Tigers Blast the Razorbacks! (Grading Auburn’s 51-10 win at Arkansas)
Marlon Davidson took it away early
(Todd Van Ernst)
War Eagle everybody! It’s time now for the Acid Reign Report on Auburn’s big road win over the Arkansas Razorbacks. Much was made this week of the “Arkansas early game curse” and not without reason. This time, Auburn started fast, and Arkansas would be out of the game in less than 5 minutes. down 14–0. Arkansas won the toss, and on 3rd down Marlon Davidson stripped the ball out of Arkansas quarterback Ben Hicks’ hand and was able to recover the fumble at the Arkansas 21-yard line. It took just 3 plays for Auburn to score, and the game already felt out of hand.
The offense appeared to come out with some well-scripted plays to gain an early lead, but Arkansas then tightened up nearly every defender into the box and dared Auburn to throw. At that point, Bo Nix and his receivers had several missed-communication issues, and Auburn managed just a handful of 2nd quarter yards, but had a 17–0 lead at the half.
The 3rd quarter began poorly for the Tigers. Auburn received the opening kickoff, then apparently forgot to call a first play or to set up which players were going to be in on the first snap. A delay-of-game flag was thrown on the Tigers, leading to a quick 3 and out. Arkansas went on its longest drive of the day with some interesting switches on run blocking plus multiple defensive penalties on Auburn. The Tigers finally tightened up and forced a field goal, and still held a 17–3 lead.
Arkansas had eaten the 3rd quarter clock down to 5:53 by the time the Auburn offense got a second chance. Auburn cracked out a couple of first downs behind hard-nosed running by D. J. Williams, and a first-down touchdown bomb from Bo Nix to Seth Williams essentially iced the game. From that point, the Auburn offense exploded for 4 more touchdowns in the last 20 minutes of the game.
On defense, Auburn had as big a mismatch up front as I have ever seen against an SEC offensive line. Arkansas tried everything but could not effectively protect the quarterback or open up running lanes very often. Auburn had a few errors in the back seven, but Arkansas did not manage to get into the end zone till late in the 3rd quarter, when reserves were being added to the rotation in increasing numbers.
Special teams were mostly decent on the day, and Auburn certainly won the battle over Arkansas in all phases. Auburn broke the consecutive made-extra-point record with 304 straight before missing one in the 4th quarter.
Unit grades after the jump!
Defensive Line: A+. Auburn held Arkansas to just 52 rushing yards for the game, and Auburn linemen caused havoc frequently for the Razorbacks. The line totaled 19 tackles, including 5 tackles for a loss and 2 sacks. There was also a forced fumble and recovery, and a couple of passes batted down at the line. Marlon Davidson had a whale of a game, and Arkansas avoided his side of the field after a while.
Linebackers: B+. I counted off a bit for a starting linebacker blowing a coverage and allowing an Arkansas tight end get away for a big touchdown reception. Also, there were a few missed tackles. However, overall this unit played well, especially against the run. The linebackers contributed 9 tackles and a sack.
Secondary: B+. I counted off for a couple of coverage penalties and for safeties getting the top blown off the defense on a late touchdown. However, these guys also made a bunch of plays and continue to tackle well. They had to this game as Arkansas attempted 40 passes on the day, completing just 19. The secondary held the Razorbacks to just 4.5 yards per pass. That offensive performance won’t result in many winning drives with completions less than half the time. The secondary made 27 tackles and was credited with 6 pass breakups.
Punting: A. Auburn punted just twice, Arryn Siposs averaged 47.0 yards per, and Auburn did not allow a return.
Punt Returns: B-. I gave this grade due to 5 fair catches on 6 Razorback punts. On the other hand, Auburn prevented any poor field position due to rolling, and there were no punts dropped on the ground. Arkansas was punting high and short with only a 39-yard average.
Kick Returns: A- I would have liked to have seen a little better blocking, but I felt like all 3 Auburn men who returned kickoffs made some good runs and decisions. Noah Igbinoghene had 1 for just 15 yards, but it looked like at least 7 or 8 coverage guys had broken through the protection. Arkansas tried to bounce a squib kick, and Spencer Nigh not only corralled the loose ball at the 25-yard line, but then rammed forward through defenders for 11 yards. Matthew Hill caught a 2nd-half kickoff at the ten and looked pretty good stretching it for 22 yards.
