The Tigers went into Bill Snyder Family Football Stadium last night and were able to escape with a 20-14 win over #20 Kansas State. Here is what we learned about Auburn.
Auburn’s defense might be better than we expected. Last year, Auburn was one of the best in the nation defending the read option, so it was not a surprise that the Tigers were effective against Kansas State’s read game. What was more surprising was how effective they were against the pass, even without safety Jermaine Whitehead. The Wildcats moved the ball well through the air on their second drive of the game, but the Tigers escaped with a bit of a gift interception in the endzone. From then on, they did well to keep Kansas State’s passing game from getting into rhythm — only 6.1 yards per completion — and were particularly good at keeping the ball away from Tyler Lockett — only four receptions after the second drive. If the Tigers secondary can carry over that quality play into the SEC schedule, it will be huge for Auburn’s chances to repeat in the conference.
The offense might not be as potent as we thought. Maybe it was just an off night, but the Tigers’ offense could just never find the rhythm we’ve come to expect from Gus Malzahn’s group. Kansas State dictated the pace of the game, which was incredibly slow, and Auburn was never able to establish the tempo and rhythm they normally play with. Nick Marshall still has a tendency to miss passes high, and with him unable to attack single coverage on the outside with consistent success the Wildcats could load up against the run. The Auburn pass game doesn’t have to be dynamic, but it needs to be enough of a threat to keep teams from keying in completely on the run game.
Auburn still has some magic left. Despite all of the offensive woes in this game, the Tigers still found a way to pull out a victory. The defense played great, and the offense showed up when needed the most early in the fourth quarter. I have no idea what curse the Tigers are putting on opposing kickers, but it’s still working so they should keep doing it. Many wondered if Auburn could continue winning these kinds of close games this season, and, at least for now, the answer seems to be yes.