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WMD's Armchair QB: We're #1 Edition

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Dawgs defeat Auburn, but what did we learn?

Kevin C. Cox

Peeps, that was epic. Perhaps the biggest win in school history. Not only did our beloved Bullies win, they did it convincingly. And now we are the undisputed #1 team in America. I'm not sure I can fathom all of it. But as always, it's my "job" to examine the game more closely. Here's what I saw:

Psycho Defense:

1. Defense was very, very good yesterday. Sure, we gave up nearly 450 yards. But if you thought we'd completely shut down Auburn, you were fooling yourself. They are a very good offensive team with a QB that can make life miserable for defenses. But our guys stepped up, contained the run, and never gave up the homerun play Auburn has been so good creating this season.

2. Our D-Line was gassed in the 4th Quarter. That's not a knock. They were playing their butts off and Auburn is physical. Plus, they'd been chasing Marshall around all day. But they made stop after stop when we needed them.

3. Secondary was once again very good. They covered well for the most part. Auburn got some big plays off of Marshall's ability to scramble and extend the play, but not often from the pocket. We blew one coverage on Duke Willliams to gift Auburn a TD. But the other TD was a perfect throw by Marshall and even better catch by Williams.

4. You could really see how well coached the D is. Auburn did almost nothing that took us by surprise. Our LBs in particular knew what was happening before every play.

5. We forced all 4 Auburn TOs. Tipped pass, QB hurry, and two strips.

6. Will Redmond is progressing rapidly. He might be our best tackling CB, and that's saying something. Not to mention he was locked up with Coates almost all day and essentially shut him down. Absolutely outstanding job. I still think Calhoun is our best CB, but Redmond is breathing down his neck. He has all the tools and now he's started to produce.

7. Kaleb Eulls deserves a shoutout. No one talks about him, but all he does is be our most consistent DT every week. It's not flashy, he doesn't put up huge numbers, but he eats O-Linemen and frees up his teammates to make plays. He's quietly one of the biggest keys to our defensive success.

8. Anyone want to guess who had the QB hurry to force Marshall's second INT that sealed the W? If you said Chris Jones, you'd be correct. It's amazing how he always seems to be in on the biggest plays of the game.

9. Our redzone D was so salty the Dead Sea would be jealous. Auburn had 6 trips inside the 20, but were forced into 4 FG attempts with just 3 of the 4 made. That's one of the biggest reasons we won yesterday. When the offense was sputtering and putting them in bad spots, the D kept answering the bell. It was beautiful.

10. I thought our tackling yesterday was a bit sloppy. Some of that is because Auburn is good and Marshall is one of the slipperiest guys I've seen. But some of it was just bad technique and failure to wrap up. Gotta clean that up some.

11. I'll admit I was disappointed in Auburn's 99 yard drive. We gave them breathing room early when Redmond got flagged for a very questionable pass interference penalty. Frankly, I thought the ball was uncatchable. But then we kept letting them get chunks of yards and struggled to stop Marshall. The drive ended with the aforementioned busted coverage that left Williams wide open. Just a really, really bad series there.

12. We're the '85 Bears of college football. Forget the stats, teams are struggling to run the ball so they air it out. We limited the big play and forced one of the best redzone offenses in the nation to kick FGs. And we didn't give up a single rush TD. That alone is an amazing stat. This D can be as good as it wants. Just ignore the passing yards stats, though. It's crazy inflated and not indicative of how well the secondary is playing.

Special Teams:

1. Logan Cooke was very good again in place of Devon Bell. He got good hang time on his punts, forced Bray into fair catching, and keeping Auburn pinned deep. Had one kickoff that was a little bit short and resulted in a big return, but otherwise was good there, too. The one criticism I do have is not either eating the ball or kicking it rugby style on the fake punt. But that is only partially his fault.

2. It seems like Jamoral Graham is regressing as a punt returner the more he's "coached" by our "special teams coach." Another awful bit of indecision cost us a turnover and 3 points. Then he made some poor decisions on when to run and when to fair catch. He may just be a freshman, but he needs to figure it out quickly.

3. Evan Sobiesk had a really good day. He converted all his XPs without issue. But best of all, he nailed a FG. Sure, it was a 21-yard chipshot. But he hadn't made one at home all season (unless I'm forgetting one), so getting that monkey off his back was huge. Hopefully he'll be more loose now.

4. Dan Mullen once aGAIN got cute with the fake punt on our end of the field. I don't mind faking it, but doing it inside your 35 is ridiculous. Get out closer to midfield to try something like that. Cooke, a true freshman, wound up trying to do too much and threw a pick. Thankfully, the D bailed us out and forced a FG. Still, an awful decision that could have changed the game.

