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Countdown to Kickoff: 96 Days

Somehow tied with just 2 minutes to go in the first half with ULM, Auburn needed someone to step up and make a play.

Louisiana Monroe v Auburn Photo by Michael Chang/Getty Images

As you can probably guess, finding a 96 yard play or drive was a tad difficult. Funny enough, Auburn did have two 96 yard drives last season, one against ULM and the other against Texas A&M. I decided to go with the 4 play, 96 yard touchdown drive at end of the half against the Warhawks for two reasons:

  1. I’m lazy and I got a belly full of ribs so want the shortest drive to breakdown.
  2. I’ve got All-22 from that game which is pretty cool to look at.

This was a big drive in a game that was infuriating to watch early on. The Tigers walked into a class trap game and did their best to get trapped. Auburn had knocked off then #1 Georgia the week before and were eyeing an Iron Bowl matchup with #1 Alabama. Between then they had to face a 4-5 ULM squad hoping to catch the Tigers napping.

They almost did.

Auburn and ULM were tied at 7 with just over 2 minutes to go in the 1st half. After a great punt by the Warhawks, the Tigers would have to go 96 yards in 2 minutes to take a lead into half. Seemed likely Auburn would just run the clock out and regroup in the locker room.

Or maybe not...

My guess is Gus Malzahn and Chip Lindsey would make their decision on whether to go for the score based off the success of the first play. The Tigers come out in 21 personnel (two backs, one tight end) with the tight end being basically a 6th offensive lineman. Auburn is running inside zone on this play and Kerryon Johnson does an outstanding job creating something out of nothing. Austin Golson is a step slow out of his double team which allows #7 to shoot the B gap. KJ sees his desired gap filled but also sees that the DE has lost contain and breaks outside. But it’s that 2nd move beating #37 that made Johnson a 2nd round draft pick, allowing him to find some green gas and generate a big first down play. The result is a 15 yard gain, a first down and the Tigers in a position to try and score before the end of the half.

The Tigers come out in 10 personnel (one back, zero tight ends) on the next play and line up in what’s called “Spread Left” in Malzhan’s playbook. Auburn’s running 4 Verts or “Florida” in Malzahn’s vernacular, in honor of Steve Spurrier’s liberal use of the concept when he was scoring a bazillion points at Florida. ULM is in Cover 3 with both cornerbacks and the field safety responsible for covering the deep thirds of the field. On this play against Cover 3, Stidham’s first job is to read the safety and see if he can hit the seam. If not, he moves to the 9 man (Slayton) who adjusts his go route to a 15 yard comeback due to the cornerback bailing deep. Stidham executes the concept perfectly and delivers a strike to Darius Slayton for 14 yards. Good route by Slayton on this play as well.

Tigers stick with the same personnel and formation. ULM shows a 2 high safety look at first but the field safety rolls down making this Cover 3 again. This is a well timed throw by Stidham getting it just past the sinking linebacker in time to find Will Hastings for a nice gain. Would like to see this come out a touch quicker if possible but result is another first down.

For whatever reason Gfycat did not like this last mp4 so I had to switch to imgur to get it uploaded...

There were frustrating times where it seemed like Jarrett Stidham and Darius Slayton weren’t on the same page. This was not one of those times.

Once again facing Cover 3, Auburn looks to dial up “Florida” one more time. Slayton blows by the cornerback and Stidham steps up in the pocket and delivers a beautful ball. But it’s the catch that makes this play as Slayton attacks it in the air and snatches it away from the ULM defender for the score. This play would inject some life back into Jordan-Hare Stadium before halftime and Auburn would go on to score three unanswered touchdowns to eventually turn this game into a rout.

Happy Memorial Day! 96 days till kickoff! War Eagle!