As disappointing as the game felt, winning 42-38 against Utah State at home, imagine how difficult it would have been to overcome it had Auburn lost. For such a youthful team, the coaches can remind the players the importance of playing the entire game. If you quit, you have no chance but if you continue to plug away, there is an opportunity for success. This is no excuse for how poorly the defense played today but a positive reminder for the team to know the importance of playing through tough times. Had Auburn lost this game, it would have been one of the worst losses in school history. Despite it being an ugly victory, Auburn still receives full credit for one victory in the win column.
It was obvious that the Aggies of Utah State won the battles up front as the Auburn offensive line struggled running the football and could not get much pressure on the defensive front. Auburn managed only 8.5 tackles for loss from 84 snaps and did not register a sack until the final possession of the game. I thought Gus Malzahn was too conservative on Auburn’s first 3 offensive possessions. He ran the ball on first and second down during all three possessions. Auburn had only 6 first down plays during the first half and all six were run plays.
Cody Parkey was exceptional on his kickoffs and Auburn’s special teams played an instrumental part in Auburn’s victory to extend the Tigers winning streak to 16 games. Tre Mason proved why he won’t be red shirted this season during his explosive 97-yard return for a touchdown. Barrett Trotter played extremely well considering how the game unfolded. He delivered when Auburn needed him too and made very few mistakes. If anything, his performance was held back more on the play calling than anything else. He won’t be Cameron Newton but he was directly involved in 7 of Auburn’s 9 impact plays against Utah State.
Inside the numbers…
* Barrett Trotter was 17 of 23 for 261-yards and 3 TD’s during his first start for a rating of 212.2.
* Trotter was 4 of 4 in passing on 3rd down for a rating of 321.1. Anything over 130 is fairly solid on 3rd down.
* On first down, Auburn was 6 of 9 passing for a rating of 149.7.
* After failing to attempt 1 pass on first down during the first half, Auburn ran the ball 9 times and passed the ball 9 times on first down during the second half.
* Emory Blake and Travante Stallworth combined for 7 receptions, totaling 188-yards and 2 TD’s.
* Last season, Onterio McCalebb had a grand total of 4 receptions for the entire season. During the season opener, McCalebb had 5 receptions. McCalebb had 14 offensive touches with 6 going for 7-yards or more.
* As bad as the offense appeared at times, they did score 5 offensive touchdowns from just 10 possessions. If they can settle the offensive line and establish a running game, the offense still has the potential to be very good.
* It appears that Gus Malzahn intends to utilize the combination of Michael Dyer and Onterio McCalebb as he did Darren McFadden and Felix Jones at Arkansas. Having both of them on the field at the same time makes the offense better but the offensive line must improve.
* Jonathan Evans led all Tigers with 14 tackles and played the best of the 3 starting linebackers. Darren Bates missed out on way too many critical tackles, where he failed to wrap up.
* The interior defensive line accounted for a grand total of 2 tackles for loss, a far crying from the production we witnessed in 2010.
* Barrett Trotter’s opening day performance was the 4th best performance over the past 30 seasons.
* Auburn’s 78-yards rushing was the lowest rushing totals since being held to 57-yards rushing against Alabama in 2008.
* Over the past 50 seasons, Auburn’s 448-yards allowed to Utah State was the 4th worst defensive performance against a team from a non-major conference. The 38 points allowed was the 2nd most points allowed to a team from a non-major conference.
* Auburn’s 30 rush attempts against Utah State marks the 32nd time Auburn was held to 30 rushes or less since 1992. Prior to today, Auburn was 7-24-0 in the games they had 30 rushes or fewer.
* Auburn is now 6-39-0, when allowing 35 or more points since 1951.
* Under Ted Roof, the Auburn defense has allowed at least 24 points scored in 19 of 28 games and 30-points in 12 of 28 games. You would have to go back 94 games, prior to his arrival for Auburn to give up 30-pts or more, 12 times.
They say a football teams makes it’s most improvement from week #1 to week #2. Let’s hope this is the case for Auburn as they will face a much better team in Mississippi State next week. If there were concerns about Auburn being able to stop the run in 2011, Utah State left no doubt. Because the game remained close all the way through, Auburn’s offense was unable to mask the Tigers’ defensive shortcomings, stopping the run.
I do believe Auburn was not as bad on defense as they appeared today but I’m also not sure they will improve very much unless the front 7 plays much better. Once again, if the offensive line can find continuity, the Auburn offense will have the ability to play with anyone on their schedule but the defensive performance we witnessed today has 5-6 losses written all over them.
Don’t give up on this team because they fought through to pull out a victory in a game they should have lost. The key is improving as the season progresses, which I still believe will happen unless the Tigers are plagued with injuries. It was easy to support last year’s 14-0 team, though the 2011 Auburn Tigers will clearly need it more. If we expect the team to play for 60 minutes, it’s only fair the fan base does the same.