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Thursday, September 9, 2010

Final: Auburn 17, Mississippi State 14

Thursday night's game wasn't quite the offensive showcase everybody thought it was going to be. Here's a sneak peak at how tomorrow's game story starts:
STARKVILLE, Miss. — With its All-SEC left tackle and starting running back sidelined by injuries, Auburn's offense had plenty of issues, even before it took into account the deafening noise of 55,000 constantly clanging cowbells.

It's a good thing the Tigers' much-maligned defense came to the rescue.

No. 20 Auburn's defense silenced its critics with an inspired performance in the SEC opener, holding Mississippi Sate scoreless for the final 24 minutes of the Tigers' 17-14 nail-biter of a victory Thursday night at Davis Wade Stadium.

"There are a lot of experts out there," oft-criticized Auburn defensive coordinator Ted Roof said. "I was really proud of how hard they fought together and hung together. It wasn't always pretty, but to hold them to 240 yards, I'm really proud of that."

Auburn quarterback Cam Newton was the offensive star for the second straight week, throwing for two first-half touchdowns and accounting for 208 total yards. But when Gus Malzahn's high-octane offense stalled after halftime, Roof's beleaguered defensive unit saved the day.
There's your taste. Read the full thing by clicking here. But we'll hit some bullet points before we call it a night:
  • Auburn (2-0, 1-0 SEC) has won 17 of its last 18 SEC openers.
  • How good was the defense? MSU finished with 246 yards. After the Bulldogs scored to cut the lead to 17-14, the Tigers allowed only 73 yards over the next five drives, forcing three three-and-outs. "I've got to give a lot of credit to coach Roof," Auburn head coach Gene Chizik said. "He had a great game plan going on. He worked hard on getting the right players in the right spot. They played as hard as I've seen them play."
  • That said, Auburn certainly lucked out that Leon Berry didn't catch that gimme pass up the sideline on third-and-10 of the final drive. MSU would have been inside the Auburn 15 and well within field goal range had Berry reeled it in. Dan Mullen was extremely frustrated by his team's five drops afterward.
  • Who's the star of the game? Defensive tackle Nick Fairley. Five tackles, three quarterback hurries, 2.5 tackles for a loss, 1.5 sacks, one interception and one fumble recovery. "Is that hitting for the cycle in football?" Roof joked.
  • The defense hounded MSU quarterbacks Chris Relf and Tyler Russell, getting three sacks and four quarterback hurries, almost all of it by Auburn's four down defensive linemen. The QBs combined to go 16-for-35 for 129 yards and an interception.
  • Other defensive standouts: Eltoro Freeman had a team-high nine tackles and one TFL. Zach Etheridge and Aairon Savage had six tackles apiece.
  • LB Josh Bynes had a strong day, finishing with six tackles and a quarterback hurry. "There's a lot of value in a guy who can run the operation," Roof said. "He's becoming more of a physical linebacker. That Alabama game last year was a turning point. He's hard on himself and that's a wonderful thing."
  • Injuries. There were a couple. LT Lee Ziemba went down in the second quarter with a right knee injury. He didn't return, watching the second half in street clothes. If there's any good news for Auburn in this deal, it's that Ziemba was walking on the sideline without the aid of crutches. Remember, Ziemba's got a career starts record he's chasing. It'll be interesting to see if he can go. At least he has nine days to rest up. By the way, Brandon Mosley filled in for him at left tackle. Good thing the Tigers created some depth this preseason.
  • RB Mario Fannin looked like he went down with a stinger in his left shoulder after a hard collision in the fourth quarter. He didn't have pads on near the end, so getting back in the game was out of the question.
  • Offensively, it was a good first half for Auburn. Newton threw touchdown passes to Emory Blake and Darvin Adams. He also ran for 59 of his team-high 70 yards. But Auburn's offense only gained 133 yards in the second half and failed to score. MSU got a little wiser to Newton's designed runs and nearly jumped a wide receiver screen for a pick-six. It seemed like the Tigers were out of sorts in their play-calling, something you don't normally see.
  • Your running back tally: Onterio McCalebb 12 carries, 68 yards; Mike Dyer 9 carries, 48 yards; Fannin 5 carries, 6 yards. Yes, it certainly appears as though Fannin will not get the bulk of carries this year. And it should be noted, when Auburn was trying to run out the clock at the end, it was Dyer who got the ball. He reeled off two nice, long runs at the start of the drive too.
  • Another game, another muffed punt. The coaches kept Quindarius Carr in the game afterward and he cleanly fielded a few more, but that's got to be nerve-racking for the coaches.
  • Freshman WR Trovon Reed was here but didn't play. Don't know if the injury or circumstances kept him out of action.
  • It'll be interesting to see if Mississippi State gets the full $50,000 fine for its fans ringing those cowbells at unauthorized times. They didn't even come close to following the guidelines, which, quite honestly, was the most predictable thing to happen on the night. I wonder how quickly the SEC will revisit MSU's noisemaker exemption.
  • Final thought from Chizik: "It won't be perfect when we look at it tomorrow, but it was good enough."


