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  1. Game #12 Statistical Evaluation (Alabama Game) Offensive Report Card: 01) Avg 6-yards per play on 1st down: [5.64] fail 02) Convert at least 40% of 3rd downs: [47.4%] pass 03) Avg at least 4.5 yards per rush: [3.72] fail 04) Score on at least 1/3 of possessions: [61.5%] pass 05) Keep 3 and out series under 33%: [15.4%] pass 06) Average 8.0 yards per pass attempt: [10.6 yds] pass 07) Score at least 75% inside red zone: [87.5%] pass 08) TD red zone above 60%: [25.0%] fail 09) Avg at least 30-yards per possession: [45.0 yds] pass 10) 40% of offensive snaps part of scoring drives: [75.3%] pass 11) TD / Turnover ratio above 1.6: [4 TD’s / 2] pass 12) TD ratio of at least 1 every 17 snaps: [22.2] fail 13) At least 8 impact plays: [11] pass 14) At least 2 big plays: [6] pass 15) Pass rating of at least 125.0: [170.2] pass * Red Zone offense ended up being the difference in the game but 44 points and over 600-yards in offense should always result in a victory. * Nick Marshall was a baller tonight, setting a new school record in passing yardage against the No. 1 ranked team in the country. * I wish there was a way of keeping Duke Williams for his senior year. He was a warrior tonight. Score: 11 of 15 (73.3%) Pass Defensive Report Card: 01) Avg under 6-yards per play on 1st down: [11.0] fail 02) Convert below 35% of 3rd downs: [55.6%] fail 03) Avg at least 4.0 yards per rush: [6.68] fail 04) Score below 1/3 of possessions: [61.5%] fail 05) Keep 3 and out series above 33%: [23.1%] fail 06) Average below 7.5 yards per pass attempt: [11.6 yds] fail 07) Score below 75% inside red zone: [100.0%] fail 08) TD red zone below 60%: [100.0%] fail 09) Avg under 30-yards per possession: [38.5 yds] fail 10) Less than 40% of offensive snaps part of scoring drives: [77.0%] fail 11) TD / Turnover ratio below 1.6: [8 TD’s / 3 turnovers] fail 12) TD ratio of at least 1 every 30 snaps: [7.6] fail 13) Less than 8 impact plays: [14] fail 14) No more than 2 big plays allowed: [3] fail 15) Pass rating below 125.0: [197.8] fail Score: 0 of 15 (0.0%) fail * Since 1961 Auburn is 45-2 with at least 540-yards in total offense and both losses were suffered this year. Since 1961 Auburn is 134-4, when scoring 38 points during regulation. Two of those losses occurred this season. This was the first time in school history Auburn lost a game after scoring at least 40 points during regulation. Special Teams Report Card: 1) Punt Average (Above 41.3): [41.0] 0 inside 20 (fail) 2) Punt Return Defense (Below 7.8 YPR): [12.0] fail 3) Punt Return Offense (Above 9.8 YPR): [0.0] fail 4) Kick-Return Defense (Below 21.2 YPR): [15.8] pass 5) Kick-Return Offense (Above 22.3 YPR): [20.8] fail 6) PAT’s (100%): [4 of 4] pass 7) FG Pct (75% or above): [100.0%] pass Score: 3 of 7 (42.9%) fail * Keep in mind that 50% is a passing score. War Eagle!
  2. Post game Numbers & Thoughts: Prior to the 2014 Iron Bowl, Auburn had passed for a combined 446-yards during their last 4 meetings against the Tide. Nick Marshall passed for 456-yards last night. Prior to last night Alabama had allowed only 2.6 trips per game inside their red zone. Auburn had 8 trips last night but only scored 2 TD's. Alabama was No. 7 nationally in TD percentage allowed inside the RZ. Though Auburn had opportunities to score more points, their 27 points scored inside the RZ, far exceeded the 12.0 PPG Alabama had allowed inside the RZ prior to last night's game. The 630-yards gained against Alabama last night was the 4th most yards gained by an Auburn offense in conference play. It was the most ever gained against Alabama by Auburn and the most yardage gained by an Auburn offense against a team ranked No. 1. Auburn is now 32-2 since 1960, when gaining at least 500-yards against a conference opponent during regulation. Both losses came this season. Auburn has averaged 502-yards and 37 PPG in conference play during 17 games as Gus Malzahn as the head coach. Despite the record-setting offensive production, Auburn is 12-5 in those games, primarily because the defense has surrendered an average of 453-yards and 31 PPG. During the previous 17 conference games before Malzahn became head coach, Auburn averaged 287-yards and 17 PPG on offense, while the defense allowed 417-yards and 31 PPG. Cameron Artis-Payne has 1482-yards rushing on the season, fighting for every inch he could muster last night against Alabama. He finished the game with 77-yards on 25 carries. I have watched 36 Iron Bowls during my lifetime and I've never witnessed an Auburn offense attack an Alabama defense the way I saw last night. During the 7 previous Iron Bowls (2007-2013) with Nick Saban as the head coach, Auburn's offense had a combined total of 8 plays of 30-yards or more combined. The most impact plays during any of those games was 7. Last night Auburn had 11 impact plays of which 6 went for over 30-yards. During Auburn's last 6 conference games, the opponent has averaged 483-yards and 39 PPG, scoring a TD every 14 plays defended. Since 1992 Auburn is 92-2, when the offense scores on at least 42 percent of their offensive possessions. The two losses both occurred this season. Sammie Coates 206-yards in receiving was 5th best in school history and the most receiving yardage an Auburn player has ever recorded against Alabama. Since 1986 Auburn has faced 30 opponents ranked in the top-5. Nick Marshall has produced the top-4 passing performances based on efficiency-rating during those games. During the last 7 games the Auburn offense had a passing-grade 5 times, special teams 3 times and defense 1 time. With Gus Malzahn directing the Auburn offense, the Tigers have averaged 435-yards and 32 PPG during 42 conference games. The defense during that same time period has allowed 409-yards and 29 PPG. Prior to last night, the most yardage gained by an Auburn offense against a top-10 defense was 451-yards. Auburn shattered that mark with 630-yards. Auburn is now 10-3 against top-10 defenses, when gaining at least 350-yards per game since 1981 and 2 of those losses have come during the past 2 seasons. Of Duke Williams 45 receptions on the year, 37 have resulted in an Auburn first down or touchdown. Sammie Coates has 30 receptions on the year and 25 have resulted in a first down or touchdown. Alabama came into the game with the No. 5 rated defense (total-defense), allowing 283 yards per game. Auburn's 620-yards was nearly 123 percent more yardage than Alabama had allowed per game. The Crimson Tide has now dropped to No. 11 in total-defense. Prior to last night Auburn had never lost to Alabama after generating at least 350-yards in offense (10-0). Despite gaining over 600-yards, Auburn still lost by 11 points. Auburn is now 111-1 from 1951-2014, when scoring 40 points or more during regulation. I thought the entire team played with passion and desire last night. There was no indication a "team" going through the motions and no sign of quit. Some will say they saw some players quit last night but I disagree. There is a big difference between quitting and a player working through frustration. Last night I saw an offense confident in their game plan, working hard to execute it to the best of their ability. They believed in their game plan and coaches and became stronger after every successful play. I saw a defense that played hard and with passion early on but often looked lost and confused. It is difficult to play with confidence and passion, when you're lost. Speaking of a lack of confidence and being confused. During the first 30 snaps on defense, Auburn allowed 196-yards and 20 points. Had they maintained that pace for the remainder of the game, Auburn would have won. During the next 30 snaps defended, Auburn allowed 345-yards and 35 points. During the first half Auburn's defense allowed 6 impact plays for 105-yards. During the second-half, they surrendered 8 impact plays for 260-yards. It was a perfect example of a house of cards crumbling to the table, once the foundation had been breached. War Eagle!
