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Outback Bowl Review: Auburn Can't Hold On Against Wisconsin

In spite of three interceptions, the Tigers' defense couldn't hold on.

Brian Blanco/Getty Images

The first half was low-scoring all around. The second half was a points fest. Unfortunately, Wisconsin just scored more of the kind that counted.

We can talk about Gus Malzahn's play-calling all we want (and we will), but the offense never punted in the second half. The only drive they failed to score points on was a missed Daniel Carlson field goal. The offense moved the ball well and scored 17 points on four possessions.

Within that last sentence is part of the probem, though: The Auburn offense had the ball for only four possessions in the second half. They only had the ball that many times because Wisconsin finally realized that they were crazy for ever even considering throwing the football except on the occasional play-action plays.

With their running backs, I have no idea why they didn't follow UGA's blue print from the start. As much as we've maligned the pass defense this season, one thing they are good at is getting interceptions. It seemed to be feast or famine at times, and in this game it was mostly feast. This defensive unit had more interceptions this season than any Tiger defense in decades (22 total).

In the second half, Wisconsin pounded the football, ran the clock, and kept the ball out of Auburn's hands. Their defense made stops to force Auburn to attempt two field goals. That was enough to allow the Badgers to score enough points to force the over time.

For all that we rail on the defense, they made two stops when they needed to in the 2nd half and overtime to hold the Badgers to field goals. Auburn just couldn't convert on their overtime opportunity to win the game or keep it alive.

Some General Thoughts:

On Gus Malzahn's Play Calling: I said something on Twitter during the game about Gus getting too cute at times. His overtime play calling is an example of that. Here's the thing, though... why were we surprised? This has been a complaint about his play calling since back when he was an offensive coordinator. It's something I wish would change, but it probably won't.

This was an issue last season at times. It was an issue in 2010. Do you know what the difference is? Those teams had defenses that were capable of making plays at times to help the offense over come its own stumbles. This year's defense - particularly by the end of the season - was not. You can't blame the defense for that overtime possession, because that was for all the marbles, but if the defense were a bit better, we likely aren't in over time to begin with.

Defense Has Talent, But Undisciplined: I've seen others who know much better than myself speak of the defense's tendency to over pursue plays and put themselves out of position to make stops. Then there's the issue of the horrible late hit out of bounds calls. Our defensive players really need to be more aware of where they are on the field. That can put a stop to some of the problems.

I really mean that about the defense having talent. We had an excellent recruiting class of defensive backs last season, and we're going to be pulling in another great DB or two or three in this class. The line will have Lawson back, and tthere are some redshirted lineman rready to go, as well. All of this will be discussed when we preview the various positions in the coming weeks.

What a Game For The Seniors: I really hate that they weren't able to come away with the win, but so many of those seniors went out with big plays. Trovon Reed had an interception, Jermaine Whitehead had two, Quan Bray made some great catches, CJ Uzomah made a great grab on a touchdown pass, and Nick Marshall had a mostly fantastic day throwing the football. I don't know if he's ever thrown a prettier pass than the deep ball to Ricardo Louis for the touch down. That was a thing of beauty. These seniors have been through so much with and for this football team, and they played their hearts out in their final game.

Some Thoughts on the HUNH: I saw plenty of tweets last night during the Oregon game commenting on how THAT'S what a HUNH offense is supposed to look like. Yes, Oregon's offense is the hyper-speed HUNH that we wish we were seeing at Auburn right now. But remember that Oregon has been recruiting for and running that offense for a decade, now. Auburn is still not to the point where it can run an entire offensive series without substituting. Especially when some of our best WRs either weren't playing or were playing hurt.

I have no doubt that Gus would love to get to that hyper-speed pace and keep to it all the time. But right now Auburn's just still not there. In 2011 we started to see some of it early on, and then Chizik slowed it down. We saw it at times last season, but this season we just didn't have a Jay Prosch type fullback that would allow us to go full-bore running the football on every play with the occasional pass.

I have a feeling that with a healthy Gage Batten and Kamryn Pettway playing as a RS Freshman (or Chandler Cox if he's ready as a true freshman), you're going to see a different offense next season. If the line is strong, we know the RBs are good. It may not be hyper-speed, but I think we'll be much closer next year. This is probably a topic better taken up by WarRoomEagle or another Xs and Os guru, though.