AUBURN, Ala. – Alrighty. Here we go. A look back at the football game Auburn played six months ago tonight, and how these lessons from the film room apply to next season. We’ll do this each Friday from now until the end of May.
Allow me to reiterate: obviously, last year stunk. I saw it myself. This is a way to utilize what we’ve learned about the returning Tigers and how they’ll fit in with the 2013 team, which is why you won’t read a ton of elaboration on guys who are gone (T’Sharvan Bell, Emory Blake, etc.) It also won’t overrate how particular schemes played out, because, again, those coaches are gone. Out with the old, in with the new, for sure. This is just applying the old players to new schemes.
OK, no more disclaimer. Let’s get started. And don’t forget to read below for a (very) early look at Auburn’s season-opening opponent, Washington State.
NO. 14 CLEMSON 26, AUBURN 19 ~ Sept. 1, 2012, ESPN
Chick-Fil-A Kickoff Classic, Georgia Dome, Atlanta
On Clemson’s opening possession | DE Dee Ford destroys two blocks, and races down quarterback Tajh Boyd for the sack. Already an impact player.
On Auburn’s opening possession | for their first snaps in Auburn uniforms, FB Jay Prosch puts a nice lead block on free safety Xavier Brewer, and LT Greg Robinson pancakes defensive end Corey Crawford, springing RB Onterio McCalebb for 5 yards.
For their first boots as juniors | K Cody Parkey knocks a touchback, and P Steven Clark skies one 45 yards producing a fair catch. They’ll do.
For his first carry | RB Tre Mason picks up five yards after contact. Already, he’s showing he’s a tough guy to bring down.
For his first touchdown | QB Kiehl Frazier. Playaction. WR Emory Blake. Boom.
Coaches will later point out RT Avery Young not just once, but twice rerouted defensive tackle Grady Jarrett from touching Frazier, allowing Kiehl time in the pocket to deliver a perfect spiral 57 yards downfield on the money.
Frazier elatedly leaps into Mason’s arms on his way down the field. It was far and away his happiest moment of the season. (Only his 33-yard TD catch and Hail Mary throw against ULM even kind of compare.)
On the final play of the first quarter | LB Daren Bates gets a sack, following up a controversial exchange you’ll read about in a moment. I bet a lot of Auburn fans assessed after the first 15 minutes, “It’s gonna be a good season.”
On its own 1-yard-line | Mason goes 40 yards in two carries, both with Prosch clearing a path. However, Mason then fumbles at midfield, popped loose by defensive tackle Josh Watson when Tre doesn’t protect enough with his left arm.
Late in the first half, 2nd and 10 | With Clemson on Auburn’s 41 threatening to open up its lead, a total team sack snuffs the threat. CB Chris Davis and LB Jake Holland draw O-Line blocks, which allows DT Gabe Wright to apply pressure. When Boyd has to improvise, DE Corey Lemonier has time to wrap him up from behind. The LB-CB blitz blew up Clemson’s home-run play call.
On Bates’ interception to start the fourth quarter | Wright was the one following the ball outside the trenches. He leaps, keeping his hands up and cutting off Boyd’s passing lane, forcing Boyd to throw behind tight end Sam Cooper, causing the pick.
Mason didn’t take long to show how he’s a hybrid back – he’s sleek yet powerful, he’s got quick burst yet he’s durable. Looked like a college version of Steven Jackson. There’s no reason he shouldn’t be an elite back in this new system going forward.
On Kiehl’s first 3rd-down snap | There he is, watching the rush. Flips wildly to Mason, which he can’t grab, and Auburn goes three-and-out. This became, as they say, a thing.
When Boyd has to come out after losing his helmet | backup quarterback Cole Stoudt comes in on 2nd and 12. Stoudt, no real threat to throw, hands off on a zone draw to tailback Andre Ellington, who breaks FOUR tackles – FS Ryan Smith, Lemonier, Davis and SS Jermaine Whitehead in order – for a 15-yard pickup. Inexcusable.
Auburn DBs backpedal on a couple 3rd-and-longs | allows Clemson receivers to roam. DC Brian VanGorder’s stance was his secondary wasn’t prepared for press coverage.
On 2nd and 12 in the red zone | WR Trovon Reed completely lost track of his feet in the back of the end zone. Frazier’s throw was fine, but Reed didn’t keep his toes in bounds, negating the TD. Auburn would settle for three.