  3. One of the first things taught to young football players is never give up on the play. Not the kind of effort that allows you to stomp on an opposing player down the field but the kind of effort that allows you to make a fumble (Kris Frost) and the recovery (Cassanova McKinzy). Twenty-two games into the Gus Malzahn era, we have seen a team that never stops fighting, which is reflection of the coaching staff. There were plenty of mistakes made by the Auburn players but their effort kept them in the game and allowed them to come out victorious at the final whistle. It is this kind of effort that keeps the Tigers in the championship race, which will be needed with 2 major road games remaining. Nick Marshall's best attribute as a player resurfaced once again as he is never too high or too low, when it comes to his composure on the field. After throwing a horrible pick, Marshall was 11 of 16 for 199-yards and 2 TD passes. Of Auburn's 9 impact plays, Nick Marshall was directly involved in 7 as he continues to be the heart of the offense and why the coaching staff believes he is the best option. Cameron Artis-Payne registered another great game and is 26-yards away from rushing for 1000-yards, which he should easily accomplish in game #9 against the Aggies. The defense was actually in position to make plays but failed to do so with poor tackling and poor pursuit angles. The defensive line clearly played much better this week, when it came to rushing the passer. Texas A&M struggled against Louisiana-Monroe and their starting quarterback is suspended for this Saturday's game. Though the Aggie defense is not playing well, it will be vital for the coaching staff to keep the players focused this week. The Ole Miss win was a terrific road victory but Auburn can not afford to overlook the Aggies, who will likely be a major underdog against the Tigers. The defense has struggled for three consecutive games and tackling must be cleaned up or witness the opponent look better than they should. Inside the Numbers... Ole Miss became the 126th time Auburn has faced a top-10 opponent since 1961. Nick Marshall's quarterback rating of 186.1 was the 3rd best performance during that time span. Auburn extended their 200-yard rushing games streak against SEC teams to 13, a school record. Gus Malzahn is now 14-0 as a head coach, when his team scores first at Auburn. Auburn finished the game with a 200-yard passer, 100-yard rusher (RB) and a 100-yard receiver against the Rebels. It is the 6th time Auburn has accomplished this feat in their last 19 games. Prior to the last 19 games, Auburn did it 6 times in a span of 122 games. Kris Frost had another solid game, recording 9 tackles, 1 forced-fumble and was involved in a sack. Cameron Artis-Payne has totaled 974-yards through 8 games, compared to Tre Mason's 753-yards through 8 games into 2013. CAP is currently averaging 5.5 yards per rush to Mason's 5.8. After going 1 of 6 on third-downs during the first-half, Auburn was 5 of 7 during the second-half. The 4th quarter continues to be the Auburn's best quarter on defense. Opponents continue to struggle converting third-downs during the final quarter, converting 25.8 percent on the season. Last week against the Gamecocks, the Auburn defense allowed 3 of 6 third-down conversions with at least 10-yards needed to convert. The Rebels were 0 for 4. With 631-yards rushing, Nick Marshall is still on pace for a 1000-yard season in 13 games. Last season through 8 games, Nick Marshall had completed 59% of his passes for 7 TD's and 4 interceptions. This season he has completed 60% of his passes for 13 TD's and 4 interceptions. He also has nearly 100 more rushing yards than last season. In 13 games against FBS opponents with a winning record, Nick Marshall has averaged 284.3 yards per game, scoring a combined 34 touchdowns. The Auburn offense has generated 20 plays of 30-yards or more down from the 29 recorded during the first 8 games of the 2013 season. In terms of consistency, 48.5% of Auburn's offensive snaps netted at least 5-yards and Ole Miss hit at 47.2%. Ole Miss averaged 6.06 yards per play during the first-half and 7.49 yards during the second-half. Take away both team's impact plays on offense and Auburn averaged 4.37 yards on 59 snaps and Ole Miss averaged 2.34 yards per play on 59 snaps. During the first 5 games of the season, 48.5% of Auburn's first-down plays netted 3-yards or less and 44.2% went for at least 5-yards. During the last 3 games, 45.5% have gone for 3-yards or less, while 48.5% has gone for 5-yards or more. 43.1% of the Rebels offensive snaps went for 2-yards or less. This was a season low for the Auburn defense. The previous low was 46.8% against Mississippi State. Last season Nick Marshall was directly involved in 48.5% of Auburn's impact plays (15+). This season it has increased to 60.7%. Auburn has totaled 36 run plays of 15-yards or more and 48 through the air. Last season through 8 games, the Auburn offense scored on 38.5% of their possessions starting on their side of the field. This season it is up to 42.4%. Coming into the game Auburn had forced 17 fumbles but recovered only 3. Against the Rebels, Auburn was 2 of 2 and they were critical. Auburn's average penalty distance this season is 10.3 yards, while the opponent is 7.8 yards. Final Word: With 2/3 of the regular season in the books, it appears the offense will have to carry the defense for the second consecutive season. Much like last season, the defense has risen in critical moments of the game but the big plays allowed remains a concern. Run-defense and interceptions have improved this season but Auburn continues to give up too many yards and points. Fortunately for the Tigers, the offense is playing well enough to win a championship but the odds are slim with special teams not carrying their weight. Punt-return offense has improved this season but punting and kick-return offense has taken a step backwards. Auburn will likely be favored in 3 of their 4 remaining games and a 4-0 regular season finish will certainly lock the Tigers into the first 4-team playoffs. It appears the offense has made a similar improvement as the 2013 offense did, during their final bye-week. Since the bye-week the Auburn offense has averaged 529-yards and 39 PPG but the defense has surrendered an average of 513-yards and 33 PPG. Ellis Johnson will likely address some breakdowns in coverage as well as poor tackling and pursuit angles against the Rebels. During the Gus Malzahn era (22 games), Auburn is 19-3 despite facing 11 ranked opponents. His offense has averaged 500-yards and 39 PPG but the defense has allowed 405-yards and 24 PPG. The Auburn run-offense has averaged 310-yards per game, the driving force of the most prolific era of offensive football at Auburn. Just how dominating would Auburn appear with a consistent defense during the past 22 games? The defense has improved in many areas this season but the big plays and first-down defense continues to be an issue. Hopefully the defense will continue to improve to increase Auburn's chances of making it to the final-4. War Eagle!
