The Auburn defense and special teams were key to a 34-3 victory over Arkansas on Saturday. The offense could not get out of its own way. That’s an issue Auburn fans have to be scratching their heads about right now. Four weeks in, Auburn has yet to really pop on offense outside the Alabama State game in week two. So it was defense leads Auburn over Arkansas, once again. That is a shame for the fact that the Tigers do have a potential first round draft pick at quarterback in Jarrett Stidham.
Defense Leads Auburn Over Arkansas
Defense Was Good
Arkansas quarterback Ty Storey had to run for his life the entire night. The Tigers front lived in the Razorback backfield, and put constant pressure on the young quarterback. Auburn hurried the quarterback nine times and added two sacks. Those sacks were tallied by freshmen Smoke Monday and Richard Jibunor.
The defense forced a total to two turnovers that included a huge interception by Javaris Davis to end the half and had seemed to give Auburn a touchdown as time expired, but it was called by due to an illegal block in the back by Auburn. Auburn settled for a 17-0 lead at the half.
Special Teams Set Up The Offense
With the offense struggling, it was up to not only the defense to set up good field position, but the special teams had a hand in that as well. Auburn combined for a total of 191 yards on punt and kick returns. That included a 48 yard punt return early in the first quarter by Ryan Davis to set up the first touchdown of the game. Early in the second half Noah Igbinoghene returned a kickoff 96 yards for a touchdown. That was a big return due to the Razorbacks had just got within 14 points after a Connor Limpert field goal.
— SEC Network (@SECNetwork) September 23, 2018
Anders Carlson Struggles
It was not a good week for the Carlson family.
Anders Carlson came into the game going three of six so far on kicks, and the percentage did not get much better. He went 2/4 missing kicks of 51 and 54 yards. Those kicks were not even close.
This of course comes after a week, where older brother Daniel Carlson was released by the Minnesota Vikings in the NFL for missing three kicks against the Green Bay Packers. Daniel is the SEC’s all-time leading scorer.
There will be without a doubt close games down the road, and Auburn will probably need some clutch kicks from Anders. He will need to improve on his consistency.
A Bad Night For The Offense
For years Gus Malzahn has been called an “Offensive Guru”. Well, the guru will needs to figure some things out on offense.
Potential first round pick Jarrett Stidham was off once again, but the offensive line did not do him any favors. Stidham would be sacked four times, and was under constant pressure throughout the game. Stidham was a consistent 15/22, but only threw for 134 yards. That’s a low 6.1 per attempt. The passing attack is going to have to get more complex because it is evident the receivers are having a hard time getting open, and most defenses can easily adjust to what Auburn wants to do with the passing game.
Auburn has always been able to rely on a great running game with Malzhan. The Tigers have had nine straight season with a 1,000 rusher, but going through the first four games it does not look like they may happen. Outside the Alabama State game, consistency in the running game has been an issue. The running game hit its biggest low on Saturday night with only totally 91 yards rushing.
JaTarvious Whitlow was the leading rushing with 49 yards and two touchdowns, but if Auburn wants to compete with the best teams in the SEC, they will have to get the running game going.
It is the entire offense that needs figuring out. The offensive line has to protect and open holes, Jarrett Stidham needs to play to his capabilities, and the running game must find its form. If they do not figure it out this team is looking at four, maybe five losses this season.
The Auburn Tigers will leave SEC play this weekend, and host the Southern Miss Golden Eagles. Southern Miss is coming off a 40-22 victory over Rice, and are 2-1 so far on the season.