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Snap Tracker: Offense vs Mississippi State

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Besides fumbling the ball four times, Auburn’s offense was outstanding last Saturday night.

Mississippi State v Auburn Photo by Michael Chang/Getty Images

The only thing that seemed capable of stopping Auburn’s offense Saturday night was the literal football. That funky oblong object is apparently borderline impossible to hold onto seeing as the Tigers fumbled the durn thing FIVE times losing three of them. Somehow that resulted in 0 points for the Bulldogs. Thanks defense!

But that was really the only negative on the night. Auburn scored touchdowns on their first five possessions and probably could have put together a longer streak if not for one of the worst fumble calls I’ve ever seen. The defense though stood tall and Auburn’s offense went right back to work scoring on the final drive of the first half and the first drive of 2nd half.

Being up 49-9 on an SEC opponent just minutes into the 3rd quarter is something Auburn should keep doing.

Like we saw with the defense yesterday, Auburn got plenty of folks snaps this past weekend. I did my best to track each one.

Quarterback

Mississippi State v Auburn Photo by Michael Chang/Getty Images
  • #10 Bo Nix - 56 snaps
  • #14 Joey Gatewood - 14 snaps

The biggest story of the night was the passing game coming online. Through the first four games Bo Nix had been more game manager than playmaker. He’d come through in some clutch moments but teams hadn’t yet seen a reason to fear him. Until now...

Nix accomplished something that hadn’t been done since Cam Newton back in 2010, throwing for 300+ yards and rushing 50+ more. Jason Campbell also did it in 2004 and Nick Marshall barely missed it in 2014. Those are good QBs to be compared to imo.

You knew at some point things would start clicking for Nix. He’s just too talented a player to not start connecting on some of those deep shots. I thought his prettiest throw of the night was hitting Anthony Schwartz down the sideline late in the first half.

That’s 50 yards in the air, dropping the ball into the basket of the fastest man in college football. If what we saw from Nix Saturday night starts to become more regular then watch out. I expect his numbers to dip some this weekend but it wouldn’t shock me if he opened some eyes nationally with his performance against the Gators.

It was also good to see Joey Gatewood throw the ball around a bit. Gus Malzahn didn’t have the playbook wide open late in the 4th quarter but he cracked a bit more open than usual. Hopefully this is a trend we continue to see. When you put your 2nd string in late, let them play.

Running Back

NCAA Football: Mississippi State at Auburn John Reed-USA TODAY Sports
  • #9 Kam Martin - 20 snaps
  • #28 JaTarvious Whitlow - 16 snaps
  • #32 Malik Miller - 13 snaps
  • #3 DJ Williams - 12 snaps
  • #8 Shaun Shivers - 8 snaps

It was honestly not a great day for Auburn’s running backs. Yes they had 4 touchdowns and some nice runs but three fumbles from this group is inexcusable. If it doesn’t get cleaned up it will get Auburn beat at some point this season. Thankfully, Auburn is protected by one of the best defenses in the country but the Tigers are playing with fire. I could write off the Tulane game as maybe a one time thing especially since most of the problems were with one back. But a second multi fumble game, this time by multiple backs, is a sign this could be a bigger problem than initially feared.

I will say though scoring 3 touchdowns on 16 snaps is durn impressive.

On the happier side of things, D.J. Williams made his long awaited debut! It was very clear that Malzahn wanted the ball in Williams’s hands late to give him a chance to get some collegiate carries as Gatewood wasn’t asked to do much reading. The majority of Williams’s carries were off Buck Sweeps.

The true freshman carried the ball 7 times for 32 yards averaging 4.6 yards a pop. He passed the early eye test and had a few really nice runs including this cut for a big gain.

I am not sure how many touches he will get this weekend on the road in Gainesville but I fully expect Auburn to start working him into the game plan. He might not start to make an impact until after the bye week but it’s good to see him healthy and on the field. If he can get up to speed and provide Auburn with a true #2 tailback capable of doing consistent damage between the tackles that would be a nice boost to this offense heading into a brutal November.

Finally, Harold Joiner did not see the field against Mississippi State after featuring heavily in Auburn’s opening script last week. I am not sure if his fumble in Kyle Field sent him to the end of the line or if he got bumped out of touches due to Williams’s return but it will be interesting to see if he makes an appearance in the Swamp this weekend.

