Auburn Football: Loss to Mississippi State Had Bright Spots


Oct 11, 2014; Starkville, MS, USA; Auburn Tigers defensive back Jonathan Jones (3) intercepts the ball in front of Mississippi State Bulldogs wide receiver De’Runnya Wilson (1) during the game at Davis Wade Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Spruce Derden-USA TODAY Sports

Sometimes during a bye week, particularly a bye week following a loss, it can be difficult to move on. As much as we’d like to forget last week’s 38-23 loss to Mississippi State, there is still plenty to discuss, and more than enough time to do it since the Tigers don’t play again until October 25. And while it is easy to focus on the negatives of the performance – the missed tackles and missed opportunities, for instance – it’s also important to note that there were some bright spots.

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First, the Auburn rushing attack, while not at its peak, was the most successful any team has been against Mississippi State this season. Coming into the game, the Bulldogs had allowed fewer than 100 rushing yards per game on average through the first five contests of the season. The Tigers gained 232 yards on the ground.

  • Part of that rushing attack was true freshman Roc Thomas, who showed flashes of the talent that made him so highly sought after as a high school recruit. Thomas carried the football only six times, but gained 42 yards against the Bulldogs. He provided a nice change of pace to Cameron Artis-Payne, with a little more quickness and elusiveness than the senior.
  • D’haquille Williams was again a beast. He caught six passes for 108 yards and two touchdowns and continues to create matchup problems for defenses. Often used in the slot, opponents are forced to make a decision on whether or not to match him with a slower linebacker or a smaller defensive back, and neither is typically capable of handling the 6-foot-3, 220-plus pound receiver.
  • Braden Smith

    , the true freshman offensive lineman with the nicknames like “Drago” and “Hulk” because of his strength and physique, wore a different jersey number Saturday. Smith donned the number 91 because he was used as a tight end at times against Mississippi State, and needed an eligible number in order to possibly catch a pass. At 6-foot-6 and 299 pounds, Smith is a dominating presence at the tight end position, and while he won’t play there primarily, he does provide an interesting wrinkle to certain formations and packages, particularly in short yardage situations.

    Oct 11, 2014; Starkville, MS, USA; Auburn Tigers wide receiver D

  • Jonathan Jones played his best game as an Auburn Tiger. Yes, he was called for a costly pass interference penalty against MSU’s De’Runnya Wilson on what turned out to be the final touchdown drive of the game. However, the call was questionable, and Jones did a pretty good job against Wilson – a matchup nightmare in his own right – all afternoon. The junior cornerback had five tackles, two pass breakups and two very important interceptions – one that set the Tigers up with great field position, and the other in the end zone to keep State off the scoreboard.
  • Nick Marshall can run between the tackles. In 2010, the Tigers had one of the greatest weapons in college football history in Cam Newton. At 6-foot-5 and 240-plus pounds, Newton picked up a huge amount of his rushing yardage up the middle because he was big enough and strong enough to take the pounding that came with it. Marshall is much smaller and Is listed at 6-foot-1 and 210 pounds (put appears thinner than that), and for lack of a better word is more fragile than Newton. So far in his career, Marshall has been used primarily on the edges with outside runs. But, over the last few weeks we’ve seen more of the draws and inverted veer play calls that now head coach/then offensive coordinator Gus Malzahn and Newton used so well on the way to the national championship. Because the shortest dinstance between two points is a straight line, and Marshall has fantastic straight-line speed and quickness, having the ability to run the quarterback north-and-south could be very advantageous moving forward. If Marshall’s body can hold up to the punishment he will take as a result, that is.
  • Finally, as much as the defense struggled at times Saturday, the unit responded well in the second half and gave the offense opportunities to come back in the game. Mississippi State, who had been averaging 541.8 yards per game coming into the matchup with the Tigers, was well on their way to surpassing that total by accumulating 315 yards in the first half, even with the benefit of two short touchdown drives following Auburn turnovers. However, the Tigers stiffened up over the game’s final 30 minutes, and held Dak Prescott and company to just 154 yards of total offense after halftime.
  • The Auburn football team obviously struggled in Starkville, and a very, very good squad beat them. However, there are some bright spots that can found in the loss that point towards improvement later in the season.

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