  4. I expected the game might be close at halftime with Auburn pulling away during the second-half, via their run-offense. With basically 3 weeks to prepare for the Auburn defense, I thought we would see some new wrinkles by the Gamecock offense but I did not expect Steve Spurrier to give his team every possible chance to make it a ball game. He took some major risks, when it came to the six fourth-down calls and onside-kick but it almost paid off for what he himself, stated would have been his biggest victory of coaching career. When South Carolina gambled on their first fourth-down play at their own 33-yard line, he made it clear his offense was going to let it all hang out. Auburn was expected to be able to run on the Gamecock defense, which is why they were nearly a 3-touchdown favorite to win the game. Spurrier minus a defense, basically gave his team every chance to win tonight, which is all can you ask of any great football coach. If not for their struggles inside the red zone and three turnovers, the Gamecocks would have been victorious in carrying out Spurrier's plan of attack against Auburn. Steve Spurrier deserves every word of praise he has received during his coaching career but has been far more likeable during his tenure at South Carolina than Florida. His teams have always been competitive but he was won more with coaching at South Carolina than he did at Florida. The Auburn offense carried the team tonight, which had the same kind of feel we witnessed during the 2013 season. The run-offense looked unstoppable against the Gamecocks and the defense made critical plays in situational play. This was the formula for success last season, especially during the big games. Not sure what Ellis Johnson can do at this point to establish a better pass-rush but rushing only three certainly is not the answering. There were times Johnson dialed up a late defender (4th rusher) just before the snap but their were 5-6 times during the game, Auburn only came with 3 pass-rushers period. This cannot be the case moving forward, especially against Ole Miss, Texas A&M and Alabama. Inside the Numbers: Cameron Artis-Payne had perhaps his best game of the season. He was quick to the hole and extremely physical, when it was needed the most. He now increases his rushing totals to 831-yards on the season, which could translate to a 1500-yard season in 13-games. Nick Marshall did a great job checking down to his shorter routes this week, taking what the defense was willing to give. He finished the night, 12 of 14 for 139-yards to go along with his 89-yards rushing and 4 touchdowns combined. Ricardo Louis is a big and fast, north and south offensive player. He has been inconsistent as a pass-catcher but I thought Malzahn did a great job of making his presence known this week. If not for the speed-sweeps this week, Louis would have been an afterthought on offense with 1 reception for 7-yards. By utilizing him in the perimeter run-offense, Louis finished with 102-yards rushing 3 carries, making a major impact in the outcome of the game. Opposing teams have taken away the Grant speed-sweeps so Malzahn brought it back with a change in personnel groupings. Kris Frost had a huge game against South Carolina. He finished the game with 14 stops of which 11 were solo tackles. The last time an Auburn LB had at least 11 solo tackles in a game was Travis Williams (2004) vs. Ole Miss. Eight different Auburn Tigers were involved in an impact play against the Gamecocks. This is amazing considering Auburn had only 8 offensive possessions during the game. The 8 offensive possessions was the fewest number of possessions by an Auburn offense during their last 278 games (1992-2014). Auburn has now extended their streak of 200-yard rushing games in conference play to 12 consecutive games (school record, previously 8-games). During Auburn's current school record of 12 consecutive 200-yard rushing games in the SEC, the Tigers have averaged 328.5 yards per game. What has possessing a mobile QB meant to the Auburn run-offense under Gus Malzahn? The 2010, 2013 and 2014 Auburn run offense has now averaged 317.7 yards rushing in 21 SEC games. Coming into tonight's game, South Carolina had allow their FBS opponents to rush for 6.3% more yardage than their opponent's season average. The Auburn run-offense rushed for 133.5% more than what the Gamecocks had allowed on an average this season. South Carolina averaged 7.63 yards per play during the first-half and 5.25 yards during the second-half. It was the sixth time out of 7 games the Auburn defense allowed fewer yards per play during the second-half, compared to the first-half. Of the 35 snaps defended by the Auburn defense during the first-half, 48.6% went for 2-yards or less. During the second-half, it was 54.9% of the 51 snaps defended. It was the 6th time out of 7 games, the Auburn defense held their opponent to higher percentage of 2-yard plays or less during the second-half. Auburn had 10 QB hurries, while allowing 3 and 7 tackles for loss to the 4 allowed. Last season Auburn had 13 interceptions from 493 passes defended (37.9). This season they have equaled their interception total in just 7 games, with 13 picks from 250 passes defended (1 every 19.2 attempts). I can only image what it might be with a better pass-rush. Last season through 7 games the Auburn offense generated 66 impact plays. This season they have 75. Brandon Fulse came into the Gamecock game with 4 career receptions for 25-yards and 0 TD's. Fulse recorded his first TD of his career and his fist impact-play of his career. Against Mississippi State, Auburn was 11 of 20 passing within 10-yards of the line of scrimmage for 102-yards. Against the Gamecocks, Auburn went 10 of 10 for 105-yards. Since 1992 Auburn is now 139-10-1, when scoring on at least 33% of their offensive possessions. This includes a record of 41-3 under Gus Malzahn. Auburn has now scored 75-points from their forced-turnovers, while allowing 28 from their own miscues. During the first 2 conference games of the season, Auburn was 4 of 8 in situations of 2-yards or less needed to convert. During the last 2 conference games, Auburn is 10 of 13. Final Thoughts... It would be easy to be concerned about Auburn's remaining games based on the Tigers defensive performance against the Gamecocks. Before going into a full blown panic attack, consider the outcome of games through 8 weeks into the season. We saw South Carolina demolished by Texas A&M, yet the Gamecocks gave Georgia their only loss thus far. Alabama came close to losing to Arkansas but defeated Texas A&M by 59-points the following week. Auburn crushed LSU, 41-7 yet the Bengal-Tigers defeated Ole Miss, Auburn's next opponent. Auburn defeated Arkansas by 24, who lost in overtime to A&M. Though the Aggies blew out the Gamecocks, Auburn held on for dear-life to get past South Carolina. There is no way to accurately predict the outcome of any conference game based on the outcome of previous games. Despite their poor defensive performance against the Gamecocks, Auburn remains in position to reach all their preseason team-goals. The defense will certainly need to play much better next Saturday against Ole Miss but every team in the Southeastern Conference has shown some form of weakness this season, including undefeated Mississippi State. I do believe Ellis Johnson has explored every possible option to improve the DL, which means Auburn will need to make plays inside the red zone, while continuing their trend to forcing turnovers. The run-defense and secondary appear to be the strength of the defense but the lack of pass-rush is likely to catch up with the Tigers again. Hopefully the Auburn defense can continue to perform better as the game progresses. Regardless of Auburn's deficiencies this season, Auburn can still run their remaining schedule by making plays at critical moments of the game. What Auburn can not afford is the self-inflicted wounds we have seen, regarding turnovers. The match ups between Auburn and Ole Miss projects a close game, likely to be low-scoring. Turnovers and miscues can turn any close game into a blowout. Auburn's offense appears to have taken a step-forward from the bye-week but the same cannot be said about the defense. Though I suspect Auburn's defense is better than how they performed against the Gamecocks, they simply cannot afford to allow Bo Wallace to throw the football without any pressure. Auburn faced a South Carolina team, willing to let it all hang out because the Gamecocks had their backs to the wall. Ole Miss losing to LSU has forced the Rebels into a must-win situation and they are a much more physical and talented team on defense. Auburn and Ole Miss can not afford another conference loss or face possible elimination in the conference race to Atlanta. The time has come for the Auburn coaches and players to take a page out of the Steve Spurrier book and play like there is no tomorrow, with minimum wiggle room to win a championship. War Eagle!
  5. In Part II of Moving Forward, here is how the defense breaks down compared to 2013. Once again this is a 2014 mid-season comparison to the 2013 completed season, so the rankings are skewed to a degree. However, it does give us a general idea of how much the defense has appeared to have improved. The national rankings... Overall we see an average ranking of No. 33 nationally from the 15 statistical categories, compared to the No. 62 average ranking in 2013. Auburn is currently in the top-25 of 7 of the 15 categories, with a 34-point + swing in 8 categories. The most notable turnarounds comes in the forced-turnovers, limiting of big plays allowed, total defense and pass-efficiency defense. There are no glaring drops in defense, with RZ TD percentage being the worst drop in production. There was a drop in pass-efficiency defense and third-down percentage but both categories at least remain in the nation's top-25. The yards allowed per play on first-down can be contributed to the No. 87 ranking in pass-efficiency defense on first-down. There should be no doubt the defense has continued to improve this season but the DL remains a concern in terms of establishing a pass-rush. With Auburn having to face 5 remaining opponents currently averaging over 430-yards per game on offense, the defense is about to be truly challenged to close out the regular season. Though Ellis Johnson has looked at some possible personnel changes (during bye-week) to give the Tigers some additional speed on the edge, I believe Auburn is limited to what they can improve upon in regards to the pass-rush from the front-4. The key for the remainder of the season will be the continued trend of forcing turnovers, limiting big plays and playing well on pass-defense. Climbing back into the top-20 of RZ TD Pct would be a major plus for the Auburn defense moving forward.
  6. 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.
