Tigers Fail in Oxford.
The Rebels run wild on Auburn.
War Eagle, everybody. It’s time now for the Acid Reign report, on yet another miserable Auburn loss. This time, it was the Ole Miss Rebels handling the Tigers by three scores, 41-20. Ole Miss came out and took what the Tigers gave ’em, snapping a 16 game SEC losing skid. Meanwhile, Auburn sticks to failing schemes with bull-headed persistence, and the team seems to become sloppier with each passing week. Six weeks into the season, Auburn still can barely get lined up on offense and defense. Even the normally stalwart special teams this week lined up offsides, and wiped out a shanked Ole Miss punt.
Normally in this spot, I start by railing on an inexplicable offense, but it’s the defense’s turn today. We knew coming into this game that Ole Miss likes to run the zone read, and that the quarterback typically carries a third of the time. Auburn had a defensive end free in the backfield on every snap, but the ends had only two solo tackles the whole game. And those two were after the game was already in hand, by Craig Sanders. Corey Lemonier had no tackles whatsoever. When the end forces the play to go the other way, a linebacker becomes responsible on that side. Darren Bates did his part with 16 total tackles, 9 solo. However, everyone else pretty much stood around in the middle of the field watching Jeff Scott and Bo Wallace race up the sideline. Allowing Ole Miss to rush for 200 yards is flat-out unacceptable.
This week Auburn mixed in more I formation on offense, and some timely first down throws. This allowed the Tigers to dig out of a 14-0 hole, and briefly take a 17-14 lead. Then the I largely disappeared, and we were back to constantly running to the short side, with three wide receivers and no lead blocker. Heck, Loeffler won’t even call runs to go to the tight end’s side, most of the time. Ole Miss in the 4th quarter was slanting to the short side, and blitzing a linebacker and/or safety every play, yet Auburn still continued to try to run that way, or dump useless screens into the sea of blue shirts on the short side of the field.
The wildcat “package,” as Loefller calls it, has become completely useless in Auburn’s hands. All it does is ensure that the defense will bring extra defenders into the box. There has to be some threat of a pass to make it work, but Auburn has yet to even attempt one. At this time, when we see young Jonathan Wallace enter the game, we know that Scot Loeffler has decided to kill yet another drive by going to something we don’t do well.
We knew that Auburn needed to give Tre Mason the ball more this week. His workload increased a bit, and he produced 82 yards. When he lost yardage, it was usually on those stupid plays designed to go away from tight end or fullback blocking. Obviously 18 carries is better than 6, but I think that number should be more like 25. I also think that little hunt play, the give to fullback Jay Prosch should be called at least a half dozen times. Clint Moseley had a good first half, hitting all 8 of his passes, and knowing when to take off out of the pocket, and run for the first down. Moseley threw a wonderful deep ball to Sammie Coates, but as is typical of the Loeffler offense, that play wasn’t called again.
It was an odd, but good day on special teams, with the exception of the offsides call mentioned above. Cody Parkey is such a great weapon, booming kickoffs out of the end zone, making place kicks, and even executing the onside kick. Too bad the offense can’t arrange more work for him! Steven Clark didn’t seem to be hitting the ball as well as usual on his punts, but it was his day to get fortuitous bounces and rolls. Auburn was just a step away from blocking several Ole Miss punts. The kick return team was close to breaking a couple of touchdowns, too.
Unit Grades, after the jump!
Defensive Line: F. This group pretty much took the day off, with just one solo tackle. Yes, Craig Sanders showed up with two, and two assists, but most of his total was on special teams.
Linebackers: D. I’ll give a passing grade because of Darren Bates, who’s really become a solid linebacker. We don’t seem to have anyone else who can consistently make tackles, or even be in the right spot. I left A-Day thinking we’d be a little better covering flat routes, but that has not been the case. The dumpoffs are there all day long for opposing quarterbacks.
Secondary: C+. We’re actually not too bad in the secondary, and have a lot of guys who can run with SEC receivers. Unfortunately, this bunch is having to make way too many tackles; 31 in this game. I had to count off a letter grade for two stupendously ugly plays, also. There was one ball thrown up for grab into triple coverage. None of our three guys even attempted to make a play on the ball. It went between three guys, and was caught for an Ole Miss touchdown. At the very least, that ball should have been tipped away. The other disaster was the entire secondary standing around, watching Jeff Scott bounce off a tackle attempt, and race 55 yards for a touchdown.
