Tigers Cage the Catamounts! (with unit grades)
A fine time was had by all.
War Eagle, everybody! It’s time now for the Acid Reign report, on Auburn’s 62-3 homecoming win over Western Carolina. It was a dominant performance in every aspect of the game for Auburn, as the offense rolled up a school record 712 yards of total offense, and never punted the football. Western Carolina did not cross midfield but twice. The Tigers managed the offensive feat despite being down three starters on offense, Patrick Miller, Brandon Fulse and quarterback Nick Marshall.
True freshman quarterback Jeremy Johnson shined in his Auburn debut, throwing for four touchdown passes against only one interception. The Tigers averaged 11.9 yards per rush en route to rolling up 511 rushing yards. The team ground out 30 first downs on the day.
On the defensive side, Auburn surrendered just 173 yards and 6 first downs. Over half of Western Carolina’s 66 rushing yards came on just two quarterback scrambles, a 19 yard early scramble by Troy Mitchell, and a late 17 yard run by backup Eddie Sullivan. Mitchell’s scramble set up a Western Carolina field goal in the first quarter. The Auburn defense sacked the quarterback 4 times, and contributed 7 tackles for loss.
The Auburn special teams didn’t get much of a chance to be a factor, with no field goal attempts and no punts. Western Carolina avoided kicking to Auburn’s return men as much as possible. If there was anything to be concerned with in this game, is that Auburn let 4 of 9 punts hit the ground and roll. Both Quan Bray and Trovon Reed caught punts and went backwards.
Unit Grades after the jump!
Defensive Line: A. Auburn again used a lot of players here, and no one on the line had more than 2 tackles. However, the defensive line totaled 18 tackles, including 6 tackles for loss. Western Carolina was badly overmatched by these guys.
Linebackers: A. Auburn had the best game of the season as far as chasing the ball goes, and it was good to see guys in position to make stops. It was also very good to see Cassanova McKinzy back out there after a scary injury last week. I continue to be pleased with the efforts of reserves Anthony Swain and Kris Frost, who tied for the team lead in tackles with 3 each.
Secondary: A. The starters really didn’t give up much of anything past 5 yards, and the backups played pretty well, too. I figured Auburn would give up some late points, when the secondary started to be filled out by guys like Jonathan Ford, Khari Harding, Trent Fisher, and so on, but it didn’t happen.
Punting: N. A. Western Carolina never forced a punt. Auburn scored a touchdown on every possession, except for one interception and a late loss of downs after coach Malzhan had the team take a deliberate delay of game penalty to keep from scoring.
Punt Returns: C. The Tigers did not have any fumbles, and it should be noted that Western Carolina really tried to directional-kick away from Quan Bray. Still, one doesn’t like to see punts rolling for additional yardage, nor return men going backward after receiving the punt. The scariest thing was Quan Bray suddenly deciding to field a bouncing ball with enemy shirts all around. It caught the Catamounts off guard, and Bray picked up 16 yards on the play.
Kick Returns: B. Western Carolina avoided kicking to Auburn’s return men on both kickoffs, instead pooching the ball to the 20 yard line or so. Nosa Eguae recovered the first one, and ended up fumbling the ball out of bounds. Craig Sanders got the other one, and turned in a nice hard-nosed 15 yard return.
Place-kicking: A. Cody hit all of his extra point attempts, and hit 9 of 10 kickoffs for touchbacks. On the one non-touchback, Western Carolina’s Shaun Warren was stopped at the ten yard line. I deducted a few points for Ryan Smith dropping the last PAT snap, and the Tigers not converting that one.
Offensive Line: A. The Catamounts were badly outmatched in the trenches here, even when Auburn substituted in the whole second team line. Auburn runners were usually into the secondary before there was any contact on them. Points off on one holding penalty on new starting right tackle Avery Young.
Running Backs: A. Auburn backs showed speed, power, and vision all the way down the depth chart. I really enjoyed seeing Jay Prosch catch a TD pass in traffic, and liked seeing guys like Patrick Lymon and Chandler Shakespeare getting a chance to carry the rock late!
Receivers: A. I don’t think I saw a dropped ball this whole game, which is new for this team. I counted a few points off for a pass interception that Ricardo Louis should have been able to knock down. Otherwise, guys were running good routes, catching the ball, and contributing some pretty brutal blocking downfield.
Quarterback: A. I had no idea that a freshman quarterback could come in and hit 17 of 21 passes in his first start, especially with several receivers missing this game. Jeremy Johnson looked really good out there, with a nice touch on his passes. He’s not Nick Marshall fast, but is mobile enough to avoid pressure. It’s now evident why Johnson was being considered for the starting job back in August.
The Tigers now must move on from this game, and get ready for a stern test against Texas A&M. Auburn guys were pretty wide-eyed and uncertain early at Baton Rouge, and Kyle Field in College Station is similarly intimidating. However, Ole Miss showed us last night that the Aggies are mortal, and can be beaten. The Ole Miss offensive and defensive lines that Auburn dominated a week ago held up pretty well against Aggie fronts.
The greatest task ahead belongs to Ellis Johnson, who must figure some way to contain Johnny Manziel. Whether you love him or hate him, he’s still the most dynamic player in college football right now. Also, the Auburn offense must consistently score touchdowns in this one, against a suspect Aggie defense. The Aggies are giving up 32 points per game, and 435 yards.
It was a happy homecoming at Auburn, and I think everyone left the game excited about Auburn football again. The Tigers have completed the first half of the season at 5-1, and I think that’s pretty good. The going will be a bit tougher going forward, but I think everyone left on the schedule is beatable, starting with Texas A&M. We are looking forward to it. War Eagle, and have a great day!