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Auburn vs San Jose State Review: Further Thoughts on the Game

I said these things on Twitter and in some of the comments, but wanted to consolidate them into an article, too.

Peyton over the top!
Peyton over the top!
John Reed-USA TODAY Sports

After yesterday's game, there was all sorts of teeth gnashing amongst Auburn fans.

"Why didn't we throw the ball more than ten times!?!?"

"How did we get out gained by that much against San Jose State!?!?"

"We only gained 342 yards?!?!? Our offense SUCKS!!!"

I whole heartedly disagree with two of these. Being out gained by SJSU is annoying because we expect more out of an Auburn defense. We know that unit still has a lot of issues they need to over come, though. Now let me tell you why I feel like you shouldn't worry too much about the first and third issues (and even the second one to a certain extent, since it's connected with the third).

Why Didn't We Throw the Ball More?

Why would we? Peyton Barber ran for almost 150 yards and five touchdowns. We were averaging 4.9 yards per carry on the ground. That's not spectacular, but that's a first down every three plays and then some. Sure, it's helped by Barber's two big runs, but what have we been complaining about for the past few weeks? Lack of explosive plays. Well, Barber kicked off two of them.

There is also still a worry in the passing game. Ricardo Louis and Duke Williams are the only two reliable (well, reliable and semi-reliable) receivers, right now. I'm starting to think putting Roc in as a slot receiver may not be a bad idea. The deep ball to Jason Smith was pretty and Smith could have caught it, but it was a tough catch with the ball coming over his left shoulder rather than dropping perfectly into his hands. Louis has been slowed by injury over the last few games. I really don't think Gus is comfortable with the receivers right now, and we didn't need them, so why bother throwing to them and risking more punts?

How Did We Get Out Gained By That Much Against San Jose State?

This is less excusable. The defense was gashed on the ground. Tyler Ervin is a very talented back, and Auburn hasn't been able to stop a good running back since last season's Georgia game. It's been so disheartening to watch. We also played off receivers and let them throw passes over the middle constantly. They had some overthrows that could have been even more damaging.

On the Auburn offensive side, though, well...

We Only Gained 342 Yards?! Our Offense SUCKS!

No. Just stop. That is not the case. At least not as far as yesterday is concerned. Sure, we didn't show much and weren't up to what we expect in terms of pace, but the offense was still effective at moving the ball. This also plays into the above portion. Why am I so adamant that people need to calm down about this particular stat and story line from yesterday's game? Well, let's look at the drive charts courtesy of the official site. This shows where each team took over the ball and what the ensuing drive resulted in.

San Jose State
Own 5 - INT
SJSU 39 - Punt
Own 31 - TD
SJSU 23 - TD
Own 25 - Turnover on Downs
Own 40 - TD
Own 13 - Fumble
Own 31 - Punt
Own 38 - Fumble
SJSU 42 - Missed FG
Own 25 - End of Half
Own 26 - TD
Own 25 - TD
SJSU 24 - TD
Own 25 - Punt
Own 13 - Missed FG
Own 20 - TD
SJSU 45 - Touchdown
Own 32 - INT
Own 37 - Game End

So, Auburn had the ball ten total times. Five of those possessions started inside San Jose State's territory. Of the drives that started in Auburn territory, the worst position was the Auburn 13, ending in a punt. Auburn played this game with great field position all day long. Not having to cover much field is going to result in not having a lot of yards.

In contrast, the Spartans never started a drive in Auburn territory. They had long fields all day long. The defense not being able to keep them from gaining a lot of yards is depressing, yes, but the offense still did a good job throughout the day. I would like to have converted on those two missed field goals to make the score even better, but that's the way things go, sometimes. One of the misses can be chalked up to the mishandled snap by Stovall.

I'm Not Saying We Should Feel Great

There are defensive issues. If the defense is able to make more stops, then this game gets out of hand and we get the win we were hoping for and should generally expect.

However, don't feel too bad about the offense. It worked. Yes, Sean White may have some issues holding onto the football when he's hit. Yes, the receivers may need a lot of work so that we can throw to people other than Louis or Williams. Yes, we still need to work on getting fast again.

It's not all bad, though. Don't just look at the stats and feel like this was a horrible performance by the offense.

Gus Malzahn said he has a better idea about this team after yesterday. From seasons past, we know that it takes Gus Malzahn a few games to really understand what he wants to do with his team every year. Normally that's Game 3 or 4. This was Game 5. However, it's Game 2 with Sean White as Quarterback. So, things were going to take a little longer.

We scored in the red zone (other than the missed FG). We scored touchdowns in the red zone. The running game was getting the yards it needed. We saw Kerryon Johnson in the Wildcat. As much as I know a lot of you hate it, he did gain yards running it, though. He was good for 5-10 yards the few times he did it (as long as the snap came when he was looking).

It's a bye week. Auburn travels to Kentucky, who just struggled to an overtime victory over Ohio Valley Conference foe Eastern Kentucky (know that feeling, Kentucky). Then the Tigers get Arkansas, who have struggled (though they did just beat Tennessee). There's time to get this offense rolling. There's time to work out the defense. Late in the game, Byron Cowart started showing flashes of his potential. Cass McKinzy played defensive end to try to get our best playmakers on the field at the same time

The season is not over. Not by a long shot. Yes, it could still end just as badly as we fear. It could also end pretty damned well.

Me, I'm an optimist. War Damn Eagle. Always.