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A spirit that is not afraid

Film Room: Arkansas

Oct 16, 2021; Fayetteville, AR, USA; Bo Nix (10) sets up pass between Auburn and Arkansas at Donald W. Reynolds Razorback Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Todd Van Emst/AU Athletics
Oct 16, 2021; Fayetteville, AR, USA; Bo Nix (10) sets up pass between Auburn and Arkansas at Donald W. Reynolds Razorback Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Todd Van Emst/AU Athletics

Coming off a loss to Georgia at home. A bounce back against ranked Arkansas is just what the doctor ordered. This was head coach Bryan Harsin's first win at Auburn versus a ranked opponent and breaks a six-game losing streak against ranked opponents for the Tigers. 


Good offensive coordinators take shots on first-and-10 inside the opponent’s territory, and offensive coordinator Mike Bobo does exactly that on this play. Auburn comes out in a compressed formation that includes tight end Luke Deal, which indicates to the defense that it’s more than likely a run play. 

As Demetris Robertson goes in motion, the defender goes with him, indicating that Arkansas is in man coverage. Play-action gets the safety to bite just enough for Ja'Varrius Johnson to get in a one-on-one situation, and Bo Nix leads him beautifully towards the sideline where only Johnson can get the ball. 

After Arkansas missed a 53-yard field goal, Auburn started the drive with decent field position. Facing third-and-5, coach Bobo spreads the defense out by putting the offense in a five-receiver set. On the top of the field, the boundary, Nix’s pre-snap read sees that the linebacker has inside leverage on Landon King. 

His post-snap read is between the two hitch routes run by King and Shedrick Jackson. Nix makes the correct decision based on the linebacker passing off King to cover the flat while the safety continues to retreat to cover a potential deep pass. The result is an easy pitch and catch that moves the chains and eventually leads to Auburn’s second touchdown of the game. 

Following a fourth-down stop by the defense, the offense comes out in a two tight end set on first-and-10. In this situation, Arkansas expects Auburn to run the ball. Before the ball is snapped, short motion brings the two receivers close together and compresses the defense’s coverage. 

After the ball is snapped, an out route from Shedrick Jackson draws the safety’s attention and creates space in the middle of the field for Robertson to take on the cornerback. The pass from Nix is a little underthrown, but the play call and execution until then more than compensate for the throw.

On a second-and-7 Auburn is faced with a reasonable distance for a first down. A quick developing throw that is slightly disguised as a run with offensive lineman blocking towards the right and John Samuel Shenker pulling to the left. 

Nix quickly throws it to Kobe Hudson who picks up a block on the outside by Robertson. Faced with two defenders, Hudson does a shifty move to juke past them for the first down.

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Looking to close out the game on a second-and-14, Auburn lines up in a no-running back-formation. This spreads the defense out leaving no linebackers in the back for Arkansas to spy on Nix. 

This is a designed run from the start but Nix does a good job of checking off his first man on the left. This even further fakes to the linebacker that it is a pass. Nix is able to use his athleticism to weave his way past the last remaining man he has to beat. Arkansas has had to respect Auburn's pass all day which led to Nix being able to do this.


A hallmark of defensive coordinator Derek Mason’s scheme is to be aggressive on first down and put opponents in second-and-long situations. Here, the placement of Arkansas’ tight end and running back indicates to the defense that there will be a running play to the right. 

Since Auburn is in zone coverage, Zion Puckett doesn’t go with the receiver in motion and serves as a hard contain to the field side knowing that Arkansas quarterback KJ Jefferson is a threat to run the ball. Puckett’s contain forces Jefferson to give the ball to the running back, and Eku Leota combines with Puckett to make the stop 

On third-and-4, Arkansas shows a tight end set, and coach Mason, knowing the Razorbacks love to run the ball, responds by putting eight players in the box with soft man coverage on the outside to prevent the deep pass. 

The scheme has Smoke Monday come on a delayed blitz off the strong-side edge, and this creates an overload after the tight end goes out to the flat for what is either a designed read-pass option or a botched assignment. As a result, Monday gets the tackle for loss and forces Arkansas to kick a 53-yard field goal, which is missed.

Faced with an important fourth-and-1 Arkansas attempts to shove the ball forward one yard. The play is immediately broken up by disruption from Auburn's interior defensive line. 

This pushes Arkansas running back Raheim Sanders to the outside where it looks like he might get the first. He is met with Monday and Bydarrius Knighten, who display incredible effort throughout the entire play. This turns the ball over inside Auburn's own 20.

Auburn's defense has backed up Arkansas almost to its own end zone after a sack on the previous play. Arkansas' Jefferson drops back to pass to get the offense in a better position. 

This falls short as Auburn edge Derick Hall shows off his speed beating Arkansas offensive tackle Myron Cunningham. Hall is able to pop out the football into the end zone. Marcus Harris and Zakoby McClain quickly jump onto the ball resulting in an Auburn touchdown.

Arkansas, again facing another fourth-and-short, this time it is fourth-and-3. Auburn lines up in a four-lineman, two-linebacker formation preparing for a run with Arkansas in the pistol. 

A run is exactly what it gets as Jefferson tucks it with a quarterback keeper. Jefferson is met first by Colby Wooden then by Marcus Harris to stop Arkansas again on fourth down. This was a theme of this game for Auburn's defense, the fourth down stops were vital to this game.

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