  7. Prior to this season, the Auburn defense had allowed an average of 182.7 yards rushing per game from 2011-2013. During that 39-game run, Auburn allowed the opponent to rush for over 200-yards, 18 times. Ellis Johnson made run-defense a high priority, when he arrived at Auburn and we are beginning to see the results. During the 2012 season Auburn finished at No. 100 in run-defense. The Tigers improved to No. 63 last season under Ellis Johnson and are currently No. 11 after 3 games into the 2014 season. Tackling has improved dramatically and the players appear far more comfortable in year #2 under Ellis Johnson. The Play... On this play Kansas State has the ball at their own 46-yard line, facing a 2nd & 2. The Wildcats will attempt to run a counter-trey to the boundary side of the field. Auburn has 7 men in the box to defend what is likely going to be a run play. The key to defending this play is LaDarius Owens. He has backside responsibility to defend any cut backs by the RB and the quarterback, should he play-action and bootleg. When the KSU running back makes his cutback, Owens is in position to force the play deep and wide. This allows Johnathan Ford and Kris Frost time and space to run the play down. Rudy Ford closes and makes the tackle on the RB for a loss, forcing a passing situation on 3rd down. Though the DL only accounted for 9 tackles against the Wildcats, the numbers are misleading, when judging the performance of the Auburn DL. In this case, Owens is not credited for a tackle on this play but he was the primary reason why the play resulted in a loss. Through 3 games the Auburn defense is holding their opponent to 59 percent below their rushing average. You cannot establish that kind of production without the DL playing well.
  8. Auburn's defense played a major role keeping the Tigers in the ball game, while the Auburn offense sputtered. If not for the performance of the Auburn defense, Kansas State would have pulled off a major upset over the 5th ranked Tigers. Ellis Johnson was creative with his blitz packages against the Wildcats. He brought pressure off the edge, pressure up the middle and called a few zone-blitzes. The Tigers were able to force 3 turnovers, 3 sacks and a total of 6 tackles for loss against Kansas State. The play... On this play Kansas State has the ball at the Auburn 13-yard line, facing a 2nd & 9. They have only 1 timeout remaining with 22 seconds before the first-half expires. Knowing the Wildcats must pass, Ellis Johnson calls a blitz. At the snap, Justin Garrett and Robenson Therezie come off the edge. Kansas State's RB and TE must pick up the pressure coming off the edge as their QB drops to pass. As soon as all the Wildcat backfield is occupied, Kris Frost comes on a delayed blitz up the middle. Montravius Adams runs a stunt, which opens up a larger gap for Frost to come up the middle. The KSU quarterback is preoccupied looking down field and doesn't see Frost until it is too late. Kris Frost takes the quarterback down for the sack, forcing a fumble. Auburn did not recover the fumble but were able to push Kansas State back, while forcing them to burn their final timeout. K-State's kicker misses the field goal, failing to tie the game before the half expired. Through 3 games Auburn has registered 21 tackles for loss, including 8 sacks.
  9. It certainly wasn't the result most Auburn supporters were hoping for but we should all be grateful Auburn left Manhattan, Kansas with a victory. Auburn's school record streaks of 200-yard rushing games and 30-point games came to end at the hands of the Kansas State defense. It was a Wildcat defense that was well coached, disciplined and quick to the point of attack. It took away the heart of the Auburn offense, which limited Auburn's explosive play ability. Fortunately for Auburn, the Tigers' defense came to play, holding Kansas State to under 300-yards of offense. If not for the first-half play of the Auburn defense, the Tigers would not have held their slim 10-7 lead at halftime. If we learned anything from tonight, it was a clear sign of how difficult it will be for Auburn to navigate through their schedule unblemished. With the way Auburn has run the ball during the last 16 games before the Kansas State game, we became spoiled from its production. This is the very reason why Gus Malzahn and Rhett Lashlee knew the importance of improving the pass-offense. Auburn will remain a strong running team but Kansas State won't likely be the last team to slow Auburn's rushing attack down before season's end. This means the pass-offense must strive for continued improvement or face the reality of losing. The play of the offensive line and blocking on the perimeter was very inconsistent against the Wildcats. Auburn's longest run of the night was a 17-yard gain by Nick Marshall and Cameron Artis-Payne took a massive beating between the tackles. Kansas State simply beat Auburn up front, when the Tigers were on offense. The good news was that Nick Marshall delivered, when he was needed the most. If not for 4-5 dropped passes, Marshall would have passed for over 300-yards and at least 3 TD's. It's good to know the players and coaches can learn from this reality check and still be undefeated. All in all, the defense took another big step forward as well as Nick Marshall but the offensive line are in for a gloomy film study this week. Inside the Numbers: Despite the average performance by the offense, Auburn has raised the bar over a 16-game run. Auburn's offense beginning in 1970 and 5 games into the 1971 season, averaged 446.8 yards per game and 34.8 PPG. Starting with the 6th game of the 1994 season, Auburn's offense averaged 461.8 YPG and 36.1 PPG over a 16-game period. Starting with the last game of the 2009 season on through the first game of 2011, Auburn averaged 486.3 YPG and 41.1 PPG. Beginning with the second game of the 2013 season on through the Kansas State game, Auburn averaged 504.4 YPG and 40.4 PPG. The last time Auburn held a team from a major conference to under 300-yards was the 2011 Florida game. Kansas State was held to only 78-yards on 30 first down snaps. The last time Auburn held a major opponent to under 3-yards per play on first down was the 2008 Mississippi State game. Nick Marshall had a QB rating of only 112.3 during the first-half, thanks to a couple of dropped passes. Marshall rebounded strong with a 159.9 rating during the second-half. Nick Marshall came into the game with a total of 4 third-down passes that resulted in a first-down. Against Kansas State, Marshall converted 7 third-down situations, throwing the football. Three games into the season, D'haquille Williams has been targeted 27 times, catching 21 passes. Sammie Coates has been thrown to 13 times, catching 3. Ricardo Louis has been targeted 10 times, hauling in 6 passes. Nick Marshall has completed on 43 percent of his passes on first down but has connected on 57 percent on third-down. After gaining only 60-yards during their first 5 possessions of the game, the Auburn offense gained 294-yards during their next 6 possessions. After going 2 of 7 on third-down during the first-half, Auburn was 8 of 11 during the second-half. Through 3 games into the 2013 season, the Auburn defense had allowed 6 plays of 30-yards or more. The 2014 defense has surrendered just 2. Only 24 of Auburn's 76 offensive snaps netted at least 5-yards. Lowest output of the season. K-State had 29 of 70 snaps that went for at least 5-yards. Auburn's defense has allowed 5.4 yards per play during the first-half and only 3.4 yards per play during the second-half. 52.2 percent of the plays defended by the Auburn defense has been held to 2-yards or less this season. Auburn had averaged at least 17 first down plays that netted at least 5-yards, prior to Kansas State. The Wildcats held Auburn to just 9 plays of 5-yards or more on first down. Last season through 3 games, only 7.9% of Auburn's possessions began on the opponent's side of the field. This season it has increased to 17.1 percent. One of the primary keys to victory was stopping Kansas State from scoring on the 3 possessions they took possession on the Auburn side of the field. Auburn is now 33-4 under Gus Malzahn's offense, when the Tigers score at least 2 times during their first 4 possessions of the game. This was not the case against Kansas State, making Auburn 12-8 under Malzahn, when scoring only once or less during their first 4 possessions. Last season Nick Marshall completed only 28.3 percent of his passes beyond 20-yards of the line of scrimmage. The key was to improve to 40-45 percent in 2014. Through 3 games, Marshall has hit only 18.2 percent. This has to improve or Auburn won't make it back to Atlanta much less the playoffs. Through 3 games Auburn has allowed 3.2 yards per rush during the first-half and 1.3 yards during the second-half. Of Auburn's 18 scoring drives this season, 65.7 percent of the plays have been on the ground. Auburn's front-7 (star included) was involved in only 42.4 percent of the tackles. This included only 9 stops by the D-line, which averaged 17 per game prior to Kansas State. Auburn has now scored 34 points from their opponent's turnovers and have surrendered zero points to the opponent from Auburn's turnovers. Final Word: It would be easy to write off this team's chances of winning a championship solely based on their performance against Kansas State. Though it's obvious there are areas Auburn needs to improve upon, most championship teams survives at least one of these type games during the season. I believe the game plan for this game were solid but execution was questionable in several critical areas. The offensive line struggled, there were too many dropped passes and special teams did not deliver like they normally do. Credit should also be given to the opposition for their performance and effort, which made Auburn's offense look mortal more than not. Auburn will have a couple of extra days and Louisiana Tech to work through before hosting LSU. The time spent before the LSU game will be critical to prepare for what will be an extremely physical game. The offense must find the ability to be more balanced, when their backs are against the wall but there are plenty of positive signs, the defense has continued to improve. Though Auburn won the tackle for loss battle against Kansas State (6 to 5), the Wildcats clearly held the edge in controlling the line of scrimmage. Auburn will not advance very far is this becomes the case, when they return to conference play. The secondary looks questionable at times but it is important to remember the youth movement in place and the lack of experience back there. A better push by the defensive line would help but until that happens, look for Ellis Johnson to mix in the blitz at critical times. Thus far, Auburn has been very productive in this area. The regular season is one-fourth through and Auburn is still in the mix for a special season. The Tigers will need to continue their march to improvement as the schedule becomes more challenging each week. Enjoy the good things accomplished in each game, rather than fretting over the negatives. Normally there are more positives than negatives but its human nature to focus on the negative. This is directed at us as fans and not the team and coaches. Let the players and coaches work out the kinks. War Eagle!
