Auburn dropped maybe the worst loss of the Gus Malzahn era yesterday to Tennessee, and serious questions have been cast over the solidity of Malzahn’s remaining tenure on the Plains. Like the other two losses this year, Auburn wasn’t completely out of it until the closing seconds, but there were so many things that nearly went right. If some of those things had happened, then we’re talking about how the Tigers gutted out a close win over a motivated team that’s treating the Auburn game like a Super Bowl.
Instead... Tennessee 30, Auburn 24.
And here are Gus Malzahn’s thoughts on the loss.
Maybe more important than Gus’ thoughts, are the words from Jarrett Stidham and Deshaun Davis afterward.
Jarrett Stidham is asked, "What does this mean to you?"— AUBlog (@AUBlog) October 13, 2018
Stidham opens up. pic.twitter.com/9FNgGAFmCk
Senior linebacker Deshaun Davis after Saturday's loss to Tennessee: It's a "complete shock" that Auburn is 4-3 through seven games pic.twitter.com/wzh301rstf— Josh Vitale (@JoshVitale) October 13, 2018
Things are tough right now. I’m sure that there will be a ton of speculation on possible replacements for Malzahn this week and next. If Auburn can’t beat Ole Miss on the road this coming Saturday, there may be flat-out open revolt on campus and the buyout amount won’t matter. The money guys will figure it out even though there are probably much better ways to spend cash like that.
If Gus doesn’t end up with a winning record this season (which would likely mean a win over Liberty as the only victory left on the schedule), then that may be too much to handle. If the Tigers go to a bowl, then maybe Gus gets an extra hot seat year next season. Of course, we’ll get back on the good part of the roller coaster and win 10 games, beat Alabama, and win the West if that happens, thus beginning the cycle all over again.
Either way, let’s look back at some of the best parts of yesterday’s game. Believe it or not, there were some positives to take away.
OFFENSIVE PLAYER OF THE GAME
Good things happened yesterday when Auburn got the ball in the hands of the freshmen wide receivers. Seth Williams caught five passes for 85 yards and a touchdown, and Anthony Schwartz snagged two passes for 83 yards and a touchdown. It’s Schwartz’s effectiveness in the run game that gives him the nod from yesterday’s game. He added three carries for 44 yards, averaging over 25 yards per touch on offense.
Let’s not forget to mention that Schwartz is the fastest man in college football. Legitimately.
How fast is Anthony Schwartz? On this play, the track star hits a top speed of 21.79 MPH. That would be good for the 2nd-fastest ball carrier in the NFL this season, only behind Tyreek Hill. #AuburnFootball pic.twitter.com/vUIC5XB8wI— Logic Sports (@LogicSports3) October 13, 2018
After the Alabama State win, Schwartz got involved in the offense more and more, and it almost seemed like every time he was on the field against LSU he was getting the ball. LSU’s defense sniffed out the plays designed for him, and it’s almost like Gus got a little gun shy in getting the ball to him based on that. The bottom line is that Schwartz needs 8-10 touches in either the run or pass game, every game. He can break it on any play and needs to be an integral part of the game plan.
OFFENSIVE PLAY OF THE GAME
Once more, we’re going back to the play highlighted above. Anthony Schwartz is legitimately the fastest player in college football, and flat out ran away from the defense en route to that touchdown. First of all, Stidham gets a solid pocket, steps up in it, and makes a dart of a throw to Schwartz on the comeback route. Schwartz gets wide open in the first place, breaks an easy tackle, and then just outruns any angle that the safety has for the tackle. Watching it in the stadium, it was shocking how easily he did that and how foolish he made the defense look.
DEFENSIVE PLAYER OF THE GAME
We’re going with a guy that played through the pain yesterday. Marlon Davidson ended up with five tackles, and a blocked field goal in the loss, and went down with an injury after blocking the Vols’ 48-yard attempt. He also stopped a fourth down attempt for Tennessee in the ballgame as well, stonewalling the ball carrier after Dontavius Russell got in the way to disrupt the play.
DEFENSIVE PLAY OF THE GAME
It’s really tough to look at the defense yesterday in certain areas. Tennessee’s offense was much better than it’s been all season long, and busted big plays in the run game and the pass game. The first play of the game for the Volunteer offense was a long run, and on third downs alone, Jarrett Guarantano completed 11-18 passes for 188 yards. The back end of the defense had some major troubles defending one-on-one pass situations, and the Tigers got burned by the long ball to their detriment.
Of the two biggest defensive plays of the game, our defensive player of the game was involved in both. The fourth-down stop on Tennessee’s first drive of the second half was huge, and Auburn could’ve capitalized by scoring to make it a two-possession game again, but they didn’t. It’s not for the defense not trying. The other best play was Marlon Davidson’s block of the 48-yard field goal attempt. Both of those plays were great, but much of the rest of the defensive play was not.
Auburn stifled the rushing attack, but the pass defense was flat out bad. That’s two weeks in a row that one area on defense has struggled, with MSU dominating in the run game last Saturday. There’s trouble with what we thought was the best defense in the game, and who knows what we need to do to fix it.
Auburn and Ole Miss meet next Saturday at 11 AM in Oxford. It’s a must-win for the Tigers and Gus Malzahn. War Eagle.