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Tigers Take Down the Tide! (with unit grades)

By on December 2nd, 2013 in Football 21 Comments »

Chris Davis puts a dagger through Bama’s SEC Title hopes!

     War Eagle, everybody! It’s time now for the Acid Reign Report, on Auburn’s stunning 34-28 win over Alabama. With the Iron Bowl victory, Auburn wins the SEC Western Division, and will head to Atlanta next weekend to face the Missouri Tigers. This was an extremely tense game, with back and forth drama throughout. For much of the game, it appeared that the 2-time defending national champion Alabama squad had Auburn on the ropes, but the Tide could never deliver the knockout punch.

      I expected that Alabama would use a diversified offense to get the ball into the hands of multiple talented Tide skill players, and coordinator Doug Nussmeyer did not disappoint. What was surprising was that Auburn managed pressure on A. J. McCarron, and a number of drives during the game were killed by errant throws. Alabama also had a tendency to stick to the script, and did not often come back to plays that were working.

     It was obvious early that Auburn’s defensive plan was to drape as many hard hitting bodies as they could on T. J. Yeldon, and make McCarron beat the defense with his arm. In the 2nd quarter, during Alabama’s 21-0 run, the Tide subbed in the speedier Kenyon Drake in the backfield, and Auburn had real trouble catching up to him. But after 4 very successful carries, Drake was yanked, and was not seen again. Bama’s lone second half score was off a 99 yard bomb with an Auburn coverage breakdown.

     It was said that Auburn would not be able to run on Alabama’s vaunted rushing defense, but Tigers disproved that with 296 rushing yards. If anything, Auburn didn’t run the ball enough in this one. A number of Tiger drives were stalled when sacks or misfires early put the offense in long yardage situations. Alabama did a great job of pursuing Auburn’s wide receiver screen game, and most of those plays killed drives for Auburn. What propelled Auburn to their 4 offensive touchdowns was primarily inside power runs, and driving Alabama’s front seven off the ball. If Missouri’s front seven can do better than Alabama’s against this offense, they’ve got to show me. I’m skeptical.

     A major factor in Auburn’s outstanding success this season has been great special teams play. Other than allowing the longest punt return of the year (19 yards), another outstanding effort was made. While Bama could not convert field goals, Auburn was quietly landing punt after punt deep in Bama territory, to be expertly downed by guys like Sammie Coates and Jonathan Jones. When Alabama lined up late for a possible game-winning field goal, Auburn was ready. The Tigers saved their best return-blocking play of the season for Alabama’s big kick protectors. Only one Bama guy got even a passing hand on Chris Davis, and Tiger blockers were wiping Tide guys out right and left as Davis sped his way into great Iron Bowl lore!

Unit Grades after the jump!

Defensive Line: B. As always, there were some gap issues, but this line got pressure on the quarterback, and moved the pile backwards on short yardage consistently. Gabe Wright had the lone sack of A. J. McCarron, and led the line with 4 stops. No one stood out on the stat page here, and totaling up total production by the defensive line reveals 10 tackles and 9 quarterback hurries. That’s a low number for this season, but it was good enough to slow Bama down when it counted.

Linebackers: B. There was a tremendous amount of improvement here, compared to the Georgia game. It was evident that these guys had their assignments down, and knew what to do. There were big stops made by Kris Frost, Casanova McKinzy, and Jake Holland. Wasn’t a perfect game by any stretch, but these guys never let Alabama get comfortable pounding the ball.

Secondary: C+. Auburn’s secondary again had to make the lion’s share of the tackles in this game, as they contributed 40 total stops. Chris Davis and Ryan White had 10 apiece, and Whitehead added 9 more and a couple of key pass breakups. While Whitehead might be remembered as the guy that missed a tackle on the 99 yard Bama TD pass, he made a lot of good stops. The buck stops here, with this group. They’ll have another big challenge on hand in Atlanta, taking on big Tiger receivers led by Dorial Green-Beckham.

Punting: A-. Steven Clark hit 6 mostly towering punts for 43.7 yards per kick, only one was returned, and two were expertly killed inside the five yard line. Clark’s one low 39 yard effort resulted in a 19 yard Christion Jones return that set Bama up for a trip to the red zone, but the special teams bailed ’em out with a field goal block.

Punt Returns: B+. Bama only punted 3 times, and Chris Davis didn’t let them roll, which was big. As it was, Cody Mandell averaged 47.0 yards per punt. He would have had ridiculous numbers if any had rolled. Good job by Ryan Smith on a partial punt block.

Kick Returns: C+. Bama kicked off 5 times, and Auburn returned 4 of them for a 22.5 yard average. That’s a decent average, but this was typically from the end zone or goal line, and Auburn averaged getting the ball to the 24.4 yard line.

