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Talk about painful! Not only did I have to watch this game by myself...at work...but I had to endure one of the most painful performances I have ever seen Auburn put together. So, here is what we expected in the MSU Preview. Awful. Just terrible. You know, I have been through some tough periods where we just didn't have the players to compete. But, we have the talent. We have the coaching. And this was a failure of both.
I do want to credit MSU with an amazing display they put forth for Gameday. The atmosphere looked to be outstanding and the cowbells were deafening even through the TV. Auburn stumbled out of the shoot in a surprising LSU 2013 V2.0 type 1st quarter. I found myself yelling "TAKE A TIMEOUT!!!!" at the TV.
What can I say? Your first two offensive plays are turnovers. The first was a batted pass. It would be easy to say that it was luck, but it's becoming a very reoccurring theme. Defenses have figured out the passing lanes that Marshall uses and they get defenders in those lanes who get their hands up. This is the 2nd or 3rd team to consecutively do this to Marshall. And MSU did it TWICE for INTs.
The second turnover comes on a great defensive play where a helmet popped the ball out of Duke William's hands. After that, State gave the Auburn offense plenty of turnover with which to work. The offense was completely out of sync and the one time that it seemed to come together was the one series that featured Roc Thomas, who put together 50 yards or so on a few carries, got Auburn into field goal range, only to see it squandered. Then, #9 was sent to the bench. It left all of us wondering why.
After that series, I found myself being very critical of the play calling. It seemed we threw on every 1st down, rarely completing it, taking a loss on 2nd down, and running on 3rd and long. The feeling was exacerbated on a 3rd and goal TE pass that left me and a lot of fans scratching our heads.
Then the rain set in. Auburn was down by a lot of points and found itself having to throw. Marshall struggled mightily with overthrown balls. I am never for yanking out elite players, but I found myself asking why Jeremy Johnson wasn't in the game. It wasn't so much about Marshall's struggles as it was about the need to have an effective passer. When you are constantly playing from behind, especially by multiple TDs, you have to field a competent passer.
After the game, I contemplated what I have seen with this offense. People, mostly announcers and other pundits have said it, but this offense is not the same Auburn offense from 2013. I don't mean because of the play calling. I mean, the execution has been bad in multiple games. If nothing else, it has been peaks and valleys. We have an offense that was on Kill Mode for the first half of the Arkansas game. Then, struggled against Kansas State. Back on Kill Mode in the LSU game. Then completely discombobulated in this contest. I think most people thought that this offense would be more versatile and therefore, less apt to bog down....at least for a whole game. Instead, it seems that the inability to do one thing forces pressure to do the other and the offense can't adjust. It's almost like the pressure to be balanced has taken a team from being excellent in one thing and one thing only to being mediocre at everything. Who knows? Maybe instead of having those same 6 plays and being perfect, the team has to know 60 and can't handle the play book.
One thing is for sure, the offensive line is not the same without Robinson and Kozan. Last year, Auburn didn't care if you knew they were running or not, they were going to run and do so with a mean physicality. This unit hasn't performed near the level that last years unit performed.
The short fields proved too costly for the Auburn defense who gave up 21 first quarter points. The good news is, Auburn did a good job at limiting Prescott, despite the turnovers and punts. I don't think Frost and McKinnsey did quite as well as I had hoped in stuffing the big QB in the middle, but they limited him. Fact is, after the 1st quarter, Auburn's defense played extremely well. I thought this game might set them apart as an elite unit, and I am really thinking they are there. But, it's tough to play a clean game when the offense hands the other team the ball.
Johnathan Jones, however, is a star in the making. He played absolutely amazing.
I had said that Wilson was a receiver that had the size, speed, and ability to be elite. He sure showed it as he drug defenders into the endzone for his first TD. He fought Jones all day and Jones did an admirable job, though some odd calls hurt the Auburn defense.
Speaking of odd calls....how about that pass interference on Coates. Look, I don't mind CLOSE calls that go against you. But that was a bonehead call.