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Tigers Pull One Out of the Fire!

By on September 15th, 2013 in Football 17 Comments »

With the game on the line, Nick Marshall delivers!

     War Eagle, everybody! It’s time now for the Acid Reign report, on Auburn’s 24-20 win over Mississippi State. It wasn’t a pretty game in many aspects for the Tigers, but transfer quarterback Nick Marshall took the team on his shoulders, and led the Tigers down the field one last time. Starting at the Auburn 12 yard line with just 1:56 left in the game, Marshall threw and ran the Tigers down the field. With just 10 seconds left, he hit C. J. Uzomah on an out and up route in the end zone for the win!

     This was a must-win game for both teams, and the Bulldogs came in ready to fight. MSU had kept Auburn guessing which quarterback would start, Tyler Russell or Dak Prescott. It turned out that Russell was not medically cleared to play, due to a head injury suffered in week one. Prescott is the more mobile of the two, and he really caused trouble for the Auburn defense, eluding pressure in the pocket, and taking off up the middle on the quarterback draw. It was a play that worked well over and over again, till finally in the 4th quarter Auburn defensive coordinator Ellis Johnson took the dangerous step of having the defensive ends crash the middle of the line on downs where that draw was likely. With our linebackers, that’s a recipe for getting torched on the edge, but the gambit worked, and the MSU offense sputtered from that point on.

     One player I thought grew better and better as the game went on was senior corner Ryan White. Pressed into starting duty due to an injury to Chris Davis, he was under attack from the MSU offense early and often. White gave up several big plays early, but settled in and played pretty solidly as the game went on. I was worried that with White and Jonathan Mincy playing every snap, we really didn’t have a “speed corner” out there, and would be subject to the deep ball. Both did admirably, under the circumstances.

     Auburn’s powerful rushing offense was largely shut down, as the Bulldogs put 8 or 9 guys in the box and dared the Tigers to throw. I’ve heard some noise about the Auburn offensive line being pushed around, but I really didn’t see that, and we’ll look at some stats that bear that out, later. I’ve said this before, but 5 guys can’t block 8 or 9. What Auburn needed to do was attack the outside with quick screens and intermediate out routes. That was a big part of the Auburn strategy, but suspect hands and missed blocks tended to stop drives before getting in scoring position.

      I also heard rumbles during the game of fans wanting to yank starting quarterback Nick Marshall and put freshman Jeremy Johnson in. Folks, when the starting QB in an SEC game hits 2/3rds of his 34 passes for over 300 yards, that’s a pretty good SEC quarterback. I’d also submit that a lot of Auburn’s offensive troubles over the past two years have resulted from playing musical chairs with the quarterbacks. We need to stick with Nick Marshall, and let him grow. He’s improved every game, and he has made a lot of plays. He doesn’t look like Peyton Manning or Drew Brees yet, but I say give him some time.

     While the late touchdown pass from Marshall to Uzomah put the deciding points on the scoreboard, the Auburn special teams were the difference in this game. Mississippi State had zero punt or kick return yards. Both Steven Clark and Cody Parkey kicked the ball a long way each time, and kept it out of the hands of speedy Bulldog return men. Parkey hit all of his field goals, while MSU’s kicker missed a chip shot. Auburn’s special teams outscored MSU’s by 9 points, and in a 4-point win, that’s a difference-maker.

Unit Grades after the jump!

Defensive Line: C+. This unit again played a lot of bodies, against a pretty stout veteran Mississippi State offensive line. At times, they were pushed backwards, but for the most part, these guys filled their gaps against MSU runners, other than the QB. Yes, the MSU quarterback got loose up the middle time and time again. News flash: The middle linebacker has the A-gap in most of our defensive schemes. The MSU runners, other than the quarterback rushed for just 69 yards on 17 carries. Auburn produced 8 quarterback hurries, from 7 different defensive linemen. Dee Ford led all line tackles with 6, including several key ones on Prescott taking the ball up the middle in the 4th quarter.

Linebackers: C-. I suspect that if Kris Frost hadn’t returned from his suspension in the second half, this grade would have been lower. Frost was a big help in the middle against Prescott. While Frost only tallied one tackle, he was able to force Prescott into other tacklers. As a support man on traditional run plays Jake Holland did ok, and led the team with 8 tackles. In space, it’s a different story. Auburn needs to improve quickly, because LSU is going to run right at Auburn’s linebackers with big, powerful backs.

