Auburn Football: Missed Tackles, Missed Assignments, Missed Opportunities in Loss to Miss. State


Oct 11, 2014; Starkville, MS, USA; Mississippi State Bulldogs wide receiver De’Runnya Wilson (1) carries for a touchdown on a reception against Auburn Tigers defensive back Joshua Holsey (15) and defensive back Jonathan Jones (3) during the first quarter at Davis Wade Stadium. Mandatory Credit: John David Mercer-USA TODAY Sports

Despite a hellish start to the game Saturday in Starkville, the Auburn football team had a chance to pull out an important victory on the road against an SEC West opponent now ranked No. 1 in the polls. However, too many misses led to a loss against Mississippi State.

Missed tackles.

Missed assignments.

Missed opportunities.

Much of the blame goes to the offense, and rightly so. The 21-0 deficit was built largely on a foundation that included two turnovers on the first two offensive plays of the game: an interception by Nick Marshall and a fumble by D’haquille Williams, both of which were promptly turned into touchdowns by the Bulldogs, and for that the defense must share some of the fault.

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“We played very average in some spots against a really good, balanced football team. You get what you got,” defensive coordinator Ellis Johnson said in his weekly media session Sunday. “Missed tackles went up, but a lot of that’s because of Mississippi State.”

As Johnson points out, Mississippi State created plenty of problems for the Tigers on defense, so it wasn’t as if Auburn simply gave the game away. MSU quarterback Dak Prescott isn’t the Heisman Trophy favorite without good reason. Prescott, running back Josh Robinson and wide receiver De’Runnya Wilson proved to be a dangerous trio that is difficult to keep out of the end zone, much less tackle.

The first score of the game came on a 34-yard touchdown pass from Prescott to Wilson in which the receiver broke a tackle, sprinted towards the goal line and ran through a couple more attempted tackles and into the end zone.

The previously unheralded receiver recruit and part-time basketball player from the state of Alabama looks an awful lot like Kelvin Benjamin on the field – the former Florida State playmaker that ripped Auburn’s hearts out in the national championship game and later became a first round pick of the Carolina Panthers. Like Benjamin, Wilson is big, strong, and physical, and a matchup nightmare, and he showed it Saturday. The sophomore four passes against Auburn for a team-high 72 yards and the score.

Similarly, Robinson, the primary running back, has been given the nickname “Bowling Ball.” The name proved accurate as the junior bowled his way to 97 rushing yards and two touchdowns on 19 carries – many of which included broken tackles – and added 37 receiving yards on two catches. Prescott, more of a bulldozer than a bowling ball, added 121 rushing yards and two scores to his performance.

“Missed assignments went up,” Johnson continued, “and that’s Auburn. I didn’t think our players played within themselves. I thought they sometimes tried to overplay, run over somebody else’s area and make a play instead of playing within the system. Against a team like that, you’re going to suffer because they’re balanced.”

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  • And they certainly were balanced. The Bulldogs gained 469 yards of total offense Saturday, with 223 yards coming on the ground. Prescott, the junior QB, completed 18 of 34 passes for 246 yards and a touchdown, but he was intercepted twice. And that’s where the missed opportunities come in. Four Mississippi State turnovers – two forced by the defense, and two on special teams – resulted in only 13 points for the Tigers.

    Despite the blunders and bad luck, Auburn fought back. They had seized momentum with a touchdown late in the second half, but lost it immediately by allowing MSU to score on the very next drive. Then, the Tigers pulled to within one score in the third quarter, and trailed just 28-20 entering the fourth, but had dug too big a hole early.

    Brutal timing on a pass interference call allowed State to kick a field goal, and then even worse timing gave them the ball back immediately with a fumble on the ensuing kickoff. In the blink of an eye, a 28-20 ballgame developed into a 38-20 beating.

    It’s hard to win a football game when you make mistakes, particularly against a team as talented as Mississippi State, and Auburn made plenty of them. The Tigers turned the ball over four times (three on offense and one on special teams), missed a field goal, and allowed a season high three sacks and 13 quarterback hurries. And it’s even more difficult when you can’t capitalize on the mistakes you opponent makes.

    Both the offensive and defensive units will learn from the loss, regroup this week during the bye, and start fresh with preparations with another big SEC showdown on October 25 against South Carolina.

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