Offense: Tate +4, Fannin +3, Burns +3, “Line” +2, Todd +1, Zachery +1, Stallworth +1, Adams +1, Smith 0, Trott -1.
Defense: Coleman +10, Freeman +7, McFadden +5, “Cover” +5, Bynes +3, Herring 0, Thorpe 0, Stevens -1, Bates -1, Washington -1, Blanc -2, Ricks -2, Slade -2, Carter -2.
Special teams: +2
Hands report: “Routine” 9/9,” “Catchable” 2/3, “Difficult” 1/3.
Yes, Coleman and Freeman were that good. In fact, they were even more impressive on second viewing than on the first, or in the box score. Coleman didn’t just make the sacks and the tackles-for-loss that showed up on the stat sheet: he forced Ole Miss into multiple drive-killing holding calls and played as well against the run as he has all year. As for Freeman, Ole Miss decided to run right at him for much of the second quarter and Freeman kept responding with sharp, aggressive play after sharp, aggressive play. Even after badly botching not one but two plays on that opening drive (he lost track of Bolden on the 40-yard swing, but also decided to follow Snead for some unknown reason on the McCluster delay that put the Rebels inside the 20 … no wonder Herring was out there for a while), I had The Toro down for a +5 in the first half alone. He was monstrous.
The offense isn’t there just yet. Don’t get me wrong, there were plenty of positives: 1. Take away the -3 I gave him for the late-game “fumble” and Todd finished at +4, which is right about where he was for most of the early-season streak 2. Between Fannin and Stallworth–the latter of which made decisive, clean cuts on both his runs that suggest he ought to see the ball more often–McCalebb wasn’t missed much, if any, and there was a substantial improvement on his injured performances vs. Kentucky/LSU 3. Trott’s drop was the only one of a truly catchable ball, and even it was a little tougher on replay than the first time through.
All that has to be counterbalanced against the following, though: 1. The line faltered over the final 20 minutes–on the five drives between Grandy’s kickoff return and the final icing drive, Auburn had three sacks and two tackles-for-loss, and a couple of QB hurries to boot 2. Auburn did a good job of avoiding in-play penalties–the only ones that weren’t offset were the early hold on Trott and Stevens’s pass-interference flag–but they had three pre-snap penalties, two of which were illegal shifts by wide receivers that canceled out a 15-yard pass interference on Ole Miss and a long Tate run. The other was a false start in the red zone; offensively, they can still do better 3. The Wildcat (or just “Burns at QB,” if you prefer; Auburn doesn’t actually line up in the true Wildcat as ofte nas the announcers say they do) accomplished the touchdown and pretty much nothing else; Burns ran twice for 2 yards, threw a hounded incompletion on a critical 3rd-and-5, and pitched to Tate on an option that lost 4.
I’m not complaining, especially given the quality of the defense Auburn just faced. But I don’t think the Tigers are quite back to their Weeks 1-5 performance quite yet.
McCain is who you think he is. I don’t grade the offensive linemen individually, but you watch every play four or five times or more and you get a sense for who’s playing sound and who’s getting beaten occasionally. And while the gap between Andrew McCain and the rest of the line isn’t wide–probably not even as wide as we expected it to be when the season began–I do think it’s there. If I was an opponent, that right side is where I’d attack. It’s not meant as a knock against McCain–he’s been more-than-solid and a huge improvement on Auburn’s play at right tackle last year–but on an offensive line that’s played as well as Auburn’s has over the course of the season, someone has to be the weak link, and my opinion is that it’s him.
The secondary was back. At least coverage-wise. Led by McFadden–who had a lot more bounce in his step this week–the coverage was back to pre-Week 6 levels. Snead never completed a pass to a wideout other than Shay Hodge and got very little downfield. Kudos are in order here.
The secondary’s biggest problem, however, remains tackling and run support, and Mike Slade didn’t offer much help here–in my opinion he and McFadden were primarily responsible for the long McCluster run, with Coleman getting cracked by the outside receiver and Freeman running smack into a pulling guard with a head of steam. McFadden couldn’t get around the fullback and Slade–the safety to that side and the only Auburn player on that side of the field left unblocked by the play scheme–was far too slow to react. My guess is that that play is a big reason the faster-but-smaller Washington is getting the call at safety over Slade.