Secondary: B-. The Tigers did not tackle quite as well here as last week, but it was still an ok performance over all. The Tigers were not beaten deep, but the missed tackles produced some long gainers on short passes. By necessity, Auburn had to respect the speed of the Bulldog receivers, and play some softer zone than we’ve seen much of this year. Auburn’s man-to-man looks resulted in a lot of big Prescott runs. The encouraging thing about the secondary is that after the first drive of the second half, guys were pretty much in position and making plays. Ryan White and Jonathan Mincy each provided a couple of key pass breakups, and Jermaine Whitehead added another. Auburn secondary starters White, Mincy, Whitehead, Holsey and Therezie combined for 31 tackles in this game.

Punting: A+. Steven Clark out-punted his All-SEC competitor Baker Swedenburg on the other side in this game. Clark had the biggest leg, finishing averaging 48 yards per punt, with 2 of 4 killed inside the 20 yard line. MSU had no returns. That’s a big-time game from Steven Clark!

Punt Returns: B+. Quan Bray replaced injured starter Chris Davis, and did admirably. When he had room, he had 3 returns for 44 yards. When the ball was kicked inside the ten, Bray got away, and let ’em roll for touchbacks. The only nit I can pick on the return unit’s performance was on MSU’s last punt, Swedenburg out-kicked his coverage, and Bray did a little too much hesitating and juking. The return picked up only 2 yards, when there was room for 10 or more with a little more decisiveness. Still, this was a pretty good job by Bray against an All-SEC punter.

Kick Returns: D. Mississippi State was determined not to give Auburn a chance to break one, here. Devon Bell drove all of his kickoffs well into the end zone. Tre Mason fielded one a yard deep, hesitated, then came out of the end zone and was dumped at the 11 yard line. This unit gained nothing, and Mason cost the team 14 yards of field position when he did not take a knee.

Place-kicking: A+. Cody Parkey was perfect on all 3 field goal attempts, generated touchbacks on all 6 of his kickoffs, and nailed the late extra point. Some of those kickoffs were amazing. He knocked one through the uprights on a kickoff, once. That’s the equivalent of a 75 yard field goal!

Offensive Line: B+. Some folks were not happy that Auburn ran the ball for only 120 yards in this game. I say that MSU sold out against the run. Digging into the replay and the stats, this was a pretty good job by the Tigers up front. The holding penalties and false starts evident in previous games were eliminated. Auburn was penalized only once during the game, 5 yards for illegal formation. MSU’s starting defensive linemen contributed only 7 total tackles, none for a loss, and no quarterback hurries. That would indicate that the line pretty much handled their guys, wouldn’t it? MSU tallied 3 sacks and 1 quarterback hurry, and they had to blitz like crazy to get those. By and large, Nick Marshall had a pretty good pocket, and room to run away if a guy came free.

Running Backs: C+. There was no single stand-out back in this game, and I had to count off a letter grade for another Tre Mason lost fumble, his second of the season. Corey Grant led all Auburn rushers with just 44 net yards. MSU, after the first quarter, did a really nice job defensively of sealing the edge, and stuffing Auburn’s power game. Again, there were just too many white shirts in the box to run effectively.

Receivers: B+. There were a few dropped balls, and route-running errors, that left the quarterback hanging. One particularly poor one had Jaylon Denson running an out route, while Marshall was throwing a slant pass. That resulted in the second interception of the game, and I’m pretty sure that was a blown route. I think we can get better blocking quick-screens to the sideline. Mistakes aside, I like how these guys run. Louis, Bray, Coates, Reed and Uzomah all made the first guy miss. Reed had a particularly good stiff-arm on one reception. When the game was on the line, these guys did a good job of catching the ball, and getting out of bounds.

