The first half looked a lot like 2012. Bad reads, bad execution. The defense had one look for the majority of it. It went about as badly as an Auburn fan could ever believe. Jacksonville State led 10-6 going into the locker room. It could have been much worse as JSU's kicker missed two long field goals. Auburn's lone points came on two Daniel Carlson field goals (one a 50 yard bomb). The Tigers only really threatened once, but two bad passes by Johnson led to the second field goal.
I wasn't worried. We struggle with early games and FCS teams, playing about as vanilla as you can ever dream of, and were down a number of key players.
When Jeremy Johnson threw that rope to Roc Thomas for the touchdown, I thought things were getting on the right track. But then the bad things started happening again. Jeremy Johnson threw horrible interceptions. The defense couldn't stop the slant or the zone read to save their life. I started panicking.
When we fumbled driving down late, I just knew it was over and I would be writing about the worst upset in the history of Auburn football.
Thankfully, that didn't happen. Peyton Barber is my hero.
The Tigers drove down and scored. JSU was fine with taking it to overtime. I guess they thought we hadn't stopped them all game, so they'd be fine. It didn't work out that way, though. Auburn scored on its first drive of OT (thanks to Barber carrying the load on his back), and then Auburn managed to keep JSU out of the end zone.
Three Things We Learned:
1) Jeremy Johnson may not be very good. At all. HOWEVER, I am not in favor of pulling him right now. I think he's shaken from last week. I think we've ruined QBs by pulling them in the past. He still throws some great balls. It's not all on him, either. He does seem to be very bad at reading coverages, though, which is very disconcerting.
2) The Defense needs a lot of work. Yes, injuries played a part, but that doesn't stop the fact that Auburn could not defend the slant or stop the zone read for any amount of money. We did a great job of absolutely blowing up their running back on SOOOO many plays, only to see the QB run for 5-10 yards. The DBs played off the ball so far that the slant route was open for 8-10 yards on every play. I'm no Xs and Os person, but it sure looked like we were playing the exact same defense for the entire first half.
I don't know where this defense goes from here. There were a number of times we were riding five TRUE freshmen playing on defense at one time. Today was a real trial by fire for those freshmen. It shouldn't have been, but it was. Credit goes to JSU's QB, too, though. That kid was extremely accurate and ran the zone read to perfection. He was fantastic.
3) Peyton Barber is the starting running back. I've made the "PB & Js" joke about the backfield, but he deserves that primacy of place in that nickname. He runs harder, makes better cuts, and drives for longer than any other running back. He's waited his time and now he's ready to seize his opportunity by the reigns.
Somehow Auburn is 2-0. I don't know how. We don't deserve to be. We looked much better against Louisville than we did against JSU. Louisville, by the way, lost to Houston, today. I don't have a clue what we're going to do next weekend in LSU. I don't suspect it will be very pretty. What I will say is that I still think Jeremy Johnson is the quarterback. There's no way you start Sean White in his first game ever in Baton Rouge, and I think Johnson is still capable of being the great QB we've seen in previous games.
We've got to hope Carl Lawson and Tray Matthews are healthy enough to play next week. We desperately need them. I'm extremely thankful Countess was ejected in the FIRST half, because otherwise he would have had to sit out the first half next weekend.
On offense, where was Avery Young? I never heard any word on why he didn't start. The offensive line struggled noticeably without him. They weren't getting any good pushes or doing a good job of protecting Johnson.
Oh, and I don't particularly believe either the Countess ejection or the JSU DB's hit on Duke were targeting. The one on Duke looked worse to me just because the DB left his feet. That's just the views I had in the stadium talking right now, though.
Whatever we do, right now we're still undefeated. Now, if you'll excuse me, I'm going to try to forget this game ever happened with some liquid aid.