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  1. Some fans keep commenting on Auburn needing to find an offensive identity, which is puzzling to comprehend. Auburn through 6 games is No. 21 nationally averaging 487-yards per game and No. 15, in scoring-offense, averaging 39 PPG. A team that is struggling to find it's offensive identity looks like Florida or Vanderbilt. They certainly don't look like a team that averages over 480-yards per game and nearly 40 PPG. To put things in perspective, consider the following. From 1990-2013, only 13 of 288 SEC teams (4.5%) finished the season averaging over 480-yards per game. The Auburn run-offense, though not at the level of 2013 is still very good. AU has surpassed 200+ yards rushing in 5 of 6 games. Auburn can still run the football and people must realize 2013 was an exception to the rule. Since 1960, only 38 of 598 SEC teams averaged more than 260-yards rushing per game (6.3%). From 1990-2013, only 3 of 288 SEC teams (1%) averaged more than 260-yards rushing per game and only 1 averaged more than 300 (Auburn 2013). Auburn is currently averaging 277.3 yards rushing in conference play, No. 1 in the SEC. Of the 302 SEC teams from 1990-2014, Auburn's current average of 262-yards rushing per game is the 6th best average during that time frame. Yes, Auburn isn't running the football like 2013 but it is far from being broke. Only 5 other teams have done it better than the 2014 Auburn Tigers among 302 SEC teams. The media talks about the powerful Arkansas running game currently averaging 256.9 yards per game but fail to mention only 163.2 yards per game in conference play. Is everything perfect through 6 games? Nope but the coaches and players know this. Hopefully they were able to take advantage of this recent bye-week to make some fine adjustments on offense. There has been plenty of self-scouting and evaluation to become more consistent moving forward. I associate the words, "lack of identity" with being lost. Auburn isn't lost offensively. Are they having consistency issues stemming from poor execution? You bet. The coaching staff came into this season wanting to generate more explosive plays in the pass-offense. They knew duplicating last year's rushing numbers was virtually impossible with the departures AU suffered in personnel loss. I believe the coaching staff wants to address a few issues of consistency, when it comes to execution but that is a far cry from lacking an offensive identity. Nothing has changed from a schematic point of view, when it comes to offensive goals. Malzahn wants to run the football (be physical) and have a vertical passing offense to compliment the running game. Most of the breakdowns suffered on offense through 6 games has more to do with execution than player personnel. The Tigers are striving to be more physical up front and are having to deal with losing a starting guard (Alex Kozan) before the season began along with the early departure of Greg Robinson. The recent in jury to Patrick Miller resulted in another OL shuffle. This is why Braden Smith is now getting a look at the guard position. The coaches want more explosiveness at the RB position, so Roc Thomas will likely have an expanded role. This doesn't mean that Cameron Artis-Payne has been a failure. He is far from it, currently ranked No. 20 nationally in rushing. He is also on pace for a 1400+ yard season within a 13-game season. I cannot wait to see what Roc Thomas physically looks like next year with an off-season conditioning program under his belt. He certainly has the burst Tre Mason possessed. Ricardo Louis was not performing consistently so Quan Bray is getting more reps. I've heard comments that Gus Malzahn is too loyal or stubborn to make personnel changes. The examples I just listed is proof otherwise and there have been other changes during the first-half of the season. We have seen various rotations of the bigger WR's (Ray and Denson) and TE's to improve setting the edge and perimeter blocking. As for the quarterback position, I have no doubt the coaches will give Jeremy Johnson a shot if THEY feel Nick Marshall is not delivering at the level they want. Until that moment happens, I'm going to believe the coaches still have full confidence in their starting quarterback. Through 6 games into 2014, Nick Marshall has a better TD-INT ratio than 2013. It was 6-4 last year and 10-3 this year. His ratio of impact plays in the passing-game is better in 2014 than 2013. Last season only 31% of his third-down passes resulted in a first down and this year it is 44%. With the same number of rush attempts through 6 games, Marshall is also gaining more yards per rush than 2013. Auburn's pass-offense through 6 games is currently No. 14 nationally in generating 1st downs or touchdowns and No. 24 in pass-efficiency. The only significant drop in his passing numbers has come on first-down. Marshall is completing 62% this season compared to 67% through 6 games into 2013. I'm looking forward to see how Auburn responds this Saturday night against the Gamecocks. Last season the offense continued to improve after their bye-week, following the LSU defeat. Hopefully, we will see similar results this season.
  2. This LSU team might end up with 5-6 losses before the season is out but tonight's performance should not be discounted. There was a lot more talent on this LSU squad than the 1999 version Auburn defeated by the same score, 41-7. Auburn's 34-point victory tonight was the largest margin of victory over a ranked SEC opponent at home since 1950. Auburn defeated a ranked Florida team at home in 1969, by a score of 38-12. I felt that Auburn would get LSU's best shot tonight, with their backs against the wall, after losing to Mississippi State the week before. Auburn quickly jumped on the visiting Tigers 24-7 after each team had 4 possessions. Auburn out-gained LSU 257-yards to 96-yards after each team held the ball 4 times. Auburn made some major strides in terms of team-improvement, which should set the stage for an epic showdown in Starkville. Other than the 4 big plays allowed, the Auburn defense turned in a near flawless performance. Take away the 4 big plays and LSU netted 119-yards on their remaining 56 snaps or 2.1 yards per play. The coaching staff had a terrific game-plan on both sides of the football and the players did an exceptional job of carrying it out. The goal is to have at least 8 impact players during a game and Auburn's offense had 11 by halftime. It was the most dominating first-half performance against a Les Miles LSU team. Auburn will need this explosive play ability next week against a very physical Mississippi State defense. My only concern about this game was the playing of Nick Marshall and Cameron Artis-Payne with a 27-point lead and only 9 minutes left in the game. The risk clearly out-weighed anything that could have been gained and it was a lost opportunity to give Peyton Barber, Racean Thomas and Jeremy Johnson much needed game-experience. Moving forward, this game was a terrific building block for a team that is beginning to find and secure its identity. Inside the Numbers... After averaging 8.7 yards per play on first down during the first-half, LSU was held to 4.6 yards per play during the second-half. Take away a late 40-yard pass on first-down during the second-half and LSU gained a total of 6-yards on 9 first-down snaps. Sammie Coates failed to register a single impact-play on offense entering the LSU game and he finally arrived with 4 against LSU. Cameron Artis-Payne's 118.8 yards gained rushing per game during the first 5 games of the season is the 4th best start to a season (5-games) by an Auburn running back. Auburn's defense has allowed only 5 conversions from their last 31 third-downs defended (16.1%). Auburn has now fielded (47) 100-yard rushers during 59 games under Gus Malzahn. Impact plays were a huge factor against LSU. Only 40.5% of Auburn's snaps netted 5-yards or better, the second lowest percentage this season. On the defensive side, only 28.3% of their plays netted at least 