Auburn picked up a vital win for their SEC West title aspirations on Saturday, defeating the Ole Miss
Landsharks Black Bears Rebels 31-20. On paper, it looks like the offense did their job: 31 points and 483 yards of total offense at a reasonably efficient clip of 6.3 YPP. Sure they were only 4/11 on third downs and coughed up a fumble on a drive that should have iced the game, but on the other hand, Auburn ran 77 plays to Ole Miss' 81 and outgained one of the country's most explosive offenses by 19 yards. Good day at the office right? Well, about that...
Fittingly for a Halloween weekend game, Auburn put in a Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde performance, scoring touchdowns on four of its five first half possessions, but only managing 3 points in the second half against a team that ranks 12th in the SEC in defensive efficiency. That's...not good. Thankfully, Auburn's defense held Ole Miss to just 3 points of their own in the second half and Auburn was able to get the win, but what happened to the offense? How did they go from red hot in the first half to ice cold in the second half? Let's take a look.
Let me preface this by saying two things about Ole Miss' defense. The first thing is that Ole Miss' defense is different structurally from what we saw in our last two SEC games against Arkansas and LSU. They're primarily an odd front team, generally using three down linemen and three or four linebackers, usually lining one of the linebackers up on the line of scrimmage in an overhang position. In the secondary, they were generally playing single-high safety (or middle-of-field-closed) coverages, primarily cover 1, but with some cover 3 as well. We'll look more specifically at how Auburn attacked those structural aspects of Ole Miss' defense in a moment.
The second thing is that Ole Miss' defense is very, very bad. They're last in the SEC West in defensive efficiency, total defense, and scoring defense by wide margins, and only saved from the bottom of the SEC by the truly putrid Vanderbilt and Missouri defenses. Once we get into the film itself it'll be easy to see why: they're sloppy, undisciplined, and just do some really strange things that make no sense situationally; for example, they kept their free safety 15+ yards back at almost all times, probably because they know they're going to hemorrhage big plays (you'll note that Auburn didn't really throw many downfield shots after hitting two big ones against Arkansas; that was why). They're also the most penalized defense in the SEC. Not to spoil things too much, but Auburn should be disappointed to have only scored 31 against this team.
As has been the case almost all year, Auburn's offense was excellent on its opening drive, with an opening script that balanced the run and the pass effectively and showed some creative flair as well. On the first play of the game, the Tigers run some type of spacing/curls concept. I discussed this concept in more detail in my mid-season review article, but the goal is to stretch a zone defense by flooding the underneath zones with receivers spaced all across the field and leaving them with more receivers than they have defenders. That doesn't really happen here because Ole Miss is in man coverage, but Tank is open on the check release because the defender who was responsible for him just sort of...backpedals upfield, doubling a receiver that was already covered and leaving the RB wide open for a decent gain. File this away in your head, it's going to be a theme.
Auburn follows that play up with power toss, a slight variation on the crack toss concept that I discussed in my last article. It's sort of a combination of toss sweep and power; the offensive line blocks down (away from the playside) while the fullback and a pulling lineman block the defensive end and playside linebacker. Instead of blocking down into the box like he does on crack toss, the WR just blocks his man. Considering that Ole Miss was in man here, it would have made sense to motion that receiver to the other side and take his man out of the play entirely, but Auburn gets it blocked well and Tank picks up some good YAC thanks to Ole Miss' typically stellar tackling.
On the next play, Auburn breaks out a play that I don't exactly know the name of, but it's one they used several times throughout the game. On the front side of the play, it's a simple curl-flat concept; the outside receiver runs a curl, the inside receiver runs a flat route, and it's a high-low read on the flat defender in zone. On the backside, the inside receiver runs a corner route (or some type of vertical-stem route), the outside receiver runs a crossing route, and the RB leaks out into the flat; this is sort of a combination of the snag and shallow concepts I discussed in my article last week. It also illustrates another important idea in modern passing games: packaging man and zone beaters within the same concept; the idea is that the QB figures out whether the defense is in zone or man, and if they're in zone, he'll go to the zone beater side (in this case the curl-flat on the front side) and if they're in man, he'll go to the man beater (the shallow cross on the backside). Ole Miss is in man here, so Bo correctly works through his progression to the shallow cross for a good gain. Note that the RB was also wide open here once again.