Place-kicking: A-. There were no worries on Cody Parkey’s extra points, and Auburn scored touchdown when they got in the red zone. Uncharacteristically, Parkey hit only 2 of his 5 kickoffs for touchbacks. Christion Jones and Kenny Bell combined for only 18.0 yards per return, putting the average starting spot for Alabama at the 25.8 yard line.

Offensive Line: A+. While some might quibble about 3 sacks allowed, 296 rushing yards against Alabama’s defense says it all. Stupendous, superb job! None of the sacks came on a 4 man rush, and none of Bama’s linemen recorded a tackle for loss. Bama had to blitz to make Marshall uncomfortable. This unit had no penalties, either.

Running Backs: A-. Tre Mason’s lost fumble started a slide which saw Alabama go up 21-7, but it was Mason’s running afterwards that got Auburn back in the game. The fumble aside, this was another excellent game for the Auburn backs, particularly Mason and Jay Prosch. Bama’s C. J. Mosley got his tackles in this game, racking up 14, but none of ’em were for a loss. The reason is largely that Prosch successfully blocked Mosley most of the time. Bama came up with 7 tackles for loss in this one, but they had to blitz corners and safeties to do it.

Receivers: B+. Had a couple of dropped passes in this one, and a few missed blocks on Auburn’s screen game. However, downfield blocking was again key. C. J. Uzomah got called for holding, which was Auburn’s only offensive penalty. I didn’t count off on that hold, because it was a questionable call on a day where tons of grabbing and even yanking down by the jersey went uncalled on both sides. Uzomah made a sensational touchdown reception bracketed by 2 defenders to allow Auburn to pull even in the 3rd quarter. Uzomah looked like a center going up for a rebound, on that one. And I think we all knew Sammie Coates was due for another big catch and score, which he pulled off with 32 seconds left in the game.

Quarterback: A. It’s not always pretty with Nick Marshall, and I did count off for taking 2 of his 3 sacks on 1st and 2nd down. However, Marshall wins football games. He contributed 99 rushing yards, and hit 68 percent of his passes, for 6.0 yards per pass. That’s not bad, against Alabama’s defense. Marshall had no turnovers, but even more importantly, he again came through at crunch time with a last-instant pull up touchdown pass that was perfectly thrown. That doesn’t necessarily reflect in the statistics, but when the game’s been on the line late this year, Marshall has yet to fail to deliver. That’s been amazing!

     How ’bout these Tigers? An Iron Bowl win is always great, any way it happens! Chris Davis’ 109 yard effort with no time on the clock will go down for the ages. With the win, Auburn is once again in the SEC Championship Game. If anyone reading this predicted a title before this season started, I hope you’ll link to it in the comments! I’ll note that back in August, I did pick Auburn to win this game, 23-19. I also picked losses to LSU, Texas A&M, and Georgia, so obviously I’m not omniscient!

     I’ve just received an email from CBS Sports, indicating that they plan to re-run the entire Iron Bowl again tonight at 8:30 PM Central time. CBS is calling the Chris Davis return “one of the most stunning plays in college football history.” I think my TV tuner might drift over to CBS, again tonight! Before the Iron Bowl encore, CBS Sports Network will features “Fantastic fourth quarters” from 6:30-8:30 PM, central, a two-hour special highlighting the four most memorable fourth quarters from the 2013 SEC on CBS season: Alabama at Texas A&M – Sept. 14, LSU at Georgia – Sept. 28, Georgia at Auburn – Nov. 16 and Alabama at Auburn – Nov. 30

     This week, all eyes turn to the Missouri Tigers. Like Auburn, Missouri was no one’s pick to be in this game this season. In fact, I think coach Gary Pinkel’s name was on several of those “hot seat” lists. Missouri is a very good football team, with dangerous defensive ends, and an offense that will resemble Texas A&M’s. Auburn will have to play well to have a chance, but I don’t think there’s much doubt that Coach Malzhan will have Auburn ready! It was noted Saturday night that Malzhan was only briefly available for interviews after the Iron Bowl, because he was already looking at Missouri film. That’s a pretty good sign, I think!

     War Eagle, folks! It is GREAT to be an Auburn Tiger! The Tide has been defeated, and all is right with the world again. My hat is off to this great team, and all of the players who worked so hard for this season. We fans are so grateful! I believe everyone can count on a sea of orange and blue clad screaming fans stuffing the Georgia Dome to the rafters next Saturday evening!


  1. gumptowntiger says:

    How in the world does Nick Saban NOT put anyone on the opposite goal line?

