Alright Ags, it was a tough loss, but we can't stop analyzing and evaluating. OK, we could, as "we" in this case is just a nerd typing a fan post that does not matter in the grand scheme of life, but we won't! So I'll start with some quick personnel and scouting notes, then we'll break down each of the four touchdown passes Mike Evans caught.
For the second week in a row, Travis Labhart has stolen reps from Sabian Holmes. He seems to now be entrenches as the starter in the slot position opposite Malcome Kennedy. Holmes only played a few snaps all day, mostly in five wide receiver sets. Ja'quay Williams found his way into the game a few times, along with a few snaps for Quiv Gonzales and Edward Pope.
Similarly, Brandon Williams is stuck now at fourth on the running back depth chart and no longer getting any carries. With the emergence of Trey Williams (who is now even being trusted in pass protection), BWill is the odd man out.
As for the performance of our offense, this was the worst game of the year when it comes to the percentage of plays that are successful. (Plays are considered successful when they gain at least 50% of the needed yardage on 1st/2nd down and 100% of it on 3rd/4th down.) We've been at 60% or better in every game but one this season (Alabama- 59%) but Auburn held us to only 53%.
That leads to a disturbing number. Are you wondering why we don't use our tight ends? Well, here's a possible answer. We had a tight end (or multiple tight ends) on the field for five official snaps. Those five plays were two passes (an interception off the hands of Hicks and an incompletion), and three runs from power sets that went for 0,0, and -1 yards. A sixth time, we lined up in a power set but had a false start. So... that's not good. In my opinion, the Aggies need to either scrap the power sets even on short yardage and continue to spread the defense out, or do something different (I don't know what) to get some actual production from those sets.
As for going five wide, the Aggies didn't do it very much. Prior to the final drive, 0 personnel was used just four times, and it was generally successful. Another five times, we were in 10 personnel and motioned the running back out of the backfield to create an empty formation, and all five times, we completed passes, if I recall correctly. We do well with empty sets.
The Aggies only used 20 personnel four times.
Let's do our weekly "Mike Evans is a beast" segment now.
- When targeting Evans against Auburn, Manziel was 11/14 for 287 yards, 4 touchdowns and a rating of 345.
- When targeting all others against Auburn, Manziel was 17/24 for 167 yards, 2 interceptions and a rating of 113.
- For the season, when targeting Evans, Manziel is 39/49 for 971 yards, 9 touchdowns, 0 interceptions, and a rating of 307.
- Evans isn't just averaging 20 yards per catch, which would be a nice number. He's averaging 20 yards per TARGET. For the whole season.
Auburn rushed at least four defenders on every single play. 38 times to be exact. They rushed five defenders nine times, and once, they rushed six.
We had some success with the quarterback draws against Auburn (6, 8, -3, 19, and 25 yards). We also had a nice run of success in the second quarter when we went to the packaged plays in which we packaged a zone run with a screen. In fact, here is the play chart during one drive:
- Stick/draw (packaged play with the stick route combo run by the trips receivers and a draw option for the RB). Gain of 4.
- Bubble/zone (packaged play with a bubble screen to the slot receiver and a zone handoff option). Gain of 8.
- Bubble/zone. Gain of 16.
- Bubble/zone. Gain of 8.
- Tunnel/zone (packaged play with a tunnel screen on the outside and a zone handoff option). Gain of 10.
- Bubble/zone. Gain of 5.
- Bubble/zone. Gain of 2.
And actually the next play on the list was yet another successful one but it was called back due to a very questionable illegal formation penalty which instead of giving us a first and goal, gave us a 3rd and 9 which we did not convert. But you can see the effectiveness of running that fast break style of offense. For some reason (and I'm sure there is a valid reason), we didn't do too much of it after that.
Now, let's have some fun and break down each of Evans' four touchdowns. There are some pretty neat little things to see. Unfortunately I don't have gifs at the moment. I will keep trying to add those.
The first one was on 1st and 10 from the Auburn 26. We ran another packaged play. On the trips side, we ran our standard stick route combo. We packaged that with a tunnel screen on the single receiver side. Screens are great against the blitz, so keep that in mind.
So as we mentioned, screens work against a blitz, right? Right. Well Auburn makes this one easy on Johnny and shows the blitz, and Johnny knows then to throw the screen. With our three receivers left forcing Auburn to have coverage over there, it only leaves three defenders on that side of the field... while A&M has four blockers. Big, scary ones at that. This was a touchdown as soon as they showed blitz.
This second one again caught Auburn in a blitz. They are actually bringing six rushers (the only time they did so all game), and they are either playing straight man-to-man with a cushion or else they're playing Cover 4 (quarters) where each defender has one fourth of the field to cover the deep responsibility. I'm not positive which it is, but I'm assuming it's Cover 4 based on the depth of the corners.
But their outside defender for some reason takes an angle to the inside, despite having help inside, and therefore leaves too much room on the outside. Evans politely says "thank you," and takes it up the sideline. Due to the blitz, there are no other defenders with a prayer of catching him.
The third touchdown happened on 1st and 10 from the Auburn 42. This one was due to Johnny being a running threat, as you'll see. Auburn is in Cover 2, with each safety responsible for one half of the deep field.
Johnny buys time with his feet, and Auburn is so worried about letting him get loose that both underneath defenders immediately run towards Johnny and abandon Evans. That leaves just one deep defender, who is being blocked by Labhart, and Evans does the rest. If Johnny wasn't so dynamic with his feet, this score never happens.
This final touchdown is a good example of what a good pocket allows a quarterback to do. Our offensive line creates a perfect pocket for Johnny. I'm unsure of what coverage Auburn was in, but regarding Evans, they only have one defender covering him and there is no other help. That's not a good recipe if you're unable to get pressure on the quarterback.
After the snap it appears they are in man coverage, with everyone being chased, but I just can't figure out why there is no deep safety by the time Evans catches the ball. I think what they might have been doing was using one deep safety, but only giving him half the field to be responsible for. I did notice that on multiple other occasions. Sometimes it was on Evans' side, sometimes it was away from Evans. Regardless, this touchdown was due to great offensive line play and Johnny realizing that Evans had a one-on-one matchup.