For the second consecutive game, Auburn started sluggish and looked like there are some issues we're going to have to deal with very quickly if we want to have a chance going into this meat grinder of an SEC Schedule.
The Defense. Sure, they gave up 17 points, but Louisiana Tech had multiple redzone opportunities that came away empty. The defense again played pretty strong against the rush, only allowing 105 yards on the ground. While that's more than they had allowed in the previous 10 quarters, it's important to note that losing both starting linebackers (Frost very early in the game) had a big part in that. True Freshman Tre Williams stepped in, along with back-up Anthony Swain, and they both played pretty good games. There was one play where Williams was blocked to the outside of the running lane and still dove back inside to make the tackle for limited to no gain. Williams is going to be something special for us going forward. I just wish he could have pulled down the very clear INT he dropped.
Bray Day. Wow, what a day for Quan Bray. The first TD pass was a thing of beauty to me. Granted, I don't know too much about the details of football, but it looked like Bray got in front of the DB, boxed him outside on the sideline, and Marshall dropped the ball into his hands with perfection. The second one was a great snag in double coverage. He finished his day off with his second punt return of the season - this one from 76 yards out. He has to be one of the most dynamic punt returners in college football right now. He hasn't done much in his career at Auburn, but if he keeps playing like he did yesterday, then he's going to make a lot of noise leading up to the draft.
Nick Marshall. This is going to be controversial among many, since there are plenty who think Marshall just isn't cutting it right now. I don't think the issues are entirely on him. Sure he's thrown some bad balls, but he's still come through when we've needed him. He was 10/17 for 166 yards passing (3 TDs) and ran for 105 yards on 13 carries. I'll take that. I really do think we need to look at rolling him out a bit more. If the blocking just isn't there or he just isn't comfortable passing, then get him moving. Looking back at some of his best throws - the TD to Sammie Coates in the SECCG (and the Iron Bowl), and the deep pass to Bray on Saturday, it seems like he throws a much better ball when he's moving than when he's standing still.
As for the Zone Read and the inside rushing game not being there at the moment, more on that in a second, but I don't think that's his fault at all. Marshall has not suddenly forgotten how to be Zone Read Ninja Nick. The issues are elsewhere.
Duke Williams. Last week we finally saw the fade route we've been waiting on. This week Duke made one of those spectacular grabs like the one on the Vine that went around late in the summer. I don't know how accurate the pass would have been if it hadn't been tipped, but Duke reached out and snagged it right in front of a LATech defender. From my view in the stands I kept waiting to see the LA Tech players get up celebrating an INT. I was amazed when I saw the students go crazy and the officials signal "touchdown." Duke is everything he was advertised to be and more, and he just keeps showing why every week.
Blocking. I don't know what it is, but the offensive line just isn't getting it done this season. It is obvious how much we're missing Kozan and Prosch. This year's team just isn't getting the push to allow the running backs to get much of anything up the middle, and even on the edge a good bit of the time. Losing Pat Miller early in this game definitely didn't help. There was a report this morning that Auburn has moved Cameron Toney to H-back. I guess even the coaches feel like Fulse isn't getting it done, there. I think this is the biggest issue with the team right now on offense. It's the blocking that's not allowing the Zone Read to work as it should.
Slow starts. Auburn started slow against Kansas State and against LA Tech. I think so many of my "bad" issues fall back on the blocking (and not just on the line, but on the H-backs and WRs, as well). The slow starts and failure to capitalize on third downs (Auburn again struggled in its third down conversions early before making the numbers look much better by game's end) will hurt against good SEC teams.
Garbage Plays. That's what Ellis Johnson calls them. I don't think Auburn gave up too many of them yesterday, but the ones we did give up all led to points. The biggest one of note was the 4th and short wheel route that led to a huge gain and LA Tech's second touchdown. Auburn's defense did a great job of tracking him down and forcing a fumble, but the ball went out of bounds. Either way, someone has got to be watching for that on those types of plays. Big plays will lead to big points for SEC teams.
Both a good and a bad. Yesterday was the first time this season there were no major issues with the scoreboards or clock during the game, so that's good. Auburn had three weeks to get those things fixed, and they did. However, the referee's microphone was still cutting in and out at times.