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The Auburn Plainsman: Mississippi State vs. Auburn

September 26, 2019

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September 26, 2019

The Auburn Plainsman: Mississippi State vs. Auburn

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TODD VAN EMST/ AU ATHLETICS

JaTarvious Whitlow (28) scores a touchdown in the second half at the Auburn vs. Texas A&M game on Saturday, Sept. 21, 2019, in College Station, Texas.

Report Card: Grading Auburn’s 28-20 win over TAMU By SUMNER MARTIN Assistant Sports Editor

COLLEGE STATION, Texas — It wasn’t flawless. There is still work to be done. But, much like the first three games of the season, No. 8 Auburn (4-0) made the plays necessary to check another tough game off their list and into the win column, defeating Texas A&M 28-20 Saturday afternoon at Kyle Field. No, they don’t look like a playoff contender, yet. But, the Tigers came into one of the tougher environments in college football, as four-point underdogs to the No. 17 team in the country, and left with an eight-point win that was never really in question, and one that should’ve been by double digits. So what else can you ask for at this juncture in the season, especially when you consider the fact that Saturday’s contest was a true freshman quarterback’s first SEC road start. There is still room to grow, yes, but anytime you kick off conference play with a road win against a ranked opponent, it speaks volumes. Auburn snapped an 8-game losing streak against ranked teams on the road and picked up its fourth win in College Station, remaining unbeaten when playing at Kyle Field. For Malzahn, it’s all about the little things, the week-byweek progression.

“We’re still not there, but our team is growing up and they’re getting more confidence,” Malzahn said after Saturday’s win. “… This is a very tough place to play. I’m really proud of our team. They showed a lot of guts, they showed a lot of guts, they played Auburn football.” Here’s the Sunday report card: QUARTERBACK: BBo Nix didn’t put up flashy numbers, he didn’t have to make extraordinary throws, but what he did do is just as important and often overlooked. The freshman quarterback, in his first SEC game on the road, stayed composed and poised in a hostile environment. Nix managed the game, didn’t turn the ball over and made the simple plays to come away with a win. That’s all you can ask of a 19-year-old kid, under the circumstances. He finished 12-of-20 for 100 yards passing and one touchdown and continued to show off his mobility running the ball 12 times for 38 yards, most notably on the 6-yard keeper that sealed the game late in the fourth quarter. He gets a minus for the overthrows; the freshman will have to get better throwing the long ball, but that will come with time. RUNNING BACKS: C+ Let me just start by saying that this grade isn’t negative, it’s just due to the fact that the Auburn running backs weren’t

leaned on heavily until late because of the game plan Malzahn had for Texas A&M. And, when they were used, it was just Boobee Whitlow in the third and fourth quarters. Saturday was a different approach than what we are used to seeing from the Auburn rushing attack, at least for the first half. The Tigers’ leading rusher entering the weekend (Whitlow) had zero carries in the first quarter and just two carries in the second, which was part of the reason Auburn running backs had only 7 yards on eight carries heading into halftime, but some of that was by design. Apart from making sure Whitlow would be fresh for the second half, Malzahn also said after the game that their plan was to stretch the Aggie defense with sweeps and outside runs to the edge, so as to avoid the interior blitzes. That plan worked to perfection on Anthony Schwartz’s 57-yard reverse that went for a touchdown on the opening drive. Malzahn’s plan was to try and use players like Schwartz, Stove and Shivers on the perimeter early as opposed to inside zones. Once Texas A&M was forced to extend and spread its defense, Auburn rolled with Whitlow to carry them to the finish line in the second half. He finished with 18 carries for 67 yards and a touchdown, with 12 of those attempts coming in the fourth quarter. Whitlow’s patience and wherewithal to know when to hit the hole was on display Saturday, as he con» See REPORT CARD, 4


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The Auburn Plainsman: Auburn vs. Mississippi State

REPORT CARD

cause of the four offside penalties, two of them coming from Big Kat Bryant. That’s too many stupid mistakes for a team wanting to be a contender.

tinues to be that workhorse the Tigers’ offense relies on down the stretch.

