Upon Further Review: Auburn Dominates in Deceiving Fashion

Thursday, September 26, 2019

Upon Further Review: Auburn Dominates in Deceiving Fashion

Saturday’s win against Texas A&M was just about everything an Auburn fan could have hoped to see. Auburn executed a nearly flawless first quarter and scored 14 points. Considering the lethargic start in the win against Oregon and Tulane, the lightening fast touchdown by Anthony Schwartz and the perfectly drawn up play for Gatewood-to-Shenker had deeps sighs of relief coming from all the Auburn faithful.

Here are the facts: Auburn scored early, dominated TAMU on defense in the first half, and never trailed the Aggies. The Tigers had zero turnovers, forced a fumble, and held the Aggies to just 56 yards of total rushing.

Despite the outstanding road win, in a league that has the most hostile road crowds, Auburn didn’t receive much national recognition only moving up a single spot in some of the poles. After Auburn’s win, tickers on virtually every sports station simply showed the final between the Tigers and the Aggies while gushing over stats that other teams put up on lesser competition, especially the team from across the state. Georgia and Wisconsin may have had the biggest statement wins, but Auburn quietly achieved yet another road win against Texas A&M, running the series further towards Auburn’s favor, a steak that has now grown to four including three straight wins against the Aggies. 

Perhaps it is because people didn’t watch the game or only looked at the box score that has them overlooking Auburn. It would be an easy thing to do, since the stats don’t really show how dominating Auburn was, especially the defense. If the stat lines for the offense were reversed and the total touchdowns deleted, one might thing TAMU won the game. Even during the fourth quarter, it would have been easy for Auburn fans to become very nervous as it seemed Kellen Mond and the Aggie offense could do no wrong.

Mond’s bottom line of 31-49 for 335 yards and two TDs was certainly impressive and it’s one that a lot of Auburn fans hoped to see next to Bo Nix, who was a pedestrian 12-20 for 100 and a single score. Mond did all of his damage in the fourth quarter. However, he was essentially playing right into defensive coordinator Kevin Steele’s hands. Steele knew that the Aggies could not score on the ground and he was content to give up all the real estate between the 20s that the Aggies wanted. Sure, he would have liked them to run the ball and run the clock a lot more and he certainly would like to have prevented the two touchdown throws, but Texas A&M needed three scores and the long drives that Steele forced meant they had time for only two. Both the late touchdown drives were eight play drives, although they didn’t use a whole lot of clock, just about six minutes, total.

Still, if you took emotion out of the game, you could see what Auburn’s defense was doing and while it would have been nice …

for Auburn to simply go score for score with the Aggies, the offense did just enough, which is quickly becoming Bo Nix’s MO. After the Aggies finally got a touchdown, Auburn responded with a 12 play, six minute drive with Boobee Whitlow finally finding the endzone. The Aggies scored with a little over two minutes remaining before Auburn recovered an onside kick and ran the time out. 

There were certainly things that Auburn needs to clean up. Any road win is a good win but TAMU isn’t the media darling that everyone expected. The Auburn defensive front forced three sacks and seven tackles for loss. Mond has been propped up as a great dual threat attack. Auburn’s NFL-caliber front made him look beyond pedestrian and while the Aggies had a decent third down conversion rate, the defense did more than enough to keep Mond from getting into any sort of rhythm. The Aggies certainly don’t have the run game they had with Traveon Williams the last few seasons, but Auburn’s front four were downright dominate. 

Offensively, Auburn still has a lot of work to do and while Nix did just enough to win, he still has so much growing to do that it is causing at least a little bit of consternation. It would be understood if head coach Gus Malzahn was limiting the volume of passes that the true freshman were allowed to make, but Nix’s 60% rate against the Aggies was a full ten points above his season average. He missed some open throws but didn’t make any bad decisions. His rushing totals may not be impressive, but his mobility and decision to tuck it was big at times. He just has to evolve a lot more as a passer and he needs to do it quickly.

Auburn’s run game was far from stellar, outside of the housecall Schwartz made in the first possession of the game. Play calling was better for Gus Malzahn, but he still leans so heavily on trickeration that it can be infuriating at times. During one play, the entire offensive line froze in an attempt to freeze the Aggie front. It didn’t and Nix was forced to run for his life. Gus continues to try and throw the ball behind the line of scrimmage and that doesn’t often work against SEC-caliber defenses. 

However, Malzahn showed a new side of himself Saturday that was quite encouraging. He showed a lot of emotion as he was riding players for missed opportunities, coaching up players, and genuinely coaching beyond his normal “awe shucks” attitude. And, to be fair, Auburn’s 12-74 penalties were cause for concern, especially considering that Auburn didn’t have several defensive pass interference calls levied against them. 

The scoreboard didn’t look impressive and the public certainly missed the memo, but Auburn was deceivingly dominating in their win in College Station as they went to 4-0. 

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