H-Back/Tight End

  • #99 Spencer Nigh - 29 snaps
  • #42 Jay Jay Wilson - 17 snaps
  • #47 John Samuel Shenker - 14 snaps
  • #86 Luke Deal - 6 snaps

Not sure I am ready to say Spencer Nigh is actually performing at a higher level than Chandler Cox last year but I am getting close. That’s no shot at Cox either, it’s a credit to how insanely good Nigh continues to be for the Tigers. He’s lining up all over the field being asked to do everything from chip defensive ends to cut block scraping linebackers in the open field. Unsurprisingly, you see him pop up on the screen whenever Auburn scores a touchdown. One of my favorite blocks is the one he threw for Anthony Schwartz on his jet sweep for a score.

The big surprise was the debut of Luke Deal. The 2019 signee tore his ACL on the very first day of spring ball. I thought before that injury he would have a chance to contribute this season. Auburn brought him in on their Wildcat looks this weekend as a 2nd H-Back. I am very interested to see if that becomes a staple play and Deal doesn’t redshirt in 2019 or if the Tigers just wanted to give him some snaps this past weekend. I lean towards the 2nd because of the play Auburn is getting from their other 3 guys at this spot but it’s something to watch moving forward.

Wide Receiver

Mississippi State v Auburn Photo by Michael Chang/Getty Images
  • #80 Sal Cannella - 49 snaps
  • #12 Eli Stove - 39 snaps
  • #18 Seth Williams - 36 snaps
  • #33 Will Hastings - 21 snaps
  • #5 Anthony Schwartz - 20 snaps
  • #19 Matthew Hill - 20 snaps
  • #14 Zach Farrar - 13 snaps
  • #17 Marquis McClain - 13 snaps

Unsurprisingly, as this unit gets healthier and more reps with Bo Nix, they are becoming more dangerous. We knew the pieces were there for this to be a very good unit but it’s been hard to get them all on the field at the same time this fall. Then when Auburn does, Nix would miss them on a big play opportunity.

Not Saturday night.

Seth Williams caught 8 passes for 161 yards and 2 touchdowns. That 161 yards ties him for 10th on Auburn’s all time single game receiving yards list with Robert Baker. What I love is he got those yards running all sorts of different routes. It wasn’t just catching a handful of 50/50 balls but instead came on a variety of concepts including corner routes, slants, screens and verticals. I imagine that 3rd down slant though was one of every Auburn fan’s favorites.

But honestly my favorite catch of the night didn’t come from Williams (though that 2nd TD was sweet). It came from big man Sal Cannella. The 6’5” 228 lb senior has been frustrating at times in his career but is putting together a solid 2019 campaign. No wide receiver has seen more snaps than big #80 and a lot of his work is blocking out on the perimeter. But in the 3rd quarter, Bo Nix was looking to keep a drive alive on 3rd down and threw one up for the big man to make a play.

If Auburn can count on Sal Cannella to start winning 50/50 jump balls then things are about to get insanely scary for opposing defenses. Nix is giving everyone opportunities to make plays. It’s nice to see guys making the most of it.

Offensive Line

Mississippi State v Auburn Photo by Michael Chang/Getty Images
  • #50 Kaleb Kim - 56 snaps
  • #64 Mike Horton - 56 snaps
  • #71 Jack Driscoll - 56 snaps
  • #76 Prince Tega Wanogho - 56 snaps
  • #77 Marquel Harrell - 56 snaps
  • #56 Tashawn Manning - 13 snaps
  • #50 Jalil Irvin - 13 snaps
  • #52 Nick Brahms - 13 snaps
  • #59 Brodarious Hamm - 13 snaps
  • #65 Alec Jackson - 13 snaps

A big reason why Bo Nix was able to shred Mississippi State’s secondary this past weekend was because the big fellas up front kept him clean most of the night. State’s front 4 is a shell of its past self but it was still good to see Auburn’s offensive line perform at a high level. Mike Horton especially had a big game, earning SEC Offensive Lineman of the Week honors.

Horton has at times been the weak link of this group up front but he looked good this past Saturday. Auburn will need more of that type of play from the fifth year senior moving forward.

Auburn’s 2nd team offensive line got some work Saturday night. Alec Jackson took over for Bailey Sharp at left tackle. I thought from this group Jalil Irvin stood out the most. Very physical kid who moves well in space. He’s got a chance to be apart of the starting five next fall.

War Eagle!