On Saturday night, Auburn defeated Arkansas State 52-26, out-gaining ASU 608-366.
Obviously, some people might be disappointed by the defense. But think about it... Auburn played very conservative defense last night, giving Arkansas State room to pass. Believe it or not, I think the defense played pretty well. They didn't want to reveal any schemes to Mississippi State, so they didn't run their regular scheme.
Besides, we saw something on defense tonight we never saw last year: In the third quarter, after a Fannin fumble, ASU was down by twelve and took over at about the Auburn 30-yard line... and instead of allowing an easy TD, Auburn pushed them BACKWARDS. That's something we never saw last year. Auburn may have given up 26 points and 366 yards, but only 43 of those yards came on the ground. The Tigers played soft defense tonight to work in the new players easily, which explains why ASU ran so many bubble-screens.
So, I say, we didn't learn anything about the defense. They still have the potential to be great, because when they get into a zone, they can be downright stingy, and we saw that for stretches last night.
But something we did learn: Special teams is actually a STRENGTH for Auburn in 2010. Outside of the Demond Washington fumble (which he made up for with a big return later in the game), special teams played excellently. Carr is obviously the guy to return punts (Fun Fact: last year, a punt return would gather a standing ovation, even if it lost yards.) Wes Byrum had two great kickoffs before he was taken out, and he went one-for-one on field goals, and was potentially robbed of another shot when the refs let the clock run out at halftime.
Do you know what else we learned? That new quarterback at Auburn isn't half bad.. He only accounted for 357 yards and five touchdowns. The offense only gained 580 yards while he was the quarterback. ASU's head coach after the game only said, "He's the best player I have ever seen live in person". Alright, in case you're curious, which you surely are, I'm talking about Cameron Newton. He was a total beast tonight. ESPN highlights for the game were the "30-second Cam Newton show".
So, here are my grades for the game:
OFFENSE: A. What can you say? They looked a little groggy early in the third and they weren't dominant early.... but they were unstoppable the rest of the way. The Fannin fumble was the low point. There was no high point, because there is no particular play or point I can choose.
DEFENSE: B. They played better than most on here will say. The defense wasn't looking for this game to make strides. This was a game to work out some kinks and work in some new players. They gave up 43 rushing yards, a number I personally loved. You can't take any stats defensively from this game and say the defense hasn't improved. Tonight, they played conservative and safe defense. They bended. But for the most part, they never broke, which is a big reason why I give them a B.
SPECIAL TEAMS: A-. There was a big return allowed and Demond Washington fumbled. But Washington also had some great returns, Byrum had some booming kick-offs, Carr returned multiple punts and never fumbled, and Ryan Shoemaker didn't look like "Shankmaker" most of the night.
OVERALL: A-. You can't judge anything defensively off of this game. This defense will be a lot better than some Auburn fans think right now. A win is a win. Auburn is 1-0. Cameron Newton had one of the best days EVER for a quarterback at Auburn in his FIRST GAME. It wasn't pretty at times when Auburn played soft defense to mature some players... but Auburn was decidedly better, and they are 1-0 as they roll into Starkvegas.