Turnover after turnover, flag after flag, missed opportunity on top of missed opportunity — the Malzahn-coached team we witnessed last Saturday was most certainly not the one we have grown to adore over the past year. Following the first defensive stand that forced the ‘Dawgs to a three and out, I told my cousin, “That was easier than I thought it’d be.” Sure enough, one offensive snap for the Tigers later, and we’re watching Dak Prescott take the field once again after a tipped interception for Mississippi State’s defense. “That’s fine,” I thought, even after the scoreboard lit up 7-0, “We chose to defer — they were supposed to score first anyway.” And would you look at that, one kickoff and offensive snap later, we’re looking at the same damn thing.
Written by Cole Locascio
My instincts told me that I should be worried. Primetime game, on the road in unknown territory, against a relatively unknown opponent, along with a key loss in safety Jermaine Whitehead – it was set up for failure from the start. But who knew our troubles wouldn’t come on defense, but instead on the offensive side of the ball?
Let’s start with a positive note, shall we?
Ellis Johnson and the Tigers’ defensive front managed to hold the Wildcats to just 40 yards on 30 carries in last night’s matchup – an impressive feat to say the least. Especially considering the Tigers were forced to contain QB Jake Waters all night, as he posed a serious threat to tuck the ball and run for a quick draw play due to his bulky frame and overall ability to make plays happen with his feet.
Defensive Player of the Game: Trovon Reed
In what was, in my opinion, his best game in an Auburn jersey, Trovon Reed looks as if he’s finally found his role on the team – and I’m thrilled for the kid, I truly am. The senior receiver turned cornerback was assigned to cover one of the top wide-outs in the nation for a good portion of the night in Tyler Lockett, and for the most part, he played lights out, as Lockett only managed to record 45 of the Wildcats’ 245 yards through the air on the night. An interception by Reed in the fourth quarter proved to make the difference for the Tigers’ defense, as the following Auburn drive resulted in a key field goal from Daniel Carlson to give the Tigers a 20-7 lead.
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Written by Cole Locascio
Born into a household with a recent high school graduate for a mother, I was lacking a father for the first four years of my life. Luckily for me though, my grandfather, “Big Daddy” (as pegged by my cousin), was the missing piece to the puzzle. Acting as the primary father figure in my tyke days, the bond we shared was immediately sparked. The key to the flame? Auburn football.
Ever since my first trip to the Plains at a mere age of three months, I was drawn in for life. The soaring of the eagle, the dense amounts of burnt orange spanning across Jordan-Hare, and the roarous cheers from the student section all shaped the early stages of my Auburn obsession… but I’m leaving out the most important part. Sitting way up in section 62, I had the closest thing to a father sitting by my side, each and every week. Shaking and shouting for our defense to wrap up and tackle, I could tell that this so called “game” was a way of life down here in the south — a religion.
A new season was lingering upon us – 2006. I was nine years old at the time when the nuke was dropped directly upon my heart. “Big Daddy’s not going to be well for a while. He has cancer.” My mother’s words from that cool spring day still ring clearly through my ears. Confusion, ignorance, and slight bitterness jumbled to form the question, “So, what about the Auburn games?” My mother was floored by how “selfish” I was acting, and she immediately reprimanded me by my response. But what she didn’t realize was that it was a complete misunderstanding.
My intentions were nowhere near selfish, as I knew in my heart and mind that the weekends my grandfather and I shared were the best parts of each other’s weeks, and now my mom was telling me that they may never happen again. No more Auburn games, no more moments together in Jordan-Hare, no more Big Daddy. I remember having a pretty tough cry after the ride home, as I finally processed and made sense of the news. Even at the age of nine, I understood that the days with my college football buddy could very well be numbered.
Written by Cole Locascio
Am I the only one… that feels as if the final score last Saturday wasn’t an accurate depiction of the Tigers’ actual on-field performance? The secondary continued to struggle early on against the quick, point-and-shoot passing attack from the Spartans, and Nick Marshall had what was, in my opinion, his worst passing showing of his career at Auburn. However, do I think this team is capable of making the playoff? Absolutely – a few things just need to tighten up on both sides of the ball in order for that to happen. Consistency is key.
Georgia opened as 3.5 point favorites on the road against South Carolina this week… Maybe Vegas knows something about the Gamecocks that the general public just simply doesn’t see. Did the bookmakers even watch a single minute of the Texas A&M-South Carolina game? Go back and look at what that explosive Aggie offense, which Georgia most certainly has as well, generated against such a mentally weak, vulnerable Gamecock defense – even on South Carolina’s home turf. How can you not believe, with a bye week to boot, that Georgia won’t be able to do the same?
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Written by Cole Locascio
Auburn's first half performance gave fans in Jordan-Hare, myself included, quite a scare for the season to come. But a quick turnaround helped ease those tensions from onlookers, as the defense settled back into a groove and shut-out Bret Bielema's Razorbacks in the second half. On the other side of the ball, the Auburn offense picked up right where they left off from the 2013 season, as both quarterbacks each played one half due to Nick Marshall's preseason suspension.
Let's take a look at each position's grades from last Saturday's game against the Razorbacks...
