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Deep Cuts: Southern Miss

A closer look at Malik Miller’s big time 3rd down conversion and how Auburn used their tendencies as a weapon against the Golden Eagles.

NCAA Football: Southern Mississippi at Auburn John Reed-USA TODAY Sports

Exciting offensive plays were in short supply this past Saturday but there were a few moments of excitement.

Drew McCracken

I think we’ve all heard the old adage, there aren’t that many plays in the playbook for 3rd and [insert long distance to gain]. Well that’s a lie technically. There are a ton of plays designed to gain 10 or more yards, it’s just that a lot of things are against the offense from meeting the potential of a play’s design. This is a case of an offense milking one play for all its worth.

It’s 3rd and 20 and Auburn needs the 45 to keep the drive going. Seems a bit of a lost cause, and in most cases, you will see offense’s go for a screen pass to see if they can catch the defense napping and to also get blockers down field.

As you can see from the draw up, Stidham has 2 options for a screen. Either he can get it along the side line to Slayton with 3 blockers ahead of him or he can get it to Miller in the flats with 2 offensive linemen and 2 blocking receivers ahead of him. Also of note, for you fans of offensive line play, note that Auburn leaves one 1 lineman in to pass protect. This is to eat up one defensive lineman and provide that last blocker to even up the blocking for the other side of the screen.

As Stidham gets the ball to Miller, Southern Miss ends up with a total of 3 players behind the ball in the first 3 seconds of the play while Auburn has 8 players ahead of the ball, looking for blocks. The fun part in the design of this play is that, even though one side of the play was not used, those blocks are still useful for Miller as it limits the number of players he sees going down the field, and also opens up holes if he decides to work towards the middle of the field. As you can see from this still shot, Miller already has 5+ yards clear just from the blocks from his wide outs.

We switch views to look more down the field now, and we can see that Driscoll probably won’t make it to the Southern Miss defender at the 40, so Miller will have to make a move on him to get the first down. Outside of that, it’s pretty clear sailing for him with the exception of a defender that doesn’t have the greatest angle and Miller is able to get around him with ease.

Driscoll wasn’t able to make the block on the trailing defender and actually almost makes the play on Miller, the back makes a great correction and is able to avoid both Driscoll and the downfield defender and ends up getting the first down and more. Excellent play design and near perfect execution allowed this drive to continue and is more of what this offense needs while it struggles to figure itself out.


Nothing makes me happier than breaking tendencies in the redzone for touchdowns. Every coach and program has tendencies in certain situations. By tendencies I mean that coaches like to call certain plays out of certain looks in certain situations. Doesn’t matter how creative or cutting edge a coach might be, chances are pretty good that if you dive deep into their playcalls in specific situations you can sniff out a pattern. It’s just human nature.

But tendencies can also be used as a weapon. Defenses will be keying on certain concepts when they see certain formations/personnel in certain situations (I thin I’ve reached my “certain” quota for the week). As Auburn fans well know, the Tigers have plenty of obvious tendencies under Gus Malzahn, especially in short yardage situations. However, this past Saturday, Auburn broke those tendencies at the goal line to get Chandler Cox wide open for a touchdown.

First off, note the personnel. Auburn subbed out Kam Martin at the goal line to bring in the beefier Malik Miller. The Tigers are also in a heavier look with a tight end (Tucker Brown) and H-Back (Chandler Cox) both lined up on the far side of the field. This type of look screams “Power” to the strong side (right side). Auburn likes to try and overwhelm defenses to one side of the football in this type of look to hopefully give enough room for the big back to power into the endzone.

Before the snap, Stidham moves under center while Miller shifts behind him. Again, in the past this has often meant “Power” to the strong side. Auburn is really selling the idea that they are gonna try and muscle this ball into the endzone. However, what they are actually planning to do is to have Chandler Cox bluff like he’s going to block before slipping out into the flat. Tucker Brown is going to attempt to run a corner route though it goes very poorly but does enough to open up Cox in the flat. Backside, they are running double slants while Jarrett Stidham will play fake the ball to Miller and roll to his right. His read most likely starts with Cox then would move to Tucker Brown followed by Darius Slayton and finally to Ryan Davis. Luckily, he only has to make one read on this play.

You can see the play begin to unfold. Cox has bluffed his block while Brown has started his corner route. The first defender to the strong side is crashing into get to Stidham while the second is taking Brown. That leaves a WIDE open space for Cox to run to. But for this play to work Auburn desperately needs Malik Miller to make this block and give Stidham a chance to get this pass off.

Boom! Miller cuts the one guy that could have stopped this play which allows Stidham to make one of the easiest throws of his life. Chandler Cox catches his 1st career touchdown. Ain’t it beautiful?

Check it out in real time below.

War Eagle!