  10. 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.
  11. The following is a breakdown of the 2013 Auburn defense by quarter. Run-Defense: 1st Qt: 4.93 YPC (110th nationally) 2nd Qt: 4.04 YPC (89th nationally) 3rd Qt: 5.63 YPC (82nd nationally) 4th Qt: 3.88 YPC (36th nationally) Run-defense has been a major issue for the Auburn Tigers over the past 5 seasons, except for the 2010 season. The 2013 Auburn defense did manage to improve from No. 100 during 2012 to No. 62 in 2013. Except for a major slip during the third quarter, the numbers reveal Auburn played better run-defense as the game wore on last season. Hopefully this trend will continue in 2014 but with a better start during the first quarter. Pass-Defense: 1st Qt: 120.4 efficiency rating (32nd nationally) 2nd Qt: 130.3 rating (61st nationally) 3rd Qt: 127.3 rating (60th nationally) 4th Qt: 128.8 rating (86th nationally) Last season we witnessed a gradual decline in pass-defense as the game progressed. This was one of the primary reasons why Auburn squandered significant leads in several games during 2013. This was an obvious concern last season and an issue that could resurface again in 2014. With the loss of key performers at DE, the Tigers could struggle applying pressure on the opposing quarterback, especially during critical junctures of the game. It should be noted Auburn did improve in pass-efficiency defense on third-down. The Tigers were 96th nationally during 2012, improving to No. 8 during 2013. As Ellis Johnson pointed out, the Tigers were great in situational play but average overall. Turnovers: If a defense struggles in yardage and points allowed, it must make up for these issues with turnovers. Unless more injuries surface, I believe the Auburn defense will continue to improve in 2014 but won't be a dominating or even a consistent defense. Once again, they will need to be very good in "situational" play. Improving the run-defense would be a major step in the right direction. From 1992-2103, Auburn's defense has forced a turnover every 32.3 plays defended. Last season the ratio was 1 every 52.1 plays defended, which was 21st best over the past 22 years. This is an area the Tigers must improve upon. "Turn-around" defense or sudden change of possession is also an area the Auburn defense must improve on. From 1992-2013, an Auburn turnover has been worth 2.3 points for the opponent. Last season it equated to 2.5 points per turnover, 15th best over the last 22 seasons. From 1992-2013, Auburn has compiled a record of 95-16, when the Tigers win the turnover battle. Gus Malzahn's offense has done it's fair share of winning the turnover battle. During the past 22 seasons, Auburn has averaged a turnover every 36.6 plays. Malzahn's four Auburn offenses has averaged a turnover every 46.3 plays. Malzahn's 2010 and 2013 offenses were ranked No. 1 and No. 2 in terms of turnover ratio among the past 22 Auburn offenses. In order for the Tigers to win the turnover battle on a frequent basis, the defense will need to step up to match the offensive output. During the past 5 seasons, Auburn has turned the ball over 105 times, while the defense has forced only 103 turnovers. During this 5-year time frame, Auburn has won or tied the turnover battle 59.1 percent of the time. During the previous 5-years (2004-2008), it was 65.1 percent.
  12. Coach Ellis Johnson previously described the 2013 Auburn defense as being average overall but very good in "situational play". Auburn’s national rankings of No. 87 in total defense and No. 47 in scoring defense supports the “average” comment made by Auburn’s defensive coordinator. Auburn finished No. 13 in third-down defense and No. 10 in Red zone defense, which supports Johnson’s comment of being very good in situational play. Auburn was No. 10 in third-down defense against ranked opponents and No. 7 in Red zone defense against ranked competition. Proof that Auburn’s defense rose to the occasion against better competition. If Auburn had one of the top defenses in the nation on third-down, why did they allow so many yards and points during 2013? The problem came not on third-down but during first-down play. The 2013 Auburn defense finished the season at No. 105, when it came to first-down defense, allowing 6.54 yards per play. When the Tigers forced their opponent to third-down (situational play), Auburn rose to the occasion. Of the 73 times Auburn forced the opponent into third and at least 10-yards to convert, the opponent converted only 12 times last season. In terms of pass-efficiency defense, Auburn was No. 88 on first-down and No. 8 on third-down. Once the opponent was placed into predictable situations, Auburn was sound on defense. Auburn’s primary issue on defense was simply giving up too many big plays during 2013. Last season Auburn’s defense surrendered 74 plays of 20-yards or more. Breaking the plays down by downs, here is how they unfolded… 1st down: 34 2nd down: 26 3rd down: 12 4th down: 2 60 of the 74 plays of 20-yards or more allowed came on 1st and 2nd downs or 81.1 percent. Of the 74 plays allowed, 53 came via the passing game (71.6 percent). Interestingly, Auburn was No. 29 nationally in allowing pass-plays of 15-yards or more and No. 110 in allowing run plays of 10-yards or more. This is an immediate red flag; Auburn needs to improve on run-defense as well as the number of big plays allowed in 2014. Last season the Tigers were No. 63 in run-defense (yards allowed per game) and No. 80 in rushing yards allowed per play on first-down. This means Auburn not only struggled defending the run but also struggled early on during possessions defended. Once again, this is a strong indicator Auburn’s defense needs to improve on early downs to create more opportunities in situational play. Though Auburn was No. 13 nationally in third-down defense, the Tigers were No. 79 in forcing third-down situations (Percentage of plays defended on third-down).