After a couple of unsuccessful running plays and a Bo Nix scramble on third down, Auburn faced a 4th and 1 at the Ole Miss 42. This game was filled with controversial fourth down decisions (more on that later), but this wasn't one of them. The correct decision is obviously to go for it, and Harsin didn't hesitate. Auburn goes with inside zone and picks up the first down easily.
On the ensuing first down, Auburn goes with seam-curl (where the inside receiver runs a vertical or seam route and the outside receiver runs a curl), packaged with what looks like double post routes to the backside. It's an easy completion and a first down on the curl route.
Auburn's next play is one they've used a fair amount this year, just a simple outside zone RPO with a receiver screen packaged to the backside. The wing TE goes in motion and he's going to block out on the corner while the inside receiver blocks down on the safety, which should open an alley for the WR if Bo throws the screen. Bo is reading the backside flat defender; if he stays home, Auburn has numbers in the box, and if he comes down to play the run, the screen will be open. He doesn't really get into the box, so Bo hands off to Tank, who doesn't get great blocking as Auburn fails to seal the edge, but he's able to bounce it outside anyway for a big gain that set Auburn up in the red zone.
After an unsuccessful first down run, Auburn went back to my favorite play they've run all year: the QB sweep that was used to convert a crucial first down to seal the win against Arkansas. It's the exact same play this time: the RB lined up out wide comes in orbit motion toward the backside of the play and Bo fakes it to him to freeze the linebackers, meanwhile the outside guys in the bunch set block down on the defensive end and linebackers and the inside man in the bunch and the playside tackle pull to block the corner and safety. They manage to spring Bo to the outside and he takes care of the rest for the Tigers' first touchdown of the game.
Auburn opened its second drive with duo out of an unbalanced bunch set. One issue I have with this design is that the formation itself has become kind of predictable. One of the worst things about the late-stage Gus Malzahn offenses were that they became highly predictable based on formations and personnel; you could tell what play was coming based on who was in the game and where they lined up. These unbalanced bunch sets are almost always used to run duo (as you will see again later). That said, Auburn gets the play blocked well at the first level, Ole Miss' linebackers can't even spell "gap discipline", and Tank cuts to daylight for another big gain.
On the next play, Auburn goes under center and illustrates one of the main themes of this game in terms of the running game. This is GY counter, a gap concept where the front side of the line blocks down, the backside guard pulls and kicks out the playside defensive end, and the fullback/H-back leads through the open gap to block the playside LB. Ole Miss' use of tight fronts (with the defensive ends lined up further inside than usual) with overhang LBs on the line of scrimmage complicates this a bit, since the guard has to block a faster, more athletic LB, and indeed this was a problem for Auburn at times, as you'll see later. In this case, Auburn alleviates that concern through good play design, bringing the backside slot receiver in jet sweep motion so that he can both hold the overhang LB in place through the sweep fake and then go block the corner on the outside. This idea works well, Auburn gets its blocks set up, and it's successful first down play.
After a dropped pass on second down, Auburn was faced with a third and 3. This is just a simple split zone play (inside zone with the H-back kicking out the backside defensive end; his movement across the formation creates the eponymous "split" flow). However, Auburn dresses it up in a clever way, sending the slot receiver in "yo-yo" motion; he motions from one side of the formation to the other, then goes back the way he came. At the snap, he's moving the opposite direction of the H-back, creating additional split flow. It wasn't all that effective at misdirecting the Ole Miss LBs, but it created enough hesitation for Auburn to get the second level blocked sufficiently to pick up the first down.
On the ensuing first down, Auburn goes to the play-action game from under center, something that worked well on first down all game. This is just the old Y pop play. The QB fakes the run to suck in the playside LB and the TE runs up the seam behind him for an easy completion. Simple, but effective, and even with a not-great throw from Bo, it's good for a first down.
Now, check out this play Ole Miss ran later in the game. What do you notice?
Yep. It's the exact same concept, but from the gun off of RPO action instead of straight run action from the I formation. There's nothing new under the sun.
Auburn followed that completion up with two unsuccessful running plays and an incompletion on third down, but got bailed out by an iffy defensive pass interference call. After getting stopped on first down and goal, Auburn went back to the power toss concept from the first drive, this time shifting two tight ends over before the snap to create an unbalanced wing TE set. You can see how Ole Miss' front has to scramble to realign itself after the shift; I discussed in my review article that teams hate this kind of shift, and that's especially true for odd front teams, who hate dealing with unbalanced formations in general. Auburn gets good blocking and is able to get it down to the 1, where Tank actually lost the ball, but fortunately it was recovered by Shenker.
