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Deep Cuts - The Mississippi State Game - Part 1

Like Saturday’s game, this will not be a happy episode of Deep Cuts. In Part One, Drew takes a look at a critical 4th down for Auburn and how it unfolded.

Drew McCracken

I got a request from a good buddy of mine to break down this play because I was at a family event during the game and he was giving me updates. So, let’s dive into to a microcosm of the Auburn football season in the 4th and 7 play that pretty much sealed the game for Mississippi State.

We begin with Auburn in a one back shotgun, three wideouts to the near side with the persons of Ryan Davis, Seth Williams and Fabio as Sal Canella, and at the top is Slayton. State on the other hand, shows 3 downline men, 2 linebacker set, 2 safeties high and what looks like man coverage. Now let’s see the breakdown.

Auburn is wanting Williams to go just beyond the sticks and turn around if Jarrett has time while Canella and Smith will almost rub and go two levels as a somewhat safety valve if the middle is left open. The key to watch and wonder about is Slayton. The route on the diagram is not the route designed by the play…

I believe Slayton’s route supposed to be a slant but once he sees his defender go on a corner blitz, he goes hot route to the sticks and hooks just in front of the free safety. The last eligible receiver in the play is Whitlow who stays in to block which actually bought Jarrett more time in the grand scheme of things. In the picture above if Jarrett works through his progressions as he should, Slayton would be the first option as the bunch formation has not had time to break up the three DB’s on coverage. If he had, Slayton would be able to get the first down in the worst-case scenario and a touchdown if he is able to out juke the Free Safety coming up in coverage. However, his focus is on Seth Williams in this particular still shot.

Here is the view Stidham had just before releasing the ball. You can see three receivers in the shot, but you can’t see Seth Williams who is turning around on his go route and presumably open at the 20 for the first down. Canella is out as he is covered and logic would tell you that Davis should be out as they are less than 5 yards from each other and pretty well covered. The correct read here is Slayton, even though he has a free safety baring down on him, if he makes the catch and rolls to fall forward, it’s a first down. If he maintains his balance and avoids the tackle, it’s a touchdown and a tie game. In a perfect world, this pass should have been thrown a second earlier when, while going through his progressions and not looking at where the blitz was coming, would see the corner blitz from his senior wideout’s position, and would lead to the first down. Stidham, however, decided to throw it to Ryan Davis. While Davis is exceptional in space and has very good hands, he does not have the size to be the possession receiver that both Slayton or Williams have shown themselves to be.

As the throw gets to Davis, the Corner makes up the distance and is able to knock the ball away. If Davis was able to come down with the ball, it probably would have been a 1st down but there were options on the play that would have led to a new set of downs or even points and confidence that Auburn’s offense is in desperate need of right now. You can blame it on line play all you want, but there was time for Stidham to find the open receiver and make the play. If the NFL is his goal, Stidham has got to do his job at quarterback, feel the rush, make smart reads and complete smart passes and let the line do what they need to do to improve. Otherwise, this same scenario will play out again this season.

AUNerd will be along a little later to dive it to another play that spelled doom for Auburn.