In these quarantine times, a lot of us need to be reminded of what sports were like. Even what sports were like before some of us (cough Ryan cough) were born. So for this film school I picked a play from perhaps the greatest defense in Auburn history.
Auburn enters the game after two easy wins over Kentucky and Kansas*. Tennessee comes in 0-3 and in the midst of what would be a season-opening 6 game losing streak.
While it looks very different, a lot of football hasn’t changed. Two of Auburn’s big pass plays in this game came from 4-wide sets. One was the classic “NCAA” concept** of a high/low drag/post read (called the “NCAA” concept by NFL coaches because everyone in college runs it). Auburn’s only touchdown in the first half came on a 75-yard catch and run by Alexander Wright that was basically this:
Wright is the square receiver, and he gets a block from Freddie Weygand (circle) and takes it to the house.
However, other than the big play to Wright, Auburn has been more or less sleepwalking through this one. Tennessee was reeling at this point, and Auburn needed to make a statement to open the second half. Craig Ogletree made that statement by forcing a Reggie Cobb fumble on a toss-sweep. Auburn would cash that in for a touchdown with a short pass to Freddie Weygand. After the kickoff and a holding penalty, Tennessee would face 1st and 20 deep in their own territory.
Jeff Francis attempts to set up a play-action screen to Reggie Cobb, but there’s a missed block somewhere. Unfortunately CBS never showed the All-22 angle. My guess is that the offensive line didn’t get far enough out in front of Cobb, since it appears the slot receiver to that side is attempting to crack one of Auburn’s linebackers. Cheattom comes from his safety position like a missile. Just as Cobb attempts to turn up field...WHAM
Cobb goes down in a heap on a perfectly clean hit, Cheattom recovers the fumble, and Auburn would again cash in the fumble with a touchdown. With Tennessee having run two plays in the second half, Auburn has stretched its lead from 10-6 to 24-6. Tennessee would fumble again a few plays later, and after Auburn converted on 3rd and 12 with a smash concept (seriously, Auburn had a modern passing offense in this game, they just only used it when they had to), Auburn scored another touchdown when Reggie Slack rolled into the endzone on a bootleg. A late touchdown by Alex Strong as Auburn chewed up most of the 4th quarter on a short drive would set the final at 38-6.
Auburn would thump North Carolina*** the next week, but couldn’t put the ball in the endzone in Baton Rouge the week after and fell to 4-1. That would be their only blemish of the regular season as they shared the SEC title with LSU.
As I mentioned earlier, Tennessee would lose their first 6 games of 1988, but would rally to win their final 5 and finish 5-6.
*-This is the Kansas game where Auburn led 42-0 at the half, so Pat Dye and Glen Mason agreed to have a running clock in the second half. A Kansas grad I met once told me his roommate played in that game. When he got back from Auburn, the roommate said “they’re playing a different sport than we are.”
**-Gus Malzahn calls his NCAA concept play “Little Rock”. You may remember it here.
***-That’s right, the 2018-19 basketball team wasn’t the first Auburn team to beat Kansas, UNC, and Kentucky in the same season.