If you didn't read my Fearless Predictions for the Mississippi State game, please check it out.
Overall....Eh....I am not sure how I would grade my performance. Let's get it on paper and see how we feel about it then.
The Running Game
I guess I will start off by saying that Mullen did exactly as I thought he would do in his game planning. He bottled up the run. I didn't expect them to do such a good job of it. Grant did lead the way with 44 yards with a long of 12 yards. I expected him to break the long one, but he didn't. As expected, Mason was kept completely in check. Unexpectedly, CAP was also kept in check. But, I expected him to get 2 TDs, both in short yardage situations. Auburn didn't have any short-and-goals. Mullen wanted to see Marshall beat him with his arm. His weakness is his secondary and he saw a perceived weakness in the Auburn passing game. It was a worthwhile gamble and it nearly worked. The only thing that seemed to work in the running game was QB scrambles. Marshall did a very good job running when he HAD to.
The Passing Game
On the flip side, Auburn obviously game planned to take advantage of the holes that Banks and Slay left in the secondary. So, as Mullen stacked the box for the potent Auburn run game, Gus had Marshall came out slinging the rock. Marshall threw for more yards in the 1st quarter than he has thrown in any game this year. He ended with....gasp....23-34 for 339. That's the first guy since Cam to do that.
But, ever the realist, I temper my excitement. 76 of those yards were a TD to Bray that...well...State just gave Auburn. I still don't know what happened. I assume that the State defender on Bray saw Marshall fumble the snap, took a step up, and Bray smoked him. 70 more of that came on the 2-minute drill to win the game, so, "offsetting penalties" on that. Along with those gobs of yardage were a lot of shorter passes. More important are the missed opportunities. Marshall completely missed a wide open Coates streaking to the endzone...over throwing him by a bazillion yards. Other passes were off the mark all game long. The middle two quarters were almost painful to watch, for both sides. I expected Auburn to blow the roof off in the 3rd quarter with a pair of deep ball TDs. And, the plays WERE there. But, hey, give the guy some props for that Game Winner toss.
Here is what I expected in my Preview:
"It's obvious that this coaching staff wants to go downtown. If they can do it to an appreciable extent, they can blow the doors off this MSU defense. Marshall knows he can run at any point. The coaching staff knows he can run at any point. He could possibly, with help from Mason/CAP/Grant, win the day entirely running....but that won't beat the rest of the SEC-W. I can totally see him running one in, but I think he is being coached heavily to develop his touch and relationship with his receivers. "
And, at least I was right about that. Marshall stuck to the passing game. While he did run some, and did so very will, he did it ONLY when he really needed to. For the most part, he stuck in the pocket. While he picked up 50 solid yards on the ground including a clutch run in the 2-minute drill, he did so safely.
He had 2 INTs, and while they hurt, I didn't really get riled up about them. The first was a Hail Mary to end the half. I guess the ONLY thing that bothered me was, for a guy who can throw it 80 yards, why did he short arm it? The other INT came off a tipped ball. Not much he can do about that.
And then there is the defense. Prescott played in the place of Russell, so I imagine that made game planing a little harder. So, as I once again berate Jake Holland, the haters will berate me. Believe me when I say that I do support each and every player and coach. Yet, I can't deny that he is the weak link in the defense. Prescott on MULTIPLE runs made Holland look foolish. With Frost out, Mullen game planned just I would. The D-line still has trouble collapsing the pocked and Holland can't do anything right. So, QB draws up the middle were the order of the day. Prescott ran for 133 yards and averaged 6.0 per carry and a long of 47 yards. He accounted for both of the State TDs. It's one thing when a QB finds the corner. These runs were right up the gut. Holland couldn't make the tackle when he was in position, but more importantly, every replay I saw of him, he couldn't get off a blocker. If you miss a tackle, at least you are slowing down a runner by hitting him or making him change directions. If you can't get off a blocker, a runner will just run by you. That's exactly what I saw happening. When Frost came back from suspension in the second half, that all but stopped. On the flip side, Perkins was held in check. Kudos to Ellis Johnson on that. That's a tall order.
Auburn's secondary played well. Aside from having 2 receivers that averaged 20 yards per catch and a total yardage of 213, I thought they played excellent. I think we all wanted to see some turnovers, but I'll take it. Just as I expected, Therezie continues to start at Star and Garret has now moved back to LB. Therezie is a nasty presence in the defensive backfield. He made some terrific bone-jarring hits. It's been a long time since I have said that I had a favorite player. He is the man. I just hope that he continue to play with a chip in his shoulder even though he has supplanted Garrett. Although I am obviously a Number 27 fan, I do hope that Garrett finds success at LB. Sure looks like we need it.
Marshall as the Player of the Game was right on. Hard to deny. Although I want to see a complete game, you can't argue with the win. 90 yards in 2 minutes is a feat. I will be honest that when the State punt pinned Auburn on the 10, I thought the game was over. I am always happy to be proven wrong. Parkey gets a very honorable mention with his 3 Field Goals, which I was thankful for in my Fantasy League.
Adams, and the D-line in general, were not factors in this game it seemed. I am getting extremely worried about that. You can't win in the SEC without getting pressure in the backfield. At no point Saturday did I feel like the D-line was a legitimate threat. They did bottle up Perkins, though he only had 8 carries. I wonder if that was less on their effect and more on Mullen's game plan.
While not a Game Breaking Moment, the MSU corners did get frozen up at least twice. Only one of those turned into a touchdown, but the other should have. One was the 76 yarder to Bray that set the tone for the game in the 1st Quarter the other was the aforementioned miss to Coates.
The Final Score? Yikes. I was off just a little. It wasn't 38-17 like I expected. Auburn didn't get the 2 3rd quarter TD tosses I expected and State missed a 2-point conversion early and missed a FG late. Not terrible, but not good either.
So, as far as predicting the game plan, I give myself an A. Mullen shut down the Auburn running game as I expected him to attempt. The only thing I didn't see coming was completely shutting down the long run play from Grant. He forced Marshall to beat him in the air. While I expected the deep ball at least twice for TDs, I was right that they would attempt it, and wrong that they would execute it. Offensively, Mullen ran right at the weak part of the defense..the middle. No TDs for Cap. That was a big miss.
As far as predicting stats and scores...well....let's just say a C-. Overall, I'd have to say a B- in total.