Auburn entered its matchup against Louisiana-Monroe a heavy favorite, but got off to a slow start. In a way, the slow start was to be expected -- Auburn was coming off a big win, and looking ahead to an Iron Bowl that will decide the SEC West champion.
On top of those factors, head coach Gus Malzahn wisely called a conservative game. This is not a game in which it would be smart to try new things, as that would simply let Alabama in on what new plays the offense has.
The less game tape Alabama has to study, the better, so this game was called gingerly.
With that said, there were still several great plays called, so let’s get into them.
On this play in the first quarter, wide receiver Eli Stove fakes a jet sweep as he often does. He then leaks out to the right side and catches a screen for big yards.
This is something Auburn does exceptionally well. They often set up their screens or check down routes for big yards. They accomplish this in a number of ways. There is never any traffic by the check down or screen pass. What that means is that all the other receivers routes took them far away from where Stove ended up being.
This meant that no defenders were near Stove. Stove simply leaks out as a natural extension of the fake he ran. Stidham looks down the field at his other receivers which freezes the defense and stops them from picking up Stove.
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When Stidham finally pulls the ball and checks down to Stove, there is no one within 15 yards of Stove. This leads to the first down and then some, and shows how Auburn’s playbook is designed around every player that could get the ball being able to gain big yards.
The biggest play of the half was a deep ball touchdown thrown from Stidham to receiver Darius Slayton. As usual Slayton burned his man, but the impressive thing on this play was the way Auburn made sure the safety could not come over to help.
On this play you have two receivers near where Stidham throws the ball. The safety cannot commit to double-covering Slayton as he is worried about the other receiver. By the time the safety realizes who the ball is going to, it is too late and Slayton makes a great grab and scores.
This game also featured a lot of Kam Martin, with Malzahn wanting to rest Kerryon Johnson for Alabama. Martin brings something different to the table from Johnson.
Johnson is a patient back, one with excellent vision on top of strength and speed. Martin is a speed back and relies on his straight line acceleration to make people miss.
On this play, Martin takes what would be a 3 or 4-yard gain for most players and takes it for over 10. He does not make anyone miss, he simply is too fast for the defense to catch.
Martin’s speed is elite and can tire a defense out, and he may end up being used in the Alabama game.
This play is another example of the concept talked about earlier, the check down that is designed to gain big yards. As with the last play the receivers go deep, and Martin has slipped out after his fake. Stidham must check it down after no one is open and the pressure is getting to him.
He flips the ball out to Martin who then takes it all the way for a touchdown. Auburn is incredibly dangerous offensively, as if you do not account for even one of their players it can result in a touchdown.
There wasn’t a ton to break down this week as most of it had been seen before. Auburn will be playing in their biggest game of the season this Saturday as they take on their rival Alabama in what is the SEC West championship game.
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