This is the second week in a row in which Auburn has played a back-and-forth game that could have had any outcome. It's the second week in a row when the defense came up with SOMETHING to hold on even though they had given up so much throughout the night. It's the second week in a row that the offense looked like it could beat anyone in the world. Most of the time, anyway.
Sure, the penalties killed two first downs that may have led to big things for Auburn. You have to step back and remember that Auburn was playing one of the best defenses in the country last night, though. Auburn gained 507 yards against that defense. It was a defense that had not allowed more than 20 points to be scored against it in 10 games. Auburn's offensive performance last night was great. Robert Nkemdiche had a few shots at Nick Marshall, and he slipped away from them and made plays happen instead.
I've been saying for a while that Marshall is best when he's moving. His first touchdown to Sammie was while on the move (though he did set his feet). The big first down to Duke was when he was moving. It just really looks to me like Marshall is best when he's under pressure or when he is on the move.
It was an epic game that ended in a way it shouldn't have. I agree with commenter Ardbeg in the main page article that this should have ended with Marshall and Auburn having 1:30 to go the distance against a great defense and see if we could score a touchdown or at least get Carlson close enough for a field goal to tie. The way it ended left a sour taste in everyone's mouth as we watched the young man who may have been the best player on the field last night for either team suffer a horrific injury.
Let's get to my own personal TAKES.
Nick Marshall. Sure, Marshall threw an interception last night on a bad pass. It was the first interception he's thrown all season that wasn't the result of a tipped pass. Outside of that, Marshall looked pretty danged good. He had a 68% completion percentage. He was 15 of 22 for 254 yards. He made mostly good decisions and he still looked good rushing the football with an average of five yards per carry. I know he's taken some flack from many this season, but Marshall has done so many amazing things for us the past two seasons and he really deserves so much praise for it.
Sammie Coates. Sammie played the best game of his career on Saturday night. Five receptions for 122 yards, including the long touchdown pass from Marshall late in the 1st half. It could have been an even more amazing night if he had pulled down the deep pass early in the 1st quarter. For the first time this season our receivers looked like what we've been waiting for: Sammie a huge deep threat and Duke over the middle to catch the key possession passes. So happy for Sammie after this game.
Cameron Artis-Payne. I asked on Twitter last night if anyone who had been wondering why CAP was getting the lion's share of the carries were still wondering. There is a reason he was the #1 JUCO running back two years ago. The offensive line is playing much better, but a lot of CAP's runs last night were from him bouncing to the outside. He looked like the great running back that he is. He is now on pace to surpass Tre Mason's record breaking rushing totals from last season by a good bit. Of course, Tre had that 300 yard game in the SEC Championship, and we're going to need some help in order for Auburn to get there again this season.
D'haquille Williams. Duke did Duke things. He caught pretty much anything thrown his way. Including the key grab on the first drive of the game that would have been a completed catch in the NFL. That was an amazing feat of concentration to pull the ball back in and gain control with his feet still clearly in bounds. It sure would be nice to keep him for another year, but if you weren't already 100% certain that was never going to happen, that catch should seal that deal. NFL teams saw that grab and are absolutely foaming at the mouth to get their hands on him.
Pass Rush. We had one. Sure, it broke down and allowed some gains (more on that in a second), but I think about 1/3 of Auburn's sack total on the year is from last night's game, now. It was so nice to see Auburn actually generate pressure. Of course, that's also in large part due to Ole Miss' line having some injuries.
Angelo Blackson. Blackson was in on a number of tackles-for-loss, including some by himself where he just bull-rushed up the middle into the Ole Miss backfield. Blackson has quietly become a run-stopping force in the center of the line just like we've been hoping he would for years.
Containing Bo Wallace. His stats show only 61 rushing yards, but that's because of the sacks. Auburn's pass rush was able to get to Dr Bo a good bit last night, but unfortunately they also let him slip out and gain some good yards on the ground. We knew Bo Wallace was mobile, and Auburn has done a pretty good job of containing mobile quarterbacks this season, but last night we let him hurt us and gain some big yards. One of those big runs led directly to Ole Miss' second touchdown. It also had a little more help added on to it, as well. I'll get to that.
Tackling. Auburn's defense has made some pretty good open field tackles this season. Last night it looked at times like they couldn't tackle a child just learning how to walk. It was just hard to watch. Make some of those tackles and this is a much different game.
Pass Defense. The Tigers are giving up entirely too many yards in the middle of the field. That could really kill them at some point. However, I'm not as concerned as maybe I should be. Why? Because normally that type of statement is followed by "when we face a defense that can stop slow down the offense." Well, last night Auburn faced one of the best defenses in the entire country. And put up 500+ yards and 35 points. Not much can stop the offense. Still, it would be nice if that defense from the beginning of the season could show up again and make it where these aren't close games.
Penalties. Auburn had more penalties in this one game than they've had since the 2002 Florida game according to one tweet I saw which I cannot find now and therefore can't properly credit the source of that information to. Auburn had more penalty yards in the first half - 105 - than they had during any one game prior this season. It was cleaned up a bit in the second half, but they still committed dumb penalties. The two late hits out of bounds were particularly stupid. They weren't dirty. They were just dumb. Moncrief's in the second half, especially. Just the slightest chip out with his elbow, but it was enough to warrant a call. Two big first down plays were negated by holding calls in the first half, too. One of which led directly to Marshall's interception whereas you could argue we would at least have come away with three points on that drive.
Laquon Treadwell's Injury. Some are trying to call it a horse collar. It wasn't. At all. It was a clean play, but a horrific result. Laquon Treadwell was likely the best player on the field last night and showed why he was such a highly recruited player two years ago. He made excellent blocks. He caught everything thrown his way. He made moves to slip through Auburn's defense like a hot knife through butter. Then he went down as he was giving it all to get into the endzone to give his team the lead and is now lost for the season. You can't help but feel for him. I'm sure all of us are wishing him well and praying for his speedy recovery.
It was a tough game and I hate to win it like we did, but it's eased by the fact that in the end that's just football. It was a clean football play that just happened to have a horrific result. Auburn moves on at 7-1 and is still very much in the hunt for a berth in the first College Football Playoff. I would love to get another chance at the SEC title game, but right now that's starting to look highly unlikely. I'll be along with the Coaches' and AP Poll post around 2pm EST when the AP is released (I'll fanshot the Coaches' Poll while running some errands). It will be very interesting - as Auburn's own John Carvahlo pointed out on Twitter - to see just how much the first Top 25 done by the playoff committee will affect the AP and Coaches' rankings. Some of those rankings were very different.
Next week is the Texas A&M game. Which is also the Military Appreciation Game. If you haven't already seen this year's shirt for the game, then check it out. It is very well done and one I will most definitely be purchasing.
7-1 and still going. War Eagle, everyone.