LINEBACKERS: B+ Fast and physical. That’s what K.J. Britt said it would take, and that’s what the Auburn linebackers did. Britt, once again, led his unit with seven tackles, which tied a career high, and one tackle-for-loss. Britt said the key was to set the tone early and often. “It’s real important. You got to set the tone,” Britt said. “Setting the tone knowing that this is the way we’re going to play football, either y’all are going to match it or y’all are going to bow down… Let them know this is Auburn football and we come to play…Our mentality when we came out was fast, physical, and just play with effort. Everything else will take care of itself. And that’s what we did.” When the linebackers and defensive lineman on this team are playing as a cohesive unit, I’m not sure how you beat them. They have the power to stuff the run up the middle, and also the speed to run you down on the edge or cover the underneath routes. And, there isn’t a weak spot. Along with Britt, Zakoby McClain added four tackles, while Owen Pappoe and Chandler Wooten each had two apiece.

» From 3

WIDE RECEIVERS: B+ The Auburn wide receiving corps was back to full strength for the first time all season Saturday afternoon, and it had its game changers back in full effect. Seth Williams (shoulder) and Schwartz (wrist) both were on the field together, and both made significant impacts for the offense. These two are massive for the offense, whether they touch the ball or not, it opens up so much for Malzahn’s play calling. Especially for a freshman quarterback, it was essential for Nix to have that safety blanket of Schwartz and Williams to throw to and to trust in. Without the two, who knows how the game finishes. Schwartz made a difference with his feet, rushing for a 57yard touchdown on the opening drive of the game that set the tone for the Auburn offense. Williams made an impact the more conventional way by hauling in four receptions for 47 yards and one touchdown. John Samuel Shenker tallied the other receiving touchdown of the day on his second catch of the season. OFFENSIVE LINE: BFor the most part, the offensive line held their own against one of the better, albeit young, interior defenses in the conference. The pass protection was improved and gave Nix time to sit in the pocket, allowing just one sack, and the run blocking, especially down the stretch on key drives, was part of the reason the Auburn offense could stay on the field for longer, time-consuming drives. This grade is slightly above average, so Auburn fans can’t be too disappointed, but the reason it isn’t any higher is because of three penalties. Mike Horton was flagged twice for being an ineligible player downfield, and the entire right side of the line was called for false start in the third quarter. The little things need to be tightened, but overall it was a solid outing. DEFENSIVE LINE: AThe big boys in the middle feasted Saturday, early and often. The Texas A&M offensive line was simply overpowered and there was nothing they could do to stop Derrick Brown & co. Whenever this group of linemen play at this kind of level, it’s hard for any unit to stop them. Defensive coordinator Kevin Steele just has too many weapons at his disposal for an average line to prepare for. In the second quarter, Texas A&M had minus-2 rushing yards and had just 12 yards heading into the locker room. Auburn held the Aggies to 56 yards rushing for the game, a series low, and finished with three sacks and seven tacklesfor-loss. Brown accounted for two sacks and Tyrone Truesdell added the other. “We just played our brand of defense,” Brown said. “Playing against teams in the West, it doesn’t matter what happened the week before or who’s picked to win. It’s just one of those things where you’ve got to come out here and give it your all and be able to compete.” The only reason the grade isn’t completely sparkling is be-

SECONDARY: BThis grade is lower because of the standard that this experienced secondary holds themselves to. Noah Igbinoghene was the lone bright spot leading the team with eight tack-

