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Saturday, September 12, 2009

Final: Auburn 49, Mississippi State 24

Another resounding win for Auburn. Here's how tomorrow's story starts:
AUBURN, Ala. — Three to two this wasn't.

A year after an ugly, low-scoring win at Mississippi State signaled that everything wasn't right with Auburn's offense, a runaway 49-24 victory against those same Bulldogs on Saturday night suggests everything might be better than expected.

Auburn offensive coordinator Gus Malzahn's fast-paced attack racked up 589 yards against Mississippi State in its SEC opener before 85,269 at Jordan-Hare Stadium, surpassing the 556 it gained in the season opener against Louisiana Tech.

It's the first time since 1970 that the Tigers have topped 500 yards of offense in back-to-back games.

"It's very innovative and it's fun to watch," said Gene Chizik, who improved to 2-0 as Auburn's head coach. "From a defensive background, it's problematic in a lot of ways."

Auburn (1-0 SEC) has won 51 consecutive games when scoring 30 or more points, a streak dating back to 1996. The Tigers haven't had an offensive night quite like Saturday's in SEC play since 2005, when they put up exactly 49 points and 586 yards in a win at Kentucky.

"I think it's 11 people buying into an offense and working their hardest to run it, coming together and being a brotherhood," left tackle Lee Ziemba said.
Read the whole story here. And read some notes here. And read some of the game's superlatives here.