On the offensive line | Robinson did have the pancake on that Blake TD, but he also had a false start and a fatal-timed hold in the red zone.
Can’t believe I forgot about this play in hindsight | Boyd scrambles, DE Nosa Eguae forces a fumble tackling him in traffic, and Wright recovers. The refs initially rule Auburn ball. Somehow, it’s overturned, when it’s judged Boyd’s knee was down first. Upon replay, it looked like Boyd bobbled the football before his knee touched the turf, or at least it was too close to overturn. Even ESPN play-by-play man Brad Nessler seemed to disagree, saying, “Well, there’s our opinion, and then there’s the one that counts.” Then the refs even needed another delay to properly set the sticks. Bad exchange all around which could have allowed Auburn to grab some swagger.
On Ellington’s “flip-and-fly” run for 68 yards |Holland flat-out lost his grip on Ellington. CB Jon Mincy stutter-stepped, expecting Holland to take care of the job himself, and failed to cut off the angle, allowing Ellington to spring free. A huge momentum swing.
On Auburn’s opening possession out of the halftime locker room | there’s 12 men in the huddle once, and a timeout is later called to regroup. Unnecessary miscommunications, which you could certainly attribute to the first game with a new system.
Ugly on Clemson’s part | too many dropped balls. Shot themselves in the foot.
Kiehl Frazier assessment | at best, he was poised and in control; at worst, he was a little inaccurate in his first spotlight appearance. Plenty of playaction and playfakes were called for him; though he wasn’t quite comfortable running downfield, he did have one nice scramble, sacrificing his body to pick up a first down. Give it a B-plus effort.
CB Ryan White and Ryan Smith opened the season in the starting lineup on defense. No, really. Look it up. Smith was said to be someone who “gets it”, as far as VanGorder’s complex playbook. Smith made a curious decision to leap toward Ellington on a sweep, instead of plugging a gap or wrapping up, and Ellington went for 45 yards. Both Ryans soon lost their starting jobs, even though White led the Tigers with 12 tackles that night.
Kick return coverage starters | Parkey, Davis, Josh Holsey, Jaylon Denson, Craig Sanders, Ikeem Means, T’Sharvan Bell, Anthony Swain, Jon Jones, Jon Evans, Demetruce McNeal. Only Means, Bell and Evans were seniors.
Clemson’s first quarter | 29 plays, 127 yards (4.34 yards/play), 11:43 possession
Auburn’s first quarter | 7 plays, 78 yards (11.14 yards/play), 3:17 possession
However, Auburn led 7-3.
Fourth quarter | Ellington 8 rush, 80 yards; Boyd 6 rush, 49 yards. They rushed for six first downs together (three for Ellington, three for Boyd), including three on third down. Defensive breakdowns, not being able to contain the run (particularly Boyd), stopped Auburn from stealing this game.
3) Cody Parkey. Four for four on field goals, including a 46-yarder, is what you’re looking for.
2) Daren Bates. A sack, an interception and sideline-to-sideline coverage even with a stinger. Gutty performance.
1) Jay Prosch. He had one hell of a game, the final time his mother watched him play football. Recovered a Kiehl Frazier fumble in the final minute to keep the game alive, and made Onterio McCalebb and Tre Mason look really, really, really good.
GAME 1: Washington State at Auburn, Aug. 31, 2013, Jordan-Hare Stadium
A LOOK AT WASHINGTON STATE
2012 record: 3-9, 1-8 Pac-12
Head coach: Mike Leach, second year (@Coach_Leach)
Returning starters (o/d): Wazzu 19 (10/9)
Base formations: Offense – 4-WR spread | Defense – 3-4
Wazzu-Auburn series: Auburn leads 1-0 (preseason fourth-ranked Tigers won 40-14 in 2006 opener at JHS)
Notes: Auburn is 92-26-2 in season openers, with the Clemson loss breaking a six-game winning streak … Washington State was one of three BCS conference squads in 2012 to rank outside the top 100 both in scoring offense and scoring defense (Kansas, Colorado) … Auburn is 7-3 all-time against the Pac-12, while Wazzu is 1-9 all-time against the SEC … six of Auburn’s last nine season openers have been televised by the ESPN family of networks.