Rapid Reaction: Auburn must figure out its offense quickly, or a long year awaits
It was not pretty by any means. No. 10 Auburn, coming off a huge opening win against Oregon, walked through a nonconference game against Tulane and came out with a 24-6 victory Saturday night. The negatives outweigh the positives by a large margin for Gus Malzahn’s squad, but then again, when upsets are bound to happen in the first few weeks, a win is a win.
The D stays dominant
Let’s start with the positive. The defense, facing a versatile quarterback in Justin McMillan who started his career at LSU, was able to keep the Green Wave under wraps and held them to 2 field goals. The front 4 pressured Justin McMillan enough to throw off his passing and the secondary, with the exception of a couple of big gains, was excellent. This defense will have to stay at the top of its game if the Tigers want to win games.
Rushing game nowhere to be seen in 1st half
There’s no way to sugarcoat what everyone saw on Saturday night in Jordan-Hare Stadium: Auburn, an SEC school that prides itself on being able to run the ball, was unable to do just that against Tulane and, worse, both teams knew it.
Malzahn all but abandoned the rushing attack and instead put the trust in Bo Nix’s hands on back-to-back drives where the Tigers started on their own 9-yard line and 3-yard line, respectively, in the 2nd quarter. Five of the 6 plays from those field positions were passes, showing the Green Wave that the Tigers weren’t confident in gaining yards on the ground.
This is a bad omen for an offense that thrives when the running game is a threat. Auburn rushed for 208 yards against Oregon last week, but after 30 minutes Saturday, the Tigers had just 20.
Auburn was able to get something going on the ground in the 2nd half, mostly due to a worn out Green Wave defense, but it was at least something.
Joey Gatewood had a nice run when he entered the game late in the 4th quarter, but he also was stuffed a couple of times.
In the future, the Tigers will not be able to have slow starts like that on the ground. Of course, a part of this all boils down to …
The offensive line is woeful
Wasn’t this supposed to be where the Tigers were improved? Auburn returned all 5 starters — all seniors — and they still look like true freshmen. The holes weren’t even close to being there for the running backs and, even though the pass protection was solid at times, the line could only do so much when Tulane knew that the Tigers were going to pass.
If this is how it’s going to be, well, expect a lot of low-scoring games this season that the defense will have to keep close.
Nix continues growing pains
Auburn having an effective running game would be a great way to take the pressure off Nix, but that isn’t the case right now. On a few plays, the quarterback and his wide receivers were on a different page, as is to be expected with someone making only his second collegiate start. There are times when you see the flashes of what can make Nix so good, but as of this moment, he makes a lot more miscues than dazzling throws. He finished 19-for-37 for 207 yards.
Receiving corps depth being problem
It’s going to be interesting to see who steps up for Auburn at the wide receiver position after Seth Williams, the hero of the win against Ducks, went down with a shoulder injury in the second quarter and might be out a while. Adding to the trouble is the status of Will Hastings, who looked to suffer a concussion after an illegal hit by a Tulane secondary player in the third.