Punting: A. Even if it didn’t look pretty, Steven Clark hit 7 punts for a 46.7 yard average, and pinned a couple very deep in Ole Miss territory. Ole Miss couldn’t return a single one.
Punt Returns: B. Quan Bray only had two returns for 4 yards, but he probably accounted for at least 50 yards of field position. Auburn went for the block on every punt, and Bray still fielded every punt, keeping the Rebels from getting any rolling yardage. Points off for lining up offside once, and negating a bad Ole Miss shank.
Kick Returns: A. It was to Auburn’s advantage when the wind picked up in the 2nd half. Tre Mason had two pretty good returns, nearly breaking the second one. Ole Miss decided to pooch/sky kick after that. C. J. fair caught the first one, then took off when Ole Miss tried it again, picking up 38 yards and setting up the Auburn offense to… Well, throw an immediate interception right into a Tampa-two alignment.
Place-kicking: A+. This unit was awesome, hitting field goals, planting kickoffs behind the end zone, executing the onside kick. When the wind picked up, Ole Miss got a couple of returns, but couldn’t do much against the Auburn coverage.
Offensive Line: C-. This unit actually showed a good bit of improvement from last week’s disastrous performance, but we still need help on right side in pass protection. Auburn’s answer this week was more max-protect looks, keeping tight ends in. Letter grade off on a bad snap that resulted in an Ole Miss touchdown. Kudos to Tunde Fariyike, though. He didn’t let it get to him, and played a pretty solid game thereafter.
Running Backs: B. This crew ran hard, and had no fumbles. About the only thing I can complain about is Onterio McCalebb’s pass blocking. He’s not the right choice to be in there on 3rd and long, unless we’re going to run a draw play or screen. Naturally, we only ran two screen attempts to McCalebb. One was a bad throw, and the other was to the short side with no blockers into a blitz. I’ll say it again, Jay Prosch should be in the game at least 80 percent of the time. He saw a bit more time against Ole Miss, but he’s still being criminally under-used!
Receivers: B+. We ran a lot of guys out on the field once again, but didn’t throw to them much, and they were little help blocking. Emory Blake made several tough catches in traffic. We had Sammie Coates running around wide open frequently, but only threw him the ball once. I guess that was his punishment for his comments earlier in the week.
Quarterback: C+. I suppose I had written Clint Moseley off, but he looked pretty solid out there for much of the game. He made some crisp throws, and showed good pocket awareness. Then later on in the second half, his accuracy disappeared. And I had to dock him a full letter grade for the interception. First of all, throwing down the middle against Tampa-two coverage is dangerous. Second, Moseley had his eyes locked in on Travante Stallworth the whole way. Third, Sammie Coates was completely uncovered going down the sideline.
It’s still hard to fathom an Auburn team with three top ten recruiting classes getting blown out by Ole Miss. This team puts a few good plays together, gives us hope, then catastrophically melts down. It’s really become a pattern, which indicates serious problems in preparation. I have to say that my mouth was agape when I heard Gene Chizik say after the game that there were still no plans to change anything. Me, if I did nothing else differently with this team, I’d let Curtis Luper or Trooper Taylor call plays next game. Luper’s guys have easily been the best part of this year’s offense.
Speaking of preparation, I took a glance or two at our next opponent, Vanderbilt. Did you know that Florida quarterback Jeff Driskell had 11 carries for 177 yards against them? Any offensive coordinator worth his salt surely will have Khiel Frazier tuck that ball and run some, next weekend. Florida did it by having two backs in the backfield, faking a handoff, and rolling to the other side. Man, if we faked it to Mason to the short side, you know the whole defense would bite on it.
It’s another game week in Auburn, but it looks like coach Chizik is committed to putting the same mistakes out there on the field week after week. Auburn will likely be underdogs on the road in Nashville, and that’s something that has never happened in my lifetime. Vanderbilt is not a good football team right now, and they have some glaring weaknesses. However, I just don’t feel like this staff has any ability to exploit them. They seem stubbornly bent on doing what they do, with no regard at all for what the other team is doing.