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  1. Last season only 19.6% of Nick Marshall's pass attempts were in the intermediate range. This year it slightly increased to 21.0%. Last season 26.8% of Jeremy Johnson's pass attempts were in the intermediate range, increasing to 27.3% this season. Even though Nick Marshall did improve his passing this season, Auburn continued to lack the intermediate routes in their pass-offense. When Jeremy Johnson slides into the starting role in 2015, look for the Auburn pass-offense to be more lethal in terms of stretching the secondary throughout the entire field and not just on deep vertical routes. Johnson possesses the height, smooth delivery and the accurate arm to make every throw needed to challenge opposing secondaries. The play... During this play Auburn faces a 3rd &15 from their own 20-yard line. Auburn comes out in a 4-WR set and Georgia responds with their safeties in a cover-2. Ricardo Louis and Marcus Davis will run deep vertical routes to occupy the safeties. C.J. Uzomah will run a shallow crossing route to occupy the linebackers. Melvin Ray will run an intermediate square-in route underneath the two safeties and a LB that drops deep into coverage. Jeremy Johnson makes his pass attempt just as Melvin Ray breaks inside towards the middle of the field. The timing of the pass allows Ray to catch the pass in stride, picking up an additional 10-yards for a 25-yard gain and Auburn first down. Through 10 games Auburn has faced 11 third-down situations of 15-yards or more needed to convert. Auburn has thrown the ball only 5 times in those long situations and this play was the only conversion of the 11 attempts.
  2. During the past 2 games the Auburn offense has scored 8 TD's with 9 trips to the red zone. From 1993-2014 Auburn is 80-4 in games the Tigers make at least 4 trips to the RZ, scoring TD's at least 60% of the time. This is a revealing stat, which shows just how important RZ performance is to the success of the team. Last season Nick Marshall completed 56.5% of his passes in the RZ, compiling a QB rating of 163.7. This season Marshall has completed 68.4% of his passes for a QB rating of 243.8. Marshall is No. 8 nationally in pass-efficiency inside the RZ, among QB's with at least 10 pass attempts. The play... During this play Auburn faces a 2nd & 9 from the Rebel 17-yard line. Auburn comes out in a 4-WR set with Melvin Ray and Marcus Davis on the boundary side (Davis in the slot). At the snap Nick Marshall play-actions and will immediately read how the boundary safety is playing the two WR's. Melvin Ray will run a deep square-in to clear the boundary sideline as Marcus Davis will run an out and up. The boundary safety plays the square-in route, leaving the OLB 1 on 1 with Marcus Davis. The OLB jumps the initial out-route with Davis but he looks back into the backfield to see where Marshall is focused. As the OLB looks back into the backfield, Davis breaks up the sideline towards the end zone. Marshall floats his pass towards the end zone, allowing Davis to run under the pass for the score. The play design is going to create a 1 on 1 match up and the double-move is almost a lock to create a breakdown in the secondary. This has always been one of my favorite RZ pass-plays under Malzahn. Emory Blake scored a TD in the 2010 SECCG on this same play.
  3. Freshman Braden Smith has seen mop up duty this season as an offensive tackle but the coaching staff has transitioned him to TE just as they did with Shon Coleman last season. It is a great way of getting him on the field during critical moments of the game and for Smith to gain valuable playing-experience. As a tightend he basically becomes a sixth offensive lineman on the field, giving the Tigers the ability to be more physical up front. The play... On this play Auburn has a 1st & 10 at the MSU 22-yard line. Auburn comes out in a 3-WR set with Braden Smith lined up as a TE, adjacent to the RT on the line. The play is a designed QB run or sweep to the wide side of the field. At the snap Nick Marshall fakes the inside give to CAP from a read-option look. The OLB plays the inside give to CAP as Marshall keeps and sprints to the edge. As Marshall sprints to the edge he hesitates as if to throw a quick pass to Marcus Davis, which keeps the field corner on the perimeter to defend the pass-option. Braden Smith engages the MLB, sealing him inside as Marshall turns the corner and heads up field. As Marshall sprints into the secondary, Braden Smith drives the MLB from the 19-yard line all the way to the MSU 3-yard line. Marshall picks up 11-yards and an Auburn first down. Smith for a big man is quick, fluid and athletic. He looked like a bull on skates, relentless in dominating the obstacle in front of him. It is easy to see why Coach J.B. Grimes is so high on the true freshman and Smith's potential to be a great OL. Watch the video (The above play occurs at the 1:35 mark of the video)...
