Published September 26, 2011 - 5:19pm
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I know the old adage, “A win is a win” but somehow Saturday’s win over Florida Atlantic didn’t seem like a win. Instead of coming out and dominating a clearly overmatched opponent, it seems the young Auburn team played down to the level of their competition. If not for a few key turnovers by the Owls, this game might have gone down to the final minutes.
Florida Atlantic was not a typical cupcake team. They were the cupcake of cupcakes. In their previous game against Michigan State, Florida Atlantic had managed a total of one first down and 48 yards of total offense for the entire game. Against Auburn they had 20 first downs and 307 total yards of offense.
There were drives the Owls were knocking off 9-10 yards per play. They made several first downs when Auburn had them in 3rd and long situations. If you can’t stop a weak offense like Florida Atlantic’s, how do you think you’re going to stop South Carolina? Marcus Lattimore may break the NCAA records for carries and yardage in a game against this Auburn defense.
Even the Gus Malzahn engineered offense failed to perform. It looked more like a Tony Franklin offense from Coach Tuberville’s final season. I know Auburn sat a good many key players out to rest them for South Carolina, but even the backups should be better prepared than this offense was Saturday night.
There are still some areas that need work if this offense is going to excel. The biggest thing is catching the football. In this offense, the flare pass and screens are supposed to be big play opportunities that open up the rest of the game. Far too many times this simplest of passes isn’t completed. Pass, catch and run. It sounds so simple until you get players who can’t catch. If you can’t make the defense respect this facet of your offense, you’re sunk.
Another thing that needs considerable work is teaching the offensive players how to block for one another. Just as a defense works best as a unit, instead of eleven individuals, so does the offense. If the ball isn’t coming to you, your assignment is to block someone. Far too many times this season, a play that was setup beautifully failed because someone didn’t make the one block needed to free the runner or receiver.
On defense, you can’t keep ceding the sideline passes and screens. You’ve got to play this receiver tighter and force the QB to throw over you. If you make him throw deeper, there’s a greater chance for a mistake or a turnover.
If you have the play covered and it’s completed anyway, you have got to stop the play from becoming a big play. There have been many times this season when the play was stopped in the backfield, but ended up being a big play because one or two players failed to tackle. There’s a lot of things to learn when making the transition from high school to college, but basic tackling techniques shouldn’t be one of those things.
I know this is a young team, and they’re only going to get better, but it seems they took a step backwards from the first three games to this one. After four games, they’re still making many of the same mistakes. Facing possibly the toughest October ever faced by an Auburn team, with games at South Carolina, at Arkansas, at home against Florida, at LSU and a home game with Ole Miss, these mistakes have got to be overcome or Auburn’s hopes of a winning season may be gone before the leaves are off the trees.