Quarterback: B+. I can’t count off much for either of Nick Marshall’s interceptions. One was a route-error, and the other was a last ditch Hail Mary to end the half. He did stuff one particularly bad pass right into an MSU defender, but it was thrown so hard that it caromed back to Marshall, and he ended up with a 37 yard pass to himself! There were at least 5 dropped balls in this game, and Marshall still hit 23 of 34 passes, for 339 yards and 2 scores, including the game winner. Marshall also evaded trouble repeatedly with his legs. Marshall completed passes to 9 different receivers in the game, so the “stares ’em down” argument doesn’t hold water, either. For those who think he shows no touch on the ball, re-watch the game winner again. Floated that thing in beautifully, where only Uzomah could get it. I think Nick Marshall will only get better and better.

      I continue to be amazed at some of the hand-wringing, particularly regarding the Auburn offense. The Tigers racked up 459 yards against a pretty stout Bulldog defense. Remember, the Bulldogs held the potent Oklahoma State offense to just 21 points in the season opener, with little help from their offense. Color me crazy, but I think we’ll see some offensive success against LSU, as long as some youngsters don’t get starry eyed from the hostile noise in Baton Rouge.

     The defense had better buckle up. LSU is going to pound it, and they are going to fire that ball deep at times. The Tigers should get ready to play their most physical game this Saturday. This will be a hard-hitting game, on ESPN prime time, with a raucous 6:45 PM Louisiana crowd on hand.

     It sure was great to see an Auburn SEC win again, and we’ll take them any way we can get them! Auburn is now 3-0, and has matched their win total for all of last year. With Florida Atlantic and Western Carolina still on the schedule, Auburn needs just one more win to be bowl-eligible. And I’d say both Arkansas and Tennessee look vulnerable to the running spread attack. War Eagle folks, and let’s get ready for LSU!


  1. uglyjoe says:

    Agree completely with your quarterback assessment. Give the guy some time……

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    This is a slow and laborious process, as the root of each individual hair must be examined for infestation. It was largely abandoned as modern chemical methods became available; however, as lice populations can and do develop resistance, manual nitpicking is still often necessary.

    As nitpicking inherently requires fastidious, meticulous attention to detail, the term has become appropriated to describe the practice of meticulously searching for minor, even trivial errors in detail (often referred to as “nits” as well), and then criticising them (see hypercriticism).

    Nitpicking is also the act of being overly concerned about insignificant details.

  2. Todd92 Todd92 says:

    Good analysis, Acid, and pretty spot on. It is evident that Uzomah is developing into a favorite target for Marshall and is proving to be the mismatch for opposing teams that we thought he would be, but, what I didn’t see coming (who could) is the emergence of Marcus Davis being the go to reciever in the absolute must have situation with the game on the line! The kid ran great routes on the last drive and found the holes in the coverage literally picking apart their cloud zone coverage in their dime package.

    The pass protection from the OL was worthy of an A+ IMO and the sacks were more a failure of the RB not recognizing the blitz as well as Marshall failing to find the release in the flats to beat the blitz. Run blocking was not so stellar IMO… And yes I realizes I was stacking the box and firing their LB’s in the gaps, but I saw several instances that were more of a failure to shift the blocks from the guards and center to allow the pulling guard to clear his hole… Communication problems possibly. I also am not seeing the push from the OL that I would like to see on inside running plays… These guys need to develop the attitude to push their man off the line. Get mean.

    I thought the DL played better against a quality OL (first one we’ve faced) although some times it didn’t produce immediate results and sometimes was negated by a very mobile QB who didn’t mind waiting to scramble. I also thought the LB’s played a much better game eliminating more of the underneath passing again this has people up in arms over the QB scrambles but it was kind of a pick your poison situation with such a mobile QB. I would like to see more press man coverage this coming weekend because Mettenburger can’t scramble well enough to keep the play alive that long and can’t expose out LB’s in coverage with his feet. I hope Justin Garrett is healthy for LSU because we will need his run tackling ability early and often.

  3. MyAuburn MyAuburn says:

    Observation 1
    I know some of the defensive improvement in the second half was due to adjustments but Jake Holland is not a starting linebacker in the SEC. I watched him several times run somewhere to who knows where and the ball carrier was running wild in the secondary. Maybe I missed something but the injection of Frost into the game in the second half energized the defense. IMO he is the much better choice in the middle. If we can get some corners healthy we could become a good SEC caliber defense.

    Observation 2
    By my count reading the Sunday sports section we only ran 59 offensive plays. That is not Gus Bus offense. We need Marshall to get going in a fast past Oregon style of offensive football.

