Since Kevin Sumlin’s arrival in College Station, Texas A&M has been known for scoring points — a lot of them.
On the flip side, there are good portions of Sumlin’s time at Texas A&M that involve giving up a lot of points. So, the question this week is: Will Auburn be one of those teams that can keep up and even defeat the Aggies’ high-scoring offense?
Let’s take a look.
I had a big problem with how Auburn called its game vs. Clemson. I understand coach Gus Malzahn hadn’t made a decision on a quarterback yet, but I also had a problem with that. By not making a choice a quarterback and rotating three QBs, they relinquished all chance of winning that game — had it not been for Clemson quarterback Deshaun Watson being off that game, I think Clemson would’ve won by double digits.
It’s hard to pick just one play to describe my qualms with the game plan, but the video above works to a certain degree. Being an option offense isn’t a problem, but Auburn hurt itself that day by making the field far too narrow.
By putting that many players behind the line or near the line of scrimmage, they allowed the defense to be more condensed, which did two things. First, it allowed Clemson to have more bodies to tackle in run support. Second, it made Auburn’s offensive line protect longer, as it would take longer routes to create separation to the outside where there was open space.
Now, there are ways to use a game plan that remains run-heavy as an option offense and still keeps the field wide. One way is in the video shown above. Designed screens are good counters because they keep a defense honest. The purpose of plays like the one above isn’t just the yards on that particular play, but also to make an opposing defensive coordinator think twice about substituting a defensive back for a linebacker. This would then open up the middle more against the run — a double positive.
But the problem two weeks ago was Auburn didn’t do that enough against Clemson.
Above is the play that took place immediately after the first screen. If you’ll notice above, Auburn had those exact same yards, if not more, but failed to recognize the opening. Auburn has to be more fluid in its game plan, taking what the defense gives them and rolling with it — feeding the hot hand(s).
The following week, Auburn was much better at playing for the pass instead of just using pass plays as opportunities to open up the run. In the video above, we saw Auburn do something very simple and successful while keeping that option offense in place. The fake handoff froze the linebackers, the close wide receiver ran a go route to take two defenders with him and the inside receiver made a simple cut to the outside. That’s how it can be easy for Auburn.
The play above is the result Auburn can have when their game plan comes full circle. If a team thinks they can keep linebackers in the game and cover short routes to the sideline, dial up a double move and burn them down the sideline. This is the true meaning of playing with the full field (keeping it wide). In the game of football, offensive coordinators need every bit of space they’re given. They can’t make it more difficult on themselves with how they line up their players.
It’s going to take a creative effort from Auburn to keep up with Texas A&M, which certainly knows how to stretch the field every which way. The Aggies defenders will be much closer in skill level to Clemson than Arkansas State was. If Auburn sticks with Sean White at quarterback, it has a chance, but only if the Tigers make Aggies defenders run.