Rain, rain, rain, and then....hope. Sitting in the top of Tiger Stadium, yes...the very top, what I witnessed in the first half was reminiscent of the 2012 team. But, there was something different this time, and it came when the rain settled, and the clouds cleared. I have never felt this good about a loss, but the fight in those kids in the second half opened my eyes to what Coach Malzahn has been preaching all offseason. It's a new day in Auburn.
Quarterback - C
Yet again, another disappointing performance by the Auburn quarterback, Nick Marshall. Sure, it was raining pretty hard, I'll give the kid that, but rain shouldn't affect your mental game along with your accuracy. In the first half, Nick connected on 6 of his 16 passes for a gain of 31 yards through the air. Look at the second half, no rain, and Nick connected on 11 of his 17 passes for a gain of 193 yards through the air. Vast improvement was displayed once the wet factor was taken away, but in college football, where you play in heavy rain if necessary, Nick needs to learn how to adapt to a change in his environment, a vital tool for an SEC quarterback.
Running Backs - B
This grade is a little iffy, due to the fact that Tre Mason was carrying the entire run game on his back last Saturday. Mason rushed for 132 yards on 26 carries, which totals out to be about 5 yards per carry for Tre. Against LSU and those hyped defensive tackles, 5 yards a carry is a pretty good day through my eyes. The trio of backs alone, Mason, CAP, and Grant, gained a total of 182 yards on the ground, which means that Mason accounted for over 72% of the trio's production. Where on earth was Corey Grant? Well, it makes sense when you think about it. On top of an apparent injury, Corey wasn't going to be able to, on a wet field, make the necessary cuts around the edge to garner enough speed to get around the speedy Bayou defensive backs. Our efforts from Corey would've proven ineffective in a very wet Tiger Stadium.
Wide Receivers - C+
Most of this unit's productivity was shown in the second half against the Bengals, due to a lack of efficiency from the quarterback position in the first. On the first drive of the game, junior wide-out, Jaylon Denson, suffered a pretty freak injury, as he tore his patellar tendon in his left leg after slipping on the wet grass. Denson was a star in pre-season practice, as coaches raved on the kid's athleticism and catching ability in the new system. The second half, like the game as a whole, told a much different story for our unit, as ace receiver, Sammie Coates, led the charge to an offensive surge in the second half, as the junior wide-out led the team with 139 yards on just 4 receptions. The star of the Mississippi State game, C.J. Uzomah didn't get in the game at all...anyone have insight on why not, because his leadership was much needed in the first half of play.
Offensive Line - A-
The only A grade of the day comes from the experienced and flourishing front five. The chemistry between the guys was evident, as Nick Marshall, while he didn't take advantage of it, had all day in the pocket to throw. All week I've heard my grandfather talk about the two dangerous defensive tackles for the Bengals, Anthony Johnson and Ego Ferguson, but our unit did a magnificent job opening up holes up the middle for both Tre Mason and CAP, as each averaged over 5 yards per carry on the day. I was very impressed by our guys up front, and against probably the best defense we'll face all year, it gives me great hope for offensive production down the stretch of our schedule.
Defensive Line - D+
This past weekend was a perfect example of why the defense can't wait until the second half to step up and force big stops. LSU jumped out to a quick 21-0, due in part to the hard-nosed running from (un)suspended back, Jeremy Hill. Our defensive tackles were basically non-existant on the long runs by Hill in the first half, as the holes up the middle were completely wide open. Each defensive tackle, on every long run play, was blocked one on one, which allowed additional blockers to step up to the next level of defense...the linebackers.
Linebackers - C
I'll take it easy on the linebackers this time, because as I mentioned...every play starts with the defensive line, and on Saturday in particular, the defensive tackles. People will be quick to criticize Jake Holland for his play on Saturday, but the main issue was up front with our "assortment" of tackles rotating in and out of the game. A positive for the linebacker unit falls in the sacks category, as the two lone sacks on Mettenberger came from Cassanova McKinzy.
Secondary - B+
The most consistent unit on defensive continues to impress me with every passing week. Even with the injuries to star defensive back, Chris Davis, and top backup, Jonathan Jones, these kids still got the job done against who I believe to be the best quarterback in the SEC, and even forced his first interception of the 2013 season with a spectacular one handed pick from Jermaine Whitehead. Ryan White had quite a game on Saturday, filling the big shoes of injured Chris Davis, as he made one very athletic pass breakup against one of the best receivers in the league, Odell Beckham Jr, on LSU's first play from scrimmage.
Special Teams - C
A major step in the wrong direction from the special teams corps, as it all started on a downhill with Steven Clark's dropped snap on a punt in the first quarter, which gave the Bengals great position and a score. Cody Parkey never got the opportunity to attempt a field goal, and even though we returned five punts on the night, only five yards were recorded by backup returner, Quan Bray. Tre Mason only returned one kickoff for 14 yards, so all around...a pretty less than average night from what is usually one of our most consistent units on the team.