September 26, 2019 les. Javaris Davis had two pass break-ups and Daniel Thomas forced an important fumble to start the second half, then recovered it himself to give the offense advantageous field position which led to a touchdown. The secondary also showed why they are regarded as one of the best open-field tackling units in the nation, let alone the conference. Noah Igbinoghene (8), who led the team, Jamien Sherwood (5) and Roger McCreary (6) all finished with career bests in tackles. But overall, Kellen Mond exposed this pass defense that was considered a strength heading into the season and showed some concerning holes that need to be fixed with SEC play getting underway. The Tigers gave up 335 yards and two touchdowns on 31-of-49 passing from Mond. Simply put, Mond just had too many easy throws where Auburn gave the Aggie receivers too much cushion, and yes I realize some of these yards came in garbage time, but it ended up being a one possession game. The lackadaisical play from the cornerbacks and safeties will be focused on, but the open field tackling was a bright spot. SPECIAL TEAMS: B It was a fairly uneventful day for the Auburn special teams. Anders Carlson wasn’t needed, except for extra points, and the coverage on kickoffs and punts were under control. Arryn Siposs punted eight times for 350 yards, with a long of 54 and an average of 43.8. Igbinoghene returned one kick for 31 yards and Christian Tutt looked elusive once again returning two punts for 52 yards

TODD VAN EMST/ AU ATHLETICS

Anthony Schwartz (5) runs past two Texas A&M defenders in the first half of Auburn vs Texas A&M on Saturday, Sept. 21, 2019, in College Station, TX.


September 26, 2019

The Auburn Plainsman: Auburn vs. Mississippi State

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TODD VAN EMST / AU ATHLETICS

JaTarvious Whitlow (28) celebrates with teammates after scoring a touchdown in the second half during Auburn vs. Texas A&M on Sept. 21, 2019, in College Station, TX.

Tigers prep for physical SEC home opener By SUMNER MARTIN Assistant Sports Editor

No. 7 Auburn is 4-0 for just the 32nd time in 127 seasons, twice under head coach Gus Malzahn (started 5-0 in 2014). After knocking off then-No. 17 Texas A&M on the road last Saturday, 28-20, to open SEC play, the undefeated Tigers are now the only team to defeat two teams ranked in the AP Top 25 this season. Those wins are two of only eight over top 25 opponents away from home this season in college football. It’s the first time since 1974 that Auburn has beaten two ranked teams in its first four games of a season. But Malzahn doesn’t care about all of that. His focus is on Mississippi State (3-1, 1-0) and not looking back to what they’ve accomplished up to this point, but responding to one of the more disappointing losses of the 2018 season. Last year, Mississippi State rushed 57 times for 349 yards beating the then-No.8 Tigers 23-9 in Starkville, while Auburn rushed for just 90 in what was the first of a string of losses in the 2018 season for Malzahn’s team. Nick Fitzgerald, who was the Bulldogs’ starting quarterback at the time, carried it 28 times himself for 195 yards and

two touchdowns. “Mississippi State is a team that, bottom line, embarrassed us last year,” Malzahn said at his Tuesday press conference. “They just lined up and whipped us…The A&M game was last week. We don’t really care about who we’re playing the next week (Florida) right now. We’ve got our hands full… Crud, we’re playing a good team.” This weekend’s matchup pits two of the SEC’s best against one another: Mississippi State’s Kylin Hill, who is the leading rusher in the conference, and the Auburn defense, who ranks second in the SEC in rushing defense (89.5 yards per game). Hill has rushed 91 times for 551 yards, with an average of 6.1 yards per carry, and five touchdowns this season. He leads or is tied for the SEC lead in nine different categories and is top five in the FBS in six, and has 316 yards after contact this season, which leads the SEC and is fifth in the all of college football. The Bulldogs, who face their first ranked opponent of the season in Auburn Saturday, have had at least one player rush for over 100 yards in 13 of its last 17 games, going 10-3 in those games. “You look at their offense, their running back, he’s the real deal,” Malzahn said. “He’s one of the best in the country. He can break tackles, he’s explosive, runs with great pad

