Tigers Flush the Owls! (with unit grades.)
Auburn was dominant up front on offense.
War Eagle, everybody! It’s time now for the Acid Reign report, on Auburn’s 45-10 beating of Florida Atlantic. In the Tigers’ last non-conference game of the season, the team took care of business, scoring early and often to take charge of the Owls quickly. The Tigers led the game 14-0 in less than 5 minutes, and cruised into the half with a 38-7 lead.
It was a brisk evening in Jordan Hare stadium, with the temperature dropping to about 45 degrees near the end. It was cheerleader week in Auburn, as hundreds of high school cheerleaders from all over the area attended the game, and put on a great show at halftime. A fun time was had by all the home partizans in this one.
Owlsley and the FAU cheerleaders were decked out in their polar gear for the “frozen tundra” at Auburn!
The real story of this game was that Auburn was able to just line up and run the ball down Florida Atlantic’s throat. The Owls came out in base defense and were pounded early, and when they tried to pack the box, they were burned on the outside by the speed of Nick Marshall and Corey Grant. Auburn did not even attempt a pass till they were already up 21-0 late in the first quarter. There was concern when Nick Marshall left the game with an injury to his throwing shoulder, but freshman Jeremy Johnson came in and immediately hit Sammie Coates on a go route for a score, and played pretty well in relief. I had expected Auburn to work more on the passing game this week, but the FAU secondary is the strength of their defense, and the Auburn coaches decided to mostly run it. Let’s hope this decision hasn’t cost us Nick Marshall for this season’s stretch run.
Defensively, the overall yardage numbers look pretty good on the Auburn side, but FAU did have some success pushing the Auburn defense back early. Auburn was helped greatly on defense by FAU receivers that could not hold onto the ball. I counted at least 10 passes that hit FAU receivers in the hands, and were not caught. Some of this was due to good defensive tips and hits, but at least half were flat-out drops. A combination of a run-heavy offense that generated 27 first downs, and FAU’s inability to catch the ball resulted in a pretty low amount of tackles in this game. FAU just did not have the ball much on offense in this game. Auburn dominated in time of possession, particularly in the second half, where they had possession of the ball for 20:23 of the last 30 minutes.
Tiger defenders blanket the Owls in coverage.
Special teams were erratic in this one. Auburn fielded 7 punts in this game, and some bad decisions were made, with guys running backwards and dropping the ball on the ground. We also had a mixup in the kick return game that cost Auburn some yards. There was a missed field goal just before halftime, and some spotty kick coverage. On the other hand, Chris Davis fielded a punt he shouldn’t have, but turned it into a 70-yard return. Jonathan Jones had perhaps the lick of the day on an Owl kick return in the 2nd half. Another good thing was that all 3 of Steven Clark’s punts were killed inside the FAU 20 yard line, with no returns.
Unit Grades after the jump!
Defensive Line: B. This was somewhat of a regression game for the line. FAU had a good plan early to run right at Nosa Eguae, who’s on the small side for an SEC tackle at 265 pounds. The Owls had some success with this, but they got in a hole on the scoreboard so quickly that they had to mostly pass as the game went on. Auburn did have some problems missing tackles in the backfield, and only managed 1 sack this game. Besides Dee Ford’s sack, the Auburn D-line had only 1.5 other tackles for a loss.
Linebackers: B+. Take away Jaquez Johnson’s 29 yard touchdown sprint through a stationary linebacker corps late in the half, and this unit played pretty well. FAU managed just 97 rushing yards total. The running backs had just 16 carries for 44 yards.
Secondary: A-. The Tigers gave up a couple of long pass plays that should have been batted down, but in general they made it tough on the Owl quarterbacks. Past 5 yards, no one runs around wide open on this unit, even playing a lot of man to man coverage. Chris Davis led the way with a team-high 5 tackles and 3 passes deflected.
Punting: A-. Steven Clark punted 3 times for a 39.7 yard average, and all three were fair caught inside the 20. These were killed at the 9, 15 and 13 yard lines. I’d like to have seen just a little more distance here, but that’s splitting hairs.
