Auburn Rallies against the Aggies! (Grading Auburn’s 28-24 win over Texas A&M.)

Sunday, November 4, 2018

Auburn Rallies against the Aggies! (Grading Auburn’s 28-24 win over Texas A&M.)

Miracle grabs save the Tigers!
(AP Photo/Todd Kirkland.)

     War Eagle everybody! It’s time now for the Acid Reign Report on a shocking Auburn day, hosting the Texas A&M Aggies. The offensive line had little success moving the Texas A&M front, and as a result Auburn was historically bad running the football, picking up only 19 net yards. Meanwhile the defense missed open field tackles, and at times got blown off the ball, as Texas A&M frequently moved effortlessly into Tiger territory. The Aggies’ failure to punch in an icing score in the 4th quarter opened the door for an amazing Tiger comback.

     It is very tough on a defense when the opposing offense can just do a simple handoff and pick up 5-8 yards on first down. That was a repeated theme for most of the day, for the Auburn defense. Credit Texas A&M, though. They made those blocks, and Auburn defenders did not do a good job getting off of blocks. Auburn did shore up coverage on Texas A&M’s outside receivers, and there wasn’t much chance for Aggie quarterback Kellen Mond to get it down the field. Those throws up the boundary that Auburn has been susceptible to this year, were mainly just a waste of a down, this afternoon. This season, Auburn has been pretty good limiting backs out of the backfield in the passing game, but not on this day. Trayveyon Williams was either wide open, or made Tigers miss in the open field regularly. I’ve seen it written elsewhere that Auburn did a better job on Williams in the second half, but that wasn’t really so, to these eyes. For some inexplicable reason, the Aggie coaches sat Williams on the bench for much of the second half, and went with Jashaun Corbin, who was much less effective.

     This was a terrible week on offense for the Auburn Tigers, for basically 3 quarters. Through 3 and a half quarters, Auburn had 2 touchdowns, one on a trick play and another on a heave it up for grabs throw in the back of the end zone. On Auburn’s first 11 possessions, the Tigers went 2 or 3 downs and out on 7 possessions. There was no room to run, and protection was spotty. When passes did get thrown, receivers often dropped them. There were several perfectly thrown passes that hit receivers in both hands, only to be dropped, and the drive killed. Even the routes run were simple, and uninspired for much of the game. I counted numerous plays that Auburn had 3 receivers that just run about 10 yards downfield, and stop in traffic. I had given up hope, well before midway through the 4th quarter, as Auburn seemed unlikely to even make another first down, much less erase a 24-14 deficit.

     I’m not sure what happened after the interception by Noah Igbinoghene midway through the 4th quarter. It was like a different team took the field, and the Tiger offense went as full AirRaid as I have ever seen. Auburn had a clean pocket most of the time, and quarterback Jarrett was able to step up and deliver the ball. Against a zone-prevent defense, Auburn actually had some crossing patterns called. One of those was actually thrown to Ryan Davis, and he made most of the Aggie defense miss on a miraculous 47 yard pickup. Mostly, though, Stidham was allowed to take shot after shot. He put the ball up high, and gave the Auburn receivers a chance to go get them. With pass playing being executed, Auburn took the game away from an Aggie team that had dominated most of the day.

     Special teams had a mostly good day, and punt fielding was good with the exception of Ryan Davis fielding one punt at the 2 yard line. Had another near-disaster this week on kickoff fielding, with a fumble forward, but luckily Auburn was able to fall on it. That was the kickoff after Texas A&M had taken a 24-14 lead. Turning it over deep at that juncture would have probably iced the ball game early in the 3rd quarter. Arryn Siposs was a weapon punting the football, and almost single handedly kept Auburn in the game. Siposs outdueled the nation’s leading punter, Braden Mann, in this one, in very impressive fashion. Daniel Carlson continues to hit kickoffs for touchbacks, and even when he has the occasional kickoff returned, Auburn’s coverage unit usually squashes the return man short of the 20 yard line.

Unit grades after the jump!

Defensive Line: C+. This grade could have been a lot lower, as I felt for the first time this year that Auburn was often manhandled up front. The line didn’t really get it together till the offense started clicking in the 4th quarter. Out of nowhere, the line pressured Kellen Mond, and forced mistakes. Overall, the line was credited with 17 tackles, 7 for a loss and 2 sacks.

Linebackers: C-. There were lots of missed tackles in this one, and more tackles made going backwards after big gains. To this unit’s credit, though, they aren’t the first unit that Trayveon Williams has made look silly. Again, thanks so much to Aggie head coach Jimbo Fisher, who benched Williams in the second half. Auburn linebackers contributed just 19 tackles, just 2 for a loss. When the other team runs the ball 47 times, you’d like to see a lot more linebacker tackles than this.

