Tide Crushes Tigers.
Tigers had no chance in Tuscaloosa.
(AP Photo, Dave Martin)
War Eagle, everybody. It’s time now for the Acid Reign report on Auburn’s devastating 49-0 loss to Alabama. Auburn put up a fight for less than a quarter, then basically laid down and died in this one, blowing coverages and failing to tackle. In a year full of blow-out losses, this one eclipsed them all. If there’s one silver lining to this game, it’s that one day Auburn fans may look back and point to this day as a turning point in Auburn history. The Auburn administration will have to make the right moves in coming days, lest this sort of abominable play become the norm at Auburn.
Our favorite whipping boy in these grade reports this season has been Scot Loeffler and his inexplicable offense, and he had his usual share of head-scratching calls in this one. Loeffler tried at least a half dozen runs into the boundary with no lead blocker, an offensive staple this season which invariably leads to 3rd and long. If any play showed positive results this season, Loeffler was likely to shelve it. I wonder what he’s saving those plays for? However, I do think the offense tried harder than any other unit in this game. The lack of production is typical of most Alabama opponents. This Auburn team featured a true freshman quarterback and a freshman dominated offensive line. The lack of results were fairly predictable in this game.
What is truly the most disappointing aspect of all with this team is the defense. After all the talk of toughness and improved scheme, this unit pretty much equaled the worst of the Ted Roof defenses in recent years. Against SEC opponents, this team gave up 34 points per game, which is 3 points per game worse than Auburn’s defense last season. Alabama’s first drive was very much penalty aided. The second was a solid drive and a few athletic plays. After the defense fell behind 14-0, it looked like they quit trying. There was almost no push up front, and guys seemed to be actually avoiding contact, trying to make tackles with their hands only. It was truly embarrassing to see our guys on the defensive line shrink from contact even on short yardage plays. The most telling play was on Eddie Lacy’s second short-range TD run. An Auburn starting defensive end tried to run all the way around a tackle, end and wingback, and chase Lacy down from behind. On the goal line. That’s not Auburn football.
Even Auburn’s normally stout special teams took the day off. After Cody Parkey drilled the opening kickoff out of the end zone, his day was done before the game clock even started. Steven Clark had an abysmal day punting, and Auburn’s return teams failed to block anybody. Alabama directional kicked inside the Auburn 5 yard line 8 times, and Auburn failed to get to the 25 yard line every time but once late.
Unit Grades, after the jump!
Defensive Line: F. After the second series of the game, these guys mostly played like they were in the Pro Bowl, trying not to get their nails dirty. Lone bright spot in this performance was tackle Angelo Blackson, who was still out there fighting alone near the end. Gabe Wright also played hard at times, but he’s not yet an every down tackle.
Linebackers: F. Alabama ran the ball 47 times, and the leading linebacker tackler was Jake Holland with 6 total tackles. No one else in the linebacker corps was even in the top ten list of tacklers. When your starting middle linebacker is in on less than 25 percent of rushing tackles, that’s some exceptionally bad defense. It was interesting to watch reserve Kris Frost at the end of the game. He was running sideline to sideline, hitting folks, forcing fumbles, and generally putting himself in the way of the ball carrier every down. That this coaching staff sat him on the bench all year is inexplicable, considering what we did field against SEC competition.
Secondary: F. Alabama essentially beat these guys deep down the middle any time they wanted to. And if they weren’t throwing deep they were hitting easy slant passes and the Auburn secondary seemed clueless as to how to wrap up a receiver running with the ball.
Punting: D. I’ll give a passing grade here because Clark was able to keep Alabama from returning any punts, and a number of them were pretty high. However, distance was pretty poor in this game, as Clark finished with only a 34.6 yard average. High school punters typically kick it farther than 35 yards.
Punt Returns: D. After getting squashed on the kick return team, Quan Bray wanted no part of Cody Mandell’s two punts on the day. Bray let a late one hit and roll all the way from about the 15 yard line, down to the one.
Kick Returns: F. Auburn averaged just 18.5 yards per return, with almost non-existent blocking. Bama basically hunted Auburn return men like rats in a trap.
Place-kicking: A+. There was only one place kick the entire game, when Cody Parkey kicked off to start the game, and it was a touchback.
Offensive Line: C. These guys didn’t generate much of a push, but they did generally block their guy, even center Reese Dismukes, who had the thankless task of taking on monster nose tackle Jesse Williams. Williams had two tackles and one quarterback hurry. John Sullen was flagged for a false start once. The line allowed only two sacks, and both were when the quarterback took off early, not trusting the pocket.
Running Backs: C. I give a grade this high because Tre Mason and Jay Prosch gave Auburn-level effort the whole game, never giving in. We’ll need their leadership in the coming year! Points off for the Mason fumble. And points off for Onterio McCalebb, who reverted to running sideways. His only positive run was one where he was knocked forward by a Bama defender.
Receivers: C. Emory Blake was a bright spot, blocking well and finding hole after hole in the Bama zone. Of course, Auburn largely stopped throwing to him after a couple of back to back 3rd down conversions early on. I don’t know what we’ll do when he’s gone. We have a stable of 4 star guys coming back, but they all have a knack for tipping balls, and not bringing them in. I thought Brandon Fulse had a good day blocking, but he played less than half of the offensive snaps.
Quarterback: D. I think it was obvious that being a caretaker quarterback isn’t enough against a team like Alabama. Wallace made some good early throws, then had trouble when Alabama started running different (often fake) blitz packages. I credit Wallace for only making one obvious throw into coverage on the deep interception towards Sammie Coates. Even on that throw, Coates had inside position, and just didn’t time his jump correctly. And we should have taken more deep shots like that. On the other hand, Wallace will have to work on his accuracy. Less than half of his balls were catchable. Well folks, we can get ready for another Auburn spring with an undecided quarterback situation, the 6th in a row.
I’ve tried to avoid discussion on whether head coach Gene Chizik should stay or go this season, preferring to wait till the end of the year and judge the total work. Well, the end of the season is here, and I think it’s safe to say that virtually every aspect of the program got progressively worse as the season went on. Whether that’s because the schemes were poor, or the players didn’t perform, or some combination thereof, it’s clear that this coaching staff did not get it done. And I’ve always believed that if an Auburn team rolls over for Georgia or Alabama, the head coach must go. And that’s certainly what happened yesterday.
Well folks, we’ve now lived through the worst Auburn season of our lifetimes. What we need going into the Christmas season is at least a few rays of hope. Is the Auburn administration up to the challenge? We will find out. And we’ll follow the news closely this off season here at TrackEmTigers.com. If you’re still reading this far into this dismal report, thanks so much for sticking it out! And more importantly, thanks for sticking behind our Auburn Tigers. Things will improve next season. They have to. It’s great to be an Auburn Tiger!