Opinions are like...
by, 09-06-2009 at 03:07 PM (4339 Views)
...Everybodyís got one and they all stink
Opinions are flowing regarding the Auburn game, so I figured Iíd offer what I saw from Section 35 Saturday night.
First, I should acknowledge that Auburnís offense was far better than I figured (maybe hoped would be a better word) they would be. This offense operated a timing scheme with razor thin marginsÖand they did it well. There was never any question that Auburnís defense was one of the best in the country. The question was weather or not they could move the ball. Consider that question answered in the affirmative.
I said earlier that if Malzahn could get Auburnís offense clicking, he was a miracle worker. Well, Iím sold (mostlyÖmore on that later). Chris Todd looked sharp. Kodi Burns was a serious threat in the wildcat. The receivers ran crisp routes and caught the ball. And, of course, the running backs were big and fast. It will be interesting to see what this offense does against better defenses. Malzahnís genius is that he finds your weakness and exploits it. Once he finds the weakness, he keeps digging at it until you fix the problemÖa strategy the Frank Scelfo should look into.
Itís tough to know what to take from Auburnís apparent resurgence on the offensive side of the ball. Maybe they are vastly improved and maybe weíre not as strong as we had hoped. Itís probably a little of both. Weíll know more as they get into conference play.
The offense looked surprisingly good in the first half. I know a lot of folks say that our TD drive was a gift from Auburn, and thatís partially true. I would argue, however, that the penalties that extended the drive took place because the Tech offense got the Auburn defense out of position. In other words, they had to grab a facemask because if they didnít they couldnít make the stop. The turnovers were inexcusable. Poor decisions and mental lapses gave Auburn the ball at least twice (just off the top of my head).
The receivers looked good in the first half and got the drops in the second halfÖof course, they had a lot less to work with in the second half. Ross looked kind of like Ross usually looks. Heís not going to set the world on fire, but you can usually count on him not to blow the game either. I donít think he, personally, blew the game, but the unforced fumble and the interception in the end zone were out of character for Ross. I donít know if he was trying too hard or what, but heíll have to eliminate the mental mistakes if his spot on the depth chart is to go unchallenged. First half Ross looked much improved. Second half Ross was a little worse than last year. Itís tough to say which one we can expect to show up the rest of the season.
The running game was predictably shut down. Auburns D is big and fast and they more or less imposed their will the entire game. For whatever reason, we were determined to try and run the ball to the outside. Auburnís speed made those efforts futile. Ross showed some speed on a few scrambles. Porter showed a little, but had trouble overcoming the speed of the defense. On a few plays, he seemed to miss the hole with the most potential, opting to try and get outside. It didnít work.
The OL had a lot of trouble with the running game. Iíve read a lot about the poor pass protection, but thatís not what I saw in the first 3 quarters. Ross had enough time when we called the right plays. I donít know if it was generosity, but the defense was giving us the intermediate pass game. Ross even had time on a few long plays. The OL performed about as well as I expected against a very good Auburn defense.
As usual, the play calling left me scratching my head. We seemed over committed to running the ball with misdirection plays that obviously werenít working. Even our fastest guy had trouble getting to the outside on Auburn, yet we continued to try and run outside the tackles. Like I said earlier, the intermediate pass game was there ALL day and we only seemed to take advantage on occasion.
The surprise player for me was Houston Tuminello. I know heís not a burner, but he consistently achieved separation against bigger and faster DBs. I guess his route running is just that good. We couldíve thrown slants to him all nightÖ.but we didnít. Dennis Morris played well, but only got two balls. I wish I had seen us go over the top with Cruz Williams. I saw him beat his man several times. A well placed ball couldíve gone for a big gainer. Our coaches must not have much faith in our ability to execute that play because it was open and there for the taking.
On the defensive side of the ball, we showed a lot of heart and a lack of discipline. We consistently blew containment, took bad angles at the ball carriers, and arm-tackled. More than a few times, we completely blew the coverage and left the Auburn wide-outs all by themselves behind our safeties. With a few quality throws, the score couldíve been much worse.
Ultimately, our inability to stop the run cost us the game. Auburn averaged nearly 6 ypc. They could run inside or outside. The only stops we made were when they, inexplicably, decided to throw on second and long and failed to connect. After a sufficient amount of time failing to stop the run, Malzahn had us right where he wanted usÖwith eight in the box. Once that happened, they were able to go over the top with ease. Run D was our strength last season. We were absolutely ineffective in that facet of the game on Saturday. While I expected our running game to struggle against Auburnís great defense, I was not expecting the swiss cheese impersonation by our defense.
A bright spot for the dawgs was on special teams. Glasgow had one poor punt, but the other 5 looked pretty good. A 38 yard average in your first start at an SEC stadium tells me that his future is bright. Matt Nelson took care of business and showed me that our kicking game will be much improved this year.
I tried to provide some warning when I posted about Boiseís inability to beat BCS teams on the road (until last year). Itís just a tough thing to do. I was expecting a closer game and for three quarters, I got what I expected. Our second half offensive collapse led to a gassed defense that gave up 14 points in the fourth. It should be noted that the starters were playing well into the fourth for Auburn. Chizik needed to assert himself and he did it with 2 fourth quarter TDs against a team he already had beat. Thatís the nature of the beast.
Iíll say that I think this loss looked better than our games at Kansas and at Boise last year. Auburn clearly looked a lot better than the MSU team we beat a year ago. We were into the game until about 12 minutes left. Thatís great, but it brings to memory games last year when we seemed to blow it in the second half. We still donít seem to be a team that plays a full four quarters every week. It doesnít appear to be a conditioning issue. There could be some depth problems, but it appears to have mental facets as well. We came out flat in the second halfÖI canít think of a better way to say it. We didnít have any fire and it showed.
The ramifications for the rest of the season are hard to discern. Like I said, itís tough to tell how good Auburn really is. They looked great against us, but we looked pretty bad. I really think next week will give us a better indication of where weíre headed this year. If our defense plays as undisciplined as it played against Auburn, we are in for a long day in Annapolis.