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Touchdown Auburn: Arkansas Edition

It wasn’t pretty but it was effective.

NCAA Football: Arkansas at Auburn John David Mercer-USA TODAY Sports

Touchdown Auburn is back after a week’s hiatus due to a random bye week on the schedule. Not sure what the SEC Office was thinking putting one of Auburn’s two byes so early in the year but those folks down in Birmingham do some silly things sometimes....

Saturday night, Auburn faced an Arkansas team hungry for blood. The Hogs were coming off their first SEC win since 2017 facing the two coaches they probably despise the most in college football. So of course, Auburn won not in some dominating fashion that would silence the hordes for a week or so, but by the skin of their teeth thanks to a controversial call that has undoubtedly left that fanbase even more unhinged. I suspect Chad Morris has long since silenced his mentions...

The good news is that there were touchdowns! Maybe not as many as we would like but touchdowns nonetheless! This season, more than any other, I will not apologize for enjoying an Auburn victory no matter how frustrating it might have been to watch.

The Tigers defense opened the game by forcing three 3 & outs on Arkansas’s first four drives. Following a beautiful punt by Aidan Marshall that pinned the Hogs inside their own five, Auburn stuffed the Razorbacks on 3 straight plays. That forced a punt attempt from Arkansas’s own endzone in poor conditions. How did that go?

I am not sure I can remember a player who has made such an impact on special teams despite never having kicked a ball or caught one on a return. Jordyn Peters might have an NFL future ahead of him as a special teams specialist.

The Tigers see an opportunity and send the house. Peters comes completely untouched up the middle and gets his body on the ball driving it into the dirt. Auburn walk on Barton Lester jumped on it for the first score of the game.

In hindsight, this play looms even larger. The Auburn offense, despite averaging 6.4 yards a play, only found the endzone twice Saturday night. Special teams was a big difference in this game. Instead of complaining about a possible backwards spike, I would advise Arkansas to focus on not having a penalty called every single time they punt the football...

After Auburn’s 3rd offensive possession would end in three points, the Tigers would finally find the endzone on possession number four. Chad Morris is 100% running this offense right now but on this drive he went full Gus Malzahn and leaned on the run game.

It was the Tank Bigsby Show on the Plains this weekend and this was really the first wow moment of the game. The Tigers are running Split Zone out of 12 personnel meaning one running back and two tight ends.

The nice part about zone concepts is that the running back isn’t required to hit a specific gap. This means they don’t necessarily need their offensive line to open up a big running lane, something this group has struggled to consistently do. Instead, Bigsby is aiming for the play side A-gap (space between the center and right guard) but if he sees a defensive lineman crossing anyone’s face, he has the freedom to bend this to the left.

The OL gets decent push but no one climbs to the 2nd level to pickup the linebacker who comes screaming through untouched. Tank sees him and attempts to cut this backside but there’s no room to run. So instead, he breaks two tackles, cuts this play back again, runs through another tackle and picks up a first down.

This dude is special ya’ll.

Following that run, Auburn’s offense just kept hammering the ball on the ground. D.J. Williams even got in on the action moving the ball deep into Arkansas territory. It was Tank though that put Auburn in the redzone.

I wanted to highlight this play before showing the touchdown run because while it’s a nice run by Tank, it’s the wrong read by Bo. He’s reading #11 who squeezes inside. That means Nix should have kept this ball and followed behind John Samuel Shenker’s block for what would have been a nice gain.

Now it worked out because the offensive line does a good job washing away some initial pressure and opening a nice hole on the left side. Bigsby doesn’t hesitate hitting it immediately for a nice pickup.

On the next play, Bo makes the right read and it’s six points.

I thought Nix misread this play more than usual Saturday night but he didn’t on this specific snap. Again, he’s reading the edge player who once again sinks inside. Nix pulls it this time and beats the player to the corner. The presence of Luke Deal is enough to keep the safety from crashing in and Nix is able to scamper in for the score.

The final touchdown drive of the day belonged to Auburn speedster Anthony Schwartz who touched the ball on 5 of the 9 plays including this big gainer.

Auburn is in 11 personnel with one running back and one tight end. John Samuel Shenker is split up top with very little attention on him. Seth Williams and Anthony Schwartz are lined up close to the boundary. Williams is running an 8 yard in route while Schwartz is coming behind him on the wheel.

Seth’s route pulls the outside corner back while Schwartz beats the safety down the sideline. This is a perfect throw by Bo to hit Schwartz before the deep safety can come over top and make a play.

More 5-15 yard routes to Anthony Schwartz please!

The next big play is all Bo Nix being Bo Nix.

Facing 3rd & 6 in an area of the field Auburn kept getting bogged down in all night, Auburn’s starting quarterback makes a play.

I would have preferred Bo climbing the pocket here even with the end coming free on his left. I think he probably could have escaped up the middle for a first down but it’s hard to get too mad after this throw.

Bo escapes to his right and has two men in his face when he sees Schwartz break open. Without even really planting his back foot, Nix launches this ball on a line to Schwartz for a big time completion and conversion. It’s plays like this that both make you believe in Bo and make him so frustrating to watch.

Auburn’s final 3rd down conversion of the drive would end in points.

The Tigers ran a similar concept back in 2017 against the Georgia Bulldogs to Ryan Davis for a touchdown. Auburn is again in 11 personnel with John Samuel Shenker lined up outside to the near side. D.J. Williams runs a flare screen to the boundary while Anthony Schwartz comes underneath on a tunnel screen to the field.

Bo initially gives Williams a look which pulls a linebacker in that direction. He comes back to Schwartz who darts behind a block by Brandon Council and cuts back after another nice downfield block by Shedrick Jackson slows the one man who could have stopped this play. Touchdown Auburn.

War Eagle!