Auburn football: 3 takeaways from the blowout loss in the Iron Bowl
Death. Taxes. Alabama winning the Iron Bowl in Tuscaloosa.
Auburn needed a near-perfect performance if they had intentions of beating the Crimson Tide in Bryant-Denny for the 1st time in a decade. What they received instead was a thorough, 42-13 beatdown, their 2nd-worst loss in 8 years under Gus Malzahn. The Tigers never even hinted at walking away with the upset. Malzahn is now 0-12 against Alabama, LSU and Georgia away from Jordan-Hare.
“You gotta be big boys. You got to take it like a man,” Malzahn said after the game. “They got after us, they whipped us.”
Some games are just burn-the-tapes types, and for the most part, that’s what unfolded in the Iron Bowl. Alabama looked bigger, faster and stronger in every phase of the game, and it had CBS broadcasters Gary Danielson and Brad Nessler pleading with Auburn to pull their starters with more than 10 minutes left in 4th quarter to prevent any unnecessary injuries as the Tigers now turn to Texas A&M. The Aggies will be heavily favored, but Auburn stands a much better chance of winning than against the Tide.
These were the 3 biggest takeaways from Auburn’s ugly loss to Alabama.
The score didn’t indicate it, but Auburn actually forced 3 Alabama punts on their first 6 possession. But that’s a meaningless stat when you fail to translate that into any points.
Down 14-0, Auburn put together their best series of the 1st half, a 10-play, 51-yard drive to the Alabama 30. The Tigers overcame multiple fumbles on the drive, and Bo Nix and Anthony Schwartz made a few plays before stalling out. But rather than opting to go for it on 4th-and-3, down multiple scores to one of the best offenses in the country, Malzahn elected to kick a field goal.
Auburn nearly cut the deficit to 11 2 series later, when Seth Williams ran an eerily similar route to DaVonta Smith’s 66-yard touchdown in the 1st quarter. But rather than make the easy catch, one of the SEC’s most reliable receivers watched the ball fall through his hands. Nix threw his 1st of 2 interceptions just 4 plays later to Malachi Moore.
Seth Williams is so used to catching ill-fated passes, apparently, he forgot how to catch this one. pic.twitter.com/nUZLHWAZgc
— Cam Mellor (@CamMellor) November 28, 2020
Auburn entered Alabama territory twice more before the score got really out of hand. On both trips, they opted for the Anders Carlson kick, a puzzling decision for a team trying to win a shootout.
The ground game was grounded
It was a tall order for Auburn to have much success running the ball given the injury status of top back Tank Bigsby, left tackle Alec Jackson and right tackle Brodarious Hamm. And the Tigers just could not get anything going on the ground to help relieve some pressure on Nix.
Auburn finished with 120 yards on 42 carries, led by 59 from freshman Mark-Antony Richards. The total rushing yardage and 2.9 yards per carry were their fewest since the Oct. 3 loss to Georgia. The Tigers had rushed for at least 165 yards in each of the 5 games since and had never averaged fewer than 4.3 yards a carry since that trip to Athens.
Auburn had only 57 rushing yards in the 1st half, and more than half of their total for the game came in garbage time of the 4th quarter. Bigsby never recorded another carry after Auburn’s 1st offensive play of the 2nd half. The offensive line failed to get any push, and Nix was sacked 3 times.
Malzahn admitted after the game that Bigsby wasn’t close to 100 percent. If Auburn fans have learned anything about the Chad Morris offense through 8 games, it’s that the success of the passing game is contingent on the running game.
DeVonta Smith was otherworldly
Up until the Iron Bowl, Auburn’s secondary had done a fairly remarkable job of limiting the damage by some of the SEC’s best wideouts. Elijah Moore had just 16 yards for Ole Miss. LSU’s Terrace Marshall had only 28. South Carolina’s Shi Smith was decent for 76, and Georgia’s George Pickens had only 26.
Smith had 7 catches for 171 yards and 2 touchdowns. His scores came on 66- and 58-yard receptions. On the 66-yard reception, he embarrassed Smoke Monday and Christian Tutt as he blew past them.
Mac Jones looked worthy of the Heisman discussion, passing for 302 yards and 5 touchdowns with 0 interceptions against what was the SEC’s 2nd-best pass defense. The secondary has plenty of work to do this week as it prepares for Kellen Mond.