5-yards, the best consistency performance this season. Auburn's trend of playing better defense as the game wears on continued against LSU. The Bengal-Tigers averaged 4.7 yards per play during the first-half and only 3.9 yards during the second-half. Take away the 2 big plays allowed during the second-half and LSU gained 33 total yards on their remaining 26 snaps or 1.3 yards per play. Through 5 games, 50% of the snaps defended during the first-half have gone for 2-yards less. It increases to 57% during the second-half. First-down offense continues to be an issue for the Auburn offense. For the season, 48.5% of their snaps on first-down have gone for 3-yards or less. Against, LSU, 60% went for 3-yards or less. This must improve moving forward. Through 5 games, I have predicted Auburn to have an average score of 40-20 and their actual average has worked out to 42-14. This is one area, I don't mind being wrong for now. 391 of Auburn's 566 total-yards came of the Tigers 16 impact plays. Of Auburn's 16 impact-plays on offense, Nick Marshall was directly involved in 11 of them. All 13 of Auburn's offensive possessions began on their side of the field. This was the first time this season the Tigers failed to have at least 1 short-field possession during a game. During the first 3 games, Nick Marshall completed only 30.4% of his passes beyond 10-yards of the line of scrimmage. During the past 2 games, it has improved to 50.0%. Nick Marshall was most effective passing the ball on 2nd down against LSU. He was 6 of 10 for 129-yards and 2 TD's. He was 5 of 5 on first-down but for a total of only 12-yards. Auburn completed passes to 9 different players vs. LSU. Nick Marshall completed only 43% of his first-down passes during the first 3 games. He's 9 of 9 during the last 2 games. Through 5 games, Auburn has scored on 25 of 35 possessions the Tigers registered at least 2 first-downs during the possession. LSU averaged 5.33 yards per rush during the first-half and only 1.73 yards during the second-half. Auburn's front-7 has accounted for 54.7% of the team's tackles on the season. Against LSU it was 64.3%, a season high thus far. Auburn has run the ball 60.3% of the time during the first-half and 72.8% during the second-half. Final Word: For those waiting for Nick Marshall to become a precision passer, you are likely in for a long wait. If you are expecting for Marshall to be a play-maker, he has consistently delivered during his Auburn career. He simply possesses that "it" factor, rising to the occasion when it has been most needed. Last season through 5 games, Nick Marshall delivered 27 impact plays from 176 offensive touches or 1 every 6.5 plays. This season Marshall has 30 on 153 plays or 1 every 5.1 snaps. He has improved dramatically in converting 3rd downs, passing the ball compared to last season. Jeremy Johnson will have his role in the offense this season and is a tremendous luxury as Auburn's backup quarterback. In terms of being the leader of the offense, Nick Marshall has it locked down. The LSU game was a great indicator the Auburn offense made a major step moving forward but first-down production needs to improve. As long as Auburn can generate impact and explosive plays, it will offset the lack of production on first down but struggling on first-down has a tendency of catching up with any offense. Until Auburn becomes consistent on offense, it is great to know the defense has delivered every week this season. The defense has managed to play well despite the massive substitutions that have been this season. Auburn has built tremendous depth at all three levels of the defense, which payoff as the season progresses. The Mississippi State game now becomes the biggest showdown in the history of the series. Dan Mullen has been a massive thorn in the side of the Auburn Tigers since his arrival at Mississippi State and this is clearly his best team to date. Auburn will have to play a complete game in all three phases of the game to come away from Starkville with a victory. You can rest assure the Bulldogs will give Auburn their best shot and the Tigers cannot afford to give anything less in return. War Eagle!
  3. Through less than 4 seasons C.J. Uzomah has only been targeted 37 times but he has made the most of his opportunities. The senior tight end enters the LSU game with 20 career receptions, which have resulted in 16 first downs or touchdowns. 13 of his 20 receptions have resulted in an impact play or gain of 15-yards or more. Despite his ability to make plays, the tight end position in the Gus Malzahn offense has never been utilized much in the passing game until his offense arrives inside the red zone. This is where Uzomah has played at his best in terms of making critical receptions. The play... On this play Auburn faces a 3rd & 4 from the La. Tech 15-yard line. Auburn comes out in a 3-WR set with C.J. Uzomah lined up as a slot receiver. At the snap Jeremy Johnson rolls to his left going through his progressions. Johnson initially sets his feet but doesn't like his options. He shifts outside the rolling pocket again just as the pressure arrives. Johnson floats the ball towards the corner of the end zone away from the safety. The ball is placed in a space only C.J. Uzomah can make a play on it. Uzomah hauls in the pass, while shielding the safety away with his body. He taps his right foot down and drags his left toe to insure he remained in bounds for the score. Uzomah won't likely be utilized as much as he should but will make his presence known once the Tigers move into the red zone.
  4. One of the recent myths heard over and over the past two Auburn games is that Auburn is running into 8-9 men in the box the majority of the time. The majority of Auburn's offensive sets have a 3-WR look which means the most defenders the defense can place in the box before the snap is 8. In reality, Auburn is facing no more than 7 in the box the majority of the time. Go back to the 2010 season and the Iron Bowl. Gary Danielson made a comment about how Alabama elected to play Auburn's inside QB power play. He pointed out how LSU waited in their lanes, allowing Auburn to move towards them. Alabama elected to attack the gaps, taking away the comfort zones the Auburn OL had previously enjoyed. Basically we are seeing the same approach by opposing defenses. Opposing defenses are selling out to attack the gaps and are bringing defenders off the edge. They are also rolling a safety down inside the box to give them an extra defender. The common counter is to pass the ball to the spaces vacated by the defense. Another option is to slide or move to the point of attack, once again giving Auburn the advantage in numbers and creating space for the line to block. The play... On this play Auburn has a 1st & goal at the Bulldog 5-yard line. Auburn comes out in an unbalanced line and will pull their guards to move or slide the point of attack to the right side. Note the yellow triangle in frame #1. This will be 5 defenders away from the actual point of attack, once the play goes into motion. La. Tech must maintain backside containment on the possible keep by Jeremy Johnson (QB) and Nick Marshall motioning over the backfield. Melvin Ray does a great job sealing the MLB inside as Brandon Fulse kicks out the DB. Avery Young and Chad Slade create the actual point of attack on the outside, creating a running lane for Cameron Artis-Payne. CAP has 1 defender to beat, cutting back inside of the defender for an easy score. The Bulldogs basically had every defender in the box but Auburn reduced the numbers by moving the point of attack. IMO, Malzahn might take a few pages from his 2009 and 2011 playbook to assist the running game. Treat the run-offense as if the quarterback is no longer a run-option on the power plays. The Buck-sweep should be called more often to develop more consistency and confidence in the OL. No matter the play or design, it still comes down to executing their blocks. Not just the OL but the receivers and H-backs as well. For now, taking back the "numbers" game is vital too.