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And when you're done with all that, here are some other notes and quotes from Saturday's game ...
  • Big night for the ground game. The Tigers ran for 390 yards. Ben Tate, despite sitting out the first quarter because of a coach's decision, ran for a career-high 157 yards and a touchdown and Onterio McCalebb added 114 yards and a score. It marked the first time in Auburn history two players rushed for over 100 yards in back-to-back games. "We’re a run, play-action team," Malzahn said. "It all starts with the run. So far, our guys have done a great job upfront and our backs have done a good job. If we run the football, we got a chance."
  • Tate and Chizik said it was a "coach's decision" that he didn't play in the first quarter. We're not buying it, but that's what they said. Tate was out exactly one quarter, then started once the second quarter began. That seems to fit a minor disciplinary mold, doesn't it? Anyway, Tate got to show off his wheels in the third quarter, reeling off a 35-yard touchdown run. "I've got some burners for you all," he said afterward. "I hope to show that more often this year."
  • Quarterback Chris Todd continued to find his comfort zone in the offense, going 10-for-23 for 186 yards.
  • Todd developed a solid rapport with receiver Darvin Adams, who shook off a few early drops to catch five passes for 116 yards, both career highs. "When I had the drops I wasn’t too much worried," he said. "Coach Trooper (Taylor) got on me about it but I stayed in the zone. Coach had enough trust in me to come back to me and I had the ability to catch the ball at that time."
  • Quite a game for Wildcat triggerman Kodi Burns. He ran for three 1-yard scores out of the single-wing formation and threw a confused Bulldogs defense for a loop in the third quarter, when he pulled up after a play-action fake out of the Wildcat and lobbed a touchdown pass to a wide open Philip Lutzenkirchen. "I really didn't know what to expect when (the position change) first happened," Burns said. "It was pretty much a disappointment, but it's this year. I've just got to go out there and do what I can for my team. Whether I play receiver, quarterback or Wildcat, I just want to go out there and help the team."
  • Here's a fun fact. Auburn scored 49 points Saturday night. It scored 88 points in SEC play all of last season.
  • Malzahn thought this kind of success might be possible heading into the season: "We knew that our front five, we knew that they were a solid offensive line, and we knew we had some backs who could be change of pace. And so far they've really bought in to what we're doing."
  • If you want any downsides, it starts with the punting game. Clinton Durst had a rough night. He shanked one punt that led to an MSU field goal in the first half and had another punt blocked and returned for a touchdown in the second quarter, giving the Bulldogs a brief 17-14 lead. "It is a concern. It is a concern," Chizik said. "We are going to address that obviously tomorrow. We obviously have a long, long way to go. We covered a lot of kicks. I hope we can cover that many kicks every week, but we have to get better at the little things, and we have to dissect that thing pretty good and figure out where we can get better."
  • The key part of the game was Auburn's response to that. The Tigers answered right back in lightning quick fashion. McCalebb took an option pitch from Todd and burst up the left sideline, running past the defense for a 43-yard touchdown that made it 21-14 Auburn. After a Bulldogs three-and-out, the Tigers raced down the field, moving 78 yards in eight plays before Burns punched it in with 16 seconds left to give Auburn an 11-point lead heading into the locker room."This game is a game of momentum swings," Chizik said. "When the offense had a chance to step up and get some momentum back, they did. When the defense had a chance to step up and get some three-and-outs, it did. That's why I was proud to see our team step up and answer the bell on all sides."
  • Ziemba, all 6-foot-8, 308 pounds of him, got a lineman's dream on one play just before halftime, lining up out wide as a receiver. "We work on that almost every day," Ziemba said. "I try to cover up my number and they cover me every time." Alas, the play went to the other side, a 20-yard pass to Adams that set up a touchdown. "I guess I'm just a decoy," Ziemba said. " Probably have to talk to coach Malzahn ..." Malzhan didn't give many more details of the play but credited Ziemba for being out there. "I think the corner thought he was going to get it on the bubble and it opened up somebody," he said. Asked if he's ever considered throwing the ball to Ziemba, Malzahn was secretive. "No," he said. "Well, I shouldn’t say no. Not right now."
  • Defensive end Antonio Coleman's returned his first career interception 20 yards for a touchdown in the first quarter. It was the senior's second career touchdown. In the 2007 season opener, Coleman returned a fumble 34 yards for a score in a win against Kansas State on his 21st birthday.
  • Defensive coordinator Ted Roof on Coleman's pick-6: "AC gives you some flexibility because he's athletic enough to do some different thing. AC was right where he was supposed to be. Good things happen when you're where you're supposed to be."
  • Overall, the Tigers held Mississippi State to 126 yards and only seven points in the second half. "It's crazy," Coleman said. "We were giving up all the points in the second half last year. We focus on finishing now. That's what we do."
  • Your defensive leaders:
  • S Zac Etheridge: 8 tackles
  • LB Josh Bynes: 8 tackles
  • CB Neiko Thorpe: 7 tackles
  • LB Craig Stevens: 7 tackles, 2 TFL
  • DE Michael Goggans: 4 tackles, 1 sack
  • Other offensive stats of note:
  • H-back Mario Fannin: 9 rushes, 75 yards
  • RB Eric Smith: 3 carries, 8 yards
  • WR Terrell Zachery: 2 catches, 41 yards
  • And one final note: Chizik has now won 17 straight games as an Auburn coach. The Tigers are 2-0 this year and, with Chizik as defensive coordinator, went 13-0 in 2004 after finishing 2003 with wins in the Iron Bowl and Music City Bowl.


Anonymous said...

Tate being out because of a coach's decision - "we're not buying it". Who is "we" and what else would be the reason? Love to know.

tigercowboy said...

I agree with you Andy. Sounds like he was in the doghouse with somebody. Nice job as usual. Would like to hear a little from the other side to see what they think about our team though. Mullen was hard to read on the sidelines.

War Eagle AC-47 said...

If we do hear from Mullen, why did he stop running Dixon? That guy is a playmaker. Also #9 and #6 for the Bulldogs.

I haven't had so much fun watching Auburn since 2004. Great offense.

AUBigCat said...

This offense makes it hard for teams that rely heavily on big bruising RBs, because once they get behind they have to throw the ball. I agree AC-47, this is the most fun offense to watch since 2004.

Andy Bitter said...

By "we," I mean me. I just refer to the blog that way.

And when I say I'm not buying it, I'm saying that it's a little coincidental that Tate didn't get a carry until the very first series of the second quarter. As someone mentioned before, this seems like a minor doghouse situation. Nothing major.