  4. If Auburn is to leave Starkville, Mississippi with a victory this Saturday, Sammie Coates will likely play a major role on offense. Off to a slow start this season, Coates had not made his presence known on the field until the LSU game, when he made 4 impact plays during a 41-7 Auburn victory. Hopefully as his knee becomes 100%, he will continue to make big plays in the Auburn pass-offense. Last season the Auburn pass-offense generating 54 impact plays (15+ yards). This season they are on pace for 87 in the same number of games. Play #1... On this play Auburn faces a 2nd & 19 from their own 44-yard line. Auburn comes out in a 4-WR set with "trips" to the wide side of the field. Sammie Coates is singled on the boundary side. At the snap Coates must work through press-coverage by the CB. He stiff-arms the CB coming off the line and works to the CB's inside shoulder as he runs a fly-route. Nick Marshall has a great pocket to work within, allowing him to wait on Coates to get down field. Marshall has time to step into his deep throw as he launches a deep ball to Coates. Sammie Coates is able to haul in the deep ball between two defenders, powering his way into the LSU end zone for the score. This play was very similar to the two deep passes Coates caught against LSU, during Auburn's 35-21 loss to the Bengal-Tigers. Play #2... Through the first 3 games Sammie Coates had failed to register a single play of 15-yards or more. Against LSU, he came up with 4. During this play Auburn faces a 3rd & 6 from midfield, coming out in another 4-WR set. The Tigers have 2 double-stacks at WR before the snap. Sammie Coates and Marcus Davis are stacked at the bottom of the formation, with Quan Bray and Duke Williams stacked at the top. At the snap Sammie Coates runs a square-in route as Marcus Davis runs a short stop and out underneath. Cameron Artis-Payne releases out of the backfield, which pulls the 2 LB's underneath Coate's square-in over the middle. Nick Marshall zips his pass over the LB's and underneath the safety covering Coates. Sammie Coates hauls in the pass and picks up 21-yards on the play for an Auburn first down. Nick Marshall had his best passing performance of the 2014 season and Sammie Coates played a major role in Marshall's success. Though Auburn hasn't been able to run the football at the record-breaking pace of last season, this year's offense could become more explosive and balanced with this kind of performance in the passing game.
  5. Often the difference between a play of 15-yards or more and 30-yards or more is the blocking down field. In terms of a running play, it is likely the offensive line performed well enough to spring a 15+ yard run. In order to extend the play even further normally requires blocking down field, which means receivers and tight ends. While the Auburn OL is still searching for a level of consistency, the receivers and H-backs have struggled in their blocking assignments as well. This is one of the reasons why Coach Dameyune Craig has been so animated at times on the sideline this season. The play... On this play Auburn has the ball at their own 8-yard line with a 1st & 10. Auburn elects to run Cameron Artis-Payne between the tackles against 7 men in the box. CAP takes the hand off and initially takes to the outside of the center's shoulder. The LB shifts to that gap and CAP cuts back to the inside shoulder of the center. This quick-decision springs CAP to the second level. Note in frames 4 & 5 the movement of Marcus Davis, who is blocking down field. In frame #5, CAP is coming up behind Davis and observes the safety coming down. Because Davis stops to square up with the safety rather than engage him, CAP must decide which side of Davis to continue his run. CAP decides to push to the outside shoulder of Davis and cut back inside to cut back inside of the safety. Because Davis never engaged with the safety, the safety is able to catch CAP darting inside of Davis. It is enough to slow CAP down to where he is gang tackled for a 17-yard gain. The play results in a positive play or an impact play but could have been more. Had Davis initiated contact with the safety, CAP would have taken a more decisive lane. This could have sprung CAP for another 10-15 yards down field or even more. From 1992-2014, Auburn is 105-20-2 (.835) with at least 8 impact plays (15+) and 77-9-1 (.891) with at least 3 explosive plays (30+).
  6. Corey Grant has become more of an intricate part of the offense this season and he is making the most of his opportunity. Of course this has always been the case for Grant, who has proven to be dedicated on and off the field. Though he has only 95 career carries, Grant has made the most of them, averaging a whopping 8.97 yards per rush. This includes an average of 9.57 yards per carry in Gus Malzahn's offense. Of his 95 career rush attempts, 38.9% have resulted in a first down and 31.6% have been gains of 10-yards or more. This season he has proven to be a solid performer running between the tackles. The play... On this play Auburn has a 1st & 10 from their own 40-yard line. Auburn comes out in a 4-WR set. The 4-WR set includes "trips" to the wide side. Because Auburn runs the ball 76% of the time on first down, the San Jose State has 8 defenders aligned to the boundary side. This opens up the wide side of the field for a perimeter sweep. At the snap Nick Marshall recognizes the LB's over top are playing the inside keep by the quarterback so he hands off to Corey Grant. Marcus Davis does a great job sealing the OLB as long as he can as D'haquille Williams walls off the safety to create a running lane on the edge for Corey Grant. It doesn't take long for Grant to the turn corner and sprint up field for an 18-yard gain and an Auburn first down. Grant is currently averaging 88-yards per game on 8.8 yards per rush. He is on pace for a 1000-yard season and is Auburn's No. 4 player in generating impact plays on offense.