  5. One of my favorite plays from the Arkansas game was Auburn's delay draw or what I refer to as a slip-draw. Like many plays Gus Malzahn and Rhett Lashlee call, it is designed to freeze the defense, utilizing misdirection. The exchange or hand off takes place on one side of the backfield but the play normally funnels in the opposite direction. The play... On this down, Auburn faces a 2nd & 3 from the Razorback 15-yard line. Auburn will execute their version of the draw play, featuring Cameron Artis-Payne. Note in frame #2, at the time of the exchange, there are 5 defenders on that side of the hash. (The safety over top makes player #5 but he is out of view) The formation with 2-WR's on that side along with the H-Back, forces the defense to overload that side. When Jeremy Johnson takes the snap, he makes a quick half-roll to his right as CAP takes 1 step to his right before taking the delayed hand off from Johnson. The defense has to respect the edge Johnson is rolling to in the event it is a play-action pass or Johnson elects to keep and run. This split second, when the hand off is being made freezes the defense. Once CAP takes the hand off he steps inside before countering back to the left. Shon Coleman drives the DE outside as Reese Dismukes & Avery Young wall off any backside pursuit. Chad Slade moves to the next level to take out the OLB. The other 2 LB's were caught up in the wash from playing the hash mark side Johnson rolled to before the hand off. CAP quickly cuts back inside through the "A" gap, darting into the end zone for a touchdown. The play was called back on a face mask penalty called on Patrick Miller. Auburn found great success almost every time they called this play with CAP as well as Corey Grant.
  6. D'haquille Williams clearly lived up to all the preseason hype, catching 9 passes for 154-yards against the Razorbacks. He led all offensive players with 5 impact plays or plays of 15-yards or more. He became only the 4th Auburn WR to record at least 5 impact plays during a game against a conference opponent from 1992-2014. The play... On this play Auburn faces a 3rd & 6 from the Razorback 18-yard line. The Tigers come out in a 4-WR set with D'haquille Williams lined up in the slot on the wide-side of the field. Arkansas responds with a nickel package and their safeties playing deep off the line. This opens up the middle of the field for a quick slant, which Auburn executes with Williams. As soon as Jeremy Johnson takes the snap, he immediately fires his pass to Williams, who cuts inside the nickel corner. By the time the safety arrives into view, Williams already has made the first down, headed towards the Razorback endzone. Williams fights through both DB's and extends his upper body and ball over the goal line for his first touchdown as an Auburn Tiger. D'haquille Williams will be a nightmare to cover in the slot this season but expect Malzahn and Lashlee to move him around to create other mismatches on the field. Prior 5-play impact performances against SEC teams... 1995 Tyrone Goodson - Ole Miss 1996 Tyrone Goodson - Miss State 1997 Tyrone Goodson - LSU 1997 Tyrone Goodson - Ole Miss 2009 Darvin Adams - Miss State 2012 Emory Blake - Georgia
  7. On this play Auburn will show a run look, facing a second down. The Tigers come out in a 2-WR set with both TE's on the field. Just before the snap the boundary corner will begin to edge towards the line with the intent to blitz off the edge. Jeremy Johnson will play-action with Cameron Artis-Payne, knowing he has an open receiver in Melvin Ray. Johnson delivers his pass over the blitzing corner as Ray utilizes his vertical advantage to haul in the quick pass from Johnson. The safety comes in late and Ray is able to break the 1 on 1 tackle attempt. After breaking the tackle, Melvin Ray speeds down the sideline for a 49-yard touchdown and the first Auburn score of the season.
  8. The Auburn Tigers kicked off the season with a 45-21 victory that was a tale of two halves. Auburn jumped out to a 21-7 lead, only to see the Razorbacks rally to tie the game at 21 by halftime. The Tigers played an inspired second-half, dominating the Hogs, 24-0 during the final two quarters. As well as Jeremy Johnson performed during the first half, it was the return of Nick Marshall that opened up the Tigers powerful run assault. The second-half performance of the Auburn defense marked the first time since the 2011 Florida game, Auburn shutout their conference opponent, during the final two quarters of the game. Auburn extended their record to 83-5 since 1981, when scoring at least 14 points during the first quarter. The Tigers also extended their current scoring record, which is now 11 consecutive games of 30 points or more, dating back to the 2013 season. The previous stretch of 30-point games came during the 1994 season, when Auburn had 8 consecutive games of 30-points or more. It appears Auburn will have another stellar offense this season but there are a few question marks regarding the defense. Special teams had a solid performance against the Razorbacks and it will be interesting to see how much this team improves as the season progresses. I do believe it is safe to say, Auburn's offense will give them a chance to beat anyone in the country in 2014. After week No. 1, it is way too early to begin placing labels on any team in the conference. Teams are often not as bad or good as they initially appeared. We won't observe true "team identities" until a few games into the season. LSU was a prime example of a team that looked hideous during the first 3 quarters against Wisconsin but looked like a typical LSU squad during the final period. As for Auburn, the Tigers are where they should be on offense with plenty of potential on defense and special teams. Inside the Numbers: Auburn converted 57.1 percent of their third-downs during the first-half and 71.4 percent during the second-half. The defense held Arkansas to 25.0 percent during the first-half and 16.7 percent during the second-half. This is a wonderful trend, which hopefully carried over from 2013. Cameron Artis-Payne recorded the 41st 100-yard rushing performance during the Gus Malzahn offensive era at Auburn. 50 percent of Auburn's 70 offensive snaps netted at least 5-yards, while Arkansas hit at 40.0 percent. The Razorbacks averaged 7.6 yards per play during the first half and only 2.4 yards per play during the second half. The Razorbacks recorded 6 impact plays on offense during the first half but was held to just 2 during the second half. (Impact plays = 15+ yards) 34.3 percent of the Razorbacks offensive snaps were held to 2-yards or less during the first half, increasing to 68.0 percent during the second half. D'haquille Williams led the Auburn offense with 5 of Auburn's 14 impact plays on offense. The former JUCO standout was targeted 9 times during the game, making good on all 9 passes thrown his way. From 1981-2014, Auburn is now 134-9-1, when scoring on 33 percent of their offensive possessions. Auburn scored on 50 percent of their possessions against the Razorbacks, increasing Auburn's record to 62-0, when scoring on at least 50 percent of their possessions. The combination of Auburn's quarterbacks were lethal against the Razorbacks. Jeremy Johnson and Nick Marshall combined for a pass rating of 233.6 on first down and 232.5 on third down. Auburn lost the tackle for loss battle to the Razorbacks, 6 to 5. Auburn recorded only 1 sack against the Razorbacks but did have 9 QB hurries. The Auburn pass-offense was extremely efficient in their intermediate to deep routes. The Tigers were 8 of 12 for 233-yards. One of the incomplete passes was a dropped TD pass by Sammie Coates from Nick Marshall. Cameron Artis-Payne and Corey Grant combined for 3.8 yards per rush with Jeremy Johnson as the quarterback. During the second half, Thunder and Lightning averaged 10.9 yards per rush with Nick Marshall at quarterback. 50 percent of CAP's 26 carries went for at least 5-yards but he was tackled for a loss on 3 occasions. After surrendering 267-yards of offense during the first half, the Auburn defense held Arkansas to just 61-yards during the second half. The secondary accounted for 50 percent of Auburn's tackles. The front-7 must become more active, which was the case during the second half. Auburn surrendered 151-yards rushing during the first half and only 2-yards on the ground during the second half. Auburn was 3 of 6 in situations of 2-yards or less to convert. The Tigers were 2 of 4 running and 1 of 2 passing. The two failed 3rd & 1 run-plays is something that should be addressed . Both teams had one turnover but Auburn converted their forced-turnover into a TD, which was a major momentum swing for the Tigers during the third quarter. The game plan against Arkansas with Jeremy Johnson was to attack vertically and the plan was successful. If not for the first half collapse by the defense, Auburn could have dominated earlier in the game. Full credit goes to the Razorbacks offensive line and running backs, for making the first half and extremely competitive game. In the future it will be interesting to see how the offense looks, when Johnson is allowed to run the football. He is not the same caliber of runner as Nick Marshall but he is certainly athletic enough to move the chains. Each year brings a new personality for the team. Despite having plenty of returning personnel, the 2014 team will not have the same personality as the 2013 squad. The opening game revealed an explosive offense by ground or air and a defense that played better as the game wore on. If this becomes the trend for the 2014 season, Auburn will be a very difficult team to contend with down the road. War Eagle! Photo: Wesley Sinor
