Auburn football: Why did Tigers give up trying to run so early against Georgia?
When your quarterback is your leading rusher in a game, there are 2 things that could have occurred: you either have a Cam Newton/Lamar Jackson-type player behind center whose ground game is part of the overall attack, or the running game failed miserably.
Unfortunately for Auburn, the latter was true Saturday night in the 21-14 loss to Georgia.
Let’s quickly take a look at the numbers:
- Bo Nix: 13 rushes, 42 yards, 1 TD
- D.J. Williams: 8 rushes, 26 yards
- Boobie Whitlow: 11 rushes, 23 yards
Two things are happening here: Nix is having to rush or scramble way too much and Gus Malzahn gave up on the normal rushing attack way before the game ever started.
It was apparent on the very first drive. In a situation that should have never been put on his shoulders, Nix was asked early and often to be the main producer, something Malzahn has said he can’t do. As the 7th-year coach likes to say, and I am paraphrasing here, “for my offense to be at its best, the rushing game must lead the way.”
He didn’t even give that one bit of a chance against the Dawgs. Granted, Georgia’s defense is stout against the run, now holding opponents to 75.50 rushing yards per game, but when you don’t even give your offensive line and running backs a chance to set the tone, it is already a victory for the Bulldogs.
But maybe there is a bigger underlying problem going on. As good as Carnell “Cadillac” Williams was as a running back, are we sure that he is the right guy to develop guys at the position he played? I have yet to see a major step up in the running game under his guidance after taking over for Tim Horton, a well-respected coach who was a major factor in the streak of the Tigers having a 1,000-yard runner in 10 consecutive seasons.
D.J. Williams has shown flashes of what he can be, but will he be able to fulfill that potential under Williams? One starts to wonder.
But it all comes back to Malzahn basically waving the white flag on putting together a potent rushing attack Saturday. The end result was 84 total yards on the ground (half of that by Nix) and the quarterback throwing the ball 50 times. That’s the most attempts by an Auburn QB this century. Heck, Nix already has 2 of the top 5 games, in terms of passing attempts, since 2000.
Of course, Malzahn will say all the right things about needing to get the running game going and why it was his fault that they abandoned any sort of ground attack and that he will be aware of it going forward. You know, everything that Auburn fans have heard after losses in different forms over the past several years.
Under Malzahn, Auburn is 1-4 when a QB throws it 40 times or more in a game — the lone win coming this year when Nix attempted 44 passes against Ole Miss.
To be blunt, they shouldn’t buy it anymore. Auburn’s identity as an offense for the entire history of the program has been being able to pound the ball, gaining the tough yards when needed and ultimately wearing down opposing defenses with the rush. It is basically what made Malzahn’s 2013 team so proficient.
Yet here we are, 10 games through the season and, much like maybe the coach himself, the offense is trying to figure out some sort of identity. Time is running out if that is ever going to happen.