    Obversation 3
    Note to Gus….You had better open up a few more pages on the playbook next week, we are going to need at least 38 points to be in this game.

  4. Acid Reign Acid Reign says:

    …..Auburn ran 70 plays, 34 passes and 36 rushes. Averaged a ridiculous 10.0 yards per pass, but a lot of that was the 77 yard broken play where Bray was uncovered. Averaging only 3.3 yards per rush on 36 carries is troubling, and indicates that maybe we should have thrown it more.

  5. wde1988 wde1988 says:

    Great to celebrate a win in the SEC again. However, I think it is important to point out unless there are some drastic changes it will be short lived because next weekend we go into Death Valley. If we play like I saw on Saturday you might want to prepare for a similar out put as we got last season and get beat by 28-35 point spread.

    Our defense is pathetic. There is no other way to describe it in the SEC. It came alive when it had to in order to stop two MSU drives at the end of the game. However pull that crap on LSU… and it will be a LSU TD reel that we will live with for the next year and any potential recruit that AU goes after will see it too. Many times.

    Our DB’s are not terrible. Heck, they are the only bright spot on this squad. It’s the defensive line and non-contributing Linebackers that there simply isn’t an excuse for.

    Two plays come to mind… the first was when MSU passed the ball (and there were actually several examples of this in the 2nd and 3d QTR) the D-Line stood up and got no penetration. It was if they were marking time playing hot potato as MSU’s Oline man handled them.

    The second play that comes to mind goes to show how poorly our LB corps is. Jake Holland was the middle LB and a RB comes out and dives at his feet. It takes Jake out of the play because he has to back up and go around to get to the QB that is already past him on the play.

    Guys… LSU will eat this defense for breakfast if there isn’t VAST improvements. I just don’t see how that happens. I keep hearing about some kid that hasn’t played a down yet that is a defensive stud… will he play against LSU?? If we could just commit to one or the other…. stop the run… or pass… I would be happy and think we would have a shot. So far…. it’s status quo with the blue and orange defense.

    On the other side of the ball – I think I would question the play calling more than I would the players. I almost had a Loeffler moment when I watched AU get a turn over and end up punting it away on 4th down. For anyone tracking it – it was when the boos came out. And before we start getting off my target… I think its fair to say that the game was in doubt at that particular moment. I didn’t boo… but I damn sure questioned my TV. Again, I wasn’t questioning the call to punt but the plays that led to the event.

    As to our OLine…. I got to say either RB’s were sloppy… like Tre Mason fumbling… or all of the backs having a hard time clearing the line of scrimmage. So which is it?? Maybe it’s both. It was the first SEC caliber defense we played. They were bigger… and it showed!

    I know I am critical. But I am trying to keep my expectations level here. AU faces a defense that is much better next week. Can’t run… well, their DBs are better than ours. And Nick may be a work in progress… but next week he gets the Clint Mosely experiment. How will he fare? And I will also point out the Mecklnburg won’t over through his wide open target by 10 yards.

    AU played a mediocre opponent and fought till the end. MSU didn’t. There were a lot of if’s involved. If, If, If. Thank God for Dan Mullen. Can I get an Amen???

    May God throw us a bone next week…. and let us at least be competitive. Being competitive puts the game in a different zone of sportsmanship. I think AU deserves that considering the last few years…


  6. Acid Reign Acid Reign says:

    …..There’s a reason Mullen picked Russell over Prescott as the starter. Prescott did miss a few throws. After that third quarter Bulldog TD, Auburn and Ellis Johnson SOLD OUT to try to stop Prescott from keeping up the gut. He STILL had some success, but less than before. Prescott could not hit the big throws down the field he needed, late. Auburn did some good jamming at the line, and forced off-balance check downs.

    ……Against LSU, Mett will get a pocket, and he’s got a big arm. Do we play zone? Haven’t done well with it, so far. But can Mincy or White contain O’dell Beckham Jr., on the jam? Jameon Lewis gave us problems Saturday, and Beckham is probably even faster. We won’t have to worry as much about the QB running, although LSU has some wildcat-type guys they’ll sneak in a play or two.