level…I saw that one play where he dove from outside the five-yard line and I was like ‘whoa.’ And he’s a veteran guy. He’s been there and done that. He’s one of the best in our league.” The Auburn defense, who will be tasked with tackling Hill has had a player named SEC defensive lineman of the week for three weeks straight, and has held three of its first four opponents to fewer than 100 yards rushing allowing 90 to Oregon, 92 to Kent State and 56 at Texas A&M. Marlon Davidson won the award back-toback weeks before Derrick Brown took last week’s honors after his performance in College Station. The Tigers have now held 15 of 44 teams below 100 yards rushing since defensive coordinator Kevin Steele took over in the 2016 season. Malzahn expects more of the same Saturday. “The great thing about us, we’ve got most of our guys back,” Malzahn said. “You really don’t have to say anything. They know exactly what happened. We left that thing, and they embarrassed us, as a team now… We pride ourselves on winning up front. You’ve just got to do it. They’re a good team. I don’t have to say much. Our guys know. It’s a new year. It’s completely a new

year but at the same time, when you have experiences, whether you’re a player or coach, you remember. And we’ve got to respond.” Mississippi State comes into this weekend unbeaten in conference play and with one loss on the season, to No. 24 Kansas State. With Hill leading the offense on the ground, the Bulldogs’ offense is averaging 6.0 yards a play and hold a scoring percentage of 87.50 in the red zone. Malzahn acknowledged Tuesday that they are one of the more physical teams Auburn faces year in, year out. “That’s just part of it in the SEC,” Malzahn said. “You’re exactly right. I mean, every time we play Mississippi State — it doesn’t matter if it’s 2009, ’10 or this year — it’s a physical game. That’s just part of the rivalry and it’s part of playing a good team…We knew that when we signed up. If you’re in this league, each week, it’s going to be physical. You’ve got to prepare for that, and I think our guys are prepared for that, conditioning-wise. I think we’ve got the guys that can do it. We’ve just got to get out there and execute it and do it.” No. 7 Auburn kicks off its SEC home opener versus Mississippi State Saturday at 6:00 p.m. CST inside Jordan-Hare Stadium. The game will be televised on ESPN.


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The Auburn Plainsman: Mississippi State vs. Auburn

September 26, 2019

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September 26, 2019

The Auburn Plainsman: Mississippi State vs. Auburn7

Auburn to seek redemption against Mississippi State By HARRISON TARR Sports Writer

TODD VAN EMST/AU ATHLETICS

Jack Driscoll (71) and Mike Horton (64) block Texas A&M defenders during Auburn vs. Texas A&M on Sept. 21, 2019, in College Station, Texas.

Turnover battle on the Plains By JAKE WEESE Sports Reporter

When Auburn opens up its SEC home slate against Mississippi State on Saturday, the Tigers’ offense will go head-tohead with a defense that can force turnovers. Mississippi State’s defense is currently ranked first in the SEC and first nationally, in turnovers gained. The Bulldogs have forced offenses to cough it up 11 times through four games, seven of which are fumbles and four of them interceptions. This defense isn’t just riding a wave of momentum to start the season, it has been consistent with takeaways. Mississippi State has snagged an interception in 15 of its last 17 games. Additionally, the Bull-

dog defense has recorded at least one sack in 26 straight games, and Auburn’s offense is averaging one sack allowed per game heading into this weekend’s contest. The Tigers will look to be smarter in possession against the Bulldogs’ defense this weekend. Their four turnovers this season have them at second in the SEC. The Tigers have not had a turnover since the second game of the season, but they have come in bunches when they occur. Running back JaTarvious Whitlow lost two fumbles against the Green Wave and quarterback Bo Nix threw two interceptions against Oregon in the season opener. Another critical matchup will be how well the Tigers’ offense fares on third down. Au-

burn’s offense is third in the SEC on third-down conversion at 47.5%, while the Bulldogs’ defense ranks first in the SEC in allowing a third-down conversion, with offenses gaining a first down at 24.4%. Gus Malzahn’s versatile rushing attack is averaging 259.5 yards a game which leads the conference, and Mississippi State’s defense is allowing, on average, 143.3 yards on the ground, which is ninth in the SEC. The Bulldogs allowed a 100yard rusher for the first time in 12 games last Saturday against Kentucky, when Asim Rose ran for 105 yards in the Wildcats’ loss. Auburn averages 164 passing yards a game, which is last in the SEC, while the Bulldogs give up 214 passing yards on average, seventh in the SEC.

