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Welp. It's done. In the books. And it wasn't pretty. Did the Tiger's perform as you expected? They sure didn't, in my book. But, let's keep things in perspective for a bit. Auburn managed to go on the road against a Top 20 team and win. At the end of the day, that is the only thing that matters.
But, as we do for each and every game, let's take a look at how I predicted they would play, and see what actually happened. For a quick recap, go read my Kansas State Preview.
In the first quarter, Auburn essentially had 3 3-and-outs. And, aside from a Waters fumble recovered by Ole Star 27 which led to a cheap field goal, Auburn's offense wasn't able to do anything. I predicted that Marshall would continue to struggle early in the game, which he did. The case of the dropsies continued for an Auburn receiving core that COULD be on the best, but isn't.
An interception in the endzone and am missed field goal and we would have the 10-3 score I predicted. Instead, the bad ju-ju for opposing kickers continues and an All-American receiver bobbled a sure TD which Auburn's Jones came up with.
In the second quarter, it wasn't Lockett who moved the chains for Kansas State. Instead, it was little used Curry Sexton who benefited from the heavy coverage that Lockett drew. A couple of choice passes and Kansas State cashed in on a short run. And, instead of Duke finding the endzone in the second quarter, it was Ricardo Louis who took a short pass, made some moves, and found the endzone. We found the score 10-7 thanks to another missed field goal by the Wildcats.
At teh end of the 3rd, no more changes....just more of the same. Even another missed KSU field goal.
On the 3rd play of the 4th quarter, Marshall found Duke on an underneath route to have Auburn a 17-7 lead. After a Trovon Reed INT, Carlson added a field goal to extend the lead. Kansas State fought back to get within a TD, but Marshall hit Duke on a long pass to salt the game.
So, the game ends at 20-14, a far cry from the 38-23 game I predicted. Both sides played very sloppy. If KSU gets the bobbled INT in the endzone and the 3 missed FGs, they come away with 30 total points. Auburn left at least 2 TDs and 1 missed FG on the field due to missed throws and drops, which would have gotten the game to 37-30. Obviously, much closer to my predicted score. But, they didn't.
My initial reaction after the game was that the team didn't play well in any phase of the game. It wasn't until the next day that I read how well Auburn's defense performed. Let's not forget how well Waters and Co have played up until this point in the season. A potent running attack was held to 40 total yards. I don't care WHO you play, holding a team to 40 rushing yards is getting it done. The Auburn secondary gave up yards to a secondary receiver, but kept the Waters/Lockett connection in check while coming away with 2 INTs. I guess I was so flabbergasted at the lack of offensive production that I shortchanged the defense. Instead of going for the defense for the sake of the team, I just wanted the defense to play so the offense could get the ball back and get out of its funk. Instead, I should have been excited to see an Auburn defense rise into a consensus top 25 defense for the first time in FOREVER. No, I don't mean "when the opposing team in on the 25 yardline during a Thursday night game in the central time zone." I mean, an overall top 25 defense in most every category. And that is playing two top 25 or so offenses.
Speaking of offenses, is anyone slightly worried about the progression of Marshall? I am. Where are the fireworks? The better passes? The better decisions? Instead of seeing the inevitable super-stardom that being a 2nd year starter under Malzahn would bring, we are seeing the exact same player we were seeing this time last year. In the first quarter, the decisions on the zone read were appalling. Marshall's decision making scuttled any chance at dominating the game as he pulled it when he should have kept it and kept it when he should have pulled it. It never felt like the tempo that Lashlee and Malzahn want was ever set.
The only highlight I felt was worth mentioning was that Duke has had a 3rd straight 100 yard receiving game. I don't know when the last time that was accomplished. But, it took a 40 yard game-sealing catch to get there. Marshall still hasn't hit that magical number of completion percentage, though I will say that he did attempt a new high in attempts and didn't throw any picks. It wasn't a terrible night throwing, but he isn't setting the w0rld on fire. If he is to get into the Heisman spotlight, he better get with it.
As much as I wasn't happy with the execution, the fact is that Auburn got out of a tough game when many other similar teams did not (see Missouri and LSU).