Auburn punched it in on the next play, with Tank going over the top for the score. There's nothing really interesting about this play schematically, but I figured I should include it since it's a touchdown and we'll want to have these halcyon days to look back on when we get to the second half.
After Auburn got a rare three-and-out from Ole Miss, they had the ball with great field position and a chance to go up three scores. They...did not. A busted run play, an unsuccessful tap pass/jet sweep, and busted pass play leading to a sack. I don't want to look at those plays again and you don't want to watch them, so let's just move on.
Ole Miss took advantage of Auburn's profligacy, scoring a touchdown on their next drive to make it a four-point game again. Auburn got back to work, opening the next drive with inside zone. Ole Miss is in their base 3-4 personnel here, and the outside man in the bunch motions to the front side of the play to block the overhang LB. This is that "using formations and motions to create numbers advantages" thing I was talking about in my review article, and it works well here, as Auburn gets another big run for a first down.
After a decent run and an Ole Miss penalty (another theme of this game), Auburn decided to take a downfield shot. This is just a basic vertical concept, but with a twist, literally: Auburn runs a variation known as switch, where the receivers take a switch release at the snap (the outside receiver goes inside and the inside receiver goes outside). The goal is to create confusion among the DBs about who is responsible for whom, and it works, with Bo hitting Robertson for a nice gain.
Auburn followed that up with one of my favorite playcalls of the entire game. This is a play-action pass off of the outside zone/screen RPO I talked about above. It uses the same motion from the H-back, but instead of blocking for a receiver screen, he and the inside receiver go downfield on a play-action pass; Bo pump fakes the screen to try to get the defense to bite. It doesn't really work, and the downfield routes aren't open, but Bo checks it down to the guy they forgot: the outside receiver running his screen route, and he turns it into a nice gain, which is then turned into an even bigger gain after a remarkably stupid roughing the passer penalty on Ole Miss (like I said, this is a theme).
On the next play, Auburn goes with one of its red zone staples: zone read arc. This is a basic inside zone read, with the H-back going up to the second level to block the player who would be responsible for the QB if he keeps. He makes a good block, Bo makes the right read, and he strolls in for six.
On Auburn's next drive, after a good first down run, the Tigers go back to the air with the same curl-flat/cross concept they used on the opening drive. This time, Bo works all the way to the backside of the play, hitting the receiver on a curl route for a first down.
And now for part one of a rant. Auburn's clock management on this end-of-half drive was not good. Almost 30 seconds elapsed between the first and second down plays, and another 25 ran off between the second and third. Then Auburn inexplicably runs a power toss on the next first down, burning another 30 seconds in the process. At this point, they've burned more than half of the available clock to run three plays that have only gotten them to the Ole Miss 46. This is really, really bad clock management. You could argue that it was deliberate, not wanting to give Ole Miss the ball back before halftime since they were getting the second half kickoff, but you need to score yourself before you worry about that. That's why I think this was just poor clock management, rather than a deliberate strategy. Clock management is shockingly bad across all levels of football, and I don't understand how people who make millions of dollars to coach this sport repeatedly make fundamental errors in a basic area of their jobs. It worked out okay for Auburn, as they scored with a few seconds left, but there's a name for getting a good result from a bad process: luck.
Anyway, Auburn finally gets it in gear, moving the ball down to the 10 in five plays and spiking the ball with 15 seconds left in the half, which should be enough time to get off three plays. Thankfully, Auburn didn't need three plays, as they found the end zone on the next snap. This is a variation of the mesh concept that I discussed in my review article; I don't know what Auburn calls it, but Steve Sarkisian calls it railroad. The inside receivers run crossing routes, "meshing" with each other in the middle of the field and creating a natural rub against man coverage, while an outside receiver runs over the top of them and settles in behind in case it ends up being zone coverage. In this case, the RB, Jarquez Hunter, was aligned out wide and came in motion across the formation before the snap. He ducked out into the flat, where he was completely uncovered and Bo found him for an easy score. I don't know if Auburn was deliberately clearing out the backside flat to throw to Jarquez or if Bo just got through his progression to find him; I suspect it was the former, since I doubt Bobo really wanted to throw short and back to the middle of the field on a crossing route with 15 seconds left and only one timeout, and he knew Ole Miss wasn't doing a good job of accounting for the RB in man coverage. Either way, Ole Miss does a poor job of covering the RB out of the backfield once again and it's six for Auburn. Try to remember the good times, because the rest of the article is...not gonna be that.
