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Tennessee Fades Auburn (Grading Auburn’s 30–24 Loss to Tennessee)

By on October 14th, 2018 in Football 13 Comments »

A sloppy performance
(John Reed, USA TODAY Sports)

     War Eagle everybody! It’s time now for the Acid Reign Report on an abysmal Auburn day, hosting the Tennessee Volunteers. Shaky offensive line problems continued, and a propensity to give the ball back to Tennessee doomed the Tigers to a 3024 loss to Tennessee. Auburn played better than a week ago in the front 7 on defense, but this day it was the Auburn secondary that could not make plays on 3rd and long. The Tigers stuffed Tennessee on the ground only to surrender 10 of 19 times on 3rd down, usually on long fade routes on the sideline. When the Auburn defense stops the run, teams just heave the ball up the sideline, and Auburn can’t stop it.

     Auburn did a solid job up front on defense, limiting the Volunteers to just 68 rushing yards on 36 carries for just 1.9 yards per carry. In the end, none of that mattered as Tennessee quarterback Jarrett Guarantano got the ball off quickly, hitting on 21 of 32 attempts for 328 yards with no turnovers. That works out to a gaudy 10.2 yards per pass average. Auburn was able to sack Guarantano 3 times, but unlike his counterpart in the blue shirt, Guarantano was able to secure the ball and not kill his team’s chances with turnovers.

     It was another shaky day on offense for Auburn. More new problems arose this week. After an improved performance against Mississippi State, the offensive line took a couple of steps back. This week, the issue was not knowing who to block. Tennessee showed some different looks, disguising pressure. Often there would be free rushers in the backfield with linemen standing around with no one to put a hat on. Auburn got killed numerous times in the A-gap, where pressure came right up the gut. If you do nothing else on the offensive line, you can’t allow guys to pour through the middle unhindered. Protection starts in the middle and works outward, no matter how the defense lines up. Auburn forgot that this week. It wasn’t a good day running the ball, either. A tailback trio of JaTarvious Whitlow, Kam Martin and Malik Miller combined for 20 carries for 77 yards, only 3.8 yards per carry.

     Ordinarily, when your quarterback hits 28 of 45 passes, for a 7.1 yards per pass average, that’s a decent day. A day with 3 turnovers is a day most teams can’t win. Both interceptions were thrown right to a defender, and several more balls should have been intercepted. The interceptions could have been pick sixes if not for miracle tackles by freshman receivers.

     Special teams had a decent day overall, but punt fielding has become shaky. Tennessee punted 4 times, and Auburn had 1 fair catch. After last week, Auburn seemed content to just let punts roll dead down near the Auburn goal line. There was also a botched kick return that pinned Auburn deep. Auburn also attempted and missed a 52-yard field goal attempt after head coach Gus Malzahn said Auburn didn’t need to be taking those shots. I thought the decision was very questionable under the circumstances. Auburn was trailing by double digits early in the 4th quarter. The quarterback was completing 62 percent of his passes, while the kicker was just 1 for 6 (16 percent) from 50 yards or more. The odds of picking up the first down were way better than the chances of making the kick. And, Auburn needed to keep moving and give a tired defense more of a rest.

Unit grades after the jump!

Defensive Line: B+. Auburn’s gap control was much better this game, and the line did pressure the quarterback when he wasn’t throwing it up quickly. The line had 22 total tackles, including 5.5 for loss, and 3 quarterback hurries.

Linebackers: B-. Run fits were better this week, and Tennessee had nowhere to run. My issue this week was a lack of coverage on running backs. Tennessee backs were able to run quick, shallow wheel routes and get downfield for good, uncontested throws. Chandler and Jordan combined for 7 catches for 85 yards and a touchdown. Auburn linebackers contributed 21 total tackles.

Secondary: D-. With the exception of a couple of pass breakups by Jeremiah Dinson and Jamel Dean, this unit was helpless with the ball in the air. Usually making the tackle after the catch, the secondary contributed 25 tackles.

Punting: A. Arryn Siposs has been as good as advertised. On the day, Siposs had 3 punts for a 44.3 yard average and no returns. Auburn would be well served to hold onto the ball better and have Siposs punt it away more.

Punt Returns: D. This unit managed 1 fair catch on 4 punts. At least there were no fumbles, hence the passing grade.

Kick Returns: D. Auburn returned a couple of kickoffs and did not get out to the 25 on either one. Shaun Shivers was tackled after only 7 yards on his return. Fair catches would have netted 17 more yards than this unit produces.

Place Kicking: A. I still don’t count off for misses beyond 50 yards. As mentioned above, trying the kick was a lousy decision. Anders Carlson made all of his other kicks, and was 4 for 4 kicking touchbacks on kickoffs.

Offensive Line: D. The unit takes 1 step forward and 2 steps back.

Running Backs: B. Auburn backs had no chance in this game, often getting hit taking the handoff. And Auburn lost its best rusher, JaTarvious Whitlow, when Whitlow was trying to recover a quarterback fumble. The bright spot was a few short passes to Malik Miller, who gets up a nice head of steam and punishes defensive backs.