Quarterback -- A
It's mighty hard to gripe about either quarterback's performance on Saturday. It was a tale of two halves for the duo, as Jeremy Johnson utilized his weapons in Duke Williams, Melvin Ray, and Sammie Coates to deliver some perfectly thrown passes in the first half. The style shifted once Nick Marshall stepped onto the field at the start of the second half, but the offense refused to miss a beat, as Marshall used his legs to return to a "run-first" offensive mentality for the Tigers. I had to dock a few points for an atrocious looking pass from Marshall intended for Coates in the 3rd quarter of the game.
J. Johnson: 12-16/243 yds - 2 TDs N. Marshall: 4-6/50 yds (Rushing: 18 yds)
Running Backs -- A+
It's always a solid day when your unit rushes for over 300 yards, and that's exactly what Tim Horton's coached squad accomplished in the season-opener. While the rest of the country will be talking about UGA's Todd Gurley for the coming weeks, Cameron Artis-Payne (CAP) will be quietly rising on the SEC's stat list. Peyton Barber also managed to get some late-game action, as the redshirt-freshman had an impressive looking 14 yard run in the 4th quarter. The "Hulk" and "Flash" combination of CAP and Corey Grant will turn quite a few heads in the college football world this season.
C. Artis-Payne: 26 att/177 yds - 1 TD C. Grant: 10 att/87yds - 1 TD P. Barber: 3 att/19 yds
Receivers -- A-
Duke Williams. The junior proved why he was the #1 JUCO transfer for the 2014 recruiting class in his debut performance for the Tigers last Saturday. The 6-2, 216 pound receiver made the Razorbacks' secondary's day a living hell, as he was near impossible to cover every single time he lined up wide. However, the Tigers really need to limit the dropped passes from the receiving corps, as Ricardo Louis had yet another, as well as Sammie Coates in the endzone -- yes, it was tipped, but if you have the chance to stick two hands on the ball, you better catch it.
D. Williams: 9 rec/154 yds - 1 TD M. Ray: 2 rec/77 yds - 1 TD
Offensive Line -- B+
It's difficult to argue with a 303 yard rushing performance, but for some reason, this unit didn't look as tight and polished as I had hoped. A foolish facemask penalty from Patrick Miller sticks out in my mind as an unnecessary play that OL coach J.B. Grimes needs to tighten the reins on if he wants his crew to be the SEC's premier line this season. This group is too dang deep to be looking as sloppy as they did on Saturday.
Place Kicking -- A-
A few points taken off for Daniel Carlson's field goal attempt that hit the post to end the half. But other than that, all positives for the redshirt freshman's Auburn debut, as he booted 7 of his 8 kickoffs for touchbacks, nailed all of his PATs, and later hit a 45-yarder for his first field goal of his career as a Tiger. Not too bad for a kicker who was also forced to share punting duties for the day.
Punting -- A+
Carlson's day punting the ball was an impressive one, as he blasted three punts for a 53.3 yard average on Saturday. Did you know that Daniel Carlson is one of only five players in college football to share both the place kicking and punting duties?
Kick/Punt Returning -- A
Two of the four Arkansas kickoffs were returnable, which in today's age of kicking off from the 35 is actually not bad. Ricardo Louis took one of the kickoffs out across the 25, while Corey Grant almost broke the other for a score on a 32-yard return.
Defensive Line -- C-
This unit sure is missing the injured Carl Lawson. The first half was absolutely dreadful, as the line had difficulty putting any kind of pressure on QB Brandon Allen. The Razorbacks' offensive line was able to throw around the Tigers' defensive front, which resulted in some gashing gains for RBs Alex Collins and Korliss Marshall. However, I will give credit to their massive improvement in the second half, as it appeared they finally settled in to clog up Arkansas' running lanes.
153 rushing yards allowed, 1 sack
Linebackers -- C+
The only reason this unit receives a passing grade is because I decided to include the Star position in this category. Similar to the d-line, the linebacker corps was manhandled by pulling Razorback linemen throughout the entire first half. However, one bright spot was the play of Robenson Therezie. The senior got some limited playing time after recently receiving eligibility, but the few snaps he played were golden, as he managed to force a fumble in the third quarter. Another encouraging was the high energy from freshman Tre Williams, who had the opportunity to play a few snaps. Watch out, this kid's gonna be an absolute stud.
Secondary -- B
I won't count off too many points from Coach Melvin Smith's squad, as a lack of pass pressure from the defensive line's struggles certainly doesn't help. But can we go ahead and give the most disappointing player award to Trovon Reed? Four years, and the kid has done nothing of significance with the multitude of opportunities he's been given. The receiver turned corner caught a huge break last Saturday, as he was beat deep on a streak route that the receiver ended up thankfully dropping -- not to mention a badly missed tackle in the third quarter which turned from what should have been a five yard gain into a thirty-five yard one. I guess Auburn is fairly thin at the corner position, as Reed landed the majority of the snaps last Saturday. Bonus points to this unit for the interception taken back for a touchdown by Jermaine Whitehead in the third quarter -- a huge improvement after being beaten horrible for a touchdown in the first half.
168 passing yards allowed, 1 INT