  9. From 2000-2013, there have been 18 SEC quarterbacks to pass for at least 1500-yards and rush for at least 400-yards in the same season. Here is an offensive comparison of those 18 teams compared to the remainder of the conference... Run-Offense: Dual-threat QB Offenses ......... 213.9 YPG on 5.13 yards per rush Remainder of the SEC ............ 155.8 YPG on 4.18 yards per rush Pass-Offense: Pass rating of dual-threat QB offenses ........ 147.5 Remainder of the SEC ............................... 128.2 * The dual-threat QB's had a higher pass completion, better TD/INT ratio and gained a yard more per pass attempt. Total Offense: Dual-threat QB offenses .......... 435.7 YPG on 6.34 yards per play Remainder of the SEC ............. 370.1 YPG on 5.52 yards per play. TD Ratio: Dual-threat QB offenses ........ TD every 16.3 snaps Remainder of the SEC ........... TD every 21.7 snaps
  10. As productive as the Auburn running game has been this season, it still has limitations if the pass-offense isn't a factor. During these next three games, Auburn will need more production out of it's passing game to keep the opposing defenses honest. Georgia and Alabama have the potential to score into the 30's, which means Auburn will need to be more balanced on offense to be competitive. During the first 4 FBS games of the season Auburn had a pass rating of 128.1. During the last 4 FBS games Auburn's pass rating improved to 163.2. On this play Auburn faces a 2nd & 7 from the Razorback 29-yard line, coming out in a 3-WR set. Arkansas cheats their safeties up to defend the run, creating an opportunity with a play-action pass. At the snap, Jeremy Johnson play-actions with Tre Mason, which pulls the safety on the boundary side up in run-support. Sammie Coates is being covered by a corner playing 8-yards off the line of scrimmage. Coates will run a square-in route in front of the CB and over the safety, who his bitten on the play-action. Jeremy Johnson delivers his pass, which is high and slightly behind Coates. Sammie Coates makes an adjustment on the pass, hauling it in for a 15-yard gain and an Auburn first down. Auburn's running game has been difficult to control, especially with Nick Marshall's exceptional role in the zone-read element. Adding an effective and efficient passing game will aid Auburn in reaching it's full potential on offense and dynamic capabilities.
  11. It was a blue-collar performance tonight and it's exactly what this team needed considering the health status of starting quarterback Nick Marshall. The Auburn coaching staff obviously felt they could be extremely vanilla offense and it would be enough for the Tigers to come out of Fayetteville with a victory. Auburn won the game tonight with a strong running game, strong kicking game and turnovers. Though the defense had issues stopping the run, they once again rose to the occasion inside the red zone, which was a major key to the victory. Auburn scored 28 points inside the red zone to 17 scored by the Razorbacks. Tre Mason delivered in a big way tonight as the center piece of the offense, pushing closer to his second 1000-yard season. I thought Auburn missed out on a grand opportunity to play Jeremy Johnson tonight, after going up by 18 points in the third period. He obviously wasn't needed tonight but it could have given him some valuable playing experience in the event he is needed next week against Tennessee. In terms of the game report card segment, Auburn had passing grades in all three phases of the game. It wasn't a flashy victory but an overall "team" effort. Auburn now improves to 8-1 on the season, which is a very pleasant surprise, when you considered 8-wins was close to being the ceiling before the season began. It was a solid victory in the sense that Arkansas had 2 weeks to prepare for this game and their coaching staff placed so much value in this game coming in with 5 losses. Auburn took their best shot and still came away with an 18-point victory despite having a very vanilla game plan on offense and a quarterback suffering from a shoulder injury. Auburn was the more physical team, when it counted and can now focus on the next challenge in the Tennessee Volunteers. Inside the Numbers: Tre Mason now has 921-yards on the season with an excellent shot at surpassing 1000-yards in game #10 against Tennessee. Despite only being directly involved in 17 offensive snaps, Nick Marshall finished the game with 177-yards in total offense. Auburn won the "tackle for loss" battle tonight, making that 7 of 9 games. Huge improvement from winning it only 4 times in their previous 25 games before the 2013 season began. Sammie Coates entered the game leading the nation in yards per reception and his 3 catches for 102-yards didn't hurt his average on the season. Though Auburn only attempted 9 passes tonight, they finished the game with a 249.7 pass-rating, making the most of their opportunities. Tre Mason's 168-yards rushing was the 6th best rushing performance by an Auburn RB against Arkansas during the last 23 meetings. Auburn's "yards to point" ratio on defense has been one of the best nationally this season and it showed up during the first 4 possessions of the game. Arkansas had 47 snaps for 201-yards but only 3 points to show for it. Talk about a "vanilla" game plan.... Tre Mason and Nick Marshall were directly involved in 49 of Auburn's 55 snaps. Mason and Marshall also accounted for 315 of Auburn's 366-yards in total offense. Auburn has now scored in 33 of 36 quarters this season, a huge improvement over 24 of 48 regulation quarters during 2012. Steven Clark had a solid game tonight. He downed 3 of his 4 punts inside the opponent's 20 and still finished with a 44.5 punt-average. 46 of Auburn's 55 offensive snaps came with the Tigers leading on the scoreboard against the Razorbacks. After allowing the Razorbacks to convert 7 of 10 third-down plays during the first-half, Arkansas was 2 of 6 during the second-half. Final Thoughts... It would be too easy to focus on the negative aspects of this game and come away with a distorted point of view. Auburn struggled again defending a power running team but that should have been expected. It was the one statistical edge out of 18, Arkansas held an advantage coming into the game. In the end, it wasn't remotely enough for Arkansas to overcome their turnovers early in the game. Despite having only 55 offensive snaps, Auburn still scored 35 points and finished with an efficient night on offense. Having a healthy Nick Marshall would have allowed a more wide-open game plan on offense but Auburn made the most of their simple game-plan. As I stated 2 weeks ago, this team certainly holds it's own destiny regarding conference play but they still have enough issues to drop 2-3 of their last 4 games. They are not playing championship quality football but they are giving championship caliber effort. This team is playing with heart and confidence, something they severely lacked the past couple of seasons. With each victory the fan base will naturally raise their expectation level but we should not lose sight of what this team has accomplished through 9 games. Was tonight's performance enough to beat Georgia or Alabama? Probably not but was plenty enough to put away this Arkansas team. Except for the LSU game, this team has made enough plays in every phase of the game to build an 8-1 record and a top-10 ranking. The team refers to this effort as "Wefense" and it will likely carry over in Auburn's 3 remaining regular season games. It's not the plays they made or failed to make tonight that will win future games. Those plays down the stretch remain to be seen so sit back and relax and enjoy the plays made up to this point. We have seen enough through 9 games to know by now this team will make every effort to step up for the next challenge. After suffering through a 3-9 season last year, there are plenty of reasons to celebrate Auburn's 8-1 start in 2013. War Eagle!
