The Auburn Tigers did something over the weekend they haven’t done all season long.
They lost a football game.
While there’s certainly no shame in coming up short against an undefeated top-10 team on its home field, it does greatly reduce Auburn’s margin for error the rest of the year.
The Tigers had several opportunities to take the lead and control of the game but simply could not make any of the critical plays needed on offense. I’m going to break this down into four separate categories: Bo Nix, the offense, the defense and New Gus vs. Old Gus.
Bo Nix struggling mightily on the road in a hostile SEC environment against a very good defense is the least surprising thing that has happened at Auburn in quite a while.
Having said that, he was awful Saturday. That’s just the truth. His decision-making was very poor and he was far more inaccurate than accurate. That is a recipe for disaster in this conference.
It’s easy for armchair quarterbacks to see open receivers on the slow-motion replay and blast Nix for not making the throws. I’ve never taken snaps in a college game before, but I’m guessing it’s a little more difficult than it looks in slow motion.
He clearly has to get better for the Tigers to have any chance against the monsters left on the schedule. I predict he will.
Saturday’s measly offensive output of 269 yards doesn’t fall completely at the feet of Nix. The offense as a whole was inept especially on the ground. A productive and dependable running game is like a strong foundation for a young quarterback. Auburn’s house was built on the sand in Gainesville, Florida.
Boobee Whitlow found some open space late in the second half, but it shouldn’t have taken 3 1/2 quarters to figure out how to make that happen.
By far the most frustrating aspect of the Florida loss was the inability to convert on third and short. On four separate occasions, the Tigers had a third down and 3 yards or fewer and could not convert. Anthony Schwartz, the fastest player in college football, touched the ball one time.
The defense basically had two bad plays that cost the Tigers 14 points.
Florida coach Dan Mullen did an excellent job of scheming to get an Auburn linebacker matched up against one of his fastest receivers in the slot. The result was a touchdown on the Gators second play from scrimmage. KJ Britt and Daniel Thomas also missed a tackle resulting in an 88-yard run in the fourth quarter which basically served as a nail in the coffin.
Other than that, the defense was great. Derrick Brown is a nightmare for offensive linemen and the Auburn defense as a whole is really good.
We’ve heard a lot about a new Gus Malzahn this season. To that end, he’s been a little different in press conferences and on the sideline.
His play calling against Texas A&M and Mississippi State was imaginative and broke tendencies. Unfortunately, it seemed like old Gus resurfaced against Florida showing signs of predictability and stubbornness.
It was one game. Albeit one bad game, but Auburn now has a week off to lick its wounds and figure out what went wrong.
If this truly is a case of an invasion of the body snatchers, here’s hoping the pod people replace Old Gus with New Gus for good.