  7. Finding a second receiver to step up in 2014 to team up with Sammie Coates will be one of the primary goals for the Auburn offense. The Tigers fielded one of the top offenses in the nation during their BCS Championship run but a consistent tandem at WR could take the offense to a higher level of performance. With Nick Marshall returning at quarterback, the Auburn offense already has dynamic potential but adding another play maker at WR would truly stretch opposing defenses to the max. From 1970-2013, there has only been 5 occasions, where Auburn had a tandem of WR's or a TE to total at least 40 receptions each during one season. 1971: Terry Beasley (55-846-12) & Dick Schmalz (44-647-7) 1994: Frank Sanders (58-910-7) & Thomas Bailey (41-550-2) 1997: Karsten Bailey (53-840-7) & Tyrone Goodson (48-906-5) 1998: Karsten Bailey (43-651-7) & Clifton Robinson (42-672-0) 2010: Darvin Adams (52-963-7) & Terrell Zachery (43-605-4) From 1970-2013, the current 14 members of the SEC were able to field a "tandem" of 40-reception WR's or TE's during a season on 107 occasions. This means it occurred only 17.3 percent of the time during that 44-year period. Here is the total number of times for each program... Missouri ................... 14 (2 times in the SEC) Florida ..................... 12 Georgia .................... 11 LSU ......................... 11 Tennessee ................ 9 Texas A&M ............... 9 (2 times in the SEC) Vanderbilt ................. 8 Kentucky .................. 7 Ole Miss ................... 7 Arkansas .................. 5 (All while in the SEC) Auburn ..................... 5 South Carolina .......... 5 (4 times in the SEC) Alabama .................. 2 Miss State ................ 2 Though tandems only occurred 17.3% of the time from 1970-2013, it has happened 53.6% of the time during the past 2 seasons. Offenses are obviously more balanced and wide open during the past decade than any other period of the Southeastern Conference. This is another reason why it has become imperative for Auburn to field their own reliable tandem to compete in the SEC. Producing such level of play will only open the doors for recruiting quality receivers. The talent is present for Auburn to field another consistent performer at WR to match up with Sammie Coates. Ricardo Louis is the most likely candidate among the returning WR's but D'haquille Williams is already drawing praise from his early production this spring. Jaylon Denson, Marcus Davis, Tony Stevens and Melvin Ray saw plenty of action last season along with Quan Bray. Dominic Walker is another big target to watch for after red shirting the 2013 season. Through 8 collegiate seasons, Gus Malzahn has fielded a "tandem" on 4 occasions but only once, while at Auburn. I expect Auburn to throw the football 25 times per game, up from their 20 attempts per game during 2013. Sammie Coates was targeted 78 times last season, followed by Ricardo Louis (48). Marcus Davis and Quan Bray were tied for No. 3, targeted 31 times each.
  8. There wasn't very much to nitpick about when it came to the 2013 Auburn offense. The Tigers were No. 11 in total offense and No. 12 in scoring offense this past season, setting school records in total yardage and run-offense. They were not perfect but the Auburn running game was the driving force to Pasadena, California through Atlanta. If there were issues on offense, it primarily came in the pass-offense, with Nick Marshall growing into his position as the season progressed. The numbers... Auburn finished the season with the No. 1 ranked run-offense and the nation's No. 24 ranked pass-offense in terms of pass-efficiency. No. 24 pass-efficiency offense but No. 6 in the Southeastern Conference. No. 13 rated pass-offense (efficiency) on third-down. No. 11 rated pass-offense in producing pass-plays of 25-yards or more. No. 14 rated pass-offense in touchdown ratio. No. 10 rated pass-efficiency offense during the 1st quarter. The above rankings paints quite the picture of a very efficient pass-offense, capable of producing big-plays and extending drives. It's important to remember the NCAA efficiency formula is primarily based on completion percentage, yards per attempt and TD ratio. In reality, the efficiency rating doesn't always translate into actual production as the following example reveals. Example #1: 15-20-1-200yds-1td (165.5 rating) Example #2: 11-20-0-145yds-3tds (163.3 rating In the above example, Quarterback #1 had a higher completion percentage and the better yards per attempt average. Quarterback #2 finished the game with 3 TD passes and 0 interceptions but had a lower efficiency rating than Quarterback #1, who had 1 TD pass and 1 pick. Which QB numbers would you want during a game? The numbers from a productivity standpoint... Even though Auburn had an efficiency rating of No. 24 nationally, the Tigers were No. 70 nationally in their ratio of first-downs produced by their pass-offense. Even though Auburn had the No. 13 efficiency rated pass-offense on third-down, the Tigers were No. 77 in actually converting third-downs, throwing the football. Auburn was No. 10 in pass-efficiency throwing the football during the first quarter but No. 33 throwing the football during the fourth quarter. Auburn was No. 11 nationally in producing pass-plays of 25-yards or more but No. 29 in producing pass-plays of 15-yards or more. The 2012 Auburn pass-offense produced 53 pass plays of 15-yards or more in 12 games. The 2013 pass-offense had only 54 in 14 games. As good as the offensive line was paving a path for the ground-game, the Tigers were No. 54 nationally in sack-ratio allowed. Looking at Auburn's pass-offense in terms of a "productivity" standpoint, reveals some of the concerns Auburn will face moving forward into 2014. Though I see the value of the efficiency rating, it's also important to focus on the actual productivity level. Sometimes they are one in the same but the above examples show this is not always the case. I tend to look at productivity