Unfortunately, I do have to talk about the second half of this game too. After putting up 45 points in the first half, the two offenses combined for six in the second half. Tough night for all of the over bettors out there, and a tough day for me since I had to rewatch and chart this. I guess the question on most people's minds is whether was this due to bad playcalling or bad execution, and I'm going to say it was six of one and a half-dozen of the other.
It started out well enough, as Auburn got a big completion off of play-action after forcing an Ole Miss punt. Auburn again motions a man from a backside bunch to the frontside, much like the inside zone play I showed above. Auburn then goes play-action off of that look, running a bootleg to the backside. This is a flood concept, where three receivers attack the same side of the field at different depths, "flooding" the zones with more receivers than the defense has defenders. In this case, Ole Miss gets sucked in by the run fake and the deepest route is wide open for a big gain.
Auburn was forced to settle for a field goal attempt on that drive, which Anders Carlson doinked off the upright. Ole Miss got the ball back with another chance to cut it to a one score game, and found themselves with a 4th and 1 at Auburn's 20. Lane Kiffin received a ton of criticism for his fourth down decisions, even though "taking the points" on all three of their failed fourth downs would have only yielded 9 points in a game they lost by 11. That basic arithmetic aside, the advanced math also agreed with Kiffin's decision-making; on all three of the failed fourth downs, Ole Miss' win probability and expected points added from going for it were greater than their WP/EPA from a successful field goal attempt. It's easy to sit back in hindsight and say something was a bad call because it didn't work, but that's not how you evaluate decisions. You have to look at the information they were working with at the time. Ole Miss was converting their fourth downs at a 77% clip entering this game, and was 1/1 on the night. Analytics say you should pretty much always go for it on 4th and 1 unless you're inside your own 10, so 4th and 1 from your opponent's 20 is a no-brainer, especially when your offense is well above the average offense assumed by the generic fourth down chart.
So what happened? Well, in this case, it was just bad execution by Matt Corral. Ole Miss is just trying to dump the ball to the TE in the flat here, with three receivers to that side blocking downfield for him. Auburn didn't even get lined up correctly, and it was basically a free first down...
...until Corral just completely missed the wide open receiver. I really don't understand what happened here. Maybe he just rushed the throw because he wanted to catch Auburn out of position? I don't get how one of the country's best and most efficient QBs missed one of the easiest throws of his night, but he did, and Ole Miss turned it over on downs. So, was this a bad decision to go for it? Of course not. The math says this should be a slam dunk and going for it was a no-brainer. It was a good playcall too, they just didn't execute.
Anyway, Auburn got the ball back and opened the drive with an unsuccessful toss play on first down because Mike Bobo hates me, then got a decent run on second down, before Nick Brahms snapped the ball off of his own butt on a third and short, forcing Bo to just pick up the loose ball and throw it away, wasting a great stand by the defense.
Auburn gave up a field goal on the ensuing Ole Miss drive and got the ball back midway through the third only up by 8 after squandering another opportunity to really put the pressure on Ole Miss. Time for more squandering! Auburn got a nice completion on the first play of the drive, going back to the seam-curl combination they had worked a few times in the first half. The underneath throws were there as Ole Miss was desperate to avoid giving up big plays, but Auburn does a good job of turning this one into a big play anyway.
After, and stop me if you've heard this one before, another power toss on first down that went nowhere, Auburn went to the air on second down and really should have had a big play here. This is a double post concept, with both receivers running deep post routes, with the idea being that the free safety can only cover one of them and someone should be open. The underneath receiver ran a crossing route to pull the underneath zone defenders out of the throwing lanes. Both of the receivers were wide open and it should have been a huge gain, if not a touchdown, but Bo makes what's become a rare mistake for him, not setting his feet before throwing downfield, and the ball sails on him. A third down pass fell incomplete and Auburn punted yet again. Nuts.
