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An Auburn Film School Special: Anatomy of a Streak, Part 4

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Ben Obomanu caps off a first half avalanche

Linda Stelter/al.com

Welcome to part 4 of our ongoing series remembering The Streak. Today, we go back to the only game in the streak where both teams were ranked entering the game.

The Pregame

The 2005 Iron Bowl was without a doubt the game of the streak with the best match-up. 11th ranked Auburn entered 8-2 (6-1 in the SEC). The only blemishes for the Tigers were an opening loss to Georgia Tech, and a tough road loss to LSU in overtime. Auburn managed put together the best offense in the SEC despite losing 3 first round draft picks. The Tigers were coming off of their best performance of the season, a wild, late 31-30 victory in Athens over 9th ranked Georgia.

8th ranked Alabama entered 9-1 (6-1) with only an overtime loss to LSU the week before. However, Alabama’s season had really turned after they lost Tyrone Prothro on a devastating leg injury against Florida...on a fourth and 5 near the end zone while up by 28 in the fourth quarter. After Prothro’s injury, Alabama scored just 84 points in 5 games, and 35 of those points came against Utah State. In the four SEC games between the Florida win and the Iron Bowl, Alabama had managed just 2 offensive touchdowns*.

The Setup

Auburn jumped all over Alabama to start this one. Much had been made that Alabama had started all 10 games that season with a completed pass. Alabama’s first snap of the Iron Bowl was a sack for a loss of 7. By the time Alabama went 3-and-out, they punted from their own 3. Auburn raced 40 yards in 6 plays with Brandon Cox hitting Ben Obomanu for a 7-yard touchdown.

Alabama again went 3-and-out, this time without a sack, but a shanked punt meant Auburn took over at Alabama’s 32. Auburn needed just 3 plays for Kenny Irons to cross the goal line with a two touchdown lead. Alabama again went backwards on their 3rd possession, with a fumbled hand-off losing 5, an incomplete pass, and another sack for a loss of 8. Alabama’s best punt yet was at least able to force Auburn to take their first snap in their own territory. Auburn converted a 3rd and 6 with a pass to Obomanu right at the marker to set up a first and 10 at the Alabama 45.

The Video

The Breakdown

Auburn commonly used “ghost motion” to affect the safeties during running plays. In order to keep affecting the safeties, they would need to hand it off to the WR running through the backfield every now and then.

Auburn lines up with 21 personnel, but the TE is ineligible. Ben Obomanu, who had taken the handoff on every end-around in 2005 except one**, motions into the backfield as Cox takes the snap.

Alabama is in a bit of an odd front. The ends are in a “wide 9” alignment, but the tackles are taking the A gaps on either side of the center. The outside linebackers are filling the gaps between the ends and tackles.

Cox will fake a handoff to Tristan Davis on an inside zone look. The line blocks to the left, and fullback Jake Slaughter*** goes to the right. The wrinkle here is that he’ll bypass the EMOL and attack one of the safeties that comes down to cover Obomanu.

The EMOL is unblocked, so it is on Obomanu, and the run-fake by Davis, to take him out of the play.

What this play is meant to take advantage of is over-aggressiveness on the part of the defense. Auburn ran the same look with a handoff to Irons for the second touchdown, and now Alabama will look to stop it in its tracks. Alabama slants to their right, the strong side of the formation.

Alabama’s aggressive defense is in trouble. Obomanu gives up ground after taking the handoff to avoid the EMOL, and Slaughter has managed to block two Alabama defenders. They over-pursue, and Obomanu cuts right behind Slaughter’s block. The Alabama front ran a slant to the strong side of the formation, and right tackle Troy Reddick was left with no one to block, so he gets out ahead as a lead blocker.

Obomanu is already at full speed and races past Reddick and the first down marker. Alabama safety Charlie Peprah has an angle on him, but look at all that green grass behind Peprah. If Obomanu can cut left, Reddick will make sure Peprah is out of the play and this turns into a huge play.

Obomanu makes a great cut at the 25, an offensive lineman (either Jonathan Palmer or Tim Duckworth) cuts off a trailing defender, and Obie is home free.

Obomanu cruises into the endzone. Just for fun, Tristan Davis races into the frame and nails Simeon Castille at the goal line. Just 10:57 into the game, Auburn has an insurmountable lead.

Honestly, who knows how out of hand the game gets if Prechae Rodriguez doesn’t fumble after another Alabama 3-and-out. Alabama would score after the fumble and kept Auburn from running away with it.

What?

I know, but I don’t usually do defense.

I mean there’s 11 of them, do you really want....aw heck let’s do it.