Simmons B. Buntin said...

The drops definitely saved us, but that pass interference call at the end that extended the Miss State drive seemed pretty suspect to me, too. Instant karma, perhaps?

Man, I won't need caffeine for a week after that tense game!

Jared said...

I am proud of the defense. The DL and LB's made significant imrpovements from last week and even the secondary might have been slightly better (or maybe that was the dropped passes). I just hope this is just a preview of the continued improvement which we will see this year.

AUsome04 said...

"It seemed like the Tigers were out of sorts in their play-calling, something you don't normally see."....Yeah COWBELLS

No doubt Simmons. I'd say karma sums it up. That pass interference on Thorpe was a clean play too. His arm swatted the ball & the WR initiated the contact. AB, honestly I wouldn't mind seeing Dyer as the #1 the rest of the season. War Eagle.

jimmy said...

have a little faith in coach roof. he got it done tonight and i expect it to continue with the stellar dl play. consistent play throughout with frequent subs. offense will be much more productive at home where we'll be more productive. it looks like chizik will force malzahn to play it tubs conservative on the road, which is fine as long as we limit turnovers and get the w. as roosevelt used to say, a win's a win's a win.

Anonymous said...

Horrible offensive playcalling. Just horrid. I think Gus is starting to believe his press clippings.

Why is Fannin starting? He tries to run outside when the hole is right in front of him.

A decent quarterback will light up this defense if things don't change. DBs are getting toasted. I sure hope Fairley got the game ball, he saved it for them...

Simmons B. Buntin said...

You know, I'm not too worried about the offensive play, how it bogged down in the second half. Not to compare too early, but the 2004 team had games like that, and also lopsided wins. Every game is like a new season some years. We'll be back -- especially once Cam learns to trust his RBs a bit more and give up the ball; that's where I saw the most hesitation tonight. Looking forward to the Clemson game!

Orlando said...

I could of swore I saw you at Tiger Walk Andy but I wasn't sure and I wasn't about to make a fool of myself haha!

ATCVX said...

I gotta say, this offense stalled again during the second half just like last year....i'll take the win, no complaints there, but like RJ said, i think a good QB could really burn our DB's. I hate that Fannin got hurt but really maybe it's just what we need to force the issue. after 2 games (i know that's a small sample size) i can already say that mcalebb and dyer are a nice 1-2 combo and i'm liking what dyer's done when given the ball. fannin's better served in that HB role. hopefully cam continues to improve i hope they figure out how to avoid these second half offensive slumps.

all in all though, msu isn't an easy place to go play so for the second week/SEC opener, i'll take it. clemson next week should be interesting.

Anonymous said...

Who really thought that MSU fans would abide by the "cowbell rule"?Same academic geniuses who thought the stimulus would work I guess

Tar Heel Tiger said...

outstanding coverage, Mr. Bitter! Thanks!!!

Can Dyer pick up the blitz like Fannin did on the TD pass to DA? That will be key to him being on the field more.

MSU receivers made our defense look much better than it really is. We certainly aren't the top 10 team I hoped we'd be. Unless there is some miraculous transformation, we're looking at 8-4 +/-1. At least we've got an Iron Bowl win this year.

Anonymous said...

everybody hatin' on Fannin, there's more to him than just running because he had a GREAT block on that Darvin Adams touchdown pass, w/out him Cam might have gotten sacked.

ATCVX said...

i don't think anyone's hating on fannin, i like & hope he does well. even though it's only two games in, he hasn't really done anything when the ball's been put in his hand running the ball....now in the passing game, yes, he's done well. watching those games, though, mccalebb and dyer are the ones that have contributed in the run game (though cam might rush for 800+ yds if he keeps this up)

Anonymous said...

Terrible play calling by Malzahn. Where were the square ins and out routes that MSt was giving us?

And when the DB jumped the stay route, we never tried the pump fake.

Also, penalties were horrible calls.

The interfernce was CRAP. They didn't even get the number right so how in the h*** could he have called it?

Anyway, a wins a win but this team has a long way to go.

We should be targeting a super RB today!

Chris In Inverness

Anonymous said...

Damn RJ, maybe Auburn will win the next one.

Anonymous said...

I told you all on a previous post that Freeman would be a better matchup against MSU than Stevens.


MikeP said...

The offensive play calling was more conservative because the situation called for more conservative. This was an important win!

Dyer and O-Mac will do great at RB, and Fannin, when put back where he belongs at H-back, will be a big plus.

We don't call a lot of short pass plays (square in's and out-routes) because Newton has a problem with them. He's getting better, but improvement takes time. He's already much better with short passes than he was in the A-day game.