translating to points and first downs. Comparing only Auburn pass-offenses from 1992-2013, the 2013 pass-offense was No. 3 in producing pass-plays of 30-yards or more but No. 9 in producing pass-plays of 15-yards or more. Why is this a concern? The ratio of impact plays (15+) to big plays (30+) is 4 to 1 from 1992-2013. Because impact plays happen far more frequently, it's vital Auburn is more efficient in the intermediate range passing-game than the deep ball. From 1992-2013 an impact play (15+) has been worth 3.7 points. Big plays are great but the impact plays made in the intermediate passing game are the plays that extend drives. The 2013 Auburn offense produced 83 scoring drives, scoring on 44.9 percent of their possessions last season. Of their 83 scoring drives, 74 percent of the plays from the scoring drives were run plays. Auburn was heavily reliant upon their running game in 2013 and for the most part, made the most of it. Imagine how explosive and how difficult it would be to defend the 2014 Auburn offense with a more prolific passing game. Nick Marshall... Enough cannot be said about Nick Marshall's progression this past season. This was his first season playing quarterback at this level and he did so without participating in spring practice. Adjusting to the speed of the game and a new offense, he led his team to a SEC Championship and was seconds from winning a national championship. He clearly was a better quarterback at the end of the year than he was, when he made his first start against Washington State. During the first 4 games of the season, he had an efficiency rating of 129.3, improving to 154.4 during the final 4 games of the season. Marshall was a fearless leader and his teammates gravitated around him. His impressive efficiency rating during Auburn's last 4 games of the season against ranked opponents, is a clear indicator he hasn't reached the ceiling of his full potential. He will have a comfort zone entering the 2014 season he did not possess at the start of 2013 and 2014 will mark the first time Gus Malzahn had the same starting quarterback two years in a row. Nick Marshall completed only 40.0 percent of his passes attempted beyond 5-yards of the line of scrimmage, which needs to improve in 2014. In comparison, Cam Newton completed 56.1 percent of his passes. Nick Marshall produced a run-play of 10-yards or more every 4.3 attempts, better than Cam Newton's ratio of 1 every 5.3 attempts. The difference was Newton's ability to hit a pass-play of 15-yards or more every 4.3 attempts to Marshall's 1 every 5.3 attempts. The 2013 pass-offense was the No. 3 most efficient pass-offense during the last 50 years of Auburn football. The 2013 pass-offense was the No. 4 most efficient in conference play during the past 50 years of Auburn football. Looking back over the past 30 years, Nick Marshall produced 4 of the top-20 most efficient pass performances against a top-10 ranked opponent. No other Auburn quarterback had more in one season. Sammie Coates was Auburn's most frequented target this past year with 27.4 percent of the passes thrown in his direction and Ricardo Louis was No. 2 at 16.8 percent. Quan Bray and Marcus Davis were tied for No. 3 at 10.9 percent. Auburn will likely have a strong running game again in 2014 and an improved pass-offense could produce record setting numbers once again. Nick Marshall needs to become more efficient and productive but the good news is the potential is there for it to actually transpire. Malzahn and Lashlee are extremely high on the senior to be with Marshall improving as the 2013 season progressed, despite the schedule becoming more challenging. Despite the losses of 3 starters on the offense, Nick Marshall will have a great supporting cast in 2014. Four starters up front return as well as all of his receivers. The addition of D'haquille Williams to the receiving corps, gives Marshall another major playmaker in the pass-offense. Marcus Davis and Tony Stevens will also go through spring and summer workouts for the first time, which will allow them to develop physically and mentally. Marshall having the spring, summer and fall sessions to improve before the 2014 season begins should be huge for the Auburn offense. Addressing his mechanics and improving his field recognition should push Marshall to reaching his full potential as the starting quarterback.
  9. The zone-read play has become a focal point of the Auburn offense the last 2 conference games and will likely continue to be the case moving forward. Coach Rhett Lashlee stated they have worked relentlessly on the execution of the play because they know Auburn will face different schemes defending the play. With this in mind, Auburn is building other plays from the zone-read look, adding yet another option to the play. On this play Auburn has the ball at their own 38-yard line with a 1st & 10. Before the snap, Marcus Davis will motion left to right to pull an extra defender to his side and away from the point of attack. At the snap, Nick Marshall will fake the inside give to the RB, which is Jay Prosch. Marshall than rolls to his right, pulling the LB's with him. Prosch carries out the fake into the flat to eventually become a blocker on the end-around. The secondary on the wide-side are now focused on Marshall rolling their way and the possible screen pass to Marcus Davis. At the same time, Ricardo Louis leaves his slot position, running right to left to receive the pitch from Marshall coming in the opposite direction. By the time Louis receives the pitch, TAMU's LB's have been pulled out of position and the secondary on the wide-side of the field are reacting to a play they believe is coming in their direction. Louis speeds to the edge and cuts up field at the first opening he observes. After making his sharp cut up field, he speeds down field for a 32-yard gain. Coming into the game, the TAMU defense had been exposed on perimeter runs. Auburn gained an average of 9.4 yards on 21 perimeter runs against the Aggies.