  12. During practice Gus Malzahn and Rhett Lashlee place a heavy premium on the players executing their play-fakes. It's these gestures, movements and fakes with or without the football that often sell the play and or freeze the defense. If Auburn can succeed in creating hesitation or early commitment by the opposing defense, it opens the window of opportunity in generating explosive plays. In this particular case it is the combination of a play-action and the RB selling the "run" look that opens up the play. On this play Auburn has the ball at their own 33-yard line with a 1st & 10. The Tigers come out in a 3-WR formation with Sammie Coates lined up on the boundary side. Because Auburn tends to run the football the majority of time on first-down, it's the prime opportunity to sell the play-action pass. At the snap Jeremy Johnson play-actions with Cameron Artis-Payne. After the "fake" hand off, CAP takes his normal 2 steps towards the "A" gap before cutting hard to bounce the play outside to his left. During this play-action, the safety over the top bites on the run look, especially when CAP cuts and bounces outside. With the safety committing to the run, Sammie Coates is left 1 on 1 with the corner, who he beats inside on a go-route. Sammie Coates burns past the corner with no help over the top and Jeremy Johnson launches a deep pass down field for Coates to run under. Sammie Coates hauls the pass in at the FAU 26-yard line and sprints the remaining 26-yards for the touchdown. The play involved great execution, resulting in a 67-yard touchdown play.
  13. Being the No. 5 run-offense in the nation requires a very good OL and quality RB's. Auburn possesses both along with athletic quarterbacks in Nick Marshall and Jeremy Johnson. Having a quarterback with the ability to make plays with his feet places additional pressure on opposing defenses because they have to adjust with an extra runner on the field. Even in an empty backfield set, the defense must account for Nick Marshall or pay the price if they fail to do so. On this play Auburn has the ball at their own 38-yard line, facing a 2nd & 8. The Tigers come out in a 4-WR look with Tre Mason in the backfield. FAU has decided to blitz their safety on the edge so Tre Mason exits the backfield at the snap. With Auburn emptying the backfield, the Owls are forced to split their LB's over top into coverage. This creates a vacant area over the middle except for the safety playing over the top. At the snap Nick Marshall drops back to pass but takes off up the middle of the field on a QB draw. Chad Slade releases off the line to block the safety, opening up the middle of the field for Marshall to run for 45-yards and an Auburn first down. This play set up Auburn's first TD of the game. Because Auburn has been extremely successful run the zone-read in a 4-WR set, Auburn often forces defenses to defend the box with only 5-6 players, giving the Tigers a huge advantage in the numbers game between the tackles.
  14. The No. 11 Auburn Tigers improved their record to 7-1 and with 2 top-10 teams losing above them Saturday, Auburn will likely move up to No. 9 this week in the polls. It was a solid performance by the Auburn Tigers and a "blue collar" approach to the victory. The Tigers leaned heavily on their running game, dominating the line of scrimmage against the Owls by out-rushing FAU 422-yards to 97. Hopefully the injury to Nick Marshall's shoulder is minimal because the offense is centered around his ability top operate the zone-read. Jeremy Johnson did a solid job substituting for the injured Marshall, receiving some much needed playing experience regardless of the level of competition. The defense played a sound game, forcing the Owls to punt on 10 of their 13 possessions. FAU averaged only 19-yards per possession and went "3 & out" 7 times. Auburn had the opportunity to play most of their roster with backups receiving valuable playing time. Javiere Mitchell played well during the second half, leading the team with 5 stops during the game. Auburn's defensive front continues to improve, though they were sloppy at times in terms of jumping the snap. It's a trade-off for the most part with the great addition of aggressive play by the front-4. I was happy to see Chris Davis relieved of his punt-return duties with Auburn being so thin in the secondary. The second half of the game was anticlimactic but it was obvious Coach Malzahn wanted to get out of the game as quickly as possible. The 422-yards rushing will easily keep the Tigers at the top of the Southeastern Conference in rushing and will likely move them up the national rankings. No individual one-hundred yard games this week but Auburn's starting 4 in the backfield totaled 301-yards on 36 carries. The Tigers are officially finished with their out of conference games for the regular season, with the focus now being on finishing strong in conference play. Inside the Numbers... The Auburn running game has produced 46 runs of 15-yards or more through 8 games, accounting for 1204-yards of offense. The 2013 offense is giving the 2010 Auburn offense a run for their money. Comparing the two offenses through 8 games has the 2013 offense on top with 4090-yards gained, compared to the 3898-yards gained in 2010. Both offenses produced 80 impact plays through 8 games and the 2010 offense scored 38 TD's to the 36 scored by the 2013 unit. Auburn averaged 8.2 yards per rush on the perimeter and 6.76 yards between the tackles. It was great to see C.J. Uzomah involved as a skill player again. He was targeted 3 times, catching 2 passes and both receptions were impact plays Auburn's quarterbacks went 8 of 8 with their pass attempts within 10-yards of the line of scrimmage. Auburn has 5 players on offense with at least 9 impact plays on the season. Nick Marshall leads the team with 13. Sammie Coates and Tre Mason have 10, with Artis-Payne and Grant with 9 each. Take away the Owls' 3 impact plays tonight and they gained 140-yards on their remaining 48 snaps (2.92 yards per play). The 2010 Auburn offense averaged 303.2 yards rushing per game through 8 games and the 2013 offense is currently averaging 315.6. Auburn's 3-headed monster at RB is currently averaging 214.2 yards per game. Sammie Coates now moves up to No. 1 in the SEC with 25.5 yards per reception on the season. He also recorded his 3rd 100-yard game in the last 5 outings. Auburn's streak of scoring in 17 consecutive quarters came to an end against the Owls. The Auburn offense has been held scoreless in only 3 of 32 quarters this season. Last season the Auburn offense produced 6 TD plays of 30-yards or more. The 2013 offense has 11 through 8 games. Auburn is currently on pace to have 4 players with over 700-yards rushing during a 13-game season. Gus Malzahn's offense has now rushed for at least 200-yards in 63 of 103 games, including 24 games of 300-yards rushing. Malzahn is now 54-9, when rushing for at least 200-yards, averaging 41 points per game. Malzahn is now 42-6, when his offense produces 10 impact plays during a game. Auburn has now fumbled the football in 9 consecutive games. Coming into the FAU game, the Auburn offense began only 9 possessions on the opponent's side of the field. The Tigers played on a short field 4 times against the Owls, thanks to great defense and special teams. The Auburn offense is currently averaging over 7-yards per play on first down. 53.7 percent of Auburn's offensive snaps this season have been part of a scoring drive, compared to the 35.0 percent by Auburn's opponent. Final Word... Time flies when you're having fun and this season has been a blast up to this point. After a 7-1 start Auburn now closes out the season with 4 consecutive conference games with plenty to play for. Should the Tigers win out, they earn a trip to Atlanta to play for a conference championship. The team appears to be focused and up for the challenge but it will certainly take continued improvement to win the last 4 games of the season. The Tigers will likely be favored in their next 3 games but they have to eliminate the turnovers and big plays allowed on defense. Auburn's major improvement on both sides of the line gives them a chance to beat anyone on their schedule and in the conference. Auburn has shown the ability to be a very physical team this season, which is the primary reason why they hold their own destiny in their hands. The last 4 games of the season will be defined by the critical plays Auburn can make on both sides of the ball. The occasional dropped pass or poorly thrown pass to a wide-open receiver could come back to haunt the Tigers down the road. The big plays allowed on defense will be magnified against Georgia and Alabama. Auburn will take to the road next Saturday to face an Arkansas team on the verge of imploding. Though the Tigers will be heavily favored, Auburn continues to make enough mistakes to make the game closer than it should be. The Auburn coaches will likely place a heavy premium on execution this week in preparation for the Hogs. If they can establish their run and control the Razorbacks on the ground, the Tigers should win big. The Arkansas game tends to be a special one for Gus Malzahn but he needs to coach this game like a head coach and not an offensive coordinator. The blue-collar approach needs to continue this Saturday and Auburn should be just fine.