    …..The matchup on Auburn offense vs. LSU defense is intriguing. In 2010, LSU coordinator Jon Chavis REFUSED to go man, and Cam and Co. bashed ’em for 440 on the ground. We’re not quite at the same level on the O-line, but I’m not sure LSU is either, especially at linebacker. Regardless, I don’t think we’ll win, with Marshall slinging it 35 or more times, although he and the receiver corps could actually take that step forward. Would be great to see! But I think we need to run the ball for a lot of 5+ yard gains, to keep LSU from wearing our thin defense out.

    • wde1988 wde1988 says:

      I hope you are right. During week 1 I thought LSU was the team to beat in the SEC. After last week bama looks to be the best in the Nation (ugh that hurts to say).

      If AU can come out scripted for the first drive and push down the field for a TD and then the defense do something it hasn’t all year…. stop the team’s first drive…. we might witness something miraculous that we haven’t seen since…. the cigar game. And dare I say it… AU had a team with a QB by the name of Ben Leard… did I get that right? My memory isn’t what it used to be.

      Acid…. I truly do hope you are right. I simply think we are out gunned. But I hope Gus can give these guys some hope and do what we haven’t done in a long, long time. Beat LSU in Baton Rouge.


      • Acid Reign Acid Reign says:

        …..We aren’t getting Cigar Game II. At best, it’s another nail-biter. I’ll take that. What we don’t want is another 45-10 debacle, where the team is starting all over in October.

        • wde1988 wde1988 says:

          Well here is something to consider: LSU is playing AU before it plays #9 UGA.

          Could the bengal tigers look past the tigers from Auburn while they get ready for the leghumpers?

          Anything is possible.

          Still, I think AU would need to have their best game possible. The likelihood of that happening on the road… in a stadium where they hate you…. well, let’s just say AU would need a performance that rivaled Shadrack, Meshack, and Abendigo in the firey furnace.


          • Tiger on the mountain Tiger on the mountain says:

            I really know better to engage, but here goes:

            I’m not sure where your expectations are. Even if we lose to LSU, it doesn’t mean that we are in the gutter. New coaches and a snap of a few fingers are not what a championship team makes. And if we hang our hat on success measured by only MNC’s, then we might as well settle in to being the little brother.

            To me, Saturday was a success. Not only did the boys get the job done, but they made a conscious decisive *actions* to never stop fighting. Based on the rampant apathy that plagued last year, that’s HUGE!

          • War_Eagle_2010 War_Eagle_2010 says:

            Here here TOTM. You’ve hit the nail on the head about measuring success. If we counted success as only MNC’s then we would be claiming up to 6 more titles. But we don’t have an inferiority/attention complex like the Bammers. To me a good year is a year in which the team was competitive and played their hearts out, I don’t base it on what a bunch of jounalists, coaches, or computers think.

  7. Tiger on the mountain Tiger on the mountain says:

    I’m super proud of this win. These Tigers looked adversity right in the eye and decided, no not today, not in my house! Haven’t seen that attitude since sometime in 2011.

    You know what we might get crushed by LSU. Maybe not. But I do believe that we are seeing improvement every week. My goodness, Nick Marshall led that last drive. I knew he had it the minute that ball left his fingers. I’m feeling confident in our coaches and I’m interested to see what they will cook up against LSU.

    War Eagle!

  8. War Eagle Girl War Eagle Girl says:

    wow…someone is nitpicking……..or just is always on the negative side……

    3 Ws is about all I need to see right now. Hopefully we’ll pass the win total from last year and make progress and that’s about all Gus has promised…..improvement.

  9. War_Eagle_2010 War_Eagle_2010 says:

    Let me ask this question, what has LSU really proved this year so far? They’ve played two cupcakes and a 1-2 TCU team. I would put our three wins up against those three any day of the week. Sure it will be a tough game, and I’m not saying AU will win, but I see no reason why we can’t. If the worst Auburn team in the last SIXTY years almost beat a better version (IMO) of this LSU team, then this AU team can win it. It will come down to whether or not AU’s linebackers can stuff the run, that’s the key matchup IMO. Lets do this! War Eagle!

  10. Third Generation Tiger Third Generation Tiger says:

    A little more consistency, a little more depth, and this program will be back where we all want it to be. Malzahn has Auburn on the correct path.