Auburn Football: 10 Things We Learned from the Tigers' Win vs. Alabama A&M
Auburn defeated Alabama A&M, 51-7 Saturday afternoon on Senior Day inside Jordan-Hare Stadium. Auburn improved to 3-8 on the season.
The first-string of Auburn's offense nearly had a perfect day, as it was only stopped one time all afternoon. It scored a TD on every drive of the first half.
Auburn racked up a season-high of 512 yards of total offense behind a dominating running game. Tre Mason and Onterio McCalebb both rushed for over 100 yards. The Tigers rushed for 341 yards overall.
Although it was against an FCS opponent, Auburn will certainly carry the momentum of a win over the Bulldogs as it goes West next week to try and pull off what would be a shocker of an upset against No. 4 Alabama.
Before looking ahead to the annual Iron Bowl, let's find 10 things we learned about Auburn in its win over Alabama A&M.
Things Still Aren't Set on the Offensive Line
When starting lineups were announced prior to Saturday's game, there was a familiar name missing at the left tackle position.
Greg Robinson did not start at the position for the first time all year. Redshirt freshman Christian Westerman was the new face on the offensive line.
O-line shuffle: Christian Westerman replaces John Sullen @ LG. Sullen will replace Chad Slade at RG. Slade will replace Greg Robinson at LT.
— Ryan Wood (@AUBlog) November 17, 2012
It says a lot about the struggles of the 2012 team on the offensive line when there are still lineup shuffles happening before the 11th game of the season.
Gene Chizik pointed to his belief that this is the first time all season that Westerman has been healthy. He also pointed to the struggles at the LT position. "We have to get more production at the left tackle position." (via Ryan Wood, Opelika-Auburn News)
Without going back and watching a replay of the game, Westerman probably graded out pretty well. Most of the offensive line will.
Penalties Are a Big Problem
The one negative takeaway for Auburn today was the number of penalties that the Tigers committed.
Auburn had 11 penalties that resulted in a loss of 79 yards on Saturday.
A lot of the penalties came at a costly time. One drive in the first quarter, Auburn had two consecutive plays that would have been decent yardage nullified because of a penalty. On the same drive, a TD pass to WR Sammie Coates was called back due to a holding penalty.
Auburn can overcome those penalties against a far inferior team like Alabama A&M. Next week, every yard will count and Auburn will not be able to afford giving Alabama free yardage.
The Auburn Offense Was Finally Able to Establish the Running Game
So that is what offensive coordinator Scot Loeffler's offense is supposed to look like. Saturday was the first time all season that the Auburn offense was able to establish the running game early.
The result was more third-and-shorts and an offense that controlled the clock as well as field position. Auburn fan the ball 46 times for 341 yards out of 64 total plays.
It will much harder for Auburn to establish the running game next week, but we saw that this offense can work if it is able to accomplish it.
Loeffler must be stubborn in sticking with the run. When the running game is established, more of the playbook can be opened up.
Jay Prosch Was Used the Way He Is Meant to Be Used
A source of frustration for Auburn fans during this 2012 season has been about the misuse of All-American FB Jay Prosch.
Auburn fans cannot complain about the way that Prosch was used in Saturday's matchup. He was on the field early and often and provided some key blocks that sprung Tre Mason and Onterio McCalebb for big runs.
Prosch also found the end zone for the second time this season. He was initially stopped, but by keeping his legs (the ones that squat 800-plus pounds) moving, he found a way into the end zone.
More Receivers Were Involved in the Offense
Auburn played Saturday like WR Emory Blake had already graduated. Auburn's leading receiver did not have a catch in the first half. Sammie Coates and Deangelo Benton were targeted more than Blake.
Auburn has been waiting for another WR to step up to complement Blake all season long and Coates did his best on Saturday afternoon.
Although Coates only had one reception on the game, he was targeted multiple times. A TD reception in the first quarter was nullified due to a holding penalty. On other instances, he could not haul in the pass from Jonathan Wallace. Coates also caught the only TD pass on the day.
Benton was the leading Auburn receiver with two catches for 70 yards. Those two catches equaled what was his season total coming into the game.
Seven different receivers caught a pass on Saturday. Auburn will need more receivers next week and next season since Blake may be catching passes on Sundays next fall.
Auburn Came out of Halftime Flat
Auburn players came out of the locker room in the third quarter like their heads were already three hours to the west.
A&M had been stopped each drive in the first half and the Bulldogs came out and ran 10 plays that covered 88 yards. The drive resulted in A&M's only TD of the game.
The first-string of the Auburn offense was stopped for the first time on its first drive of the second half.
Auburn's focus turned back towards the Bulldogs after both team's initial drive but the Tigers came out of the locker room extremely flat after halftime.
Jonathan Wallace's Accuracy Issues Are Concerning
Jonathan Wallace is certainly the best QB on the Auburn roster. However, his accuracy issues are concerning for Auburn fans.
Wallace missed multiple throws on Saturday by sailing them over his receiver's heads. It can be fixed with coaching but Wallace's play is nowhere near good enough for Auburn to pull off what would be an historical upset next weekend in Tuscaloosa.
On the broadcast, former Auburn QB Ben Leard pointed towards Wallace accuracy problems being the result of the front shoulder elevating, thus causing the release point of the ball to be higher.
Auburn can't afford to miss opportunities in the end zone or big plays.
If Wallace's work ethic is any indication, the issues will be fixed. As it stands now, his accuracy issues are a concern going into Tuscaloosa next week.
Wallace Showed His Toughness
It takes toughness to get back on your feet after taking a big hit. That is exactly what Jonathan Wallace did in the second half, though.
When asked about the hit that resulted in a personal foul penalty on Alabama A&M, Wallace welcomed more of the same. “It felt great, actually. I don’t mind getting knocked around a little bit,” said Wallace, a freshman from Central Phenix-City, now 2-1 as a collegiate starting quarterback. “It took a toll on me a little bit, but I just got to ice it up. It’ll be fine.” (via Aaron Brenner, Columbus Ledger-Enquirer)
The Auburn Secondary Will Not Finish the Year Without an Interception
It was beginning to be more of a phenomenon than a problem. Auburn had not had an interception by a defensive back the entire season.
Despite the marked improvement in secondary play this season, the unit had not been able to create a turnover through the air.
Daren Bates had the last interception for the Auburn defense prior to Saturday's game. That occurred September 1 inside the Georgia Dome in Auburn's first game.
With just over two minutes left in the game, Auburn safety Trent Fisher changed that when he returned an interception for a TD to put a lid on Auburn's scoring for the day.
Auburn's Seniors Left Jordan-Hare Stadium on a High Note
As I wrote on Thursday, the class of 2012 seniors has had a roller coaster ride in their time on the Plains. This year has definitely been a valley in that ride, but the 13 seniors walked out of Jordan-Hare Stadium for the final time as winners.
#Auburn head coach Gene Chizik: "Certainly, it was important for our seniors to go out right and have some fun."
— Aaron Brenner (@wareagleextra) November 17, 2012
They have given Auburn fans memories that they will cherish for a lifetime. The Auburn fans, other than students, thanked them by showing up to watch a team that has lost eight games play against an FCS opponent. The announced attendance was 74,382. That number is much better than the anticipated turnout.
These seniors still have another chapter in their story as Auburn football players, but they have defended the turf on Pat Dye Field at Jordan-Hare Stadium for the last time. This class lost only seven games in their career at home.
Like a lot of memories they will have of playing in Jordan-Hare, the seniors went out on a much-deserved high note.