On the ensuing Ole Miss drive, the Rebels once again drove down into the Auburn red zone and faced a fourth down. This was a bit different than the first one; it was much longer, 4th and 6 instead of 4th and 1, and Ole Miss was only down one score. The math says this one is pretty much a tossup, but slightly favors going for it, which is what Ole Miss did. And this time, it was play design rather than execution that did them in. On this play, Ole Miss is faking a sweep play to the left and running a post-wheel concept to that side, with the outside receiver running a deep post and the inside receiver running a wheel route, hoping the DBs would bite on the sweep fake and leave one of the receivers wide open. That didn't really happen, but what really did the play in was the design of the protection scheme. Ole Miss pulled the backside guard to help sell the sweep fake, which is a common thing that most good offenses do in their play-action games. However, this created a problem, because Colby Wooden was lined up directly over the pulling guard, and when he pulled, the center wasn't able to block back and help cover for him, and Colby had a free run at the QB. A better play design would have had that guard make an "in" call, telling the offensive line and QB that he had a man over him that he had to stay in and block, so he wouldn't be pulling on that play; this is common on plays where guards pull to the outside, such as buck sweep. Instead, there was no such call, and instead of a conversion, Ole Miss got Colby Sack Cheese.
Auburn, by contrast, opened their subsequent drive with a very well-designed play-action pass. The outside receiver comes in motion to a stack alignment, and the receivers switch release, as described above. This is another bootleg flood concept. The inside receiver went deep, the motioning outside receiver ran 12-yard out route, and the H-back, who pulled across the formation to sell the run fake, ran to the flat. Bo makes a good read and hits the out for a first down.
Auburn went back to the ground on the next play, running the same GY counter with slot motion that they ran in the first quarter. This time, Ole Miss recognizes the play, and their LBs flow to the gap to blow it up...except that Tank sees what they're doing and cuts to daylight. That's not really how gap plays are supposed to work; cutbacks usually happen on zone plays. But thanks to Ole Miss' terrible gap discipline and Tank's excellent vision, it's a huge gain.
Auburn then does something I don't understand at all, snapping the ball with 10 seconds left in the quarter, even though there were 19 seconds left on the play clock and they didn't have to run another play. Clock management rant part two! You're winning in the second half of a close game. Let the clock run as much as you can. Instead, they basically gave Ole Miss a free timeout and saved them 40 seconds. Oh, and Tank slipped so the play went for a one-yard loss.
Auburn kept doing this throughout the fourth quarter, snapping the ball with sometimes as much as 15 seconds left on the play clock. In that situation, you should be letting the play clock run all the way down between snaps. That's correct clock management when you're ahead late in a game. Any seconds you leave on the clock could be the seconds your opponent needs to score and tie or win the game. This isn't something unique to Auburn or Harsin, coaches screw this stuff up all the time, which, again, is baffling to me. Clock management isn't a nebulous, abstract thing; it's governed by a well-defined series of rules. If the head coach can't memorize those rules, then delegate it to a member of the staff or something. I don't get how this problem is so prevalent across all levels of football.
Auburn's next play was a pass that was completed short of the sticks (the strange one where there was a question about his forward progress). I don't understand the ruling there, so I'm just going to skip ahead to the ensuing fourth down. It's 4th and 2 from the +42, another unambiguous go for it situation. Harsin makes the correct decision and breaks out a new play for it, running an inside zone insert play from an unbalanced pistol set. The "insert" refers to the motioning H-back "inserting" himself into the middle of the blocking scheme rather than blocking the end like he does on split zone. Auburn needed two yards and got three.
After the conversion, Auburn takes another shot downfield. I don't really know what this play is called, but I've seen a few teams run it, notably Steve Sarkisian's Alabama offenses. The inside receiver runs a deep post route, while the outside receiver runs another post route underneath him. Auburn uses split zone action to sell the fake, and Kobe Hudson is, in technical football terminology, wide-ass open. If he doesn't slip while trying to cut upfield after the catch, it's probably a touchdown.
Auburn went to a couple of red zone staples, bootleg flood and zone read arc, on the next two plays, setting up a third down and short. However, they get stuffed on third down, leaving them with 4th and 1. And here, Harsin makes the only truly bad coaching decision of the game. On 4th and 1 from the opponent's 6 yard line, you go for it every time. Sure, a field goal makes it a two-score game, but you know what else makes it a two-score game? Converting the fourth down and scoring a touchdown. Yes, it's the fourth quarter, but there were over 11 minutes to go. The "two score game" argument would only apply if it was unlikely that there was enough time for Ole Miss to score, get the ball back, and score again. You should be maximizing points here, not just trying to make it a two-score game. And the math agrees, giving Auburn a higher win probability for a fourth down conversion than for a successful field goal. This is why I think Lane having an "analytics guy" is a good thing: you should be making a cold, rational, calculated decision here, not letting emotion or conservative coaching instincts bias your choices, because that leads to bad decisions like this one. At least Anders made the kick.
