Tigers Shut Down by Florida. (Grading Auburn’s 24-13 defeat at the hands of the Gators.)

Sunday, October 6, 2019

Tigers Shut Down by Florida. (Grading Auburn’s 24-13 defeat at the hands of the Gators.)

Bo Nix was running for his life.
(AP Photo/John Raoux.)

     War Eagle everybody! It’s time now for the Acid Reign Report on Auburn’s losing SEC road effort, falling 24-13 to the Florida Gators. Auburn began this game looking rattled on offense, going 3 and out, and looked shaky all game long. After the first Auburn punt, Florida hit a quick slant pass that went 64 yards for an easy touchdown, and Auburn would never regain the lead.

     The offensive strategy in this game was inexplicable. Everyone agreed that Auburn needed to run the ball against Florida to have success, and that the way to do that was to run right at a quick, but smaller defense up front. Needing to run, Auburn subtracted a lot of players from the game plan. We never saw Shawn Shivers. Auburn ran just one speed sweep to Anthony Schwartz, that lost 4 yards. Joey Gatewood and his dynamic running were missing, with not even 1 offensive snap. Furthermore, Auburn constantly tried changing the play and the protections at the line of scrimmage verbally, which did not work very well with the noise of 90000 fans right on top of that field. Changing the blocking schemes even in a totally silent facility would not have helped much, for as soon as Auburn changed the configuration, Florida’s front would just jump into yet another look. Auburn needed a return to zone blocking for this one, and didn’t try it much.

     I think any rational observer of Auburn football this fall had to figure that quarterback Bo Nix would have a day sooner or later where he looked like a true freshman. It happened at Florida, but the blame for the loss can hardly be blamed on the quarterback alone. The offensive coaches failed on strategy. The line failed to get a push much of the day, and had several crucial drive-killing penalties. Receivers didn’t block as well in this one, either.

     There was head-shaking strategy on defense as well, as Auburn tried to cover speedy slot receivers with linebackers, to disastrous results at times. It seems backwards to me to have linebackers covering wide receivers, and safeties at the line of scrimmage trying to tackle backs. Auburn played ferociously up front, but just had too many snaps to play on this day, thanks to offensive ineptitude.

     This was a total team loss, as special teams had letdowns in this game as well, most notably a dropped punt that Florida recovered at the Auburn two yard line. Auburn failed to flip the field on 8 punts for only a 40.8 yard average, and only 1 ball killed inside the 20 yard line.

Unit grades after the jump!

Defensive Line: A. This unit manhandled the Gator offensive line, and made life miserable for Florida runners and quarterbacks. The mismatch up front really limited what plays Florida could run. Unlike Auburn, the Florida brain trust did adjust what they were doing, to try and keep the damage at a minimum. That is easier to do with a lead.

Linebackers: B-. I counted off mainly for pass coverage failures. Also on Florida’s 88 yard run for a touchdown late, there wasn’t even a linebacker in the TV frame. That was a costly missed assignment that put the game out of reach for Auburn.

Secondary: B+. Auburn’s tackling wasn’t as good on this day, and interference penalties hurt this grade. There was way too much space allowed over the middle for Florida receivers, but I blame that more on the scheme than Auburn’s players. There were also some “shades of last year” times when Florida would just heave a pass up the sideline, and Auburn’s corners could do little about it.

Punting: C. A 40 yard punt average is going to be near the bottom of the SEC, I’m afraid.

Punt Returns: D. Florida had a 47 yard punting average, and yet all Auburn could manage was 5 fair catches and one lost fumble. I counted off a letter grade for that fumble.

Kick Returns: B. 4 of 5 Florida kickoffs went for touchbacks. Noah Igbinoghene had one decent 22 yard return.

Place Kicking: A. Anders Carlson hit every kick that was asked of him, including a 49 yard field goal that would have been good from much further back. Carlson also kicked off 4 times and there were no Florida returns.

Offensive Line: D+. Except for 1 drive in the second half, this unit lost the war. There were drive killing penalties, and there was pressure aplenty on the quarterback.

Running Backs: C+. I saw some pass protection errors, and I don’t think Auburn got the production at H-back that the team had been getting. JaTarvious Whitlow and Kam Martin ran hard, but neither had a run longer than 16 yards. I wonder what happened to the wildcat, this week? Auburn didn’t run it a single time. It had been money in the bank in weeks prior to this.

Receivers: B+. I don’t feel like Auburn blocked as well at these spots, this week. When Auburn runners headed to the edge this week, there were always multiple unblocked Florida defenders out there. I felt like guys were getting open, but the ball rarely got there this week.

Quarterback: D+. There was plenty to count off on this week, including 3 interceptions and a 22 yard loss on a sack where Nix wasn’t even touched. Other than a nice touchdown pass to Seth Williams, there wasn’t much to cheer for this week. I do think Bo Nix will learn from this game, and improve by leaps and bounds.

     Auburn heads into their first bye week with plenty to work on, after an unfortunate visit to the Swamp. In particular, I hope the staff does some reevaluation of the offensive game plan for the Florida game. I felt like the offensive brain trust had won all the previous coaching matchups, but not this week. Auburn seemed to ditch a lot of their best concepts in this game, and never really had an answer to what Gator defensive coordinator Todd Grantham was sending.

     The Tigers this week fall to 5-1 on the year, 2-1 in the SEC and are currently ranked 12th in the nation. There is still another half a season left to play. This team must pick itself up, evaluate what went wrong, and work on problem areas. There are definitely winnable games ahead at Arkansas, hosting Ole Miss and hosting Samford. With some very possible improvement, I think Auburn can hang with LSU, Georgia, and even Alabama.

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