One area Auburn needs drastic improvement upon is their pass-offense on first-down. Auburn is currently No. 117 nationally, completing only 50 percent of their passes on first-down. One of the reasons for the low percentage is the type of passes being thrown on first down. Auburn has thrown a higher number of vertical passes on first down this season, which has resulted in a low completion percentage. Note that Auburn has run fewer WR screens than we normally see in a Gus Malzahn pass-offense. Auburn is currently No. 45 nationally, averaging 6.52 yards per play on first down. We all know how vital first-down is, when it comes to Malzahn wanting to push the tempo.
On this play Auburn faces a 3rd & 8 from their own 36-yard line. Auburn comes out in a tight formation with a 3-WR set. Because of the tight formation, Kansas State has 7 defenders inside the box. Corey Grant motions across the backfield before the snap. At the snap, Nick Marshall fakes the screen pass to Grant and fakes the end-around give to Ricardo Louis.
Note how the LB's are focused on the movement and fake to Corey Grant. After the fake end-around to Louis, Ricardo Louis slips out of the backfield into the flat. Marshall has thrown deep from this formation and play but elects to check down to the swing -pass to Louis.
Louis has 1 man to beat in the flat and he out-races the LB to the first down marker. Needing 8-yards, Ricardo Louis picks up 9-yards. Because of the multiple fakes, this isn't a play you want to run often because it is slow to develop. One way to counter the defensive fronts selling out to stop the run are screens and swing passes to stretch defenses horizontally. Players like Corey Grant and Ricardo Louis are exceptional in space and these type plays will improve the completion percentage.