Auburn forced Matt Corral into a rare interception, and, flush with all of that momentum, Auburn's offense took the field with a chance to ice the game and opened the drive with...well what do you think? An I formation power toss on first down that was unsuccessful, bringing Auburn's success rate on those plays in the second half to a whopping zero percent. Auburn then ran an awkward looking zone read that didn't yield much yardage, setting up 3rd and 5. Mike Bobo went back to the well with railroad, and once again, Bo found his running back wide open out of the backfield for a first down. Ole Miss' defense is a little kid carrying their Halloween candy, and Auburn's RBs in the passing game are the surly teenagers that shove that kid down, take their candy, and leave them sobbing on the sidewalk in their stupid little pumpkin outfit.
Auburn followed that big play up with...do I even have to say it? An I formation power toss that was stopped for no gain. Auburn's predictable first down playcalling in the second half repeatedly stuck them behind the chains and forced them into more difficult situations. Note how many of the successful series start with a first down pass and how many of the unsuccessful ones start with a first down run. On the next play, Auburn shifted to an unbalanced formation from the gun and ran an outside zone RPO with a bubble screen to the backside. Bo saw the outside linebacker creeping into the box and made the correct decision to hit Kobe Hudson on the screen. Kobe got some good downfield blocking which allowed him to pick up the first down and then...yeah...gotta hold onto the ball.
The next Ole Miss drive once again made it to the Auburn red zone where Ole Miss once again faced a fourth down. This fourth down decision was pretty uncontroversial, I think. They were down 11 with 5 minutes to play, and they needed a touchdown ASAP. On 4th and 3 from the 18, they made a truly baffling playcall, taking a shot at the end zone off of play-action when, for those of you who weren't math majors, they needed four yards to keep the drive alive. Just for funsies, they also aligned incorrectly; the receiver on the left should have been off the line of scrimmage, but instead lined up on the line of scrimmage, covering the TE and making him ineligible, which led to an ineligible receiver downfield penalty. But wait, there's more! They also committed a holding penalty, just to make sure this wouldn't count. The pass was incomplete, Auburn declined the penalties, and got the ball back in a position to ice the game with a couple of first downs.
After that big stop, Auburn came out in an unbalanced bunch set on first down. Let's see who was paying attention earlier: what do you think Auburn ran? Yep, it was duo. Ole Miss probably knew what was coming and stopped it after a short gain. However, Auburn went right back to the well on second down and a great cut by Tank netted Auburn ten yards and a first down.
Auburn tried the same play for a third straight time on the ensuing first down and were stopped for very little gain. Knowing that with Ole Miss down to their final timeout, one more first down would just about end the game, Auburn went back to the play they used to ice the Arkansas game: orbit QB sweep. And what do you know, it worked again. This was a slight variation on that play, with the RB lining up in the backfield, going in motion out of the backfield, and then coming back around on the orbit path. I think the RB motion was a bit of a tell, but it didn't matter, as the play was blocked well and Bo was able to pick up a first down that pretty much wrapped up the win.
Auburn only needed one more first down to truly end the game, and after feeding Ole Miss their lunch on an inside zone insert on first down, went back to the tap pass on second and short, utilizing a similar blocking scheme to the sweep play above, with the receivers aligned tight to the formation to block down on the defenders on the edge of the box, allowing the RB and playside tackle to block the corner and safety. It only netted a short gain, but it was enough to move the sticks.
On the next play, Auburn removed any doubt about the outcome, gashing Ole Miss one more time on a well-executed split zone that allowed them to kneel out the clock and secure the victory.
So, how do we assess Auburn's offensive performance in this game? The first half was fantastic, aside from the squandered opportunity on the third possession of the game that could have put Auburn up three scores. The second half was a comedy of errors, with almost everyone making mistakes and the offense hampered by both bad playcalling and bad execution. Thankfully, the defense stymied Ole Miss' offense as well, leading to a truly dreadful 30 minutes of football that resulted in Auburn holding on for a big win.
Auburn still has it all to play for in the remaining four games, but we can't afford to have stretches like the second half on Saturday where the offense can't get out of first gear for an entire half. The execution has to be more consistent and the playcalling has to avoid falling into those ruts where predictable first down runs leave Auburn struggling from behind the chains for the rest of the series. Hopefully we'll see a more consistent performance this Saturday against Texas A&M. If the first half offense shows up for the entire game, we're probably playing for a division title in three weeks. If the second half offense shows up, we'll probably be waiting to find out our Outback Bowl opponent.