  15. Gus Malzahn recorded his first signature game with a road victory over a top-10 ranked team and it was a glorious team effort. Yes, the defense gave up a boatload of yardage and points but that was expected. They did make critical plays during the game and snuffed out the Aggies possible game-winning drive. Both defenses failed to stop the other team's strength on offense. Auburn could not stop the Aggie pass-offense and TAMU could not stop the Auburn run-offense. This difference in the game was how each defense handled the secondary phase of the opposing offense. Auburn held the Aggies to 3.3 yards per rush and Nick Marshall finished the game with a QB rating of 162.7. Auburn won this match up, which ended up being a key difference in the outcome. Red zone production was the primary difference in the game with Auburn scoring 38 points from 6 trips inside the Aggie 20 and TAMU scoring only 13 points from 4 trips to Auburn's red zone. Auburn basically scored 3 more points per each visit to the red zone than the Aggies. Johnny Manziel is clearly the most exciting and effective quarterback in the nation, making Auburn's red zone defensive stands even more impressive. Credit Coach Rodney Garner for the DL rotation again and keeping his troops fresh for the 4th quarter. The defense did force 2 turnovers, made three "3 & out" series and added a loss-on-down series. Hopefully Tre Mason will garner more national attention and credit for being one of the top RB's in the conference. Mason's 178-yards rushing was his best conference game of his career. He will likely receive a few carries next week against FAU but hopefully Auburn will be able to give him a much needed rest after the first quarter. Hopefully Nick Marshall has earned the right to be the starter and we won't see Jeremy Johnson coming in during the middle of a possession, disrupting the flow of the drive. Despite pulling the red shirt on Johnson, this cannot be the reason to play him going forward. In my opinion, Marshall should be the starter unless he is struggling. Johnson doesn't need to play just because Auburn burned his red shirt. There should be a purpose for playing him. Inside the Numbers... Once again, Nick Marshall performed better has the game wore on. He had a pass rating of 148.9 during the first half and 177.7 during the second half. For the 6th time in 7 games this season, Auburn has won the tackle for loss battle. Auburn averaged 9.4 yards per rush outside the tackles and 4.6 yards between the tackles. 8 different Auburn players recorded an impact play on offense and Nick Marshall was directly involved in 7 of Auburn's 12 impact plays on offense. Taking away the Aggies 13 impact plays and Auburn's 12 impact plays on offense, TAMU averaged 3.16 yards per play on their remaining 69 snaps and Auburn averaged 3.45 yards on their 73 remaining snaps. Nick Marshall had a pass rating of 56.7 on first down, 224.5 on 2nd down and 239.4 on 3rd down. Nick Marshall had a pass rating of 174.2 on his 12 pass attempts beyond 10-yards of the line of scrimmage. Sammie Coates was the most targeted Auburn player with 9 passes thrown his way. He finished the game with 5 receptions for 104-yards and 1 TD. Of the 37 combined carries by Auburn's 3 top RB's only 1 went for a loss. Major shout out to the OL and to Coach Grimes. Auburn netted at least 30-yards on 78 of their 14 possessions and TAMU did it on 7 of their 14 possessions. Auburn's 379-yards rushing was the 5th best rushing game in school history against a top-10 opponent and the most ever on the road against a top-10 opponent. Auburn's 615-yards in total offense was a school record against a top-10 opponent. Auburn's 45 points is the 2nd most in school history against a top-10 opponent and the most on the road against a top-10 opponent. Cody Parkey continues to hammer away with 5 touchbacks on his 8 kickoffs, 6 for 6 on extra points and 1 for 1 on FG's. Tre Mason rushed for 473-yards in 8 conference games last season and had totaled 421-yards this season through 4 conference games. Chris Davis led the Auburn defense with 9 tackles against the Aggies. By rushing the ball 60 times against the Aggies, it allowed Auburn to win the time of possession battle, which truly was a factor in such a high-scoring game. Auburn is now 2-3 in games they allowed over 600-yards to the opponent. Both wins have come with Gus Malzahn calling the offense. Final Word... Auburn has clearly been prepared to play in all 7 games this season, performing better overall during the second half. Through 7 games it appears Auburn's coaching staff has obtained the most of their personnel and have made great game-time adjustments. You really can't ask for anything more from any coaching staff. Auburn's 6-1 start suddenly has the Tigers in the picture to compete for a SEC Championship but they will need to continue to improve to make it happen. The Rebels upset over LSU only helps the Auburn Tigers quest to win the West. The 2013 Auburn Tigers are now bowl eligible with plenty to play for during the next 5 games. The schedule is truly working out in Auburn's favor this season. The Tigers had a bye-week after the LSU game, allowing the team to overcome their disappointing defeat before preparing for a ranked Ole Miss team. Auburn returns home for the Florida-Atlantic game after an emotional victory over the Aggies before taking to the road again in conference play. It will allow the players to come down from their emotional high before being challenged again. With Auburn's recent rash of injuries, the FAU game comes at a great time for the Tigers to mend. I don't believe anyone expected Auburn to be favored in 3 of their last 4 conference games but this could very well be the case if Auburn continues to perform at this current level. The key to success this season has been the overall focus of the players and the coaches ability to maintain the level of focus. It's way too early to for this team to celebrate because 4 of Auburn's 6 wins have been by 8 points or less. The good news for this team is their confidence level continues to rise with each challenge they face. Sometimes you have to learn not to lose before you can win consistently and it appears Auburn has studied well in this regard. Keep on grinding Auburn and the blessings will continue to surface. War Eagle!