Secondary: A-. Auburn gave up 220 passing yards in this game on 32 attempts, which works out to 6.8 yards per pass. That’s not a great number, but you have to consider that 91 yards of that was on screens to running backs. Auburn’s secondary basically kept Auburn in the game, keeping play in front, and tightening up in the red zone. The secondary came up with 2 critical turnovers that led to Auburn touchdowns. Auburn defensive backs combined for 34 tackles, nearly half the defensive production on the day.

Punting: A+. Arryn Siposs and the punting unit were magnificent, averaging 48.2 yards on 8 punts, with only 7 total punt return yards.

Punt Returns: B-. Auburn was able to field all 5 Aggie punts, with 2 fair catches. The negative aspect was that Ryan Davis fielded 2 of them inside his own 10 yard line. Late in the game, Auburn snuck freshman Christian Tutt out there in the afternoon shadows as a 2nd deep safety. Tutt came out of nowhere to field the last punt, ran right by the Aggie gunners, and picked up 28 yards. That set up Auburn’s last touchdown drive with good field position.

Kick Returns: D. Auburn only got one chance at this, and the ball caromed off the chest of Noah Igbinoghene. Fortunately, Auburn recovered.

Place Kicking: A. Auburn did not attempt a field goal in this game, as the offense was unable to get close enough to even try any 50 yarders like normal. Anders Carlson hit all of his extra points, and hit 4 of 5 kickoffs for touchbacks. The Aggie did return 1 kick, and were spilled well short of the 20 yard line.

Offensive Line: D+. I did not see too many glaring mistakes this game, which worries me, given the offensive output. Auburn generally knew who to block, but were just outmanned most of the afternoon. I give a passing grade due to the pass blocking on the last 2 drives.

Running Backs: B+. Some will likely question this grade, but there was just nowhere to run. With any room, the backs did make plays. When you saw Jarrett Stidham step up in the pocket, that meant that Chandler Cox, or Malik Miller, or Boobie Whitlow had stoned a blitzer in their tracks. Whitlow picked up 3 crucial first downs in Auburn’s next to last drive, mostly on his own.

Receivers: B+. There were more drops in this one, including a couple of uncontested drops. However, in the last 2 drives, Auburn receivers made some great catches. We have been calling for involving speedy freshmen Anthony Schwartz and Seth Williams to get the ball more, the past few games. That pair contributed 6 touches this week, for just 31 yards. The Aggies had these guys scouted. Seth Williams did catch 2 in the end zone, both scores, including the game-winner. Darius Slayton had several clutch catches, and remains Stidham’s go-to guy, despite a few dropped balls. I have to give a shout out to Ryan Davis, who made a couple of spectacular plays in this game. I’ve mentioned the 47 yard catch and run on the last drive. Davis also threw a touchdown pass, this week. It was on a reverse, and the defense had it contained. If Davis had tried to turn and set his feet, he would have been planted in the turf before he could throw. Instead, he was able to loft a perfect pass across his body. And, I am glad at least somebody on the Auburn offense realizes that Sal Cannella is running around not even covered, most of the time he’s in the game.

Quarterback: A. Stidham had a tough outing this week, and not of his own making. His balls were on target, and he had no turnovers, despite a mostly lackluster effort by his receivers, and no running game at all. Stidham was credited with 18 completions on 29 attempts. Considering that there were several balls he had to just throw away, and there were probably 6 dropped passes, that’s laser accuracy. If Auburn gives this guy time to throw, he lights defenses up.

     With this win, Auburn goes to 6-3, and talk of not getting bowl bid can be put to rest. It was nice to see the Texas A&M “home team jinx” be ended, particularly in such dramatic fashion. It’s rare to see Auburn outcoach another team these days, but it happened in this game. With the game in hand, and Auburn reeling, the Aggies made strategic mistake after mistake. They took their best play maker out of the game. They threw incompletions or an interception when they just needed to run clock and punt. The got fooled on a punt return late. They only called one blitz on Auburn’s last 2 drives. We can’t say that Auburn had a great coaching effort in this game, but it is a credit to this team that no one quit, even when it seemed hopeless.

     Amen Corner is here, folks. Auburn must get ready for a daunting trip to Georgia, next Saturday. The only silver lining to this game is that Georgia has already clinched the SEC East title. Still, they already have 1 loss. They likely can’t lose another, and still get into the playoff. Georgia is just as good at stopping the run as Texas A&M, and better in the secondary. Kirby Smart will blitz with the game on the line, unlike the Aggie brain trust.

     I regret that I’m going to miss live-blogging this game. I’ve been able to do every game up until this point this season, which is a rarity. I have to work Saturday night, and will have to watch the DVR when I get home. I’ll be back in the saddle for Liberty and Bama.

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