At first glance, a score of 56-34 for Auburn vs Idaho seems pretty bad. Auburn's defense allowed 34 points to Idaho? What happened to the defensive resurgence from the last three games?!?
Well, it was still there. A large portion of Idaho's yards and half their points came in garbage time. Sure, Auburn struggled at times with Idaho in the first half - the first drive in particular - but for the most part the defense did a good job of limiting Idaho's offense and came up with some turnovers at key times, as well.
It wasn't the completely dominating performance that we wanted, but the Tigers were able to work on some things that they really needed to work on, including throwing the football. Jeremy Johnson threw one great deep pass that was ruled incomplete on replay. He still had some bad throws, but he also had a number of really good throws, too. I don't know if he just didn't need to make any reads or if he did a much better job with his progressions, but I never really saw him challenged by the Idaho defense.
The main result for Auburn was that the Tigers are now bowl eligible. That means they'll get 15 extra practices before the season is over to allow them to work on some things for the spring and next season. This will be even bigger if the Tigers can get some early signees on campus during the bowl practice sessions.
So what are some things of note from this game?
1) Jeremy Johnson's performance. His passing numbers weren't spectacular, but they weren't bad, either. He made the throws he needed to make for the most part, and his numbers could have been even higher if Louis had been able to cleanly hall in the deep ball that was overturned and stalled a drive late in the second half. The strike over the middle to Louis for the fourth touchdown was beautiful. It might be the best pass Johnson has thrown since the deep ball to Jason Smith that was brought back against Louisville.
2) Rushing offense. Auburn fell just shy of 300 yards rushing, and a good bit of that was early in this game. As frustrating as some parts of this game were, the number of players with carries in this game leads me to believe Auburn really was working on a number of things aside from just doing what it took to win the game. Had they wanted to do that, the play-by-play stat line on ESPN shows how easily the Tigers were able to move it on the ground early in this game. They could have kept doing that, but instead they went other routes than taking what Idaho was giving them. Peyton Barber could easily have picked up enough yards to get him over the 1000 mark for the season, but the Tigers kept their focus on whatever game plan they had.
3) The turnover margin flipped, again. Auburn has been excellent in the turnover department since the LSU game with the exception of last weekend against Georgia. Against Idaho's offense, the Tigers got things back on track. Two interceptions with great returns (one for a touchdown) and a fumble recovery were a big part of how Auburn was able to ensure that Idaho was never able to gain a lot of confidence even as they moved the ball.
4) The Fake Punt. So that's a thing that happened. Against Idaho. Phillips didn't look too bad carrying the ball, either. I hate that we had to show this was in the arsenal against Idaho, but it's nice to know it's there with him going forward.
5) Garbage Time Defense. Soooo... this was bad. Really bad. Allowing Idaho's backup quarterback to get the Vandals 17 points is quite annoying. The targeting by Deshaun Davis was pretty bad, too.
6) Tucker Tuberville handed the ball off to Lawyer Tillman. Did you need anything else to make this night a good one? Especially with Tommy in the stands to watch. I was hoping he would get a chance to take a few snaps in Jordan-Hare Stadium this season. I really thought it would have happened more than just last night, but the season just didn't work out that way. He did get in the action in the end, though, and it was great.
Iron Bowl Week
So, here we are. This game doesn't mean what we were hoping it would mean back when the season started. Instead, Auburn is hoping to spoil the Tide's playoff hopes and pull off one of the bigger upsets in series history. If you're not planning on going, please don't sell your tickets to a Bama fan. Let's make sure our seniors have a great home crowd for their last game in Jordan-Hare. They've been through the horrors of 2012, experienced the joys of 2013, and now have suffered through the disappointments of 2014 and 2015. Send them off the right way.
War Eagle. Always.