Watching the Offense from 2015, Part 3: Back Aboard the JJ Train! Or Not... Games 9-12

Starting Anew, Again... The Same as it Was Once Before?

After White took over a breath of fresh air and some hope came to the AU offense. Gradually under White the offense improved from game to game as did White (though with some other problems popping up). However after a heartbreaking loss to Arkansas (made worse by a bunch of drops) injury to insult was added when it was discovered White had been injured in the loss. White still gamely started against Ole Miss but it was clear that he was not the same. Still needing 2 more wins for bowl eligibility heading into the final stretch of the season the coaches once again switched qbs and tried to configure an offensive plan that could work around JJ.

Once more into the breech!

Note: Stat on JJ's near interception count is brought back. I also apologize for the UGA and Idaho games as I did not find much in the way of video. For the UGA game vid I did find it looks like pieces were cut out and I didn't find anything at all as far as a full game or even an offense only cut of the game for Idaho. To fill in the blanks and at least have something on those I used the play-by-play to see what plays were run and what were the results to see what happened. The content on those two games (and especially the Idaho game) are still a bit spotty, so once again apologies.

Full disclosure on my notes and reaction on the UGA game I was on a cruise at the time and missed it and I hadn't gotten around to trying to watch it yet... I also missed the Idaho game but that one worked out ok obviously...

Credit for the Georgia vid and the Idaho vid go to OneHourFootball and AuburnTigers respectively. Stats and offense only vids as always I get from ESPN and WarRoom Eagle's channel.

@ Texas A&M - W - Final Score: 26 - 10

ESPN Stats for the game.

TOP: 33:57

Speed Sweeps/reverses: 9 (Counted the "Woody" play)
- Good yardage (4+): 7 (1 called back due to penalty)
- For loss of yards or no gain:
- For minimal gain: 2

Dropped balls/could have got that: 2
- If caught would have been a 1st down: 2

Ints or could have been ints by JJ:
- Miss fire by JJ on what would have been a 1st down 3:34-3:40
- A bit off on 1 ball that went off the hands of the receiver at 5:30-5:35

Turnovers: Ints - , Fum -

JJ runs:

Penalties: 1
- Killed drives (may share with others):
- Wiped out 1st downs: 1
- Wiped out scores:
- Everything else:

WR blocking: Nothing obvious I noticed.

Play calling: Pretty well called game, a little head scratching on some short yardage we didn't run whereas otherwise we seemed to be trying to make things easier on JJ.
- 3:34-3:40 probably should have run it though the play was there.
- 4:15-4:20 well I say that then this happens though I wonder why we had Barber instead of Jovon on that run.
- 4:41-4:47 got a little conservative but I guess we were trying to end the half ahead in an away game, not to mention you'd be taking a risk with JJ throwing it.
- 3:31-3:35 another throw in a short yardage situation, again the play was there and ball went off the receivers hands though it would have been a tough catch.

Peyton starting the game oddly enough it looks like, he gets the first carry of the game by the RBs anyway.

Good grief Jovon, for the love of everything AU stay in the coach's good graces and stay healthy this season!

Marcus Davis more involved this game.

Some nice throws by JJ this game. Wheel route at 5:07 and 9:54 being examples.

Blocking seems better this game.

Jason Smith with some nice runs on the speed sweep/reverse.

Some red zone issues this game. Settled for FGs on 3/5 trips though at least we didn't fail to score.

Overall arguably AU's best offensive game. No turnovers, not many mistakes, decent play calling, adequate qb play, good running game, pretty good blocking, 33:57 TOP and 443 total yards. The only knock I have is settling for field goals a few times in the red zone.

Vs Georgia - L - Final Score: 13 - 20

ESPN Stats for the game.

TOP: 24:11

Speed Sweeps/reverses: 2
- Good yardage (4+): 1
- For loss of yards or no gain:
- For minimal gain: 1

Dropped balls/could have got that:
- If caught would have been a 1st down:

Ints or could have been ints by JJ: 1

Turnovers: Ints - 1, Fum - 2

JJ runs: 5 (ESPN had 7 listed but not sure if they were sacks or plays I missed/didn't count).

Penalties: 1
- Killed drives (may share with others): 1
- Wiped out 1st downs:
- Wiped out scores:
- Everything else:

WR blocking: Nothing obvious I noticed.

Full disclosure, I was on a cruise at the time so I've never watched this game. Going by descriptions it's just as well. I'll at least be trying to go through the offensive plays for AU anyway.
- Not finding an offense only or a full game vid, vid I'm watching has parts cut out it looks like, having to go to play by play on ESPN to see what I missed.

Play calling: SOFND*$(RU$()R%#@&*@#()JD(#)FUE*(FU EWFEWFEJ:L #(#)($@#)( ARE YOU KIDDING ME!?!?!??! It was not good.

Barber starting the game at RB once again.

Announcers saying Rhett Lashlee is the primary play caller this game same as last game.

Bad interception by JJ, he had his guy but sailed the ball over him.

O-line blocked pretty well in the 1st half.

Only 4 possessions for AU in the 1st half.