The Sacks

  1. 1st and 10. A shift up front leaves RE Marquis Gunn unblocked. LT Chris Capps (I didn’t have to look up his name. I remembered this dude) helps double team DT Wayne Dickens at first. Then when Capps realizes Gunn has a near free run at Croyle he leaves, but he doesn’t get to Gunn, and Dickens finishes his rush past the guard and drops Croyle for a loss of 7.
  2. 3rd and 13. LE Stanley McClover attempts a speed rush and Croyle steps up in the pocket. Gunn, who played DT on passing downs, has occupied both the guard and tackle on the other side. RE Quentin Groves twists inside and buries Croyle. No one ever blocked Groves.
  3. 3rd and 15. McClover again speed rushes into the backfield. The other three linemen have driven the offensive line right into Croyle’s lap when he tries to avoid McClover. Tommy Jackson and Groves split the sack, but this was just an avalanche.
  4. 2nd and 9. One of Auburn’s few blitzes. The O-Line shifts right as Auburn’s line slants to that side, but this is a zone blitz. The DE to that side, Chris Browder, drops into coverage, and safety Will Herring and linebacker Antarrious Williams have only RB Kenneth Darby in their path. Darby picks Herring, and Williams nails Croyle.
  5. 3rd and 16. On the very next play, Jackson gets leverage on BJ Stabler and yanks Croyle down before he can try and scramble.
  6. 3rd and 6. This is as bad as line play gets. Stabler decides to help triple-team Jackson even though Gunn is lined up in front of him and the tackle to his right has Groves. Gunn races into the backfield and drops Croyle before he can even set up to throw. For good measure, McClover races past Capps and winds up getting there the same time as Gunn.
  7. 2nd and 10. Auburn swaps McClover and Groves, and McClover tries and different tactic. This time he makes a move inside and blows right by the RT Tatum. Croyle can’t get his first option, and before he can set up his second, McClover drops him. This would kill any chance Alabama had for a late first half score.
  8. 3rd and 10. Alabama’s first possession of the second half has moved into Auburn’s red zone. McClover tries a speed rush and blows right by Tatum. Right as Croyle finishes his drop, McClover buries him. Alabama has to settle for a FG and cutting the deficit to 18.
  9. 3rd and 10. Capps has been replaced at left tackle. It doesn’t matter. The replacement keeps his hands too far inside and McClover blows right by him, blind-siding Croyle for a loss of 10.
  10. 3rd and 12. Auburn stays with a traditional line, and Gunn and Groves drive both tackles deep into the backfield. Coach Travis Williams has a responsibility to cover the fullback Castille. When Croyle steps up, Williams throws Castille aside and tackles Croyle for a 5-yard loss. Chris Capps shoves Williams in the back after he gets up, but I’m guessing the referee just took pity on the guy.
  11. 4th and 5. Alabama’s last real chance dies on fourth down inside the Auburn 10. Auburn brings their only all-out blitz of the game. Darby picks up Sears, but Antarrious Williams races past a diving Capps, and Travis Williams comes unblocked around the line. They meet and Croyle and put the game to bed.

In the stands, we thought the sack number was 12, which would have matched Croyle’s number. Early in the second quarter, Croyle managed to just barely get back to the line and Gunn and Antarrious Williams swallowed him up on a 3rd down.

The Aftermath

The 21-0 lead was all Auburn would really need. Auburn out-gained Alabama 126 to -34 in the first three possessions. Auburn’s total was held down by spending all but 3 snaps inside Alabama’s half of the field. Alabama’s first four possessions lost 46 yards. The Tigers kept Alabama in passing downs all game, and they sacked Alabama on 7 different 3rd downs. The original Momma Goldberg’s stapled 11 white paper sacks to the wall after the game. They stayed up for nearly a year.

Of course, this was Tuberville-era Auburn. The Tigers went into a shell on offense (to Alabama’s credit, they had a very good defense), scoring just one more time the rest of the game. Alabama would manage to score with just 23 seconds on the clock. The two-point conversion cut the final margin to 28-18 because of course it did. No matter the final margin, this was the most satisfying win of the streak. Alabama was actually good, and Auburn buried them. On the day Auburn dedicated Pat Dye Field, they played a game the honoree loved to the core.

*-In a style Tommy Tuberville would appreciate, Alabama beat Tennessee 6-3 and beat Mississippi State 17-0 with touchdowns on special teams and defense.
**-Obomanu was the most dynamic runner of the group. The only time another receiver took a handoff that I can remember was former high school quarterback Courtney Taylor against Ole Miss. Taylor took the handoff running right, pulled up, and hit Devin Aromashodu for a 28-yard TD.
***-truly the greatest name for a fullback