  10. Upon Further Review - Texas A&M 2013 The second quarter continues to be a weak spot for the Auburn offense, when converting third-downs. The Tigers have converted 58.3% in the first, 40.9% in the third and 50.0% in the fourth. Auburn has converted only28.6% during the second period through 7 games. Through 7 games Auburn's opponent has converted only 8 of 43 third-down situations of at least 10-yards. Auburn has allowed 21 plays of 30-yards or more this season, with 17 coming via the passing game. The Auburn offense has generated 23 plays of 30-yards or more with 10 rushing and 13 passing. TAMU averaged 8.5 yards per snap during the first half and 6.4 during the second half. Of Auburn's 66 impact plays (15-yds+) gained on offense, 37 have come on the ground and 29 through the air. Of the 53 allowed on defense, 36 have come passing and 17 on the ground. Nick Marshall is currently averaging 189.7 yards passing and 64.7 yards rushing per game. Tre Mason is on pace to rush for nearly 1300-yards in a 13-game season. Auburn's 3-headed monster at RB is currently averaging 212.3 yards per game on 6.9 yards per carry. Of Auburn's offensive possessions, only 8.5% have started on the opponent's side of the field. This continues to be an area Auburn needs to improve on. Auburn's top-4 most targeted players in the pass-offense are Sammie Coates (37), Ricardo Louis (31), Marcus Davis (21) and Quan Bray (20). Auburn has scored on 90% of their red zone possessions, including 69% TD's. The opponent has scored on 72% and 44% TD's. The 2010 Auburn run-offense averaged 283.7 YPG on 5.96 yards per rush through 7 games. The 2013 Auburn running game is currently averaging 300.4 YPG on 6.29 yards per carry. Auburn sure could use Cam Newton right now! Tre Mason and Cameron Artis-Payne have not been tackled for a loss during their last combined 143 carries. During the last 3 games the Auburn defense has allowed 2.94 yards per rush during the first half and 3.08 yards during the second half. During Auburn's 39 scoring drives through 7 games, 69.9 percent of the plays have been run plays. The first 19 scoring drives resulted in 12 TD's and 7 FG's. The last 20 drives have been 18 TD's and only 2 FG's. The Auburn offense went 7 of 8 in short-yardage situations of 2-yards or less against the Aggies. Auburn gained a total of 164-yards during those 8 short-yardage plays. Last season through 7 games the Auburn DL was responsible for 19.4% of the team's tackles. This season it has improved to 30.3%. During Auburn's last 3 games, the Tigers have averaged 390.7 yards rushing, while allowing 107.7 yards rushing to their opponent. During Auburn's 39 scoring drives this season, 18 have been aided by at least 1 play of 30-yards or more. Through 7 games this season a forced Auburn turnover has been worth 4.2 points, while an Auburn turnover has been worth only .8 points for the opponent. War Eagle!
  11. 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.
  12. With the loss of Jaylon Denson, the addition of Tony Stevens becomes even more vital for the Auburn offense. The 4-star recruit has a great frame (6-3) to eventually become a physical presence but Auburn needs his athletic exploits now. With Marcus Davis taking advantage of his recent playing time, Tony Stevens must realize his opportunity could be now too. On this play Auburn is operating out of their 2-minute offense, facing a 2nd & 10 situation. Tony Stevens is lined up in the slot with the Tigers in a 4-WR set. The DB playing tight over him will actually come on a blitz, creating a "hot route" opportunity for the true freshman. Nick Marshall doesn't have much time to get his pass off but he manages to make his throw just as he is being hit. The delivery of the ball is low and behind Stevens but he adjusts to make the reception for an 11-yard gain and first down. With better pass-protection and a better throw, this play could have resulted in something big.
  13. Last season through 4 games Auburn was 1-3, averaging 298-yards and 17 PPG. This season through 4 games, the Tigers are 3-1 averaging 440-yards and 28 PPG. The primary reason for Auburn's improvement on offense has been execution, especially when it comes to blocking. We have witnessed improvement on the OL as well as the perimeter blocking by the WR's and TE's. Coach Gus Malzahn and his offensive staff are still pushing the team for continued improvement, when it comes to execution, especially with Auburn having entered their SEC portion of their schedule. On this play Auburn will run a quick-screen out to Sammie Coates with both DB's on the boundary side playing way off the line. At the snap Nick Marshall looks off his primary target and quickly turns back to throw the screen pass out to Sammie Coates. The OL releases off the line to set up their blocks for Sammie Coates. Marcus Davis does a terrific job making a down field block as well Alex Kozan hustling down field to do the same. The down field blocking opens up a nice running lane for Coates as he motors down field for a 31-yard gain and Auburn first down.
