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Perhaps the biggest key for the Auburn defense this Saturday night will be defending the Gamecock running game. The Gamecocks are currently averaging 220-yards rushing during their last 4 games. Steve Spurrier will lean heavily on Mike Davis to control the tempo of the game and to keep his porous defense off the field. Auburn has drastically improved their run-defense from last season, which was ranked No. 63 nationally, allowing 163-yards per game. This season Auburn is allowing 120-yards per game, ranked 24th nationally. Though it appears Auburn has improved upon their run-defense, they have surrendered 171-yards per game to conference opponents. If South Carolina can rush for 140-170 yards Saturday night, it will keep Auburn honest on defense and open up the Gamecock passing game. South Carolina's run-offense could dictate if Auburn has 10-12 possessions or 13-15 possessions, which could decide whether Auburn scores into the low 30's or into the 40's. The play... On this play MSU faces a 3rd & 3 from their own 32-yard line. The Bulldogs come out in a 4-WR set to spread out the Auburn defense. At the snap Auburn must play the play-action pass option first. (Note McKizy staying put until the hand off is made) DaVonte Lambert does a great job of taking away the edge, forcing the RB to stay inside. Gabe Wright knifes through the line despite being held. Cassanova McKinzy tracks the RB, avoiding the second level block by the MSU center. McKinzy is able to shoot through for the hit on the RB, dropping the RB for a loss in the backfield. Note how Kris Frost had backside containment had the QB kept on the play. Don't be surprised if the Gamecocks have early success running the football. Auburn has allowed all three prior SEC opponents to run for over 100-yards during the first-half. The Tigers in their 3 SEC games have allowed an average of 132-yards rushing on 6.1 yards per rush during the first-half and 39-yards on 2.7 yards per carry during the second-half. During the Gus Malzahn era at Auburn, the Tigers are 6-6 in games the opponent had at least 40 rush attempts. During those 12 games, Malzahn's offense averaged 373-yards and 27 PPG. The opponent averaged 216-yards rushing.
Through the first 5 games of the season, Auburn made up for their lack of a pass-rush from their front-4, with a variety of blitzes. Against Mississippi State, Auburn's blitzes were always a step behind resulting in only 4 quarterback hurries and 1 sack. Through 6 games the Auburn DL is responsible for only 58.1% of the teams quarterback hurries and 50% of the team's sacks. Last season the DL was responsible for 92.2% of the sacks and 83.6% of the team's quarterback hurries. Angelo Blackson recorded his first sack of the season against Mississippi State, which is today's clipbit. The play... On this play MSU faces a 3rd & 9 from their own 27-yard line. The Bulldogs will come out in a 5-WR set. Auburn will counter with a 4-man rush, executing a twist with their DT's, At the snap Ben Bradley will loop over Angelo Blackson as Gimel President comes on a speed-rush over top. Angelo Blackson will break through inside, forcing the MSU QB to scramble. Prescott attempts to take off up the middle but Ben Bradley has solid gap containment, forcing Prescott to scramble outside the pocket. Angelo Blackson continues his track to the QB, running him down from behind for the sack. Gabe Wright (7) and Elijah Daniel (6) are the current leaders among the DL in QB hurries and DaVonte Lambert is the only DL with more than 1 sack this season.
During the season opener, the Auburn front-7 accounted for 50 percent of the team's tackles. Last season the front-7 dropped under 53 percent only 2 times out of 14-games. For the sake of this discussion, I included the "star" position as part of the front-7 totals. The defense clearly played more to its potential during the second half, holding the Razorbacks to just 2-yards rushing compared to the 151 allowed during the first half. The following breakdown is an example of the type of needed to make a major impact this season. The play... On this play Arkansas faces a 3rd & 4 at the Auburn 28-yard line. The Razorbacks elect to run the football from a bunch set, hoping to catch the Auburn defense playing the pass. At the snap, DaVonte Lambert, Gabe Wright and Ben Bradley are able to make a good push at the line of scrimmage. By maintaining their gaps, the Arkansas RB is forced to bounce the play outside. During the attempt to bounce the play outside, Justin Garrett and Jonathan Jones make deep penetration into the backfield, stretching the play further towards the sideline. Cassanova McKinzy and Kris Frost initially take on blocks by the OL but because of Auburn's DL penetration, the play is forced outside. This allows McKinzy and Frost time to work themselves free to continue their track towards the ball carrier. McKinzy is able to motor his way towards the new point of attack (outside). Jonathan Jones makes the first contact with the RB, deep in the backfield. McKinzy arrives in time to finish off the play and to tackle the RB for a 6-yard loss. The huge loss pushes the Razorbacks out of FG range, forcing a punt with Auburn holding a 7-point lead (28-21) at the time. Though Lambert, Wright and Bradley were not credited for a tackle, it was their initial attack at the line, which forced the play outside. By extending the play, it allowed time for other defenders to work their way to the football. During the first half, 34% of the Razorbacks offensive snaps were held to 2-yards or less. During the second half, 68% of their snaps were held to 2-yards or less.