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Touchdown Auburn: Mississippi State Edition

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Better late than never

Mississippi State v Auburn Photo by Michael Chang/Getty Images

Yes, this week’s article is insanely late but look it’s not my fault. Blame Auburn’s offense. I mean how is a man supposed to quickly get an article turned around recapping every single score when you put the ball in the endzone EIGHT DAMN TIMES against an SEC opponent?

But have no fear, your faithful pretend expert is still here to break every beautiful score down. This past weekend was a ton of fun and even though you are undoubtedly stressing out already about tomorrow’s top 10 matchup, take the edge off this evening by basking in the awesomeness of this past weekend’s display


Auburn’s offense took exactly one play to find the endzone. Yay efficiency!

It was very obvious on rewatch that Auburn’s offensive braintrust saw something on tape that told them they could find success running into the boundary against this Mississippi State defense. They were absolutely right and the first score of the game is a great example.

I am not sure I have seen this formation from the Tigers before. They not only have trips to the field but also the tight end and the running back are aligned to that side. State understandably shifts their defense to account for the threat to the field leaving the boundary woefully undefended. The skycam view gives a better look.

The Tigers are running GT Counter, their new most effective run play. Notice how there are only four defenders with a shot at stopping this play pre snap. The first is washed out of the play by Mike Horton, the second is left unblocked only to be sealed by a pulling Marquel Harrell and the third fits in the play side C-gap (outside the right tackle) where Wanogho drives him out of the play. That leaves only the safety to beat. Boobee does it by taking a track towards the outside shoulder of Tega making it look like this play is going wide. Then when the DB bounces outside, Boobee breaks inside behind his block and beats the rest of the Bulldogs to the endzone.

Beautiful.


It took slightly longer to score the 2nd touchdown.

On the 2nd play of the drive, Bo Nix connected with Seth Williams for the first of many times that evening on one of Gus Malzahn’s favorite flood concepts - Flag/Flat.

Again, Auburn runs this play into the boundary. Seth Williams is running a corner route or a 7 route in Gus Malzahn parlance while Nigh runs a 5 yard speed out. Bo Nix is reading the cornerback on this play. If he sinks, Nix will hit Nigh. If he stays short, as he does on this play, Nix will hit Williams. Nix makes the right read and a good pass to Williams for the big gain.

Three plays later Auburn was back in the endzone.

Notice the direction of this play? That’s right into the boundary once again.

Auburn is running Split Zone Read where Nix is supposed to be reading the defensive end #43. However, his read gets a bit muddied because the defender pops Nigh as he comes across. As a result, he loses outside contain so Nix pulls it and follows Nigh around the right side. A good block (we would call it a hold if we cheered for Mississippi State) from Driscoll gives Nix the space he needs to get into the endzone.


After Zakoby McClain forced a fumble on the kick return, Auburn started their 3rd drive on Mississippi State’s 18 yard line. After a Whitlow run, Auburn tested the edge with Anthony Schwartz on the speed sweep.

Huh... Would you look at that? It appears Auburn has AGAIN scored a touchdown running into the boundary.

This play though was made by some fantastic blocking. The skycam view does it better justice.

The first great block is Spencer Nigh’s who cuts State’s linebacker in the open field. Prince Tega Wanogho then is able to reach the backside linebacker and take him out of the play. It’s Malik Miller’s turn next who flattens the hard charging safety. Finally, Mississippi State’s cornerback to that side seemed uninterested in getting involved in the play so Seth Williams just keeps him pinned at the goal line. Combine great blocking with Schwartz’s speed and it’s 6 every time.


Auburn had to work a little harder for touchdown #4. The Tigers would put together an 11 play 78 yard drive that got rolling thanks to this big 3rd down conversion.

I love this play design. Auburn has trips to the field and Seth by himself to the boundary. State is bringing pressure and appears to be dropping into Cover 3 behind it. Malik Miller slips out into the flat drawing State’s linebacker while the cornerback bails because he’s responsible for the deep third of the field on this play. That leaves a ton of room for Seth Williams who is running A FREAKING SLANT YA’LL!!!! Nix hits him in stride and Williams runs away from a tackle to pick up a nice gain.

On the very next play, Nix found Williams again for a 7 yard pickup. I wanted to highlight this play though because I love when Bo Nix throws this football.

Watch Nix’s eyes. I suspect he knew he had this the whole way due to the soft coverage on Williams. When Nix starts his drop, his eyes are to the middle of the field freezing the safety. When he reaches the top of his drop, he plants his foot and gets this ball out to Williams before he’s even broken off his route. As a result, the defensive back has no shot at breaking the play up and Williams is able to make the catch for a nice gain.

A few plays later, it was Boobee time.

Auburn elected to bring back the BoobeeCat this week but run it with a different look. The Tigers use two H-Backs and a tight end this time with Anthony Schwartz as the horizontal threat coming across on the speed sweep.

Schwart’s motion forces the defense to widen which effectively removes at least two defenders from being a factor on this play. Boobee keeps it and follows his pullers into the wide open hole. Why is there a massive hole? Let’s check the skycam.