Receivers: B-. There were more drops in this one, including a deep ball where Darius Slayton had gotten behind the defense. However, Auburn receivers made most of the offensive plays in this game. Again questioning the decision making, after a 76-yard touchdown catch and run, how does Auburn never target Anthony Schwartz again?

Quarterback: D-. It’s a letter grade per turnover, and taking a sack on 4th down had to count off, too. Maybe Jarrett Stidham was just trying to make too much happen this day. I am not calling for benching Stidham, though. Realistically, I don’t think Auburn has a quarterback ready to hit 28 of 45 passes in a game now, other than Stidham. And with no running game to speak of, Auburn must keep throwing the ball.

     Auburn’s postseason chances have plunged the past 2 weeks. We were talking about the Tigers staying in contention for a title 2 weeks ago. A bowl bid looks unlikely. Auburn stands at 4–3 with 5 games left and needs 2 wins. Even a win over Liberty does not look automatic, now. Liberty beat Troy yesterday. Auburn is at Ole Miss ndxt, then has a bye week. Auburn will host Texas A&M, then visits Georgia and closes out hosting Liberty before traveling to Alabama. Can the Tigers somehow pick up 2 wins and get to Shreveport or Birmingham? It doesn’t look good right now.

13 Comments

  1. meathead530 says:

    This is starting to feel like 2015 again.

  2. idnod idnod says:

    You absolutely have to start grading the coaching. …F- I have been watching Auburn football for 50 years. That performance was abysmal. How can Washington, who lost to this bunch,even sniff the top 25 ? What is Bama gonna do to this bunch ??? hang half a hundred on them by halftime before a 70 point beatdown?? Oh and don’t start thinking that Liberty is a sure win, this dumpster fire is only going to get worse !!! SORRY, it needs to be said.

  3. Squeakywheel says:

    Agree with your assessment Acid… this many mistakes falls on the coaches – may be more disfunctional that Washington DC.

  4. Acid, as always your dedication to Track’em is impeccable. Maybe we should start a hashtag #GusSurvivor for clear reasons. The JJ era and now the Gus era are going down as historic blunders. The pain is now numbness and I am not surprised by seeing new lows achieved week in and week out. Last year’s Georgia and Bama upsets resulting in absolutely nothing were par for the course with the Gus era. It’s gonna continue to be a painful year and Auburn could sink to SEC bottom feeder as TAMU, Ole Miss, Florida, LSU, and even Kentucky continue to track upwards. #GusSurvivor. War Eagle good people.

  5. easyedwin easyedwin says:

    Tough to watch this one. Tough!
    I will say, however, the trip to Oxford should include a stop in Tupelo to see Elvis ‘s birthplace. The Corky’s BBQ in the stadium is good too. The Grove is way cool with the trees and canopies and candelabras. I have read William Faulkner and thought he must have consumed lots of alcohol while writing “As I Lay Dying”. Auburn cannot “Lay Dying” in Oxford.
    Bench JS for the first half. Let Willis be the run threat that he is. Let Cord run the Wildcat. Throw to Asa more and please use our FAH [fast as hell Ontario McAlab clone more]. We can run on Ole Mississippi. Let Nick Coe get some sacks. We will get our share of interceptions. Practice running them back for TDs.
    This time next week the grades will be much better!

  6. zotus zotus says:

    Acid, more than a few amateur psychiatrists have weighed-in on what is wrong with the football team under the control of the 5th highest-paid HC in college football.

    I think I’ll forego commenting on the psycho-babel of wannabe shrinks and let Auburn’s HC speak for himself.

    B Marcello reported on Coach Malzahn’s presser after the Tennessee game.
    ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
    Here’s what Malzahn said:
    “I’m going to watch the film,” Malzahn said. “We’ll have a plan moving forward, whatever that is, to get better. Bottom line is we’ve got to get better and we’ve got to get better as a team. I’m very disappointed with our performance. I thought we would play better. We had a very solid week of practice. I’m disappointed for our players, I’m disappointed for our fans, not happy.”

    Asked whether he plans to look at his staff, their responsibilities and their future in the program, he deflected the question after Tennessee won its first game against an SEC West team since 2010.

    “Right now, my feelings are I’m disappointed for our team,” Malzahn said. “I’m not ready to sit here and make any kind of talk about staff or players other than I’m disappointed. We’re going to watch the film, and we’re going to get this thing corrected. That’s my responsibility as a head coach. Whatever it takes to get us corrected and finish this thing the right way, I’m going to do.”
    ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
    Well, there you have it. That’s what he said.

    Sounds very much like this to me:
    “Working the land.” “Feeling disappointed.” “Watching film. “Hoping for a fertile Spring.”

    That’s exactly what you get from a $7 MIllion per year Auburn Head Football Coach nowadays.
    ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
    P.S. It’s about time that we hear from Allen Greene on this subject, don’t you think? We’ll all be listening. WDE!
    ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

  7. ATL_AU_FAN ATL_AU_FAN says:

    I don’t even know what to think —

  8. meathead530 says:

    I’m getting tired of Auburn being signature wins for other programs.

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