  14. With the injury to Jaylon Denson, Auburn really needs the younger receivers on the roster to step up. One of those players is true freshman Marcus Davis, who is currently the 3rd most targeted Auburn Tiger in their pass-offense. Over the past 2 games, he has been the 2nd most targeted player. Though he has only 10 receptions on the season for a modest 8.7 yards per reception, 2 of them have been "impact plays" and 4 have resulted in a first down or TD. On this play Auburn has a 3rd & 5 situation, coming out in a 4-WR set against the LSU defense. Marcus Davis is in the slot to the right of the formation. The safety on that side will slide off his coverage on Davis to blitz off the edge, leaving a LB covering Davis. At the snap Auburn's OL does a solid job protecting Nick Marshall as Marcus Davis runs a shallow crossing route in front of the LB. (Note the targeted zone area highlighted in frames 2 & 3.) Marshall delivers his pass to Davis, who gains a few extra yards after the catch for an 11-yard gain and Auburn first down. Marcus Davis makes for a great slot-receiver because of his quickness and speed, which will cause match up issues for opposing defenses covering him with a safety or LB.
  15. Upon Further Review of LSU.... The second period continues to be pitfall for the Auburn offense through 4 games. Auburn has converted 55.6% of their 3rd downs during the first quarter, 40.0% during the 3rd period and 46.7% during the final quarter. During the 2nd quarter, Auburn has converted only 9.1% or 1 of 11. The Tigers went 0-4 against LSU during the second period, a quarter Auburn could have started their rally much sooner. The trend of playing better on defense during the second half continued for the Auburn Tigers last night against LSU. For the season opponents have converted 51.5% of their 3rd downs during the first half and only 26.7% during the second half. During the first 2 games of the season the Auburn defense surrendered 3 plays of 30-yards or more. During the last 2 games, they have given up 7. As successful as the Auburn running game has been through 4 games, the Tigers have produced only 1 running play of 30-yards or more but 8 pass plays of 30-yards or more. 45.9% of Auburn's offensive snaps resulted in a 5-yard gain or better and LSU hit at 40.9%. This really emphasizes the damage LSU was able to accomplish with their explosive plays. Against their 3 BCS opponents Auburn has allowed 6.7 yards per play during the first half and 5.3 yards per play during the second half. This also includes 42% of the opponents snaps being held to 2-yards or less during the first half, rising to 52% during the second half. Through 4 games, Sammie Coates (6), Corey Grant (5) and Nick Marshall (5) are Auburn's top-3 play makers in terms of impact plays. Through 4 games, Auburn's trio of RB's have combined for 196-yards per game on the ground a 5.89 yards per rush. Should LSU finish with a top-10 defense this season, Auburn's 437-yards gained will be the 2nd most yardage gained against a top-10 defense since 1981. Auburn has now gone 46 consecutive possessions on offense without starting a possession inside the opponent's 50-yard line. The defense and special teams need to create a short field. Through 4 games Auburn's top-3 most targeted players in the passing game is Sammie Coates (24), Ricardo Louis (19) and Marcus Davis (14). Auburn has attempted only 6 passes to their RB's. Nick Marshall has a passer rating of 150.6 on third-down through 4 games into the season. Last year through 4 games, Auburn's pass rating on third-down was only 57.5. The Auburn offense is still striving for consistency this season. During their 22 possessions with at least 2 first downs recorded, the Tigers have scored on 14 of them (63.6%). The Auburn offense finished strong against LSU, gaining 277-yards during the last 5 possessions of the game. The downside was that the average starting field position of those 5 possessions was their own 16-yard line. After allowing 11.4 yards per play during LSU's first 4 possessions of the game, the Auburn defense buckled down, allowing 4.9 yards per play during the last 12 possessions. Auburn's trio of RB's had a solid night against a tough LSU defense. They combined for 35 carries of which zero resulted in a loss and 19 went for at least 5-yards (54.3%). This also speaks well about the OL. LSU averaged 6.6 yards per rush during the first half and 3.6 yards during the second half. The two long runs early on were costly. After struggling early on in short yardage situations, where Auburn was 1 of 5 needing 2-yards or less, the Tigers went 9 for 9 the remainder of the game. Auburn has to protect the football better as the season progresses. The offense has turned the ball over in every game this season, including 12 fumbles of which 4 have been recovered by the opponent. Tre Mason became only the 12th Auburn RB to rush for over 130-yards against a SEC defense ranked in the top-10 of total defense since 1970. The last time Auburn had a 200-yard passer, 100-yard rusher and 100-yard receiver during the same game was against Northwestern during the 2009-2010 season. Nick Marshall, Tre Mason and Sammie Coates were the first Auburn trio to accomplish this feat against a SEC team since the Ole Miss game in 2006. War Eagle!