This Saturday, No. 7 Auburn squares off with Mississippi State, a team that they haven’t seen since last year’s 23-9 loss in Starkville, Mississippi. For the Bulldogs, this weekend presents an opportunity to win their 2019 SEC road opener. For the Tigers, this is an opportunity to avenge a team who has spent the past 354 days with bragging rights. Auburn head coach Gus Malzahn opened his press conference Tuesday by stating that they were getting ready to play a team that “really just bottom-line embarrassed us last year.” “They just lined up and whipped us,” Malzahn said. “[Mississippi State] rushed for 349 yards, and we rushed for 90.” Auburn’s play caller did not stop there, rather, when prompted later in the conference, Malzahn told reporters that experience will help in that respect. “We’ve got most of our guys back,” he said. “You really don’t have to say anything. They know exactly what happened. We left

that thing, and they embarrassed us.” His players had similar thoughts about their last encounter with the Bulldogs. When asked to speak about last year’s game, senior defensive tackle Derrick Brown said a loss like that stuck with him. “Yeah, they definitely embarrassed us last year,” Brown said. “On defense, look at their rushing statistics and stuff like that — that’s a lot of yards to give up in a game.” Senior offensive lineman Jack Driscoll agreed with Brown. “That was a bad game, top to bottom, really everywhere,” Driscoll said. “It’s something that we’re really going to hold a grudge on this week, because we got embarrassed and that’s unacceptable.” Despite being an 11-point favorite at home this weekend, the Tigers remain focused and are playing with a chip on their shoulder. Regardless of what game plan Malzahn and his group bring to the table this Saturday, one thing is for certain. Auburn football is looking for redemption. Kickoff is set for 6:00 p.m CST on ESPN.

TODD VAN EMST /AU ATHLETICS

Auburn head coach Gus Malzahn speaks to media at a press conference on Tuesday, Sept. 24, 2019, in Auburn, Ala.


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The Auburn Plainsman: Mississippi State vs. Auburn

September 26, 2019

Center: Kaleb Kim - 54 Nick Brahms - 52

Tight End: John S. Shenker - 47

Right Guard: Mike Horton - 64 Jalil Irvin - 50

Right Tackle: Jack Driscoll - 71 Brodarious Hamm - 59

Cornerback: Noah Igbinoghene - 4 Roger McCreary - 23

Defensive Tackle: Derrick Brown - 5 Gary Walker - 97

Free Safety: Jeremiah Dinson - 20 Smoke Monday - 21

Buck: Big Kat Bryant - 1 OR T.D. Moultry - 55

Strong Safety: Daniel Thomas - 24 Jamien Sherwood - 9

Linebacker: K.J. Britt - 33 OR Chandler Wooten - 31

Cornerback: Javaris Davis - 13 Nehemiah Pritchett - 18

Kicker: Anders Carlson - 26 Sage Ledbetter - 25 Punter: Arryn Siposs - 90 Long Snapper: Bill Taylor - 60 Holder: Sage Ledbetter - 25 Punt Returner: Christian Tutt - 6 Javaris Davis - 13 Kick Returner: Noah Igbinoghene - 4 D. J. Williams - 3 Shaun Shivers - 8 JaTarvious Whitlow - 28

MISSISSIPPI STATE DEPTH CHART Left Tackle: Tyre Phillips - 78 Kwatrivious Johnson-69

Running Back: Kylin Hill - 8 Nick Gibson - 21

Left Guard: Dareuan Parker - 56 Michael Story - 75

Wide Receiver: Stephen Guidry - 1 Deddrick Thomas - 2 Osirus Mitchell - 5 JaVonta Payton - 4

