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Evaluating the Auburn Offense - Georgia 2016

Do we have to?

Dale Zanine-USA TODAY Sports

Well hello, fellow masochists! If you're actually reading this props to you. You have a stronger stomach than me. I felt obligated to rewatch the tape of that game and do a little autopsy, but if I didn't write this column every week, there's no way in hell I would consume any football media this week. So hats off to you.

So what went wrong? Pretty much everything.

  • The O-Line failed to get much of push on the basic run plays (which is a really big deal for a inside zone team)
  • The O-Line failed to pick up blitzers most of the night
  • Johnson didn't show great vision on his runs
  • Sean had his worst passing game of the year by far
  • The receivers struggled to get open
  • The receivers dropped almost every catchable downfield throw
  • Lashlee called one of his most uninspired games to date
Any one of these things would be bad by themselves, but they all fed off of each other in an unholy feedback loop. And I would be remiss if I didn't credit the Georgia defense. They stayed disciplined and did their job all night and their coaches had them in the right positions. Their ability to cover receivers was especially impressive.

Auburn had one good drive that resulted in a touchdown. That drive took 15 plays though. It's nice to be efficient, but that's really hard to sustain when you're not explosive. While this Auburn team has been a great rushing team, there's been few explosive running plays against teams that aren't Arkansas or Ole Miss. So if you're wondering why Auburn didn't run it more in the second half, I think that's your answer: Auburn was barely doing any better with the run than they were with the pass. Of all the runs in the second half a handful went for a moderate gain at best. Add in that the Cox was out and the running game was done for. Discussions about whether to run or pass don't mean much when you're terrible at both.

The one successful drive made hay by mixing up the base run plays with jet sweeps. If the passing game was failing to provide a vertical stretch, this was at least providing a horizontal stretch. That is what I missed in the second half. The jet sweep was missing almost entirely in the second half. Compare that to Georgia who's toss sweep looked impressive all game long.

But let's take a look at some of the play calls that I especially didn't like:

White had run a very successful zone read keep two plays before and went down shoulder first. I think it was therefore no accident that he came out for the next play. While I appreciate that they want to keep the zone read in the playbook, please don't run it with a QB with an injured shoulder, or at the very least have him slide feet first. I think that play affected him for the rest of the game. This was his next play in. Auburn showed play action and then had White roll out to throw a short pass to the receiver. The defense was not fooled as defenders are already have a bead on the target. And there's pressure coming unstopped at White. He really doesn't want to stand into this throw and take the hit full-on so he way short-arms it. He already has a tendency to fall away as he throws and this pressure only made it worse:

Eesh, that's a sure way to lose your lead as the SEC's most accurate QB.

Next is something I've commented on before: the end around play action before a deep throw. For whatever reason, Auburn has been able to get receivers wide open with this play action. The end around is almost never given and a team finally realizes it. I just wish it wasn't Georgia that figured it out. Even if Georgia didn't know the tendency, would you hand off on this end around? Georgia has more than enough leverage to that side.

Instead, the Georgia secondary isn't fooled and can stay on the receivers like Ed Cunningham on a call he doesn't like.

I had also expressed concern about the run fake and toss to Cox play as well. Auburn paired it mostly with the toss sweep to the other side and I worried that teams wouldn't honor the toss sweep and look for Cox. To Lashlee's credit, he mixed it up and paired it with a base run play instead, but Georgia still recognizes the play almost immediately.

Given that Cox is not the fastest or most elusive runner in the world, this play depends upon surprise and at this point in the season, it's not a surprise. Against a good defense like Georgia, a slow developing pass behind the line of scrimmage is extremely dangerous. We're lucky Cox drops it:

Last thing I'll point out is this gem:

Yes, that's a zone read in the second half. As I said above, I don't understand why you run a zone read with an injured QB. If you let White keep it you're risking your QB and if White's not a threat to keep it, then you're allowing an unblocked DE a free shot at the RB. I think the staff thinks that since White had kept it once, the defense would have to honor the QB keep, and I think they're dead wrong. If I'm Kirby Smart, I'd play the RB every time, and if you have the guts to have White keep it, so be it.

I will share one call I did like:

This a novel take on the wheel route. Martin looks like he's showing jet sweep before reversing field and going into his route. I like this bit of window dressing and it almost works...

...almost. That was the story of the second half. The couple passes that were on target, the receivers dropped them.

I hate to end on this note because I do feel like it's an easy and lazy take, but I wouldn't have been terribly upset to have seen Franklin in the game. I hate that I even just typed that. But Georgia was being aggressive enough with their pressures that I think his athleticism both on scrambles and the zone read would have given Auburn something when absolutely nothing else was working. I also would have let him throw a couple deep balls as he has the arm and Auburn hadn't shown any deep passes all game. The game called for a risk.

So just as quickly as the Auburn offense appeared it has now vanished, but I had fun while it lasted. I'll be on the Plains for the first time this year this Saturday with 13 relatives in tow to watch the Auburn B team take on an FCS opponent while all the starters heal up. I'll try to take some joy in that thumping and try to forget about what might have been.