Chalk Talk: Auburn vs San Jose State Upon Further Review

2 of 5

Sep 6, 2014; Auburn, AL, USA; Auburn Tigers quarterback Nick Marshall (14) tries to avoid San Jose State Spartans safety Forrest Hightower (12) during the first half at Jordan Hare Stadium. Mandatory Credit: John Reed-USA TODAY Sports

1st Quarter

On the first offensive play of the game, Auburn runs a zone read type play in which two H-backs provide lead blocks out of the backfield. The play is actually similar to the Wing-T staple, the buck sweep, but uses CJ Uzomah and Brandon Fulse as the “pulling guards” instead of the offensive linemen themselves. The line blocks like a normal zone play.

This play call (which is not a new play for the Tigers, by the way), allows the offensive coaches to see who the SJSU linebackers are reading. Players are taught to look for certain keys on running plays, most often guards (think of a power play or buck sweep with a pulling guard as a lead blocker) or backs, to tell them where the play is going. While the offensive coaching staff makes some assumptions during film study as to what will happen, they will often run a play early in the game to see if the opponent has made any changes to their assignments for the week.

Two plays later, Nick Marshall takes off for 49 yards and a near touchdown that results in a turnover when the ball is knocked out of his hand at the goal line. The play itself was a simple quarterback draw.

The Tigers were in a 2×2, 10 personnel look (two wide receivers on either side of the offensive line and one running back in the backfield), and motioned Cameron Artis-Payne to the wide side of the field. Marshall took the snap, hesitated for half a second, and sprinted to the end zone, outrunning linebackers and breaking a tackle before he was surprised by the Spartans’ Jimmy Pruitt.

On the following drive, Gabe Wright showed great athleticism by chasing SJSU wide receiver Tyler Winston on a short pass. However, I’m not sure why Gabe Wright sometimes lines up in a two-point stance when he plays defensive end, particularly on early downs. He did it some against Arkansas, and did again on this play.

The ESPN2 crew named Montravius Adams as an impact player for the game. Boy, did they get that one right.

On the first 3rd down and long play for San Jose State, Auburn utilized a 3-3-5 nickel look, with three down linemen, two traditional linebackers as well as Star Robenson Therezie, and five defensive backs.

When Auburn took control of the ball again, I wondered to myself “what plays or formations are they planning to put on film for other teams to have to worry about?” Often, fans think that a team will have a “vanilla” game plan against an inferior opponent and will not want to give too much information away to other upcoming opponents. However, the opposite is often true. In many instances, a team will actually want to put a trick play or new formation into the game plan and “show it” on film to the next opponent.

Sep 6, 2014; Auburn, AL, USA; San Jose State Spartans cornerback Dasheon Frierson (5) tackles Auburn Tigers receiver Ricardo Lewis (5) during the first half at Jordan Hare Stadium. Mandatory Credit: John Reed-USA TODAY Sports

Why would they want to tip their hand? Because the next opponent will have to spend time diagramming the new formation or play, coming up with a plan to defend it, and then spend valuable time and energy repping against it in practice. Coaches really like to waste each others’ time because it means less time game planning and scheming against the plays and formations that they will run most often.

Furthermore, this isn’t only true for offense. Keep your eyes out for a fake punt, onside kick, or some unique return on special teams as well because a head coach or coordinator will “want to get this on film.”

The play that Auburn ran on the first touchdown may have been exactly that kind of play. The Tigers used 01 personnel, and placed Ricardo Louis as a wing off the tight end’s hip on the left side of the formation. Louis’ route went beneath the offensive line and he slipped into the flat. (You can see it in this set of highlights).

This play would be perfect for a 2-point conversion play later in the season, but also expect Malzahn to have a new wrinkle using this personnel grouping and formation near the goal line in the weeks to come. Or not, maybe he just wants Kansas State to be afraid of 01 personnel near the goal line and for them to spend ten minutes of practice time on it next week.

On kickoffs, the Tigers are not tricky. Some teams try to pin opponents deep into the corner with a perfectly placed kick near the corner of the end zone and sideline. Instead of allowing for a mistake and a kick out of bounds, the Auburn coaches just have Daniel Carlson kick the ball as deep into the end zone as possible, which results in a large number of touchbacks.

Live Feed

Auburn vs. Texas A&M Prediction, Odds, Trends and Key Players for College Football Week 4
Auburn vs. Texas A&M Prediction, Odds, Trends and Key Players for College Football Week 4 /


  • 2023 Week 4 AP Poll Top 25: Every SEC team’s highest, lowest spot on ballot South Bound & Down
  • SEC Football: Florida, LSU rise in Week 4 2023 power rankings South Bound & Down
  • SEC Tailgating: Where should you go in each town? South Bound & Down
  • SEC football standings based on yards per play through Week 2 FanSided
  • Auburn Basketball: Projected starting lineup and depth chart for 2023-24 season Busting Brackets
  • The long touchdown from San Jose State quarterback Blake Jurich to Tyler Ervin came on a wheel route from Ervin out of the backfield. Ervin, who plays both running back and wide receiver, was lined up next to Jurich in the backfield and there were two wide receivers on either side of the formation.

    SJSU faked a wide receiver screen, which allowed Ervin to sprint past the Auburn secondary for the big play. Because I only have a TV copy of the game and not the coach’s film, it is difficult to tell what the coverage is. Joshua Holsey was likely playing Cover 2 and Kris Frost may have been assigned to mirror the wheel route, but that is speculation.

    San Jose State defensive coordinator Greg Robinson, a longtime veteran defensive coach in both the NFL and major college football, had a nice game plan for Auburn’s zone read. The Tigers got 49 yards from Marshall on a QB draw, but held him to 54 yards on his other ten carries, and the Spartans did a good job of not allowing him to turn the corner on outside runs.

    San Jose State utilized the QB draw pretty well themselves, calling it twice on third down early in the game. The Spartans picked up a first down, and then forced a 4th-and-1 that they converted.

    Jermaine Whitehead’s interception was helped because Jurich double-pumped and then short-armed his throw while staring down the receiver at the same time. Whitehead read Jurich’s eyes and broke on the ball to take advantage of a poor throw that did not have much velocity on it due to Jurich’s improper mechanics.