    • Acid Reign Acid Reign says:

      …..I’ve read that only 4 missed field goals have ever been returned for TDs in NCAA history. A lot more have been blocked. We can question putting a freshman kicker in for a 57 yard try, all day. But you’ve got to REALLY block well up front, to have a chance on a low trajectory, long range kick. Nick went for the win, because his defense was gassed. Gus called time, put Davis back there, and magic happened.

      …..And frankly, after last year, it’s nice to be on the plus side of the conditioning equation, especially against Nick Saban!

  2. MyAuburn MyAuburn says:

    Great up but a little conservative on the grades for the defensive line and linebackers IMO. A- for both in my book. After all, 28 pts and 7 of them were on a 99 yd hail mary type pass. Only giving up 3 TDs to a team averaging a zillion per game is pretty good defense.

    Three more grades

    Malzahn A+
    Johnson A
    Rod Bramblett A+

  3. War_Eagle_2010 War_Eagle_2010 says:

    I would give the punting an A+. The 19 yard return was only possible due to a big no call block in the back play that even Danielsen said was a bad no call.

  4. mvhcpa says:

    Spot-on analysis as always, Acid.

    I would however note that there are fumbles, and then there are fumbles. From what I saw, Tre Mason’s fumble was just a great play by the Bama defense–the extra defender on the play REALLY had to force the strip out of Tre’s hand and body while Tre was, as Tre does, fighting for extra yardage.

    So I was not upset with Tre’s fumble like I was with Nick’s dropsy (which Nick recovered himself right away).

    Michael Val
    (who thinks we can take Mizzou if we are focused–and I don’t see why we won’t be focused like we have been all season)

  5. mvhcpa says:

    Hey, does anyone know if Gus went to the Waffle House Saturday night? MVH

  6. MyAuburn MyAuburn says:

    In the news, Chris Davis got a standing O from his geology class today. Wonder if any of the Bammer players went to class or were too afraid.

    • sullivan013 sullivan013 says:

      Don’t hold your breath for an answer. I’ve been wondering if Alabama players attended classes for years.

  7. spanky says:

    There is no play that i hate more than wide receiver screens.

    • Acid Reign Acid Reign says:

      …..Bama’s Tray DePriest was murder on those. I like when Big-12 teams run ’em, and a cautious corner gets stood up. DePriest went invariably to the likely side of those things when Auburn lined up with twins to one side, and just blew ’em up. We had no answer, and it was folly to keep calling that play. We’re unlikely to see an outside linebacker that good, the rest of the year.

  8. challenger10 says:

    Enjoyed the up as always. I do believe we will be able to run the ball on Mizzou. The problem may be stopping them. Hope I am wrong.

  9. Acid Reign Acid Reign says:

    …..Hold the phone on ALL CBS-related junk in my post above. Apparently, the Dan Werner emails I get are total BS. CBS is running the usual sitcom stuff in the Tragic City, and no Auburn-related stuff is in the offing. I should have known better. Next time, I’ll be quicker to delete that junk, without looking at it.

  10. WarEagleAtlanta WarEagleAtlanta says:

    Did anyone else fear for Steven Clark’s safety after making that tackle on the one return? He looked almost as woozy as McElroy did after Tsharvin Bell wound him around in the 2010 Iron Bowl.

  11. Tiger on the mountain Tiger on the mountain says:

    Dudes, I’m feeling nervous about Mizzou. I know that’s weird. ToTM is having football feelings which do not immediately involve hate, kicking someone’s ass or making Bama our bitch. Weird.

    I just don’t know much about the new tigers other than they didn’t allow jff to run or throw or just score all night long. (That’s what I vaguely remember. I didn’t actually watch the game as I was reading all things Auburn and watching The Clip like a million times) They kept him in check with 4 defenders up front. They might have been the only team to successfully defend the talented Mr. Evans. It was a mess. I’ve heard that their offense is solid. They’ve had a great year outside of laying an egg against SoCar (inexplicably really). So yikes. I just need to read more. Digest all things new tigers. Figure out what makes them tick so we can break them. Break them!

    One thing that’s not in doubt is if the Tigers are in the game during the 4th quarter-oh it’s on!!! These guys are collectively nothing short of amazing. Just keep chopping wood, boys! War Eagle! Beat Mizzou!!

    • Acid Reign Acid Reign says:

      …..And well we should feel nervous! Holding JFF to 21 points is magic! Although… it may be that Jon Chavis and a loss of national offensive title goals basically BROKE A ‘n’ M’s offense. Honestly, everyone’s been running Ellis Johnson’s “contain” defense against JFF since Auburn beat ’em in in College Station, and JFF has not been enough to beat a quality opponent since.