  13. Examining areas Auburn needs to improve upon for 2014, we have already looked at Auburn's run-defense and pass-offense. In Part III we return back to the Auburn defense, taking a closer look at the Tigers ability to create turnovers. During the 2012 season the Auburn defense had only 2 interceptions and was able to make a substantial improvement during 2013 by picking off 13 passes. Despite the spike in interceptions, Auburn had only 19 forced-turnovers on the season. Moving forward, Coach Ellis Johnson will strive for continued improvement, when it comes to forcing more turnovers in 2014. The numbers... Overall, Auburn finished No. 87 nationally in forced-turnover ratio with 1 every 52.1 snaps defended. The national average this past season was 1 every 41.1 plays. Auburn was No. 114 in forcing fumbles with 1 every 82.7 attempts. The national average for 2013 was 1 every 52.1 snaps. Auburn was No. 79 nationally in intercepting a pass every 37.9 passes defended. The national average was 1 every 32.8 passes defended. Auburn was No. 106 nationally in interceptions made on third-down, picking off a pass every 57 pass attempts. The national average was 1 every 25.7 pass attempts on third-down. From 1992-2013 Auburn averaged 11 fumble recoveries per season. The 2013 Auburn defense had only 6. Creating turnovers are important in terms of immediate stops of opposing possessions, creating a short field for the offense as well as creating scoring opportunities. Consider the following data... From 1992-2013, 25 percent of the points scored by Auburn was set up by a forced-turnover. An opposing turnover has been worth 3.7 points during the same time period. During the past 5 seasons, opponent turnovers have only resulted in 17 percent of Auburn's scoring, including 15 percent during the 2013 campaign. From 1992-2013, Auburn's defense forced a turnover every 32.3 snaps but the 2013 Auburn defense had a ratio of 1 every 52.1 plays defended. From 1992-2007, 17 percent of Auburn's offensive possessions began on the opponent's side of the field. That percentage has dropped to only 11.5 percent from 2008-2013. During 2013, only 10.2 percent of Auburn's possessions began on the opponent's side of the field. From 1992-2013, Auburn scored on only 30 percent of their possessions beginning on their side of the field. During that same time span, Auburn scored 64 percent of the time, when beginning a drive on the opponent's side of the field. From 1992-2013 Auburn compiled a record of 95-16-0, when winning the turnover battle. The above data outlines the importance and value of forced-turnovers and why the Tigers need to improve on this aspect in 2014. Auburn's average national ranking in turnover margin from 2000-2013 is No. 57. Their only top-25 finish came during the 2002 season, when Auburn was No. 22 that season. Auburn did improve from No. 110 during 2012 to No. 61 in 2013. Hopefully the Tigers will continue to improve from 2013 to 2014. During the past 3 seasons Auburn has turned the ball over every 39 snaps, while the defense generated a takeaway every 49 snaps. Flip-flopping these ratios would certainly make life easier for the Tigers. From 1992-2013 Auburn has compiled a record of 24-42-0 with 3 turnovers or more and a record of 68-19-0, when forcing 3 turnovers or more during a game. Forced-turnovers are normally indicative of aggressive play and the defense's ability to swarm to the football. During Ellis Johnson's first season as Auburn's defensive coordinator, Auburn saw increased production in tackles for loss, sacks, forced-turnovers and passes defended. The 2013 season allowed Johnson to lay the foundation of his defense and his returning personnel should be more adept to reacting in 2014, having built a comfort zone learning the schemes during 2013. Despite giving up too much yardage and big plays, the 2013 Auburn defense consistently rose to the occasion on third-down and inside the red zone. If Auburn can maintain this level of play on critical downs, while increasing tackles for loss and turnovers, the Tigers could make major strides towards improving in 2014.
  14. Auburn’s amazing turnaround this past season will raise the preseason stock of the 2014 Auburn Tigers. Early preseason polls have Auburn ranked in the top-5, which we haven’t seen in a very long time. There will be high expectations for the 2014 team, primarily based on the accomplishments of the 2013 Auburn Tigers. As amazing as the 2013 season was, 7 of Auburn’s 14 games were decided by 8-points or less. Despite having an offense that established school records in total yardage, yards per game and run-offense, the Tigers found themselves in too many close games. If Auburn is to come close to duplicating their 2013 season, the defense will require continued improvement. In a multiple-part series, I intend to breakdown aspects of the 2013 Auburn team, which will highlight areas requiring improvement for 2014. During the first segment, the focus is on the run-defense. Coach Rodney Garner has the same coaching philosophy as Tracy Rocker. Most defensive linemen gravitate towards the opportunity of making sacks but you won’t have those opportunities unless you can stop the run. Regardless of the opponent, the No. 1 priority on defense is to stop the run, something Auburn has struggled with for the past 3 seasons. 2013 Results: The 2013 Auburn run-defense finished No. 63 in run-defense (yards allowed per game). The Tigers were No. 86 in yards allowed per rush (4.60 yards). No. 110 in allowing a run of 10-yards or more every 6.1 attempts. 81 such plays were allowed for the season. No. 101 in allowing a run of 20-yards or more every 22.5 attempts. No. 74 in allowing a first-down run every 4.2 attempts. No. 49 in allowing a rushing TD every 26.1 attempts. No. 80 in allowing 4.7 yards per rush on first down. No. 76 in allowing 4.5 yards per rush during the first half. No. 62 in allowing 3.9 yards per rush during the 4th quarter. Even though the majority of big plays allowed on defense this past season came from the opposing pass-offenses, it was the opponent’s ability to run the football that often slowed down an improved Auburn pass-rush. Once Auburn placed their opponent into 3rd & long passing situations, the Tigers defense played well. Auburn finished the season No. 62 in pass-efficiency defense but rose to No. 18, when the opponent faced 3rd & 10 or longer. They key to 2014 will be forcing 3rd & long more frequently than 2013. Auburn run-defense vs. SEC (2011-2013) During Auburn’s last 25 conference games, the Tigers have allowed 204.4 yards rushing on 5.09 yards per rush per game. 15 of the 25 conference opponents have rushed for at least 200-yards, with Auburn compiling a 7-8 record during those 15 games. Auburn has held only 1 of their last 25 conference opponents to under 100-yards rushing. Auburn’s explosive offense often masked deficiencies on the defensive side of the football during the past season. With Auburn allowing 204.4 yards rushing per game during their last 25 conference games, the opponent has been able to complete over 63 percent of their passes. This also includes a TD-INT ratio of 46 to 14 and 233-yards passing per game. Once again, an established running game almost always slows down a good pass-rush. During the BCS National Championship game, Auburn’s 232-yards rushing created opportunities for Nick Marshall and the Auburn pass-offense. Marshall was able to hit on 7 impact pass-plays during the game, finishing the game with a higher pass-rating than Jameis Winston. It should be noted FSU was held to 148-yards rushing, which often placed Winston into more obvious passing situations. The good news for Auburn is the major improvement by the defensive line in 2013, especially in the interior line. Though Auburn loses Dee Ford and Nosa Eguae, the Tigers return plenty of depth up front. Another year of off-season conditioning should help the 3 true freshmen that contributed in 2013. Additional JUCO help is on the way to provide more talent and depth up front. Until Auburn can consistently defend the run, they will not reach the ability to become a dominant defense. Coach Ellis Johnson and his assistants did a splendid job with what they had to work with this past season. Auburn had to install a new defense, while combating injuries and attrition in the depth chart. Though there were obvious gaps in the performance of the defense, they did rise to the occasion on third-down and inside the red zone. The goal for 2014 will be to become more consistent, starting on first down and defending the run. Next up… The Auburn pass-offense.
  15. One of the keys to success in Auburn's pass-defense this year has been the combination of solid secondary play and a more consistent pass-rush. We have seen more tight and press coverage this season by the Auburn secondary with great results. On the occasions Ellis Johnson has gone with tight coverage, it has allowed additional time for the DL to apply pressure on the opposing quarterback. On this play Carl Lawson is able to record a sack because Auburn went with press-coverage across the board. Many of the pass-plays by the Ole Miss offense were designed to be quick-developing and underneath routes. This allows their quarterback to make a quick-read and deliver the ball quickly. When Auburn went with tight coverage off the line, it often eliminated the shorter routes, forcing Bo Wallace to hold the ball longer than anticipated. This was the case on this play as Wallace was forced to hold the ball longer than he would have liked. Carl Lawson beats his man with a speed-rush and is able to loop over the pocket. The pass-protection was actually solid for Wallace but the tight coverage forced Wallace to leave the pocket in search of an open receiver. The additional time Wallace held the ball allowed Lawson the time to run him down from behind for the sack.