  16. If Auburn is going to be successful moving the football against the LSU defense this Saturday night, the Tigers will have to move the chains, which means creating manageable third-down situations. Last season Auburn struggled on third down because their average distance needed for a conversion was 8.3 yards. This season the Auburn offense has been more consistent on first down averaging well over 6-yards per play on first down. This has kept the third-down distance needed to 6.0 yards. On this play Auburn faces a 3rd & 5 from the MSU 31-yard line. Auburn comes out in a 4-WR set and C.J. Uzomah is split out wide on the boundary side with Marcus Davis in the slot. Just before the snap, Uzomah ***** inside towards Davis because the OLB is edging up for a blitz look. Auburn runs a combo route on the boundary side with Davis running an underneath out-route to Uzomah's square-in route. The CB is playing off the line giving up space to Uzomah and the safeties are in a cover-2. The CB releases off Uzomah to jump the quick out to Davis leaving Uzomah wide open underneath the safety. Nick Marshall fires the pass to Uzomah, who hauls the pass in and gains extra yardage after the reception. The play results in a first down and 17-yards gained.
  17. If Auburn is to be competitive with LSU in Baton Rouge, Nick Marshall is going to have to be very efficient. It will likely be a game, he will be required to throw the football more than 25 times. If this is the case, hopefully Auburn is throwing the ball when they want to rather than when they have to. Marshall came up big against Mississippi State, especially during the 2-minute drive to win the game. One of the reasons for success was MSU playing their safeties deep over top and tight coverage underneath. Gus Malzahn gave Marshall combo-routes on both sides of the field in a 4-WR set, which allowed the QB to make quick reads and precision deliveries. On this play Auburn Auburn has a 1st & 10 from their own 24-yard line, coming out in a 4-WR set. Marcus Davis and Sammie Coates are at the top of the formation with Davis in the slot. At the snap, Nick Marshall looks off to the wide side of the field as Coates runs a short sideline route and Davis runs a skinny post. With MSU's safeties playing over top and MSU rushing 4, it basically comes down to a 5 on 4 match up in favor of the Bulldogs in the secondary. Davis is being covered by a LB and Coates draws the primary attention on the shorter route. Davis finds open space over the LB and underneath the safety. Marshall delivers the pass for a 17-yard gain and first down. When MSU jumped the shorter routes, Marshall went to the vertical routes and when the vertical routes were taken away, Marshall threw underneath to the shorter routes.
  18. Something Auburn might need of Nick Marshall this week down in Baton Rouge is his ability to pick up extra first downs with his feet. Last season Jonathan Wallace and Kiehl Frazier combined for 10 first downs rushing the football. Nick Marshall through 3 games already has 7. Last week against Mississippi State, Marshall picked up 2 first downs on the game-winning drive by rushing for them. Over the past 25 seasons an Auburn first down has been worth 1.4 points. This season it's worth 1.5 points through 3 games. Marshall clearly has the ability to extend drives with his athletic ability and Auburn could use 4-5 of those come this Saturday. On this play Auburn faces a 3rd & 5 from midfield, coming out in a 4-WR set. Before the snap Marcus Davis motions from the boundary side to the wide side, giving Auburn a bunch set to the left. At the snap Nick Marshall rolls to his left looking for the short pass to pick up the first down. Realizing the pass isn't there, Marshall cuts back to the boundary side with plenty of green grass to maneuver. As he turns the corner he has one defender to beat, which he does. Marshall gains 15-yards on the play, extending the Auburn drive. Auburn gained an extra 33-yards after this play, scoring a FG. This is the type of play Auburn needs Marshall to make against LSU. As aggressive as the LSU defense will be, Marshall gives the Auburn offense the element they need to put pressure on the LSU defense. In frame #4, I highlighted the block of WR Trovon Reed but identified him as Quan Bray by mistake.
