Through 3 games, Auburn had averaged 2.6 yards per rush on 40 carries between the tackles. Against FAU, Auburn ran the ball 17 times between the tackles for 92-yards, despite having averaged over 10-yards per rush, running to the right, outside the tackle. I questioned the strategy after the FAU game but it’s now obvious why I am here, commenting about the games and Auburn’s coaches are actually doing the planning. The coaches knew the strength of the Gamecock defensive line was their DE’s along with their speed on the perimeter. Of Auburn’s designed 60 rush attempts, 48 went between the tackles to the tune of 217-yards. It wasn’t flashy but highly effective in keeping the Gamecock offense off the field.
Ted Roof’s defense has been much maligned through 4 games but delivered a game-winning performance, when Auburn needed it the most. The defense came into the game, allowing 39-yards per possession but held South Carolina to 20.6 yards per possession. South Carolina scored on 2 of 14 possessions, turned the ball over 3 times and went “3 & out” 5 times. The Auburn defense consistently changed up their look just before the snap, often forcing the Gamecocks into bad plays. Take away the 2 big plays allowed, Auburn gave up 204-yards on 50 snaps. Heisman hopeful, Marcus Lattimore was held to 66-yards on 17 carries with a longest gain of 15-yards. The defense was masterful today, a primary key to Auburn’s victory.
Once again special teams was special for the Auburn Tigers. Cody Parkey had 3 touchbacks and Steven Clark dropped 5 punts inside the Gamecock 20-yard line. Of South Carolina’s 14 offensive possessions, 10 started at their own 20-yard line or worse. Auburn had 86-yards worth of special teams return yardage and the Gamecocks had 26. On their 10 possessions starting from their own 20 or worse, South Carolina gained 161-yards or 16.1 yards per possession. In a close-fought ball game, field position becomes huge and Auburn won that battle by a landslide.
Inside the Numbers…
Auburn is now 11-3 in games decided by 7-points or less under Gene Chizik, including a current 10-game winning streak in close ball games.
For the first time this season, Auburn ran more first down plays than the opponent. The Tigers averaged 3.14 yards on their 35 plays and the Gamecocks averaged 5.42 yards on their 24 plays.
One stat not mentioned much is Auburns low number of penalties this season, especially considering how many young players have seen action. During the 2009 season, Auburn was penalized 7.5 times per game. This season, Auburn has been penalized 5.6 times per game.
Michael Dyer recorded his 7th 100-yard rushing performance with 141-yards on 41 carries. He now has averaged 87.4 yards per game during his career on 15 carries per game. He also recorded his first reception of the season.
18 of Cody Parkey’s 30 kick offs have now gone for a touch back.
Neiko Thorpe is currently on pace for a 100-tackle season and he also has 2 interceptions and one forced fumble on the season. Auburn’s other safety, Demetruce McNeal is currently third on the team in tackles, leading the Tigers with 8 stops against the Gamecocks. He also has 2 picks on the season.
Prior to today, opponents had converted 75 percent of their 3rd down plays during the 4th quarter against the Tigers. South Carolina was 1 of 4 in the 4th period and 2 of 10 for the entire game.
Auburn quarterbacks have now been sacked every 10.5 pass attempts. During the 2009 season, Auburn quarterbacks were sacked every 17.3 pass plays. For those critical of Barrett Trotter, you might want to consider the sack ratio.
Barrett Trotter went 7 of 11 for 74-yards on 3rd down, including 1 TD pass. He did throw 2 picks on 3rd down but managed to pick up 1 first down on a run. For the season, Trotter is completing 62% of his passes on 3rd down.
Malzahn’s decision to throw only 3 times on 35 first down plays made the offense fairly predictable, which also made it difficult for Trotter in later downs. Trotter had averaged at least 8 pass attempts on first down coming into the game, making the 3 attempts a season low.
51.9 percent of the Gamecocks offensive snaps went for 2-yards or less, a season high for the Auburn defense.
Prior to the USC game, Auburn’s defense had held the opponent to 2-yards or less during the second half, 36.7 percent of the time. During the second half, 59.3 percent of the Gamecocks offensive snaps were held to 2-yards or less.
South Carolina became the first SEC opponent, Ted Roof’s defense held to under 14-points. The last time AU held a SEC opponent to under 14-points was the 2008 Tennessee game.
There aren’t enough words that can describe the blue-collar performance turned in by Michael Dyer today. He worked for every yard of his 141-yards gained rushing. With Auburn running 91 percent of the time, it was obvious who was carrying the football when Michael Dyer was on the field. There were no flashy or long distant gains for Dyer today but Auburn needed every yard he gained. After the first quarter, it was obvious Auburn was going to hang their offensive game plan on the yardage gained, running between the tackles. If this were the case, it might have been beneficial had Kiehl Frazier remained on the field for a series or two to give Auburn an extra runner on the field. Frazier has now averaged 7.1 yards per rush on his 12 designed run plays.
Auburn needed to win the trench wars to come away with a victory today and that was the case. Though Auburn struggled in pass protection, they did rush for 267-yards. The Tiger defensive front held their own against the Gamecocks holding Lattimore to a season low, 66-yards, while sacking Stephen Garcia 3 times and hurrying him 5 other times. Overall, Auburn played better up front than the Gamecocks, which was a major difference in the game. There were signs last week, the defense had taken baby steps in terms of improving but there should be no doubt about today’s performance. This is not to say the Auburn defense is back but it’s a great sign they are indeed improving.
One great advantage of having a youthful team is their resiliency to bounce back quickly. Though they will make you scratch your head at times, they are eager to learn and most of all, improve. One consistent theme we have seen this season is that these Tigers have not quit, even in their loss to undefeated Clemson. No matter what the fans might think of this team, they continue to play hard for their university and for themselves. The future will continue to be huge test for the 2011 Auburn Tigers but you can bet they are anxious to play to prove their worth. As Coach Pat Dye previously stated, no one hurts more after a loss than the players and coaches. They proved a lot of folks wrong this week, including myself, and I could not be happier they did. While fans might be looking down the road, wondering when the next win might come, this team is taking it one game at a time.
War Damn Eagle!