Linebacker: Owen Pappoe - 10 Zakoby McClain - 35

Nickel: Christian Tutt - 6 Javaris Davis - 13

Quarterback: Tommy Stevens - 7 OR Garrett Shrader - 6

Tight End: Farrod Green - 82 Dontea Jones - 84

Defensive Tackle: Tyrone Truesdell - 94 Nick Coe - 91 Coynis Miller - 8

Linebacker: Nick Coe - 91 Chandler Wooten - 31

SPECIAL TEAMS

H-Back: Spencer Nigh - 99 Jay Jay Wilson - 42

Wide Receiver: Seth Williams - 18 Anthony Schwartz - 5 Sal Cannella - 80 Will Hastings - 33 Eli Stove - 12

OFFENSE

Left Guard: Marquel Harrell - 77 Tashawn Manning - 56

Defensive End: Marlon Davidson - 3 Nick Coe - 91 OR Derrick Hall - 29

Center: Darryl Williams - 73 Evans Wilkerson - 79 Right Guard: Stewart Reese - 51 LaQuinston Sharp - 63 Right Tackle: Greg Eiland - 55 Tommy Champion - 70

Defensive End: Chauncey Rivers - 5 Fletcher Adams - 43

Linebacker: Tim Washington - 50 Sh’mar Kilby Lane - 30

Defensive Tackle: Lee Autry - 97 Jaden Crumedy - 84

Cornerback: Maurice Smitherman- 8 Tyler Williams - 12

Defensive Tackle: Fabien Lovett - 54 James Jackson - 99 Defensive End: Marquiss Spencer - 42 Kobe Jones - 52 Linebacker: Willie Gay Jr. - 6 Leo Lewis - 10 Linebacker: Erroll Thompson - 40 Tim Washington - 50

Strong Safety: Jaquarius Landrews -11 Landon Guidry - 35 Free Safety: C. J. Morgan - 29 Marcus Murphy - 7 Cornerback: Cameron Dantzler - 3 Jarrian Jones - 2 Star: Brian Cole - 32 Fred Peters - 38

SPECIAL TEAMS

Running Back: JaTarvious Whitlow - 28 Kam Martin - 9 Shaun Shivers - 8

Left Tackle: Prince T. Wanogho - 76 Bailey Sharp - 66 Alec Jackson - 65

DEFENSE

Quarterback: Bo Nix - 10 Joey Gatewood - 1

DEFENSE

OFFENSE

AUBURN DEPTH CHART

Kicker: Jace Christmann - 47 Jordan Lawless - 26 Punter: Tucker Day - 42 Reed Bowman - 41 Long Snapper: Paul Blackwell - 67 Holder: Kody Schexnayder - 27 Punt Returner: Malik Dear - 9 Brian Cole - 32 Kick Returner: Isaiah Zuber - 12 Brian Cole - 32


September 26, 2019

The Auburn Plainsman: Mississippi State vs. Auburn9

SEC

standings SEC EAST 1st - Florida (4-0, 2-0) 2nd - Georgia (4-0, 1-0) 3rd - Missouri (3-1, 1-0)

4th - Tennessee (1-3, 0-1 ) 5th - Kentucky (2-2, 0-2) 6th - South Carolina (1-3, 0-2) 7th - Vanderbilt (0-3, 0-2)

SEC WEST 1st - Alabama (4-0, 1-0)

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2nd - Auburn (4-0, 1-0) 3rd - LSU (4-0, 1-0) 4th - Miss. State (3-1, 1-0 ) 5th - Ole Miss (2-2, 1-0) 6th - Arkansas (2-2, 0-1) 7th - Texas A&M (2-2, 0-1)

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The Auburn Plainsman: Mississippi State vs. Auburn

September 26, 2019


September 26, 2019

The Auburn Plainsman: Mississippi State vs. Auburn11


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