  16. Last season Tre Mason proved to be one of the top backs in the SEC and he is solidifying his standing in 2013. If Auburn is going to come out of Texas with a victory Saturday afternoon, the Tigers will need a big performance from their primary running back. Mason has proven himself in the ground game as well as the passing game this season and will likely touch the ball 25 times against the Aggies. Though Auburn possesses a 3-headed monster at the RB position, Tre Mason is the Tigers most complete running back. On this play Auburn has the ball at their own 47-yard line, facing a 1st & 15. The Tigers line up in their "power" package, which basically is a Power-I from the shotgun formation. Tre Mason will have 2 lead blockers on the play. At the snap, the 2 lead blockers shift to the left, which pulls the defense in that direction. Tre Mason takes to 2 steps inside and elects to bounce the play outside to his right. Prior to his sharp cut outside, the LB over top has committed inside and Avery Young seals the DE inside. Mason bounces outside and immediately has the edge as he races to the sideline. Once he turns up field, it's all speed down the sideline until he has to cut inside of a CB, who has an angle on him inside the 10-yard line. Mason avoids the late tackle and scores on a 53-yard run. Auburn will likely need a big game from 2 of their 3 RB's and Mason is the most probable to have that kind of a game against an Aggie defense struggling against the run.
  17. Despite the level of competition this past Saturday, the debut of Jeremy Johnson raised the excitement level among Auburn fans. There have been so many positive changes in 2013 for the Auburn Tigers prior to game #6 but Johnson certainly brought it to a new level. Even if Johnson's future is not now, we saw enough against WCU to want to see more. Now that he has played and the red shirt is off, it will be intriguing to see how Gus Malzahn utilizes Jeremy Johnson from this point on. On this play Auburn has the ball at the WCU 47-yard line, 1st & 10. The Auburn offense is in a 4-WR set with "trips" to the left. The Tigers have a great match up with WCU covering Ricardo Louis with a LB. (See frame #1). At the snap, Jeremy Johnson will look off his primary target as Ricardo Louis breaks on the inside shoulder of the OLB, running a deep post route. The Auburn OL does a solid job of giving the play time to develop as Johnson delivers a nice deep ball for Louis to run under. Ricardo Louis hauls in the deep ball for a 47-yard touchdown, giving Auburn a 21-0 lead. The one element missing in the offense has been the lack of execution on the deep passes, which haven't always been the fault of the quarterback. Auburn's WR's as a group are averaging less than 13-yards per reception, which needs to improve for this offense to reach it's full potential.
  18. Breaking down where the ball is being targeted during Auburn's last 3 games, has Tony Stevens stock rising in the Tiger pass-offense. Auburn's top-4 targeted WR's during the last 3 games are Ricardo Louis (15), Marcus Davis (11), Sammie Coates (10) and Tony Stevens (6). At 6-4, 190, Tony Stevens makes for a big target, especially when lined up in the slot. Though he has only 5 receptions in the last 3 games, 4 have resulted in a first down or TD. On this play Auburn has the ball at the WCU 22-yd line, coming out in a 4-WR set. Tony Stevens is lined up on the slot with a safety matched up with him. At the snap Jeremy Johnson will play-action with Tre Mason, which freezes the LB from dropping into coverage. Note the targeted area in frame #1. Tony Stevens will run a post route over the LB and underneath the safety. Johnson fires his pass to Stevens, who hauls in the pass and dives into the end zone for the touchdown. It appears Marcus Davis and Tony Stevens are stepping up as true freshman, providing the Tigers with a deep group of WR's to work with.
  19. With Auburn having a significant statistical edge in the running game coming into the TAMU game, it will be vital for Auburn's personnel to execute well this Saturday. Generating explosive plays will be essential, so Auburn needs their RB's to have a good game. Corey Grant comes into the game, averaging 10-yards per rush on his 33 carries. He has recorded 11 runs of 10-yards or more this season. On this play Auburn faces a 2nd & 7 from their own 49-yard line. Before the play, the Auburn offense huddles, with the backfield remaining in a huddle as the remainder of the team lines up for the snap. The purpose of this delay is to prevent the opposing defense from obtaining a presnap read on the play. When the backfield finally breaks from the huddle, the Tigers have Jeremy Johnson in the shotgun aligned by Jay Prosch to his immediate left, with Corey Grant & Quan Bray in a slot position to left of Prosch. At the snap, Grant motions towards Johnson as Jeremy Johnson pump-fakes a screen pass to Quan Bray with an empty hand. As Johnson carries out the pump-fake with an empty hand, he is handing off the ball to Corey Grant, moving left to right on a sweep-action. The pump-fake has the defense flowing towards the screen for a brief moment as Grant is now speeding to the opposite side with the football in hand. Jay Prosch is now the lead blocker on the play and he takes out the OLB on the wide side of the field to give Grant the corner. By the time Corey Grant hits the sideline, he is running at full speed and untouched for a 51-yard touchdown run.
  20. One player to watch out for this Saturday against Texas A&M is Ricardo Louis. The coaching staff has been utilizing him in a similar role as they did Terrelll Zachery during 2009 and 2010. With his size and speed, Louis can make impact plays in the passing as well as the running game. He enters the game with 21 offensive touches, averaging 8.2 yards per play. He has produced 8 first downs from his minimal touches. On this play, Auburn will run their speed-sweep option play with Jeremy Johnson and Ricardo Louis. Ricardo Louis comes into the backfield from right to left just before the snap. Jeremy Johnson will read the DE, who elects to stay at home for the inside running play. Johnson hands off to Louis, who will continue sweeping left. Jay Prosch and Cameron Artis-Payne lead the way for Louis, taking out the 2 LB's on the wide side of the field, which opens up the corner for Louis. Trovon Reed kicks out the CB, which gives Louis the sideline to operate down field. The play picks up 30-yards with Quan Bray making a key block further down field, which doesn't appear in the images above. Though Louis is only averaging 3.5 touches per game, he will have opportunities to make impact plays for the Auburn offense on screens, deep passes, speed-sweeps and end around plays.
  21. Auburn enters game #7 with the No. 7 run-offense nationally vs. the No. 104 run-defense (Texas A&M). No matter who starts at quarterback for Auburn, the Tigers must obtain the most of their running game this coming Saturday. In terms of churning out 10+ yard runs, Auburn is No. 7 nationally and the Aggie defense is 114th in allowing them. Gus Malzahn is 36-6, when his run offense has at least 45 carries, averaging 37.4 PPG, when doing so. On this play Auburn has the ball at the Catamount 20-yard line and they will run a sweep to the left behind two pulling guards. This has always been a staple play in the Malzahn offense, where his backs have produced most of their long runs. Nothing fancy in terms of schemes, relying simply on pure execution. At the snap, Alex Kozan and Chad Slade pull to the left to create a running lane for Tre Mason, who takes the hand off from Jeremy Johnson. Jay Prosch is lined up as a TE and will be responsible for sealing the edge (DE). Kozan delivers a good kick out block as Tre Mason sprints towards the sideline. Mason speeds down the sideline and dives into the end zone for the Auburn score. Regardless of the caliber of opponent, Auburn must play well up front and hopefully receive solid down field blocking. Quan Bray did a solid job of walling off a defender, preventing backside pursuit. With the previous loss of Jaylon Denson and now Brandon Fulse, the Tigers have lost two valuable perimeter blockers.
