Peeps, that was a tough one. As our favorite Bulldog Jack Cristil once said, we snatched defeat from the jaws of victory. We had chances to put the game away and didn't do it. Here's my observations and comments:
1. Give it up for this group. They played their hearts out. Take away the first quarter and the last drive, they played about as well as you could ask.
2. Did Chris Wilson come back to coach the final drive? We hadn't played soft for 2.5 quarters, then decided to sit in zone and give up the underneath passes. Inexcusable. As has been said many times: Prevent defense prevents you from winning. You can't play on your heels against the Malzahn offense. You have to attack it or they're going to rip you.
3. We had some tackling issues early, but improved as the game went along. Nice to see our D wake up a little after playing on their heels the 1st Quarter.
4. 10 of Auburn's points were set up by freak plays. The Marshall pass to himself was something I've never seen in a college game. That would only happen against us. Thankfully, the D bowed up and held them to a FG.
5. We did a damn good job containing the Auburn run game. They only rushed for 120 yards as a team. No rusher was over 50 yards individually.
6. Preston Smith gets a special shout out. His tackle and strip was a helluva play. He also had several QB pressures. Nice to see him developing on the other side of Autry. That will be big as the season goes forward.
7. Our pass D needs work. Too many instances of busted coverages. And was the Auburn turf slick? Saw way too many stumbles and slips by our DBs.
8. Nice to see Nickoe get a pick. Looks like we can say our ballhawking centerfielder is back.
1. Devon Bell should never kick again. 3 games, 3 missed FGs. His miss tonight was one of the biggest reasons we lost. But for some reason, everyone seems to be focusing on the 2-point conversion attempt. I'd be holding open tryouts come Monday if I were the coach. The team deserved better.
2. Return game wasn't really a factor.
3. As usual, Baker Swedenburg was outstanding. Possibly the best punter in the nation. The one return early might be the only return of substance all season.
1. We've found a QB. Dak needs to start from here on out. Prior to the mid-3rd Quarter, the playcalling and creativity was vastly improved. And the run threat that Dak brings opens up so much more of the playbook. He's a physical beast running the ball. Needs some more work in the passing game, but he's already way ahead of where Relf was at the same point of their careers. Frankly, he erased all question as to who the QB should be tonight.
2. Perkins had a nice game. But once again, we decided to try to run him up the middle in the 4th quarter. Result? Offense stalls. Did notice he made an outstanding block on a rushing DT to create a nice pocket for Dak on the big play to Tubby.
3. We got simultaneously pass happy and conservative midway through the 3rd. Good teams and coaches go for the kill, not sit on the lead. That falls squarely on Dan Mullen. No excuse for the BS we saw after getting the lead.
4. Only 1 carry for Shumpert tonight. I said it last week: If we aren't going to redshirt him, ride him. Unsurprising, but frustrating.
5. Why does Joe Morrow keep getting to play? Sure, he's tall and fast. But he's also soft. He doesn't like contact, doesn't use his height to his advantage, and doesn't fight for the ball. His snaps need to go to De'Runnya Wilson.
6. Asking Dak to be a pocket passer is the dumbest idea of all time. We were moving the ball and looking very good on O until we reverted to the conservative play calling.
7. The OLine looked much better tonight. It's amazing what happens when you let the big guys be physical and put in a mobile QB. Good job by those guys.
8. Can we please, please, PLEASE scrap this running back by committee garbage? Pick 2, at most 3, guys and ride them. Spreading carries among 5 backs is ridiculous and prevents anyone from getting into a rhythm. If it were up to me, I'd go with J-Rob, Shump, and Perkins. Convert Griffin and Milton to fullbacks.
9. Our WRs continue to be plagued by the dropsies. Several catchable balls dropped that could have made a big difference in the outcome. Got to clean that up or get those guys some Stick 'Em.
10. I know I've said it about 3 times already, but it bears reiterating: We can't go conservative with a small lead on offense, especially against an offensive team like Auburn, and expect to win. Other than the 4th down conversions, we played not to lose rather than playing to win. That gets you beat the vast majority of the time. And frankly, that falls directly on Mullen. I'm not on the fire Mullen bandwagon, but it's time to start asking some serious questions.
11. Too many pre-snap penalties. Those are killer. I can live with an occasional hold or clipping. But false start aggravates me and absolutely kills drives. We just shoot ourselves in the foot way too often. Get your heads in the game.
12. Absolute Mad Hatter quality clock management in the 4th Quarter. Wasted all 3 TOs to avoid delay of game. Furthermore, why even bother trying to draw Auburn offsides? Just punt it. Again, a little thing that makes a big difference. If you've got a TO in your pocket, you can use it on the last drive to get your D a breather and try to stall the Auburn momentum.
Honestly, this team deserved a better result tonight. The coaching staff let them down when it mattered. The blame for this one lies squarely on the shoulders of Dan Mullen. You can't let SEC teams hang around or they will beat you. Dan needs to take a serious look in the mirror. He failed his team tonight by failing to have any guts other than on 4th down. He needs to rediscover the guy that preached relentless effort and yelled all game. This conservative guy who chews on his play card isn't getting the job done.