Auburn’s 29-16 loss to Texas A&M Saturday night was painful to watch, and I’m sure Auburn nation wants to put this one behind and focus on this week’s matchup against Leonard Fournette and LSU.
The truth is, there aren’t a lot of positives to take away from this game, so I’ll keep this as quick and painless as possible. There were almost too many problems to count, but these five stood out most.
5. Pettway ran well, but where’d ground game go?
Kamryn Pettway got the start at running back in place of Kerryon Johnson, and was the lone bright spot for an abysmal Auburn offense that took an alarming step back against the Aggies. The Bruiser managed to rumble for 123 yards and a score on only 20 carries, but his impact could have been a lot greater if Gus Malzahn would have committed to running the ball more in the second half (especially the third quarter).
4. White, offense limited by drops, poor play calling
Sean White and the Tigers came out balling with a 9-play, 80-yard second drive to get things started, but as the game progressed and Kevin Sumlin made his adjustments defensively, it felt like Malzahn’s play calls were predictable and even easier to defend — a familiar narrative for Auburn nation.
White threw swing pass after swing pass. He didn’t make an effort to attack the Aggies vertically and take the top off of their defense. The Tigers’ conservative approach minimized running room for Pettway and Johnson, which gave Texas A&M’s pass rushers an open invitation to pin their ears back and bull rush Auburn’s offensive line.
Despite being under duress the majority of the evening, White spread it around a little bit completing 18 passes to six different receivers. His completion percentage would have been better if it weren’t for drops, but a lousy 4.7 yards per attempt won’t win many games in the SEC.
3. No answer for Myles Garrett, Aggies pass rush
It felt like Auburn’s ground game only had 2/3 of the football field to work with. Mostly because Myles Garrett, a total freak and one of the best defensive end prospects in recent memory, disrupted just about everything the Tigers ran to the left side.
There’s no other way to say it — Auburn’s offensive line got punked, and couldn’t keep Garrett and the Aggies out of the backfield giving up 13 tackles for loss and four sacks including one on the Tigers’ first play from scrimmage that set the tone for the night.
2. Auburn’s defense is good, but not enough to win on its own
Auburn’s defense deserves tons of credit for its performance against the Aggies. Yes, the Tigers gave up nearly 500 yards of total offense, but they were able to keep Texas A&M out of the end zone on four straight trips inside the 20. That’s impressive considering they were completely gassed without a stable offense supporting them.
Other than a 51-yard pass to Josh Reynolds in the first half and an 89-yard touchdown run to Trayveon Williams with the game nearly out of reach, Auburn’s defense limited the big play and its pass rushers got solid internal pressure on Trevor Knight — who only completed just 50 percent of his passes — and kept this 29-16 game from becoming a complete blowout.
1. More opportunities for Mr. Excitement
John Franklin III was thrown into the game with 10:13 to play in the final quarter and was pretty productive in mop-up duty.
For most of the game Auburn’s offense played at a snail’s pace, but when Franklin checked in there was a noticeable difference in tempo — as expected. Auburn’s runners had larger lanes to work with, and although Franklin didn’t lead a scoring drive, it was obvious that Texas A&M’s defense had its hands full worrying about the threat of his legs.
I’m still not sold on Franklin’s ability to put pressure on a defense with his arm, but sitting at 1-2 with LSU coming to town this week, the Tigers are in desperate need of a spark. Malzahn said after Saturday’s game that he’ll talk with the rest of the coaching staff about who’ll start at quarterback for the team moving forward.
White doesn’t deserve all the blame for this loss, and I’m not ready to give up on him just yet, but it’s getting to the point where Franklin may be Auburn’s best bet.
C.J. Holmes played three years of college basketball at Auburn and graduated in May with a degree in sports-centric word writing. I’ll blog about Auburn sports. If you want to read more, follow me on Twitter @_ceejay22au.