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The Miss. St. recap: charts and analysis

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Pay attention to the young lady's advice, Auburn.

For what we’re doing here, check out last week’s “charts and analysis” post.

A quick note: I stopped charting after the final Burns touchdown. Maybe not entirely fair to a handful of the backups–T’Sharvan Bell was active as a safety in addition to making the easy interception–but when it’s 49-24 with three minutes to play, it’s just not the same intensity of football of the first 57.

THE NUMBERS

Offense: “Line” +12, McCalebb +5, Tate +3, Burns +3, Trott +3, Fannin +2, Wisner +1, Todd -1, Smith -1, D. Adams -2

Hands report: (This is new this week. It’s straight-forward: how many catches out of each type of opportunity did Auburn’s receivers pull in. I didn’t count swing passes.) 5/5 “routine”, 3/5 “could be caught”, 0/2 “difficult.”

Defense: Freeman +4, Goggans +4, Clayton +3, “Cover” +3, Bynes +3, Thorpe +2, Blanc +2, Coleman +1, Ricks +1, McFadden +1, Etheridge +1, Herring +1, Lykes +1, Stevens 0, Bates 0, Washington 0, H. Adams -1, Fairley -1, Ford -1.

Special teams: -10.

ANALYSIS

Yes, the special teams were that bad. Byrum didn’t attempt a field goal (that’s a good thing), meaning that Auburn’s special teams grade comes exclusively from the two punt and two kickoff teams … and aside from Morgan Hull’s quality kickoffs (and one Durst punt downed inside the 5), every aspect of them were disastrous at worst and feeble at best. A punt was blocked; Durst booted one into the end zone from State territory and shanked another; kickoff coverage was, by-and-large, dreadful; the kickoff return never looked remotely threatening; and the punt return was extremely fortunate not to turn the ball over while managing a long of all of 9 yards in six opportunities. On an average exchange of punts from this game, Mississippi St. gained 27 yards.

We know Auburn’s capable of better than this–this was Durst’s worst game as a Tiger and McCalebb should be able to make the kickoff return work–but a repeat against any of the better teams on Auburn’s schedule will be fatal.

The linebacking was better. One game in, yes, Freeman was worthy of the hype. Some mistakes, yes, but much more aggressive play than Auburn has been getting from Herring or Stevens. On one second quarter play, Freeman singlehandedly stood up and shoved a pulling lineman back into the hole, turning a promising-looking play into a two- or three-yard gain. It’s just not the kind of play Herring can make, I don’t think.

That’s not say, though, that there wasn’t across-the-board improvement. Stevens was more active than against Tech, Bynes was Bynes, and even Herring made two quality plays the kind of which we hadn’t seen from him the week before. So why did State average about two yards more on the ground than Tech? Because …

The defensive line was worse. After their no-show at Navy I’m thinking Tech’s line was just overrated, but I still expected more from Auburn’s line against State than we got. Ricks wasn’t nearly as productive (the one plus I assigned him was for batting a passdown) as the week before, Blanc was decent but couldn’t recreate Fairley’s Week 1 activity, and Coleman was a no-show in run support. In fact, if not for the pick-six (a huge play, of course, but not part of Coleman’s usual job description) the SEC Defensive Player of the Week would have finished in the negatives. (I mean, check out the box score: three assisted tackles and one QB hurry.) Auburn needs more from him.

Goggans was solid, but as against Tech, he had a much greater impact early in the game and seemed to grow more anonymous as the game progressed.

Oh, and the backups aren’t there yet. For the second straight week, Rocker subbed in his second string to start a mid-first-half drive, and for the second straight week the opponent immediately set off on their longest scoring drive of the game. For all his evident gifts as a pass rusher, the undersized Dee Ford has proven every bit as frail in run support as he was feared to be; back-to-back runs right at him on the drive in question netted 33 yards. Fairley didn’t do anything notable in limited time, and the Lykes plus came late and on the verge of garbage time.

Clayton was the one bright spot; he’s cemented himself as the first end off the bench.

Auburn’s receivers are still–almost–making the most of their chances. Tate dropped one right in his breadbasket, but every routine, easy catch Auburn’s receivers had to make, they made. Given their struggles over the past couple of years and that this is two weeks consecutive this has been the case, that’s a major accomplishment.

Adams missed the two second quarter throws that he could have made a play on (and which the Fox Sports announcers called drops), but both were a little behind him and the second was in some mild traffic. I’d say both he and Todd share the demerits on those plays. (That said: especially with Trott out, Adams has to improve his blocking. He was half-hearted Week 1 and he was half-hearted in Week 2. It’s not coincidence the long McCalebb TD came with Burns lined up out wide at the time. Full marks for Adams’ consistency downfield, but Zachery’s been the more well-rounded receiver to date.)

Yeah, I wasn’t impressed with Todd this week. Kudos to him for the handful of accurate throws to Adams downfield and general, uh, general-ship, but he had a couple of throws into coverage that could have been picked off, a couple of swing passes and underneath throws that just weren’t on target, and one or two other chances to make a play (under pressure or in space) that didn’t pan out. Any game where Todd finishes without a pick and averages as much as he did per completion isn’t a bad one, per se, but he’ll have better.

Coverage is still mostly airtight. It took seven quarters, but Auburn did end up giving up a completion downfield. It was just the one, though, and aside from Washington’s third-down breakdown the secondary was just about as solid as the previous week. (Still no major breakdowns from Bates, which is nice.) West Virginia’s receivers will provide a much sterner test that Tech’s or even State’s, but so far this has been the Auburn defense’s strongest unit.

Auburn does have one problem in pass defense that I’ve noted before: underneath throws. Soem of this is by design–the corners are playing well off to prevent anything deeper–but Berry had a field day on the swing passes and both the linebackers and secondary members need to do a better job of getting past blocks on the edge.

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