Monday, October 5, 2009

Auburn rocks Rocky Top

Auburn improved its image slightly with a hard-fought win over an impressive Tennessee defensive unit Saturday, 26-22. There were positives and negatives on both sides of the ball for both teams, and I'd like to do a rundown of those. But first, a couple of highlights:

Make sure you watch the gif from the Auburner of Ben Tate running over Eric Berry. Ah, I could just watch it over and over.

If anyone has video or a picture of Jonathan Crompton hitting Quentin Hancock in the side of the head with a pass, please post or send it to me so I can add it to the writeup. That's another instant classic.

OK, on to the game: Tennessee should hold its head high. After watching the game, I can say that Tennessee's defense is legit. They held Auburn, a team averaging over 45 ppg, to 26 points, with several stops on drives that looked like they would yield big scores. Auburn's second field goal was a 4-play, 4-yard drive that was set up by a Crompton fumble around their own 30-yard line. Auburn attempted five field goals, converting four, a testament to a Tennessee defense that would not give way to the endzone. Two of Auburn's drives stalled inside Tennessee's 5-yard line.

Auburn's offense looked decent, moving the ball well but rarely able to take it all the way. The touchdown drive in the second quarter went 87 yards in nine plays, only two of which were completed passes. Auburn looked like the Auburn of old, keeping the ball on the ground and running hard. Auburn's other touchdown drive went 70 yards in eight plays, and against this highly-touted defense, that's a lot to show. By this year's standards, Auburn had a modest day on offense, managing 459 yards on a fairly even offensive attack between passing and rushing. Of note, I liked the play with our back lining up behind the O-line. Reminiscent of the play Felix Jones ran against Auburn with him taking it in for a touchdown with Malzahn coaching the offense at Arkansas that year.

Tennessee's offense could not get the game going. I predicted Auburn would fall early, and although that didn't happen (this game was the first this season in which Auburn was not losing at some point), Tennessee had an opportunity, but Daniel Lincoln booted the kick wide left. In that post, I also predicted Tennessee's offense wouldn't get up for the game but still keep in close, and I feel that was an accurate assessment. Most of Crompton's passing yards came in the second half, especially once Auburn went into prevent defense, allowing for a 79-yard drive in five plays in 39 seconds. This article suggests that Todd Helton should perhaps come back and play QB some (the article was written after the UCLA game but could be applied in this game as well). My score prediction was off a little because I underestimated Tennessee's defense, but the 7-10 point margin would have been if Auburn takes care of Tennessee on that last drive.

Auburn's defense played well to start the game and for much of the first half. Tennessee had 100 yards of offense before the 70-yard drive that ended with Tennessee's touchdown right before halftime. Then, in the second half, Auburn started laying little pressure and Crompton was able to get some good passing in, scattered among the bad passes. Hardesty looked good, carrying for 90 yards on 21 carries.

Control of the game was won by Auburn's time of possession (about ten minutes longer than Tennessee). This allowed Auburn to tire Tennessee's defense out, making the difference in the game. Auburn is now in the top 25, coming in at 17 in the AP poll and 19 in the Coaches' poll. Another tough SEC opponent this week as Auburn travels to Fayetteville for their first game in the daylight this season. Will they be able to play with a distraction such as the sun? How about if Ryan Mallett actually throws passes to his receivers? A week's worth of ruminations to come.

War Eagle!

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