, and 19.2 thus far in 2018. That is not trending in the right direction.