  16. Coach Ellis Johnson had his DE's in a 2-point stance numerous times during the game to defend against the Ole Miss zone-read play. Having his DE's standing up, gave them better vision in the backfield, which positioned them into a better angle of attack. Bo Wallace and Jeff Scott combined for 23 carries for 58-yards on the night and 52 of those yards came on 1 play. The Auburn defense did a great job defending the zone-read play, which was the heart of the Ole Miss rushing attack. On this play Ole Miss is set to run their zone-read play. In frame #2, Bo Wallace attempts to read Carl Lawson but Lawson doesn't commit inside or outside, forcing the decision back onto to the Ole Miss QB. Bo Wallace elects to keep the ball and run inside of Lawson but Lawson is too quick for this to happen. Carl Lawson wraps the QB up as Nosa Eguae knifes through the LT to help finish off the quarterback. Also notice in frame #2 how LaDarius Owens on the opposite side, patiently plays the back side in the event the QB were to take the play outside. Carl Lawson clearly has the speed and strength to be an impressive pass-rusher but his performance defending the run was special. Younger DE's often are caught out of position because they rush up field or over pursue plays but this wasn't the case for Lawson.
  17. During the post game, Coach Ellis Johnson commended Coach Rodney Garner for his work and preparation with the Auburn DL this season. The DL was a work in progress, when the season began but to their credit, they have progressed along with the season. The DL had it's best game of the season in tackles, TFL, QB pressures and sacks. Some of the sacks came because of great coverage, forcing the Ole Miss QB to hold the ball longer than desired. On this play, the Ole Miss line will double-team Ben Bradley. This opens the door for the 3 remaining Auburn lineman. Gabe Wright beats the RG with a swat and swim move over top to obtain an inside track to the quarterback. The best pressure in the world is inside pressure because it prevents the quarterback from stepping up in the pocket. Once Wright beats the RG, he takes down the Ole Miss QB for a sack. Throughout the night we witnessed multiple players on the DL taking advantage of their 1 on 1 opportunities along with coverage-sacks. Because the pressure was coming primarily from the front-4 and from all angles, it kept the Ole Miss OL on their heels. The floodgates were opened and the Auburn DL frequently flowed into the Ole Miss backfield.
  18. For the past 3 seasons, Auburn has struggled defending the run. During the last 26 games against FBS competition, the Tigers have allowed 200.9 yards per game on the ground at 4.93 yards per attempt. This includes 213.3 yards rushing per game against conference opponents at 5.16 yards per clip. Until Auburn begins to play better run-defense, the Tigers will continue to struggle competing against the better teams within the conference. Last season Auburn allowed 197.6 yards rushing per game, which has improved to 175.0 yards this season but nowhere close to where Coach Ellis Johnson wants. On this play Auburn will execute a run-blitz defending a LSU running play. Robenson Therezie comes of the edge from the boundary side. Because he is unaccounted for, he is able to slip down from the backside to make a play on the runner. Note in frame #3 how the Auburn front-7 is taken out of the play for the most part except for Robenson Therezie. He is able to take down the ball carrier from behind for a loss on the play. Auburn has allowed their opponent to rush for at least 200-yards, 14 times during the last 29 games. To show had poor this frequency of 200-yard games is, you would have to go back 119 games to total 14 games of 200-yards allowed prior to the 2011 season. This equates to 1 every 2.1 games compared to 1 every 8.5 games. From 1989-2010, Auburn's average national ranking in run-defense was No. 29 over a 22-year period. This included 13 top-25 rankings. Over the past 3 season (2011-2013) Auburn's average national ranking in run-defense is No. 91.
  19. Last season the Auburn defense had 55 quarterback hurries during the entire season. This season through 4 games, the defense has 41. Despite having a high number of key injuries on defense, Coach Ellis Johnson has still attempted to apply pressure on the opposing offense. We have seen more man coverage than the past couple of years and an aggressive approach to create negative plays. On this play LSU will attempt a play-action pass as Auburn elects to blitz Cassanova McKinzy off the edge. McKinzy had his best game of his Auburn career against LSU this past Saturday. He led the team with 8 tackles, including 2.5 TFL. Before the snap, McKinzy and Brandon King are at the line, showing a blitz look to confuse the LSU line. At the snap, Brandon King backs out but McKinzy explodes off the edge, beating the RT to the backfield. Cassanova McKinzy is quickly in the backfield, applying pressure on the QB. The LSU quarterback attempts to step up in the pocket but Montravius Adams beats his man to collapse the pocket. McKinzy arrives at the quarterback just as Adams is clearing his path to the QB. As Cassanova McKinzy makes impact, Adams arrives to sandwich the QB. Dee Ford eventually crashes in as the quarterback is taken down for a sack. Auburn has traditionally been able to apply pressure off the edge with their DE's but the lack of a push from the DT's has allowed opposing QB's to step up in the pocket and get their pass off.
  20. One of the areas Auburn's defense has improved on this season is tackles for loss. This was a trademark of an Ellis Johnson defense and we are already seeing his influence on the defense. Last season the Auburn defense was No. 68 nationally in tackles for loss (ratio) and are currently No. 48 through 4 games. Because the defense is still struggling in terms of yards allowed, the Tigers can offset this deficiency with tackles for loss and forced-turnovers. On this play LSU will attempt a play-action pass against the Auburn defense. LSU elects to double up on the two DT's, leaving a RB to block Carl Lawson. This is a huge gamble as Lawson easily beats the RB, forcing the quarterback to step up into the pocket. Coverage is good on the play, allowing Jake Holland to close on the scrambling quarterback. Holland makes the initial contact with the QB, wrapping him up until Lawson and Gabe Wright arrive to finish off the quarterback. We have seen Ellis Johnson become more aggressive in his schemes as the game progresses. During the first half of their 3 BCS games, Auburn has held the opponent to 2-yards or less 42% of the time. During the second-half, it increases to 52%
  21. If the Auburn defense is going to have success against the LSU offense, Ellis Johnson will need to call a more aggressive game. We will likely see more man coverage so that Auburn can overload in run-support. This also means the potential of giving up big plays but it's the gamble Johnson will likely have to take Saturday night. Zach Mettenberger has gotten off to a great start for LSU but has struggled when facing 3rd & 10 or longer. On the flip side, Auburn's defense has only given up 4 of 20 conversions on 3rd down, when the opponent has faced 10-yards or more to convert. On this play MSU faces a 3rd & 14 from their own 48-yard line. Ellis Johnson dials up a zone-blitz with Kris Frost coming up the middle and Robenson Therezie off the edge. Angelo Blackson will back out into coverage at the snap. At the snap, Kris Frost and LaDarius Owens establish penetration into the backfield, forcing the MSU QB to step up in the pocket. Robenson Therezie arrives and is able to slow the QB down by holding his foot. Joshua Holsey closes in and holds the QB until other Tigers arrive to finish off the play. If Auburn cannot place LSU into 3rd & long, it could be a long night for the Auburn defense. Expect LSU to have their share of yardage but Auburn needs to counter with tackles for loss and turnovers to make it a game.
  22. With Justin Garrett being injured, Robenson Therezie has really stepped up for the Auburn defense. He currently leads the team in tackles and interceptions to go along with 2 tackles for loss. The initial plan by Ellis Johnson was to utilize Justin Garrett more on the runs and blitzes and for Therezie to be more involved in pass-defense as well as run support. On this play Robenson Therezie proves his worth on an outside blitz. He initially lines up as if he is running tight coverage on the slot WR. MSU has a 2nd & 7 from their own 12-yard line and Johnson wants to apply some pressure on the MSU offense. Just before the snap, Therezie edges towards the MSU line and blitzes as the ball is snapped. MSU is running a play-action pass and the RB attempts to pick up Therezie coming off the edge. Therezie beats the RB inside, forcing the QB to step up and run. The QB attempts to run inside of Therezie but he dives and takes out the quarterback's feet, holding him to no gain and forcing a 3rd & long they fail to convert.