Oh my Tega.... Jack Driscoll and Mike Horton wash down Mississippi State’s defensive line while Tega climbs to the second level and runs the linebacker into the durn safety. That leaves Harrell with no one to block and a clear lane to 6 points for Boobee Whitlow.

Auburn’s offensive line hasn’t been physically dominant against many teams this year. Saturday night they didn’t just execute, they executed with violence and consistently ended plays on top of Mississippi State defenders. More please....


Touchdown #5 came on a 5 play 74 yard drive thanks in large part to this scamper by Bo Nix.

Auburn is running that Split Zone Read concept again. Nix reads the defensive end to the field who comes crashing hard to stop Boobee on 3rd & 1. Nix pulls it and has the option to throw this to Jay Jay Wilson but the linebacker goes wide to take it away. So that gives Nix the third option, just run it yourself. He tucks it and breaks free for a big gain but doesn’t put the ball away. Mississippi State’s defender runs him down, horse-collar’s grabs him by the back of the shoulder pad and then punches the ball free. Big teaching moment for the true freshman QB.

After a failed double pass where Auburn was hoping Nix would hit Joey Gatewood for 6, Auburn found the endzone running the same play we saw earlier in this article.

Again this is that Flag/Flat concept where Nix is reading the flat defender. In this case, however, State busts badly with the cornerback turning Seth Williams free to air. If there’s one thing Nix has done since week 1 it’s punish busts in coverage. He does so here by hitting Williams in stride and it’s 6 more points for the Tigers.


Auburn’s offense was finally slowed for a moment when some Bammer in Birmingham incorrectly upheld a stupid fumble call after a Seth Williams fumble but the Tigers’ defense stood tall and got the ball right back. A cheap shot late hit (that the on field doofuses also blew) kept Auburn’s drive alive. The Tigers very slowly moved to midfield and with just under 40 seconds left in the half, called timeout to regroup. It appears Malzahn knew exactly what he wanted to do to get down the field in the limited time as he appears to have called two plays out of that timeout.

The first was a quick chain mover to Will Hastings.

Nix stared this one down the whole way but it doesn’t matter as State blitzes the man covering Hastings and the safety can’t get over top in time to break the play up.

Auburn then went hurry up and took a shot.

Looks like Auburn is running 4 verticals here with Hastings route taking the safety out of the play. State’s cornerback just doesn’t have the speed or athleticism to hang with Anthony Schwartz who blows right by him. Nix wants Schwartz the whole time recognizing the mismatch and drops a beautiful ball into his lap.

Unfortunately, Schwartz stepped out of bounds so Auburn has to quickly find a way to punch the ball into the endzone. After Auburn’s 1st & goal play almost ends in disaster, the Tigers bust back out the BoobeeCat with similar success.

Same look as earlier but instead of running behind Harrell up the middle, Boobee decides to stretch this wide and beats State’s defenders to the pylon for the score.


Auburn’s offense didn’t slow down out of halftime. The Tigers opened with a 19 yard touch pass to Anthony Schwartz followed by a 3 yard Kam Martin run. Then Auburn found some room over the middle of the field.

If you recall, two weeks against A&M, Auburn used this Toss Read play with great affect on that soul crushing 4th quarter drive. This time it’s used in play action (notice offensive lineman aren’t moving downfield so it’s unlikely an RPO) and it works brilliantly. State is bringing pressure off the edge and the fake causes the blitzing LB to slow his rush. Hastings leaves his man flat foot with a nice move and Nix hits him for the big gain.

Very next play...

This was probably the play of the game. Great protection by the offensive line gives Nix time to let play develop. Initially, his eyes are in the middle of the field which holds the safety. Williams is running a go route and is in 1 on 1 coverage. Nix puts this up high giving Williams a chance. Mississippi State’s best cornerback, Cameron Dantzler, can’t knock the ball away and Williams comes down with it for the score. Nix throwing deep to his left to Seth Williams sure has been successful so far this season.


The final touchdown drive featured a mix of fantastic plays from a variety of players. You will also notice that I had a major fail in my cropping of gifs during this drive...

Looks like a Slot Fade concept from Sal Cannella. At 6’5”, he’s a guy that should be hard to defend in jump ball situations. We haven’t seen it much in his career but here he does a great job using that size to high a point a well thrown ball and come down with the big play.

Later in that drive, Nix hits Jay Jay Wilson on a corner route to the backside. It looks like his eyes start left but quickly works his way back to Nelson who finds space between two defenders for the first down.

Auburn’s final touchdown of the night comes on Buck Sweep. What direction would that be? Oh yes towards the boundary.

The Tigers send Anthony Schwartz in motion which draws at least four defenders away from this play. Cannella and Nigh both get great blocks sealing their men inside. Mike Horton pulls around and knocks the cornerback out of the play while Harrell fits up on the safety who looked very uninterested in having any piece of Harrell. Martin follows his blockers to the endzone.


This was unquestionably Auburn’s best offensive game of the season. We’ve seen flashes at times from this offense but the major missing piece had been the passing game. It felt like maybe some things clicked last Saturday night. We won’t know for sure until tomorrow evening but the Tigers carry some big time momentum into Saturday’s top 10 clash.

War Eagle!