Wesley Foster, sports writer for The Auburn Plainsman, analyzes the film from Auburn's victory over Arkansas and offers his perspective on the 52-20 win.
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Auburn went into Fayetteville to take on the Arkansas Razorbacks in what was a must-win game for Gus Malzahn. The Tigers rose to the occasion and routed Arkansas, 52-20.
This is an Auburn team that has been frustrating to watch all year long. The talent is there, and when the team is clicking they look as dominant as any team in the country. This game was another dominant showing, an up in a season of ups and downs.
As is the key with all of Auburn’s big wins, the play calling was diverse, and it sealed the win. Auburn also kept up the aggressive play style all game, not wanting to repeat the mistakes they made at LSU.
Let’s start with Auburn’s first touchdown, a Jarrett Stidham run. Stidham is not a running quarterback, but he does possess the speed to pick up decent gains if he can catch the defense off guard.
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This play is a simple read option play, but the defenders are sure that it will be a simple hand off and run up the middle, as that is what Auburn is known for. This causes the two edge defenders to immediately crash down on Kerryon Johnson, instead of maintaining the edge. Thus, Stidham can see this, and pull it and run untouched into the end zone.
The threat of Stidham running is a welcome wrinkle to the offense, as it gives defenses more to think about. If a defense has to worry about Stidham taking off to the outside, they can't key in on the run down the middle as much, and the whole offense benefits.
Next let’s look at a huge play that comes in the beginning of the second quarter. It's a reverse that works to perfection.
On 2nd and 7, the play begins with a fake Johnson run off the edge. The guards pull to sell the play, and the entire defense bites on the play. A Johnson run to the outside on this play seems like a standard and common play call for Auburn. When the reverse occurs and Eli Stove gets the ball, most of the defense is too far committed to stopping Johnson to be able to catch Stove.
Had any of the defensive backs for Arkansas read the play, Auburn’s left tackle had leaked out to serve as a lead blocker. This is the type of creative play calling that Auburn must use to beat high caliber opponents. (12:50 second quarter)
On Auburn’s next touchdown in the game, the play is simple but effective. A run up the middle is expected by Arkansas, but instead a quick pitch to Johnson forces the defensive backs to have to make the play. The pitch to Johnson is so fast that the defensive line and linebackers don’t have time to react, leaving the defensive secondary on an island.
Chandler Cox lead-blocks allowing Johnson to run in untouched. There is not a defensive back in the country that will be able to make that tackle with Cox lead blocking. There is nothing flashy about this play, it is simple and effective, and the type of play Auburn needs to lean on to keep the offense diverse.
Auburn running back Kamryn Pettway looked fully healthy this week, and saw a return to the dominant form he had shown last season. This play is a simple outside run, blocked well, and Pettway shows great burst as he makes two defenders miss and takes it all the way for a touchdown.
Now let’s look at the play that everyone is talking about. It's set up exactly like the reverse from earlier, except this time the receiver, Ryan Davis, throws the ball to a wide-open Darius Slayton for a 62-yard touchdown.
This play works because it looks just like the reverse from earlier, and the defense does not want to get burned again by the reverse. There are three factors that go into this play working.
The first is the standard Johnson outside run, that the reverse is built off. Next is the reverse, which this play is built off. The third is this play itself, and it is an excellent play, made possible by Davis’s impressive arm.
This is the type of play that will only work once, as teams in the future will be coached up to stop this play.
True freshman QB Malik Willis also got a chance to play at the end of the game, and offered Auburn fans a glimpse at what the future might hold. On this read option, Willis keeps it and gets the edge, and uses his speed to turn it into a massive gain. Willis has elite speed, and it will be interesting to see the offense develop around him when it is his time.
Normally these tale of the tapes focus on offense, as the defense has been consistently great all year, but now it's time to showcase what makes the defense so effective.
This play is a corner blitz, with Jeremiah Dinson coming off the edge to get the sack. However, it's what comes before the sack that showcases why Auburn’s defense has been so strong.
The defensive line dominates their individual matchups. However, the most important part of the play comes from the two edge rushers, Jeff Holland and Jeremiah Dinson. Arkansas fakes a handoff to start the play, and both edge defenders stay home.
They both stay for a split second, reading the play to its fullest and, as soon as they see that it was a play action, they crash down on Arkansas' Cole Kelley. It's this type of disciplined play that has elevated Auburn’s defense all season.
Auburn will head into their bye week coming off a big win, and will look to stay hot in their next game against Texas A&M on Nov. 4.
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