Auburn Tigers vs Kansas State Wildcats: Keys to Victory

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Aug 30, 2014; Auburn, AL, USA; Arkansas Razorbacks receiver Cody Hollister (81) catches a pass as Auburn Tigers defensive back Jonathon Mincy (6) and Derrick Moncrief (24) make the tackle during the second half at Jordan Hare Stadium. Mandatory Credit: John Reed-USA TODAY Sports

Disguise Defensive Looks

Kansas State runs some similar concepts to Auburn on offense, such as the “pop pass” and also implements a quarterback running game. But, one area where the teams couldn’t be more different is tempo.

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  • As we know, Auburn head coach Gus Malzahn literally wrote the book on the Hurry Up No Huddle offensive philosophy. And, we also know that this is not a collection of plays or formations, but rather a viewpoint that insists that operating at a very high offensive tempo will create both short-term and long-term advantages for an offense over the defense.

    Kansas State runs some of the same plays and formations as the Tigers, but the Wildcats do not try to impose their will on opposing defenses through an up-tempo attack. They will often operate without a huddle and they will set up at the line of scrimmage with plenty of time left on the play clock. However, they will use most of that time before snapping the football.

    Why would a team line up in their formation with 15 seconds on the play clock and wait until there are five or fewer seconds left? Because they are reading the defense and anticipating what stunts, blitzes and coverage may be coming. With ten seconds left or so, the K-State coaches may decide to change the play they called in order to have a better chance of success on each particular play and still have time to communicate the changes to the offensive players.

    Therefore, to limit this advantage, Auburn defensive coordinator Ellis Johnson will need to disguise the scheme of the defense and make it more difficult for the Wildcats to check their original play call and change it to one that will be more effective. He will need to show one thing, and have the Tigers execute another while also regularly changing the pre-snap looks.

    As a basic example, if the Tigers line up with seven defenders in the box, K-State may check to a quarterback running play that utilizes five offensive linemen as blockers, plus two running backs in the backfield. That means there will be seven blockers on seven defenders and the quarterback will be unaccounted for until he makes it into the secondary (theoretically, that is).

    But, Johnson can actually use that to his advantage by showing a seven-man box, and then dropping a Star or a safety – or both – closer to the line of scrimmage when there are seven or eight seconds on the play clock.

    Ellis Johnson and K-State offensive coordinator Dana Dimel will be involved in a chess match like this on every single play. The Wildcats will try to find an advantage by examining the defense from the line of scrimmage, then changing their play call to exploit it. Auburn must make that as difficult as possible by disguising the defense.