Auburn Suffocates the Bulldogs. (Grading Auburn’s 52-0 win over Samford.)

Sunday, November 24, 2019

Auburn Suffocates the Bulldogs. (Grading Auburn’s 52-0 win over Samford.)

Sliding in the rain.
(AP Photo/Butch Dill.)

     War Eagle everybody! It’s time now for the Acid Reign Report on a comfortable 52-0 victory over the Samford Bulldogs. It was a miserable day, weather-wise at Jordan-Hare Stadium. A cold rain made both the players and the spectators uncomfortable. One would expect a lot of miscues in this sort of environment, but Auburn was able to keep mistakes down and throttled Samford 52-0. The game was out of reach for the visiting Bulldogs well before halftime.

     Samford managed to drive into Auburn territory a couple of times in the first half, but their drives derailed before seriously threatening a score. Auburn’s offense had some 1st quarter issues, mainly because the deep balls were not connecting, and Auburn’s offense usually cannot recover from 2nd or 3rd and long, even against an FCS foe. On the day, Auburn converted just 3 of 11 third downs. Against the Bulldogs, Auburn was able to run at will and the short passing game continued to produce drives. Auburn had 11 different players carry the football on a wet day, and not a time did the Tigers fumble.

     It is hard to find fault with a defense that held Samford to no points, and just 114 total yards on the day. Samford used the same game plan most opponents have used against the Auburn defense, built on quick passes. This was not very effective, as Auburn’s back 7 smothered receivers. Samford managed just 3 completions of 10 yards or longer. I suppose the only negative thing I can find is that Auburn was flagged for being offside 5 times in the game, 3 times in the first quarter. In fact, Samford’s first 2 snaps resulted in offside penalties.

     With the rain, one might expect some special teams miscues, and generally shorter distance kicks and punts due to the wet balls. The only real special teams miscue was a blocked field goal on a 43 yard attempt in the rain. That’s not too bad!

Unit grades after the jump!

Defensive Line: A-. I counted off a bit for the offside penalties, but this unit dominated the Samford line. Samford made a commitment to try and run away from Auburn’s linemen, especially Derrick Brown. Still, the unit made Samford’s backfield miserable, and stifled the Bulldog offense well down into the depth chart.

Linebackers: A. Again well down into the roster, Auburn’s linebackers flew to the ball and made plays.

Secondary: A. I could point to a missed tackle or two, but in the rain that is to be expected. Auburn blanketed a speedy receiving corps, and made plays like it has all year. The secondary added a pair of interceptions as well as forcing 4 turnovers. The only thing I didn’t like was the targeting call on Jamien Sherwood. There was not a launch, no helmet to helmet contact. In fact, the tackle did not meet ANY of the criteria for targeting, yet somehow the replay booth upheld the penalty.

Punting: C. Arryn Siposs was only called on 3 times, punting to pin Samford deep. That hurt Siposs’ average a bit, as he averaged just 40.33 yards per punt. Still, 40 yards is my standard for a decent day. We have become spoiled by how good Siposs has been, when we are complaining about a 40 yard average!

Punt Returns: C. Christian Tutt returned 1 punt for 15 yards, and fair caught 3 others. This was a good day in the rain. Samford’s punter had a pretty impressive leg.

Kick Returns: A. Since they got shut out, Samford only kicked off once, at the start of the 2nd half. They tried a pooch kick, and Spencer Nigh fielded it and bulled it out to the 40.

Place Kicking: B. I counted off mostly for the blocked field goal. I think the trajectory was a bit low, which contributed. I was shaking my head at the official stats. It showed Anders Carlson with 7 kickoffs and 0 touchbacks. Looking at the game play-by-play, 4 of Carlson’s kickoffs were fair caught in the end zone. A fair catch doesn’t count as a touchback, this week? It is the same result, ball at the 25 yard line. Samford fair caught every Carlson kickoff. Freshman Ben Patton handled the last couple of kickoffs in the 4th quarter, getting his first action as an Auburn Tiger. Samford managed a 26 yard return on one of them.

Offensive Line: A. Auburn had a decent day up front, despite a shuffled lineup. Earlier this year, I felt like Auburn was looking at a potential disaster in 2020, having to replace all 5 starting linemen, and being very thin on depth. I saw a lot of good things from the younger linemen in this game, which gives hope for the future. Auburn surrendered 5 tackles for loss on the day. However, the main reason was being outnumbered at the line of scrimmage. The much-hated run-it-up-the-middle with 4 wide receivers in the game play was very much part of the game plan once again this week.

Running Backs: A. It is hard to argue with the performance from these guys, on a wet day. Ball security was great, and the Tigers averaged 5.5 yards per carry against stacked fronts. Backs were a factor in the passing game as well, as JaTarvious Whitlow had a big catch and run, and Harold Joiner caught a touchdown pass.

Receivers: A. One would expect dropped balls on a wet day, but it didn’t happen. Auburn threw 32 passes, and 22 of them were caught. There were catches in the game by 8 different wide receivers, and 11 different players caught balls.

Quarterback: B+. Repeated misses on deep throws is a concern, but other than that I felt like Bo Nix had a good day, and ran the offense. Wisely, Nix did not have his number called in the running game much. It was great to see Cord Sandberg and Wil Appleton get in the game and actually be allowed to throw the ball. I’ve seen Sandberg’s accuracy questioned elsewhere, but he showed well in this game. Sandberg is also very good running the football.

     After complaints about fan enthusiasm and attendance a few weeks ago against Ole Miss, I was pleased with the turnout in this game, especially considering the opponent and the weather. While I’d rather not have Auburn play teams like Kent State or Samford, I do think it is important for the players down the depth chart, that work so hard to wear that jersey, to actually get in the game and play a couple of times a season.

     And now, it is Iron Bowl week. I haven’t had a chance to watch any of Alabama’s game against WCU yesterday, but I did not that Alabama starting quarterback Mac Jones had a monster stat-line. It was something like 10 of 12 completions for 285 yards for the former backup. Alabama has a plethora of game-breaking receivers, and I know that the Tide staffers have seen the quick passing attacks that have been the only real way for teams to move the ball on Auburn. It will be interesting to see what the Tide dials up.

     Offensively, Auburn is probably going to have to score some points against Alabama to win this game. Thus far, the weather looks better for the Iron Bowl, than this past week. Still, a 7-day weather forecast often changes. What I would like to see from the Auburn offense is just for them not to kill themselves with poor play selection and miscues. They need to make Alabama cover and tackle, and try to run with a dangerous group of Auburn skill players. This game reminds me in ways of the 1989 offense. It struggled all year against any defense with a pulse, then put it all together in the “first time ever” game against Alabama, beating the undefeated Tide 30-20. Here’s hoping we’ll see the same sort of magic 30 years later!

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