Let a man free badly on a 3rd and 3 with 10:34 on the clock in the 4th...

Why did we put White in the game?!?!?!? Also why are we not running the ball as much as we were when it was having some success?!?!? Killed 3 drives at least it looks like and a White fumble gave UGA a field goal...

Looks like our Center got injured at some point as Danzey is in as a backup Center.

Nice play by Louis to get 1st down yardage on that late drive close to the goal but bad bad timing for a fumble by him...

It could be argued that distrust of JJ by the coaches may have cost AU this game. Either that or too much faith in White.

3 main rushers for this game.
Jovon Robinson: 12 carries, 93 yards, 7.8 ypc and a TD.
Peyton Barber: 13 carries, 52 yards, 5.5 ypc.
Jeremy Johnson: 7 carries, 31 yards, 4.4 ypc.
Overall on running the ball AU averaged 5.8 ypc....
Given the above why in the world did we go to Sean White and away from the running game at all in the 2nd half?

AU out-gained UGA 275-243...

From an offensive standpoint, turnovers and some very questionable (outright bad I'd argue) choices from the coaching staff cost AU what could have been a very winnable game. I'll postulate later on what I think may have happened....

Vs Idaho - W - Final Score: 56 - 34

ESPN Stats for the game.

I wasn't even able to find a video of this game so I just have stats from the game to go by and a highlight vid... My apologies... I read through the play by play for the offense to try to get a feel for things.

TOP: 32:48

Penalties: 5 (1 declined)
Killed drives: 1 (false start on 2nd down and didn't recover)

Zero turnovers.

Play calling: looks like Gus and company were a little cute at times. Overall though looks like it was an ok game for them.

3 possessions in the 1st half that did not score with 2 being punts and another having time expire.

JJ with a good game on the ground and in the air for 4 total TDs.

Roc with a nice long TD run.

JJ with 5 runs.

Reserves managed to get some time in.

Running game had a field day with 297 yards on 51 carries.

A win and plenty of points scored but kind of a "meh" game in some respects. I'd think AU should have been able to get their reserves out a lot sooner than they did. Also there were a number of penalties on the offense as well. I guess there may have been some letdown after the UGA loss.

Vs Alabama - L - Final Score: 13 - 29

ESPN Stats for the game.

TOP: 24:37

Speed Sweeps/reverses: 6
- Good yardage (4+): 2
- For loss of yards or no gain: 1
- For minimal gain: 3

Dropped balls/could have got that: 5
- If caught would have been a 1st down: 3

Ints or could have been ints by JJ: 1

Turnovers: Ints - , Fum - 1

JJ runs: 3 (6 listed by ESPN but I think 3 were sacks)

Penalties: 1
- Killed drives (may share with others):
- Wiped out 1st downs:
- Wiped out scores:
- Everything else: 1

WR blocking: Nothing I noticed.

Play calling: 5:05-5:10 (I like going for it there), 5:34-5:40 (prob should have run it but play was there with ball under-thrown). Drive where we only tried passing the ball was head-scratching, though a play was there on a miss-fire to Louis and we had a nice completion to start it out.

Good job overall running the ball in the 1st half.

JJ off on some throws but hanging tough also.

We should feed Jason Smith more often.

Big Pass plays with opportunity missed: 3
- Potential score missed: 1
- Killed drive: 1

What runs we tried in the 2nd half felt like most got snuffed out. Confirmed, most 2nd half rushing yardage came from a 14 yard run by Louis and a 5 yard run by Barber.

JJ overall had a decent game but he was undone by some drops and being off on some throws. Not to mention the injury to Leff that may have also contributed to us going away from running the ball.

Overall AU needed to have a near perfect game to have a decent chance to win and came up short in several areas. Didn't come away with TDs on a couple of deep drives in Bama territory, JJ was a bit off and we missed some opportunities in the air and we had some drops/could have got that balls that would have been first downs.

Overall Thoughts:

So JJ's Not Playing Terrible Anymore

For some folks the thought of JJ starting again was probably not one that inspired a lot of confidence. However after taking the reigns again at QB JJ actually performed fairly well. While not stellar he performed adequately.

With only 1 interception and 2 near interception over the course of this portion of the season (granting I may have missed some due to the aforementioned vid issues) it seems JJ's inability to see triple coverage had gotten better by this point . For his other stats JJ was 50/81, 526 yards, 61% or so completion percentage, 36 rushing yards and 6 total TDs. Not stellar but not completely horrendous like his original set of starts with all of his turnovers. He had some nice moments at times throwing the ball such as the long TD against Bama, some nice throws in the A&M game and some TD passes in the Idaho game.

The caveat to JJ's performance though is that he was not asked to do much. In only 2 gamse was he asked to throw more than 20 passes and even then his highest attempt total was 23. While JJ was not a turnover machine he still had some accuracy issues at times which especially bit us in the Bama game where there were some opportunities in the passing game he missed on.

