Auburn Bombs the Bulldogs! (Grading Auburn’s 49-10 win over Mississippi State.)

Sunday, October 1, 2017

Auburn Bombs the Bulldogs! (Grading Auburn’s 49-10 win over Mississippi State.)

MSU Kerryon

Tiger receivers and runners were loose!
(AP Photo/Butch Dill)

     War Eagle everybody! It’s time now for the Acid Reign Report on Auburn’s first SEC home win of the year, a 49-10 runaway over 24th ranked Mississippi State. Mississippi State moved the ball at times in this one, but could do nothing to slow down an Auburn aerial attack that has become efficient and explosive in recent weeks. At times, Mississippi State was their own worst enemy, committing an astounding 7 false start penalties. There is a reason those are called “drive killers.”

     If we think back a couple of weeks, Auburn had just eeked by Mercer on Homecoming, and Mississippi State was the toast of the SEC after knocking off LSU 37-7. It’s funny how rapidly things can change. A young Bulldog team has been rudely thumped the past two weeks, first at Georgia, and then at Auburn. Meanwhile, Auburn has found itself in a strange situation. The issue was this: lose to Missouri or Mississippi State, and that would be a clear sign that the SEC has passed Auburn by. Win, and the skeptics will now say that those 2 teams aren’t very good. The fact is that Auburn blew both of those teams out of the water.

     The Auburn offense continues to improve by leaps and bounds. While Auburn has a stable of hobbled running backs, they are still getting the ball in the end zone when they get the chance in the red zone. And the passing game has taken off! Quarterback Jarrett Stidham has completed over 83 percent of his passes over the last 3 games, including a number of deep bombs to different receivers. I’m not sure any quarterback Auburn has ever had has put up a 3-game completion percentage like that. And that speaks well of the receiving corps, too. They aren’t dropping balls, and they are running free against SEC secondaries.

     The offensive line has become impressive, and they are doing it with different lineups every week, it seems. In the past 3 games, senior Austin Golson has moved from center, to right tackle, then left tackle. Left tackle was a spot that Golson struggle at bit at, last season. Not so, yesterday. Golson protected the quarterback’s blind side admirably, and there was often tons of time to throw. Darius James returned this week to start at right tackle. Of the group that was out there this week, I think every one of those linemen has futures in the NFL.

     A lot of preseason pundits were proclaiming Mississippi State quarterback Nick Fitzgerald to be one of the most dangerous dual-threat quarterbacks in the league. The Auburn defense gave up some yardage, but was able to pressure and harrass Fitzgerald, and Mississippi State was only able to sustain 1 drive for a touchdown. The Auburn plan was to limit the MSU run game, and force Nick Fitzgerald to beat Auburn with his arm. The Tigers were successful in doing that, and Fitzgerald was only able to complete 39 percent of his passes.

     Special teams were limited on this day. Daniel Carlson missed his only field goal attempt from 51 yards, but was again near perfect kicking off. Auburn benched punter Ian Shannon in favor of walk-on Aidan Marshall, but Mississippi State was only able to force 3 Auburn punts. Neither team really wanted to kick to the other team’s return men.

Unit grades after the jump!

Defensive Line: A. I felt like the line did a great job at getting penetration and disrupting the Mississippi State game plan. Jeff Holland and Nick Coe were particular nightmares for the Mississippi State backfield, and seemed almost unblockable. As a team, the line contributed 25 total tackles, a couple of sacks and 9 quarterback hurries.

Linebackers: A-. The Auburn linebackers continue to do a good job of filling lanes and hunting the football down, even with starting middle linebacker Tre’ Williams sitting a second game in a row out. Montavious Atkinson again filled in admirably, and the unit soldiered on. Deshaun Davis led all tacklers with 10. Linebackers were credited with 28 total tackles.

Secondary: A. This unit really stepped it up, in terms of contested balls. The secondary caused 11 pass breakups, had a couple of interceptions, one on a tip drill by Tray Matthews and Javaris Davis took one interception for a touchdown. Mississippi State tried to pick on the Auburn corners, and Carlton Davis, Javaris Davis, Jamel Dean and Daniel Thomas were having none of it. The secondary contributed 27 tackles. If the tackle numbers above seem high, it’s because the Auburn offense had a lot of big play, quick scoring drives, and the defense was back out on the field quickly.

Punting: B. New punter Aidan Marshall punted 3 times for just a 36.3 yard average, but did avoid the low bouncers we had been seeing. The first punt was a 47 yard rain-maker, and the next two were pooch punts that were killed inside the 20.

Punt Returns: B+. Mississippi State punted 5 times, and return man Stephen Roberts fielded 4 of them, letting the remaining punt go for a touchback. Roberts had a couple of fair catches in traffic, and had 2 returns for 16 yards. On the season, Roberts has averaged 8.8 yards per return, and has used good judgment at the position.

Kick Returns: B+. Mississippi State kicked a couple of returnable balls, and Auburn’s Noah Igbinoghene averaged 24.5 yards per return. That’s pretty good.

Place Kicking: A. I’m not going to count off much, for a miss from 51 yards. On kickoffs, Carlson hit for 7 touchbacks on 8 kickoffs. On the season, Carlson has kicked off 34 times, and has 30 touchbacks. That’s a pretty torrid pace!

Offensive Line: A. I thought that this week’s line had the best communication and protection of the year. Mississippi State moved people around, ran stunts, and tried to outflank the Auburn line. Really, none it worked. The only thing that did a couple of times was sending an 8 man blitz, and Auburn made MSU pay in the secondary for blitzing. The line this week featured Casey Dunn at center, Mike Horton and Braden Smith at guards, and Austin Golson and Darius James at tackles. They looked good. The scary thing for next season is that only Horton returns.

Running Backs: A-. With Kerryon Johnson and Kamryn Pettway slowed by injuries, and Kam Martin out, the backs struggled to break away. However, between the tackles, they were still able to move the chains when necessary. Some speed sweeps from outside made the rushing average look better than it really was. However, KJ, Pettway and Malik Miller combined for 139 yards, at an average of 4.4 yards per carry. I felt like Chandler Cox and Spencer Nigh had good blocking days at H-back.

Receivers: A. Auburn’s receiving corps has really improved in route running, and attacking the ball. There were no drops this week, and the unit averaged a whopping 21.5 yards per catch.

Quarterback: A. I counted off for the lost fumble, as the wise thing to do in that scenario is to take a sack, and not try to sling the ball while falling sideways. However, the brilliance and accuracy on so many passes compensates. On the season, Jarrett Stidham has thrown for 1110 yards in 5 games. He has 5 touchdowns against just 2 interceptions. Stidham has completed 72 percent of his passes, for a ridiculous 9.4 yards per pass. I also loved watching Malik Willis run the zone read, late in the game. He’s going to be a tough one to stop in the future!

     It’s another week, and another fun romp for the Tigers. Next week Auburn hosts the Ole Miss Rebels, in the dreaded 11:00 AM time slot. The Rebels are coming off back to back losses, the first on at Cal, then Ole Miss got destroyed by Alabama, 66-3 yesterday. I think this may be Auburn’s least intimidating remaining SEC game.

     I really enjoyed rewatching this game. There was some gloom and doom in the press and on the boards the previous week, but I thought the home crowd really turned out and made some noise in this one. It was great to see Auburn having fun, and it’s always great to kick a Bulldog! One last thing of note, Auburn has not beaten Mississippi State this badly since a 56-0 blank job in 1970. The 39 point win tops 34 point efforts in 1996 and 2006.

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