Last Sunday, I diagrammed every play Auburn ran on offense just trying to get a sense of what the orange and blue Tigers were trying to do. I watched and rewatched play after play during lunch yesterday. That lunch was pretty good.
I'm normally a turkey and cheese sandwich kind of guy, with some pretzels and an apple or whatever, but yesterday I went to Chik-fil-A like I do once almost every week. I ordered a Number 1 with a lemonade and buffalo sauce (no, I don't want your spicy chicken sandwich, I'll determine how spicy it is, thank you very much), but when they brought my food over, the sandwich was in one of those boxes that only "deluxe" sandwiches and engagement rings come in, not some paper/aluminum bag for the plain chicken between two pieces of bread.
I almost said something, but I knew the food would be promptly dropped in the trash while I waited for my real order, so I just took it and enjoyed. But no tomato. I used to hate tomatoes. Now, I only hate tomatoes that don't come from my garden. So no tomato.
After the Jacksonville State scare, Gus Malzahn said he had to help put Jeremy Johnson in better situations. I had some ideas as to what that meant.
Were our Tigers able to avoid 2nd/3rd and long? Auburn's leverage rate (percentage of standard downs to passing downs) for the whole game was 65%. Not good, but not terrible.
However, the same site that defines standard and passing downs also defines garbage time. The entire second half was garbage time for Auburn's offense, so maybe I shouldn't count those plays. Only counting the first half, Auburn's leverage rate was just 56%. That's terrible.
On the other hand, there was improvement in the play variety on passing downs. In the first two games, Auburn heavily relied on Jeremy when it faced 2nd/3rd and long, passing 85% of the time. Against LSU, Auburn asked the quarterback to throw only 67% of the time.
That's back to their average from last year. And it paid off three times. The long touchdown on the quarterback draw was a run on 2nd & 13. They ran the QB draw again on 2nd & 9 to set up the TD pass to Melvin Ray. On the next drive, they asked Jeremy to run the zone read with the bubble as a late option on 2nd & 8. It only gained five yards, but that's a lot better than the 3rd & 8 an incomplete pass would have resulted in.
What's interesting is that Gus actually still relied on Jeremy in passing situations, but it was most successful when he asked him to use his legs instead of his arm.
As for the other ways I thought Gus could help Jeremy, like setting up more big plays and throwing downfield to make the defense back off? They didn't happen.
My son turned two this weekend. He had a Daniel Tiger-themed party. (It's a cartoon based in Mr. Rodger's Land of Make Believe. You know, where the trolley goes.) He loved the balloons and his cake and doing roll call where he just points and names everyone in the room. After each present was opened, he wanted to play with it and not worry about the other ones waiting to be opened. He got a sweater and he wanted to put it on immediately. It was fun. A lot more fun than watching the second half of the LSU game.
Auburn apparently thought they might have a little trouble running up the middle of the LSU defense. They called four outside runs in the first nine plays (the likely scripted ones) and then specifically called for the Buck Sweep play seven times throughout the rest of the game.
The idea is to keep the big defensive line inside and set a back loose with lead blockers outside. It got a few yards here and there, but more often than not, one mistake by someone other than Jeremy Johnson (believe it or not) kept it from truly working.
No. 1: Braden Smith whiffs his block on the defender who made the tackle.
No. 2: Decent yardage.
No. 3: A defensive lineman jumps the snap and Shon Coleman can't stop the him from getting into the backfield.
No. 4: Chandler Cox misses his block on the defensive end, forcing Smith to clean it up.
No. 5: Alex Kozan pulls nicely, but doesn't actually block anyone.
No. 6: Duke Williams gets pushed back outside into the path of the back.
No. 7: Smith has to stay back to help Cox handle the defensive end and Kozan once again doesn't block anybody.
Gus said in his post game press conference, "It wasn't just Jeremy. I mean it was the total deal. Anytime you don't play good offensively, there's 11 guys out there."
I don't really believe in superstitions or curses or anything but in 2013, I thought maybe my son was good luck. He was born and Auburn went on to win every game they played after we left the hospital. Until that one game.
I don't like losing and I don't like haircuts, so I don't get haircuts if Auburn is on a winning streak. Expecting our Tigers to do something special this year, I got my hair cut much shorter than normal. Dumb.
My son "watched" the first half of the Louisville game when Auburn was doing so well, but he missed the second half as we were travelling back home from visiting family. He was napping during the Jacksonville State game, but he woke up just in time to see Melvin Ray score the tying touchdown. I started to think my boy had his Auburn mojo back and Auburn just needed him to actually see the games. But he was awake for the whole LSU game and Auburn actually did just the teeniest bit better when we weren't watching.
So I'm done with superstitions. And the Cigar Curse? Look. If the world's worst horticulturist was afforded the opportunity to learn to count to 14 and 15 in the two years immediately after having too much Bama, then there are no curses.
The second half and the last touchdown drive in particular featured a lot of QB runs. Maybe Gus and Rhett Lashlee just wanted to see what they have in Jeremy as a runner. It was effective, but not dynamic. Well except for that long touchdown run on the QB Draw. That was dynamic enough.
He ran the draw again on the next drive and got a first down. Then Jeremy ran the zone read with the late Hitch option. Even if he hadn't thrown the ball, he was still going to gain some decent yardage.
The next two pass plays featured Jeremy throwing on the move. Was that a way of taking advantage of a defense now focusing on the quarterback run? I don't know. LSU's defense was likely playing a little easy by this point.
But I can't wait to find out more against Mississippi State. I guess the coaches thought so since they're going with Sean White, in case you didn't hear.
(I apologize for not having a decent post this week. Bottom line is, I'm gonna get better, I'm gonna roll my sleeves up, and I'm gonna get ready for next week.)