  22. Jeremy Johnson had a great debut against the Catamounts, throwing for 4 TD passes, while completing 81 percent of his passes. Perhaps one of his best passes of the day came during Auburn's second possession of the game. The Auburn offense has a first & goal on the WCU 8-yard line. The Tigers come out in their Wildcat set in an unbalanced line. This is often a run formation but the Tigers will pass on this play. Before the snap, Cameron Artis-Payne comes in motion from the right to left, on the speed-sweep look. Jeremy Johnson will play-action with CAP and roll to his right as Jay Prosch releases off the line to run a shallow crossing route in the end zone. As Johnson rolls, he looks off his intended target and then pump-fakes to freeze the secondary. Johnson zips his pass over the LB into the hands of Prosch in the end zone. The play results in a score and was executed very well. Up to that point, Auburn had rushed for 74-yards on just 7 carries, which turns a play-action pass into a grand opportunity for the Tiger offense.
  23. There were no surprises in the outcome of the game as Auburn was expected to handily defeat Western Carolina. The team should be praised for maintaining their composure and not having too many mental errors. The Auburn offense set a school record with 712-yards in total offense, scoring on 9 of their 12 possessions. The defense played a solid game except for the 2 long pass plays allowed during the second half. To their credit, they regained their composure after both plays and prevented the Catamounts from gaining any points off the two plays. Jeremy Johnson was the focus of this game as the highly-touted recruit made his Auburn debut and first start. He finished the game with 17 of 21 passing and 4 TD passes. He was directly involved in 6 of Auburn's 16 impact plays, playing slightly over one-half of football. He finished the game with a QB rating of 214.7, the highest rating by an Auburn QB since the Ole Miss game in 2011. For the most part, Johnson showed great touch on the ball and appeared calm in the pocket. He targeted 8 different receivers during the game, including 4 TD passes to 4 different receivers. His 2 red zone TD passes were perhaps his most impressive deliveries during the game. Auburn can't take much from this game as it was basically a glorified scrimmage but the team should be credited for maintaining their focus. It was an opportunity to rest some starters and for some young players to see valuable playing time. Chandler Shakespeare's 10 consecutive carries for 61-yards was a high-light for a well deserving student-athlete. The quality of depth at OL and RB was evident today and a great sign for the future. It will be interesting to see how practice plays out this upcoming week and which quarterback starts against Texas A&M. Inside the Numbers: Auburn's defense gave up 126-yards on 5 impact plays, which meant they held the Catamounts to 47-yards on their remaining 43 snaps. The Auburn offense set a new school record in total offense with 712-yards and the 511 rushing yards was the 2nd most in school history. 11 different Auburn players generated an impact play on offense. Auburn's 511-yards rushing will likely push them from No. 18 rushing to No. 10 rushing in the nation if the above teams maintain their averages coming into this week. Jeremy Johnson was 10 of 12 passing on 1st down for 3 TD's. He was 5 of 9 for 131-yards and 2 TD's during his intermediate to deep routes. He was 2 of 2 on 3rd down, converting both downs. Auburn's 3-headed monster at RB has averaged 205.8 yards rushing per game on 6.9 yards per rush. Auburn has now won the tackle for loss battle in 5 of 6 games this season. A huge turn around from winning only 4 of the last 25 games prior to the 2013 season. Auburn's front-7 were responsible for 67% of the team's tackles today. Auburn averaged 59.3 yards per possession to 14.4 yards allowed. Auburn averaged 11.0 yards per play to 3.6 yards allowed. Since 1970, 23 Auburn teams have started the season with a 5-1 record or better. All 23 teams finished the season with a winning record and an overall win percentage of .798. Auburn's 59 point margin of victory is 6th best since 1950. Auburn has turned the ball over in 7 consecutive games. Auburn is now 35-11 with Gus Malzahn on the staff. Today's game marked only the 24th time an Auburn team rushed for more than 200, passed for more than 200, held opponent to under 100 rushing and held their opponent to under 200 passing, all in the same game since 1960. The last time Auburn accomplished this feat was against Furman in 2009. Today marked the 100th game Gus Malzahn has coached at the collegiate level. During those 100 games, his offense has amassed over 300-yards rushing, 22 times and over 200-yards rushing, 61 times. Gus Malzahn is now 75-25 in games he has coached in at the collegiate level. Final Thoughts... I enjoyed seeing Gus Malzahn correcting Trovon Reed after he attempted to reverse his field during a punt-return. I also liked having 2 returners backs on punt-return offense. Cody Parkey's hammering kickoffs gives Auburn a major advantage on special teams. It was obvious Auburn could have scored on their next to last possession but Malzahn elected to take a delay penalty, while running the same play 10 consecutive times. The Catamounts were clearly out-manned and there was no point tacking on a late score. It was nice to see Melvin Ray rewarded with 3 receptions today as he recorded his first impact play on offense. Auburn might not have gained much from playing today's game but they certainly did not lose anything. Jeremy Johnson received some valuable playing time, especially if he starts or plays against Texas A&M next Saturday. It appears Auburn came out of the game without any major injuries and the Tigers should be in better shape headed into the Aggie game. The Auburn coaches and players took a "business" approach to Homecoming, taking care of their opponent early and maintaining their focus the remainder of the game. This is certainly 1 quality of a good team. Only time will tell just how good this team will become the remainder of the year. The focus will primarily be on the quarterback position this week, depending on healthy Nick Marshall will be. If Marshall is 90 percent or better, I would start Marshall with Johnson ready to go should Marshall struggle early. I'm a firm believer that Marshall has done nothing to lose his starting role and Johnson's performance against a very weak FCS school is not enough to unseat a starting quarterback with a 4-1 record. With that being said, Auburn cannot afford to fall behind early against the Aggies by multiple scores. I would not be surprised to see Malzahn with a game-plan involving both quarterbacks if Marshall is healthy enough to play.
  24. I was flipping through my Google News page when I saw a link to AUtigers.com (I'll put a link at the bottom of the post) that said as of today 4 of our 2013 signees have started taking classes. The site is a scout.com paid site. From the small preview blurb, I can see 3 names: 1. Jeremy Johnson, QB, Carver HS, Montgomery, AL 2. Kamryn Melton, CB, Dothan HS, Dothan, AL 3. Deon Mix, OL, South Panola HS, Batesville, MS Can anybody confirm this? If it is true, then JJ getting to campus and being able to work with the team 2+ weeks before NM is huge IMO. Link EDIT: Fourth player to start taking classes is Kenny flowers (Credit to StatTiger). 4. Kenny Flowers, LB, Hutchinson CC, Hutchinson, KS
  25. According to Justin Hokenson of Rivals.com.... Jeremy Johnson, 6-foot-6, 215 lbs, from Carver HS in Montgomery HS has named AU as his early favorite! Johnson is believed by many to be the TOP QB in the state of Alabama for 2013 and possibly one of the best in the nation! He BURST onto the scene with a stellar performance at the Hoover 7-on-7 event last year, while competing against and BEATING top teams from across the country (like Kiehl Frazier's Shiloh team and CJ Uzomah's North Gwinnett team, among MANY others) to take the championship! He started out as a WR his freshman year, but moved to QB last year, and all he did was throw for 2,800 yds and 27 TD's and he rushed for 2 more TD's.... and all of this against TOUGH 6A competition in AL! AU has not offered the talented sophomore YET, but he says that Coach Boulware (his lead recruiter) recently told him that the offer was coming! AU also has a HUGE "in" with Johnson in that his former HS coach (Al Pegues) is now at AU as a G.A., and Johnson runs the same offense as AU's at his HS! Johnson says that if/when the Tigers offer, "they may be the team to beat."
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