Place Kicking: B. Daniel Carlson hit 5 touchbacks on 9 kickoffs, but it should be noted that Arkansas brought a couple of them out of the end zone. The Razorbacks paid the price for that, managing only 18 yards per return and not getting any of the 3 returns out to the 25-yard line. I did not count off for a field goal miss from 48 yards. That’s a coin-flip chance or worse. I did count off a letter grade for a missed extra point. It did not significantly affect the outcome of the game.
Offensive Line: A-. First off, Arkansas really sent the house after the first couple of Auburn drives, and 5 linemen can’t block all 8 or 9 of the defenders that were coming. Looking at measurables, Auburn allowed only 2 sacks and 3 tackles for loss, and had no line penalties. On a day when 8 different ball carriers rolled up 298 rushing yards, you have to figure the line did a pretty good job.
Running Backs: A. I loved the committee look this week. However, it is maddening to see Auburn line up 4 wide receivers and then try to run it up the middle over and over again with a big numbers disadvantage inside. What was shocking is that it actually was working in the 4th quarter against a tired Razorback D. Ball security was good, and Auburn guys did a good job of getting the tough yards after contact.
Receivers: B+. My main issue this week with the receivers was a few of those “communication errors” where the receiver would run a route one way, and the quarterback would throw it the other. Not knowing what routes were called, I can’t assign blame specifically. It is probably a case of both sides of the equation being at fault at different times, causing a hit on each unit’s grades. Also there were a couple of passes not caught, but those weren’t great throws, either.
Quarterback: B+. We saw some more scrambles that might not have been necessary and some errant throws in the 2nd quarter. Both Bo Nix and Joey Gatewood were great in the second half. For the game, Auburn threw 19 passes and completed 68 percent of them for a gaudy 10.2 yards-per-pass average. Auburn had 4 touchdown passes and no turnovers at the QB position, plus 43 rushing yards and a touchdown on the ground. Not a bad day against a defense that was throwing the kitchen sink at the pass rush.
I would like to make a complaint at this juncture. Auburn’s short yardage package continues to come up short at critical occasions. I’m against shotgun snaps on these things, but head coach Gus Malzahn seems to love them. I’d rather see an I-formation heavy set with maybe some jet motion across. There are lots of options, including a couple of really hard-to-anticipate quick-hitter play calls that would prevent the linebackers and safeties from getting a running start at the man that ends up with the ball. Under center you’d have options, including a quick quarterback sneak, a backside belly handoff to the fullback, a give to the tailback on power, or a sweep. The quarterback could fake the handoff and roll out on the back side with the option to throw to a tight end. You’d make the defense cover so much ground. Some of those deeper plays would be great to use on 2nd and short or 3rd and short when you know it is 4-down territory. Against Arkansas, when Gatewood came in the game on short yardage, Arkansas knew he was keeping it and sent everybody through the gaps.
Next weekend, Auburn travels to Baton Rouge, Louisiana for a titanic tilt against the LSU Tigers. Auburn has not won in Baton Rouge since 1999, although the team has had chances multiple times. The game is the CBS headliner at 2:30 PM. While Auburn folks are grateful that the game is not at night at LSU, 2:30 is late enough in the afternoon for liquored-up fans to be in abundance and really loud. LSU is one of the SEC stadiums that is now allowing alcohol sales. Auburn should expect a hostile environment and a lot of noise. Let’s hope the chaos is handled better by the Auburn brain trust than it was at Florida.
A concern about LSU this year is that it looks like the New Orleans Saints offense with lots of talent at the skill positions and the most accurate passer in the nation, Joe Burrow. The Auburn defense is going to have its work cut out for it. LSU has given up some points and yards this season but yesterday only allowed Mississippi State 7 points. The defense may be getting its act together at a tough time for Auburn. Here’s hoping Auburn goes down to the bayou and gives its best effort!