It seems clear the coaches did not trust JJ much. At least in my opinion. While understandable given how JJ performed last time he was the starter this also limited the offense. A big "what if" to me during this stretch is how things would have gone if the coaching staff had put a bit more on JJ and trusted him some more? We'll never know but I think this miss-trust may have cost AU 1 of their games....

Did Our Coaches Switch Meds Between the A&M and UGA Games?

In all seriousness what happened here? On the one hand you have perhaps AU's best prepared and called game of the year in the A&M game and on the other you have maybe the worst called game in terms of qb personnel decisions and what plays to run....

For the A&M game Gus gave Lashlee credit for that one from what I remember and during the UGA game the announcers at one point (fairly early in the vid from what I remember) say that Lashlee would be calling plays again that day... So was it Lashlee who decided to switch to White in the 2nd half of the UGA game and go to the air more or was it Malzahn butting in? Irregardless it was a poor set of decisions.

From looking at our possessions in that game it's not like AU was in any dire straights. AU scored on 2/4 of their possessions in the 1st half and even with a JJ interception under him they went down the field to end the half and get a FG and extend their lead. In the 2nd half when AU would run the ball they would get yardage usually. Yet for some reason even with White's bad leg the coaching staff decided to put him in and on one drive have him throw it all 3 downs?!?! UGA ate him up and White was overall 1-5 with a fumble...

Maybe JJ was giving some bad body language or was giving off some signals that made the coaching staff leery, maybe the coaches had too much faith in White, maybe changing centers concerned them with JJ or maybe White overestimated how healthy he was and told the coaches he could go in. Heck maybe it was all of the above! In any case those decisions by the coaches to move away from the running game at times and to have White come in for a few drives cost them in a low scoring defensive game and even gave points to the other team via a White fumble....

Those decisions alone didn't cause AU's loss but I think they contributed. They should have put a bit more trust in JJ for this game and a bit less in White in my opinion. As JJ would show later in the game leading AU on a couple of drives into scoring position he probably should have been the qb for the whole game. Bottom line: the coaches went from their best game where they dominated a ranked team away from home then blew it against a team they had a decent chance to win against at home.

Jovon was the Best Running Back on the Roster Last Year

As a back Jovon is almost the total package. Decent speed, power and size. He has the strength to break tackles and the speed to break long gains you need in a play-maker. The only thing I'm not sure of is his pass catching and blocking ability, if there are any shortcomings there I hope they get fixed up. Though I do notice he did have 1 catch for 20 yards last season so I guess he can catch a bit anyway.

I don't know what all happened to him to keep him mostly off the field until the last 5 games of the season, and sometimes still not getting the calls to run the ball all the time even then, but I hope it is all cleared up now whether injuries or attitude or both.

As I said previously: Good grief Jovon, for the love of everything AU stay in the coach's good graces and stay healthy this season!

The Alabama Game Almost Completely Encapsulated the Year on Offense...

Gritty effort with some hope spots? Check. Drops/could have got that balls from the receivers some of which could have gone for 1st downs? Check. Some questionable play calls/decisions by the coaches? Check. An up and down O-line? Check. Inopportune Injury? Check. Less than ideal play from the qb? Check. Issues in the red zone or deep in opponents territory getting TDs? Check. Opportunities but just not able to make the plays? Check.

Only thing I missed seeing was spotty blocking by WR's and/or some penalties to help kill some drives I think.

We played decently for this game but we needed a near perfect game to win and we didn't get it. I won't go any further into this game as it has been done to death.

Closing Thoughts:

It was back aboard the JJ trains for these last 4 games of the regular season. Although the coaches seemed undecided themselves at times if we were actually back aboard the JJ train or not.

In the end the offense had 2 nice outings and 2 less than stellar ones though arguable they did "ok" all things considered against Bama, of course "ok" doesn't cut it against competition like that. As the regular season drew to a close the coaching staff entered into the holidays and bowl practice with some time to digest the year. Time was now permitting for them to do some more evaluation, try to fix some issues and get some work in with some of the younger guys towards helping next season.

AU had scratched and clawed to a bowl win but hopes were probably not high for a good portion of the fan base. AU had drawn Memphis, a team that had handily beat Ole Miss earlier in the year and had a pretty good year themselves. In addition they had what was perceived as one of the best qbs in the nation. On the whole of it national media and even some AU folks I imagine were thinking AU would lose. As the bowl game approached it was easy to imagine Malzahn having his first losing record as a head coach coming about, especially with how the offense had been so inconsistent all year for AU and so powerful for Memphis!

The coaching staff and players though had other plans...

Well I managed to keep this one not quite as wordy as the last one though it is ending up getting published a fair bit after midnight instead of the "just after" like I had said haha. So my apologies for only getting this out just now. The next part I'm planning to cover the bowl game and go over some overall numbers for the year on the offense along with some compares and contrasts with the offense between JJ and White. I'm thinking of 2-3 parts more for this then it will be finished but we'll see :)

I'm hoping to have the next part done by sometime Friday evening or Saturday. Thanks to any who read through this and I hope you enjoyed it!

God bless and War eagle!

We're all just trying to have a good time here. Don't be a jerk, and we won't have a problem with you. War Eagle!