  23. Upon Further Review of the Mississippi State Game: Auburn's 3rd down defense is indicative of Ellis Johnson's halftime adjustments through 3 games. The Tigers have allowed a conversion rate of 53.8 percent during the first half and only 25.0 percent during the second half. It's nearly perfect in the 4th quarter with Auburn allowing 1 conversion on 12 attempts. Auburn's opponent has converted 27.6% of their 3rd downs with at least 6-yards needed and 20% with at least 10-yards needed. Through 3 games into the season, 44.6% of Auburn's offensive snaps have resulted in 5-yards or more, while 44.9% of the opponent's snaps have gone for at least 5-yards. Through 3 games, 40.9% of the snaps against the AU defense during the first half went for 2-yards or less. It increases to 51.4% during the second half. Through 3 games Auburn has averaged 6.62 yards per play on first down with 44.1% netting at least 5-yards. Only 1.1% has gone for a loss. Through 3 games, 54.2% of Grant's carries have gained at least 5-yards. Mason is next at 43.6% and Artis-Payne is third at 31.4%. Auburn is currently allowing 2.64 yards per rush on defense during the first half and 7.30 yards during the second half. One of the reason for the inflated second-half numbers is a failure in QB containment. Opposing QB's have rushed for 221-yards on 5.7 yards per rush, while the starting RB as rushed for 137-yards on 4.4 yards per carry. Of Auburn's 16 scoring drives this season, 14 have been aided by at least 1 explosive play. Last season through 3 games, the DL was involved in 21.5% of the team's tackles. It has improved to 26.4% in 2013. Nick Marshall recorded the 15th 300-yard passing performance against a conference opponent since 1986. Auburn is now 11-3-1 in those games. Since 1986, there have been 58 conference games, when an Auburn QB attempted at least 30 passes during a game. Of those 58 games, Nick Marshall's QB rating of 159.1 ranks No. 6. Thus far the 4th quarter has belonged to Auburn. The Tigers have scored 20 points to zero allowed. Auburn has averaged 6.4 yards per play during the final period to 4.7 allowed. Auburn has converted 51% of their 3rd downs compared to the opponent's 8.3% during the final period. Quan Bray recorded his first 30+ yard offensive play as an Auburn Tiger. He now has 50 career offensive touches. Auburn is now 97-7-2 in conference play, when scoring at least 24 points since 1981. Last season the Auburn offense had 77 impact plays on offense. The 2013 Auburn offense is on pace for 96 during the regular season. Not outstanding but much better. Since 1992 Auburn is 95-19-2, when they record at least 8 impact plays during a game and the 2013 AU offense is currently averaging 8 per game through 3 games. A statistical category I like to watch for is Auburn's triple-efficiency regarding production in 1st down, 3rd down and limitations in "3 & out" series. The objective is to average at least 6-yards per play on first down, convert at least 40% of third-downs and to limit "3 & outs" to under 30%, all in the same game. Auburn recorded it's first triple-efficiency mark against a SEC opponent since 2010 against UGA. Since 1992 Auburn is 49-7-1, when they are successful in all 3 categories. War Eagle!
  24. Last season was No. 73 nationally in TFL per game on defense primarily because of a lack of push by the Auburn front-4. This season under Defensive Coordinator Ellis Johnson and Coach Rodney Garner, the defense is currently No. 6 nationally in TFL per game and No. 2 in the SEC. The defense registered 13 tackles for loss this past Saturday against the Red Wolves, which had not been accomplished since 2004 against Kentucky. Through 2 games Auburn has recorded 29 quarterback hurries, which is more than half of the 55 recorded through 12 games during 2012. On this play Auburn will execute a double-stunt as ASU faces an obvious passing situation on 3rd down. Justin DeLaine has a clear path to the QB after Angelo Blackson ties up 2 OL. Gabe Wright simply beats his man inside as the two DL race to the ASU quarterback. To his credit, the ASU quarterback is able to avoid being sacked by DeLaine and Wright but LaDarius Owens and Angelo Blackson arrive just in time to swallow up the QB, taking him down for the sack. On this one play alone, all 4 DL had their hands on the opposing quarterback. Despite not having Dee Ford available through the first 2 games, Auburn has managed to improve their pass-rush from 2012, which has kept Ellis Johnson from having to blitz on a regular basis just to manage some level of pass-rush. What was feared to be a possible weakness before the season began is pleasantly turning into a team strength.
  25. It clearly was a "team" victory with Auburn ending Arkansas States 9-game winning streak, thumping the Red Wolves 38-9. The Auburn offense looked impressive early on, scoring TD's on their first 2 possessions of the game. Nick Marshall was 6 of 8 passing during the first 2 possessions but went 4 of 9 the remainder of the game. Gus Malzahn leaned heavily on the run-offense, when Marshall began to struggle and the running game delivered with a 300-yard performance. After the Auburn defense gave up 164-yards during the first 3 possessions, the Tigers settled in, allowing 171-yards during the next 8 possessions. What made the game so special was the defense stepping up during a phase in the game, when the Auburn offense began to sputter. Ellis Johnson's defense is playing with more confidence, showing the ability to improve as the game progresses. The defense did give up too many explosive plays during the game but it should be noted that 133-yards gained by the Red Wolves on offense came after Auburn took a 31-9 lead during the 4th period. The defense kept the Red Wolves out of the end zone and were 3 for 3, stopping ASU on 4th down. Penalties committed by Auburn was the primary concern coming out of game #2. Auburn must become more disciplined as they head into conference play in week #3. This Auburn team overcame adversity last week against Washington State and were focused this week against a team that posed the potential of giving Auburn a ball game. Mississippi State will be a step up in competition next Saturday and Nick Marshall will need to continue his progress to register their first conference victory of the season. Inside the Numbers... Like last week, Auburn's defense buckled down on defense regarding third down pct during the second half. The Red Wolves converted 50% during the first half and 37.5% during the second half. ASU was 1 of 9 in 3rd and at least 6-yards to go. Auburn is still struggling hitting on the big plays (30-yards or more). The Tigers have just 3 through 2 games. 47.8 percent of Auburn's offensive snaps went for 5-yards or more and Arkansas State hit at 45.0 percent. There was a 3 possession series, where the Auburn offense bogged down gaining a total of 40-yards. The defense countered by holding the Red Wolves to 24-yards on ASU's 3 subsequent possessions. After Auburn's brief drought on offense, the Tigers responded with 4 consecutive possessions to end the game, gaining 173-yards and scoring 17 points. The defense truly stepped up and carried the team, when the Auburn offense went into their drought. Through 2 games, the Auburn defense has held their opponent to 2-yards or less on 45.2 percent of the snaps defended. Auburn won the TFL battle again, 13 to 5. It marks the first time Auburn has won the "TFL" battle in back-to-back games since the USCe and Oregon games during 2010. For the season, the Auburn offense is averaging a "healthy" 6.85 yards per play on first down. The Auburn offense generated 9 impact plays (15-yds or more) this week, with 8 different players involved. Auburn's 3-headed monster at RB gained 241-yards on 40 carries with each RB scoring a TD. Excluding sacks, Auburn gained 8.73 yards per rush on the perimeter and 4.63 yards between the tackles. Cameron Artis-Payne accounted for 14 of Auburn's 24 carries between the tackles. Nick Marshall improved his passer rating this week with 170.3 performance against the Red Wolves. Take away the long TD pass to Coates, it drops to 118.4. He improved this week compared to last week but still needs to become more consistent. Marshall was 0 for 3 passing on 1st down last week and 3 of 4 this week against ASU for 81-yards and 1 TD. He also converted 3 of 7 third-down situations passing compared to 2 of 8 last week. Sammie Coates was the most targeted receiver again with 4 balls thrown his way. Auburn's DT's have totaled 7.5 tackles for loss through 2 games compared to 14 totaled in 12 games last season. Because the defense played in their base set the majority of the game, the Auburn front-7 accounted for 64.3 percent of the team's tackles compared to 41.5 percent against Washington State. The Auburn defense has allowed 58-yards rushing on 37 first half carries through 2 games. War Eagle!
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