Punt Returns: C. I’m going to be charitable and give a C here, because Auburn did not turn the ball over and had a pretty decent average with Chris Davis’ 70 yard return. However, I could count off a letter grade for Davis fielding one at his own 2 yard line and retreating into the end zone, risking a safety. And there were two Chris Davis fumbles. Marcus Davis went backward with a punt and lost yardage. Quan Bray did the same thing later. A demerit goes to Corey Grant on the return team for standing around and letting Chris Davis get absolutely DRILLED on one return. Grant was standing right next to Davis, and never moved.
Kick Returns: B. On Auburn’s first kick return, Corey Grant and Quan Bray both seemed to go for the ball, resulting in a short return to the 22 for Bray. Things were better choreographed on the other two returns, as Bray picked up 27 and 29 yards.
Place-kicking: B. Cody Parkey did miss a field goal from 40 yards, but what was more concerning were some erratic kickoffs, including one line drive job that was returned 28 yards. Parkey nailed 5 of 8 kickoffs for touchbacks. I’m not sure that the 3 kickoffs that Parkey didn’t kick to the end zone weren’t called plays, to work on the kick coverage game.
Offensive Line: A. When one has to go down to the second or third team line to start complaining, it’s a pretty good day up front. Auburn pretty much had their way with FAU’s front seven, opening massive holes and mostly providing a clean pocket for Nick Marshall and Jeremy Johnson. The only real negatives I saw were a high snap by Tunde Fariyike, and holding and false start penalties on Devonte Danzy late in the game.
Running Backs: A. These guys really played well again this week. They had no fumbles and averaged 7.3 yards per carry. Jay Prosch and Gage Batten were wrecking balls at the H-back spot.
Receivers: A. There was generally good blocking down the field, and no dropped balls in this game. With Brandon Fulse sitting out this game, Auburn has had to be creative at the tight end spot, but we did enjoy seeing C. J. Uzomah back out there playing physical football. Filling in well in this game were Patrick Young, Shon Coleman and Khiel Frazier. Frazier took out two defenders on one block on a late Jonathan Ford run for big yards.
Quarterback: A-. I have to count off on Nick Marshall holding the ball and getting hit on a delayed blitz. It’s second down, throw the ball away with a big lead. Jeremy Johnson forced a couple of throws, one that was picked off. However, it was another good game at quarterback for the Tigers. Marshall was exciting running the ball early, and Johnson made some good throws. Also, I think the two wildcat guys, Jonathan Wallace and Khiel Frazier, who played a lot late, ran pretty hard. What’s great about this year is that Auburn has some quality depth at quarterback, something we’ve not seen in years. I feel like Auburn can beat better SEC teams even if Nick Marshall goes down, and that’s a luxury Auburn has not had in a long, long time.
Auburn runs the clock down on the doomed Owls.
It was a party atmosphere in Auburn Saturday, and I really enjoyed going down there and taking it all in. I enjoy watching Auburn clobber someone every now and then, and I liked watching all of the young players who got into the game and contributed. And thanks to the late kickoff, and early departures from the game, the traffic we encountered was very light. I’d like to tip my hat to the various drivers out there on US 280 when I was. I think Auburn might have the most courteous game-day drivers in the world. Everyone pretty much puts the cruise on 65, watches out for each other, and moves over. You don’t see wild driving, folks cutting each other off, or people going 30 and jamming up the works. It always amazes me driving home how orderly the process goes. Well done, Auburn drivers!
Folks, Amen Corner is upon us. In November, Auburn must travel to Fayetteville and Knoxville, followed by visits from Georgia and Alabama. Even if some of those teams might be having down years, that’s a rough slate of big-time football programs. Auburn is going to have to really strap it up and play at a high level to win three games going into the Iron Bowl. Arkansas is always tough at their place, and it starts next week in a night game at Reynolds Razorback Stadium.
War Eagle! Be honest. How many of y’all picked Auburn to be 7-1 at the end of October, and still in the running for the SEC title and beyond? This has been a magical season, and I suspect that the best is yet to come. It’s great to be an Auburn Tiger!