Offense/Dak Attack:

1. Offense struggled a bit. Four turnovers. And two of them were completely unforced. Dak underthrows Bear on a fade that is picked in the endzone. Then Dak makes a bad read and allows himself to be baited into a back shoulder throw that was picked. The scary part is we still wound up with essentially 470 yards of total offense. We capitalized and put points on the board after every Auburn TO, making it 21-0 before you could blink.

2. I was shocked to see that we threw the ball "only" 35 times yesterday. Being at the game, I'd have thought it was closer to 55 times. We ran 79 total offensive plays and had just 44 rush attempts. That's a 55/45 Run/Pass Ratio. That is NOT good enough. 60/40 run/pass should be the bare minimum. Some of that is because Auburn is really good on the DL and were cheating their safeties up to help stop the run. But at some point you have to be who you are and just decide you're going to impose your will. We didn't do that yesterday, and that is disappointing. Run. The. "Darn." Football.

3. Dak didn't have his best day, but still found ways to get the job done. His completion percentage was down, although he still eclipsed 200 yards in the air. And he rushed for 121. But you could tell he was just a little bit off, whether it was sailing a throw too high to Bear on an easy slant, letting himself be baited into a pick, or deciding to throw instead of run for yards. But the intangibles were still there. The drive he put together just before halftime after Auburn had closed the gap to 8 and seized momentum was a thing of beauty. That essentially put the final nail into Auburn's coffin.

4. Our 5 WR set is crazy effective with Dak. Defenses are forced to pick their poison. Lock up in man? Dak takes off for a run with the DBs backs turned. Zone? Dak picks you apart with easy throws.

5. J-Beast is still ridiculous. On a "bad" day when Auburn did a pretty solid job of bottling him up and preventing the run, he still wound up with 97 net rush yards and averaged 5.1 YPC. He's one of the hardest guys to tackle I've seen. And the big run he broke late was a big play in the game. Also saw him make a key block in pass pro at one point. Feed the Beast.

6. Malcolm Johnson was a force yesterday. He displayed why he's a mismatch in the passing game and made several key receptions. In fact, he led the team in receptions yesterday. But perhaps one of the biggest plays of the game was his run on the inside option. We haven't seen Mullen use that play in a long time, but he picked a perfect spot to call it yesterday and we executed it perfectly.

7. Bear Wilson could very well be a 3-and-done player. He's getting better every week. I have no clue what his ceiling is. Bear is huge and really starting to figure out how to use his size and strength. His first catch of the game that he broke for a TD was outstanding. We need to get him more touches. He's easily our most explosive playmaker on the outside.

8. OL continued to play at a high level.

9. Joe Morrow made one outstanding block yesterday, tying up 2 defenders to spring J-Beast for a nice run. He continues to be a very solid player for us this season.

10. I really like Gabe Myles. He's faster than Tubby, although maybe not as quick. But he's looked really good the last 2 weeks. He's dangerous on the bubble screens, getting downfield in a hurry. Can't wait to see this kid continue to progress.

Coaching/Miscellaneous:

1. I won't rehash it, but between the play-calling and the fake punt, I thought Mullen had a fairly bad day. But we won, so it's hard to argue.

2. We were the more physical team. We won the battle in the trenches and forced Auburn into throwing the ball to play catch-up.

3. Auburn is a really good football team, and it pains me to say that. If I had an AP vote, they'd still be #2. Yes, ahead of FSU and Mississippi. Very impressed with their improvements on D and how physical their DL is. And Marshall's improvement as a passer is very evident. But it's his ability to improvise that makes them so dangerous.

4. Our crowd.....WOW. Loudest, craziest, rowdiest crowd I've ever been part of in DWS. It started loud and only got louder. There were times I couldn't hear myself think it was so loud. Singing Don't Stop Believin' by Journey during the 4th Quarter break was epic. I also really enjoyed how much the crowd is embracing the Euro style soccer chant. For those who don't know what I'm talking about click here. It's the underlying "oh oh ohoh oh ohhh oh" beat. Best of all, we were really good with the cowbell rule. And the celebration afterwards was crazy.

5. Congrats to our fans for not storming the field. We expected to win and acted like we'd been there before, unlike some schools that win big games.

6. Congrats to Dan Mullen. He's put together one heck of a tough program in the last 6 seasons. He took some chances, but now they're paying off big. The development job this staff has done can't be praised enough.

7. The bye week is coming at a great time. We've played three very emotional games. Now we've got a chance to regroup, refocus, and heal up some bumps and bruises.

8. Expect incessant whining from Auburn fans about the cowbells, even though they brought bells of their own in an attempt to get us into trouble. Hope some of you got pictures of them ringing so we have evidence to send to the SEC office when we need it.

9. I still can barely believe we're the undisputed #1 team in the nation. What I wouldn't give for my grandfather to have lived to see this day.

That's how I saw it. You know the drill. Fire in the hole!

In Mullen We Trust,

WMD