This game is definitely like when the class all failed a test, and you walk in the next day and your teacher is sitting on his desk with his head bowed. Then when you all sit, he starts “Never, in my fifteen years of teaching, have I seen a class perform this poorly...” then he hands back a bunch of F papers.
Unfortunately, this game was winnable for the Tigers, and that’ll make it all the worse because there weren’t many groups that performed atrociously (aside from the defensive line). With just a little bit better effort from around the field, Auburn is 6-3 with a top five win under its belt.
Let’s get to it.
QUARTERBACK: B for Boseph
Bo wasn’t bad on Saturday, and he was actually better than the stat line might have told you. 15-23 for 144 yards and no touchdowns through the air, but no turnovers. His running was what kept Auburn in the game early, with his scintillating touchdown run after escaping a sure sack the one true highlight of the game. He didn’t get a ton of help from the offensive line, and without a 100% Tank Bigsby or D.J. Williams, his running back situation was a little shaky as well. He gets deducted a full letter grade for the missed touchdown pass to Eli Stove, who had nary a defender within ten yards of him, and he gets a little drop as well just due to the fact that the offense would be humming and then bog down immediately. That could be the fault of coaching, though.
RUNNING BACKS: B+ for Blandish
There weren’t many bright spots on Saturday, and while the defense was the real culprit in the defeat, the offense was unspectacular as well and missed chances left and right to score. The running backs weren’t a part of the problem, though. Without D.J. Williams and a fully healthy Tank Bigsby, the run game didn’t seem to miss much of a beat. Bigsby still rattled off a fun 42-yard burst to get the Tigers in scoring position, and overall he and Shaun Shivers combined for 144 yards on 18 carries. The 18 carries is the problem, since that’s a healthy yards per carry average. With more chances the Tigers would’ve held the ball longer and given the defense a break, but alas.
I couldn’t tell you any one thing the receivers did positively, and I couldn’t tell you any one thing they did poorly, so we’re sticking this right in the middle. The passing game wasn’t so much of an emphasis on Saturday, but Seth Williams wasn’t able to manage getting open that much, and the aerial concepts rarely tested going downfield. Again, we may see the low coaching grade affect this group, since they weren’t given an opportunity to show out. And when they did get into the right positions, you have an instance like the overthrow to a wide open Eli Stove. Ugh.
OFFENSIVE LINE: C
They were fine, I guess. Auburn ran for 6.5 yards per carry and only allowed Bo Nix to get sacked twice, but the offensive line just isn’t going to carry the team. The third quarter was a work of art, with them getting down the field and blasting A&M off the line of scrimmage for that first touchdown to give Auburn the lead, but crucial points saw too many no gainers on first or second down. That left Bo and company with long yardage in latter downs, and that’s where A&M was able to pin their ears back and at least activate the happy feet from Bo. Yes, injuries play a part in this, and the line was going with what felt like it’s umpteenth different lineup of the year, but they need to do more at critical times.
DEFENSIVE LINE: D-
If I told you that our defensive line was out there on Saturday, would you believe me? Texas A&M ran for 313 yards on 47 carries, and the Aggie offensive line was the primary reason that the total was so high. They plowed through the Auburn front four, and left the linebackers to make tackles several yards downfield. Pursuit wasn’t there when they did startle Kellen Mond, and when he got out of the pocket, there was no shot at catching him before he gained critical yardage. A&M’s front line was able to push Auburn at will, as evidenced by the lengthy drives that the Aggies went on. Overall, it was 500 yards of offense, and the defensive line wasn’t able to get to Kellen Mond on the ground but once. They were dominated.
I don’t know how to classify what happened on Saturday in terms of the linebackers. We’ve talked about it all year. It’s so much easier to play when you’ve got Derrick Brown and Marlon Davidson in front of you, gobbling up garbage. Zakoby McClain was an absolute monster with 17 tackles, 2 TFLs, a sack, and a forced fumble, but it’ll be his most impactful play that will be remembered. After Auburn took a 17-14 lead, A&M drove down and found itself in the Auburn red zone. Kellen Mond tossed a ball into the end zone, and it skipped off of McClain’s hands and into the tight end’s hands for a touchdown. It should’ve been a goal line interception with a lot of room to run. If you reward the 17 tackles, you’ve got to equally take away for the play that gave A&M the lead they wouldn’t give back.
Kellen Mond attempted the same amount of passes that Bo Nix did, but had higher yards per attempt line by 4.0 yards, and threw for 56 more yards with a pair of touchdowns. It wasn’t that he did anything super special, but he found his open targets and he was solid in throwing the ball. A couple of times the defensive backs were just the victims of him having way too long to throw the ball (the reason the DL got a D-minus), but they were relatively solid in coverage. Mond had a great start to the game, and he did have 7 of his 18 completions go to running backs, so many of his passing yards came in checkdowns and guys popping out of the backfield — things the DBs wouldn’t be responsible for as much.
SPECIAL TEAMS: A
Anders Carlson went 2-2 on field goal tries, and 2-2 on extra point tries, while forcing touchbacks on all of his kickoffs. Oscar Chapman averaged 43.0 yards per punt and didn’t allow a single Texas A&M return. All in all, a solid day.
Yikes, I got nothing. Really. Auburn was beating the #5 team in the country, at home, on Senior Day, and let the lead slip away to the point that Auburn had no shot to win the game in the final possession. Malzahn left all three first half timeouts in his pocket. I do not know why, nor will I attempt to justify the decision. If Auburn manages a field goal before halftime, this fourth quarter and ballgame are completely different.
What can you say, they booed at appropriate times and cheered at appropriate times. They get a B because I didn’t see a bunch of mask wearing.