  19. If someone told me Auburn would be held to under 140-yards against MSU, I would have expected a loss. What a terrific finish for Nick Marshall and the Auburn offense. Redemption is always better, when it comes during the same game. Had the game-winning drive not happened, Nick Marshall would still be haunted by the missed opportunity on the long pass-play to Sammie Coates that would have certainly resulted in a go-ahead TD. As it played out, Marshall was given the opportunity to lead his offense on a game-winning drive and he delivered. He went 6 of 8 for 66-yards and picked up a critical 3rd & 10 with his feet. These are the types of drives that make or break a quarterback and his teammates will certainly garner more faith in him as a leader. The offense sputtered for just 18-yards during the 2nd period but picked up 441-yards in the other 3 quarters. The defense was gashed in the first half but settled down after the Bulldogs opening drive to start the second half. Once again, it was a critical moment in the game, when the defense managed to bail out the offense until they reestablished themselves. It was a beautiful ending to a game that could have easily gone either way after 3 quarters. The key was that the players never gave up and made enough plays to capture their first conference victory since 2011. In reality, we saw enough tonight to conclude this team could still finish with a losing record but yet enough to believe this team could win 8-9 games in 2013. One might conclude the team took a step backwards tonight but I don't see it that way. We saw a team that overcame turnovers and mistakes to win the game. We saw Nick Marshall have a game-breaking performance, leading his team to a victory during a 2-minute drill. We saw a defense that is still far away from being dominant but continues to make plays as crucial moments during the game. Special teams continues to be special and were an essential component of Auburn's third victory of the season. Inside the Numbers... After allowing 9.8 yards per play on first down during the first half, the Auburn defense held State to 3.7 yards during the second half. Nick Marshall executed a play of over 30-yards to himself, something never done by an Auburn player from 1992-2013. Nick Marshall ended the 26-game drought of Auburn's starting QB being held under 200-yards passing. For the third game in a row, the offense scored points in every quarter and the defense has yet to allow a single point during the final period. Auburn improved their record to 107-11, when scoring at least 10 points during the first period since 1981. Prior to tonight, Auburn was 24-40, when turning the ball over at least 3 times during a game since 1992. Auburn attempted 14 passes on first down with Nick Marshall going 11 of 14 for 140-yards. Marshall was 5 of 6 on 3rd down for 114-yards and 4 conversions. He finished with a QB rating of 297.9 on third-down. Nine different Auburn players were targeted in the passing game tonight with Sammie Coates being targeted 8 times and Marcus Davis, 7 times. Though Auburn lost the TFL battle tonight 3 to 4, Auburn did have 12 QB hurries to MSU's 1. Much better pressure on the QB during the second half. Auburn rushed for 1.8 yards per play between the tackles and 5.71 yards outside. Mississippi State averaged 6.72 yards per play during the first half and 5.40 yards during the second half. During their last 6 possessions of the game, MSU averaged 3.77 yards per play. Dak Prescott accounted for 83.3 percent of State's offense and Nick Marshall accounted for 77.1 percent. After being flagged 9 times with penalties against Arkansas State, Auburn was penalized only once against MSU. Through 3 games the 56.9% of Auburn's offensive snaps have been part of a scoring drive. This is a major improvement form the 34.0% during 2012 and close to 60.0% by the record-setting 2010 Auburn offense. Auburn's 3-headed monster at RB was finally shutdown, gaining only 90-yards on 24 carries. C.J. Uzomah made the most of his 3 opportunities with 2 resulting in explosive plays and the final being the game-winning TD reception. Nick Marshall was directly involved in all 8 of Auburn's explosive plays on offense. Takeaway each team's explosive plays on offense and Auburn averaged 3.68 yards per play and MSU averaged 3.53 yards. Overall 14 combined plays during the 138 snaps, accounted for 51.1 percent of the yardage gained. Auburn lost the trench battle during the first half but regained control during the second half. Auburn will need to play much better next week going up against a talented and physical LSU team. Of all of Auburn's explosive plays running the ball, only 1 has come between the tackles. Auburn's 1.8 yards per rush between the tackles against Mississippi State was not a good sign for the Auburn offensive line. Gus Malzahn's initial game plan for Nick Marshall during the first 3 games has been excellent. He has mixed in a majority of short perimeter passes to set up the running game and vertical pass-offense. It has allowed Marshall to build his confidence early in the game for the past 2 weeks in a row. Though Marshall still has some touch issues, he was very good on 3rd down against MSU and was great form during the game-winning drive. Before the season started, I saw Auburn's schedule as being an 8-game season. Outside LSU, Texas A&M, Georgia and Alabama, how Auburn did during it's 8 remaining games would be the foundation of this season. A loss to Mississippi State would have been a major blow in this regard. Hopefully they can continue to build from tonight's victory with the ultimate goal of being a better team by the end of the season. War Eagle!
  20. Though Nick Marshall did not have a "game breaking" performance last night, he did improve from week #1. His overall QB rating improved from 96.4 to 170.3 and he was far more efficient throwing on 3rd down. Last week against WSU, Marshall had a rating of 104.6 on 3rd down, improving to 164.3 against ASU. Wide receiver Marcus Davis made his debut last night, catching 2 passes for 23-yards and a TD. He was the recipient of Nick Marshall's first TD pass in major college football. On this play Auburn faces a 3rd & 16 from the ASU 18-yard line. Auburn comes out in a 4-WR set with "trips" to the right. Marcus Davis is lined up in the slot. ASU will bring pressure off the edge but the Auburn OL does a great job setting up a good pocket for Nick Marshall to throw from. Marcus Davis will run a post route as Marshall does a great job of looking him off, pulling the safety out of the picture. Marshall delivers a rocket over top and Davis leaps high to haul in the dart for an Auburn TD. Nick Marshall improved from week #1 but still has plenty of room to grow & improve. He missed out on a couple of vertical passes last night but he was directly involved in 6 of Auburn's 9 impact plays.