Auburn handle Alabama — thoughts on the game

November 25th, 2017 | Written by Rob Staton

Auburn are the most fun team to watch in college football and it isn’t close. Physical, tough, enjoying themselves and making big plays. They’ve beaten Georgia and Alabama in back to back weeks, both #1 teams at the time. They didn’t just beat them either — they hammered both.

Alabama couldn’t convert third downs, were disjointed on offense and tried a bit of everything. Instead of doing what they’re good at and sticking to their identity, they played too much to the opponent. After watching Georgia toil and struggle to run up the gut, they didn’t want to take on Auburn’s D-line. Alabama, fearful of an opponents D-line? When’s the last time that happened?

What we saw was a gameplan with no fluidity or focus. A quarterback draw here, try every running back on a drive without letting any of them settle. Short passes, bootlegs, deep shots. Alabama, known for being so tough and physical up front, avoided that type of game.

With 12:48 remaining and with Auburn suddenly leading 26-14, Damien Harris had only four (!!!) rushes for 43 yards and two catches for 20. 63 yards on six touches. And yet they kept spelling him. At this same point another running back Josh Jacobs had taken one more carry — recording 5 for 21.

Harris came into the game averaging 8.2 YPC. He could’ve helped them control this thing, allowing their mobile quarterback to roam around and improvise. Instead it felt like Alabama overthought this one. Harris ended with only six carries for 51 yards as a runner and was severely underused.

Auburn, on the other hand, did exactly what they’ve been doing for weeks. They ran the ball with Kerryon Johnson over and over again. The great thing about Johnson is he always seems to get four yards. He’s tough to stop, wore down even Alabama’s D-line and kept his feet moving. He is special.

Don’t forget — Leonard Fournette struggled to run on Alabama in back-to-back years. Few runners have success against their rotating front seven. Yes they were missing linebackers to injury — but the studs on the D-line were present. This was a very impressive performance.

The commitment to the run provided balance and developing quarterback Jarrett Stidham showed off pro-talent with a number of accurate throws and a decent amount of mobility.

They sprinkled in just enough of the gimmick plays but this worked because they had the orthodox balance. Johnson threw a jump-ball for a touchdown and ran occasionally in the wildcat. They didn’t overdo it.

On the other side of the ball, while benefitting from Alabama outthinking themselves, Auburn’s D-line played like their lives depended on a victory. I almost added edge rusher Jeff Holland to my watch-list this week. Every single game he turns up. He’s harassing the QB. He’s making plays. He doesn’t look like a freaky athlete but he’s always there. He’s not the only one — Auburn have yet again put together an ultra-talented D-line and they were the best defensive unit on the field in this one, even against Alabama’s laundry list of five-star recruits.

Back to Johnson — he is such a good player. Physical when he needs to be, patient and capable of letting the gaps develop. He’s a factor in the passing game and he’ll block in protection (more on that in a moment). He won’t win the Heisman but there might not be a more important, crucial individual player in college football.

He left the game with an odd injury at the end. It wasn’t clear which part of his body was hurt. Hopefully it’s not bad news. It could’ve been a shoulder issue or a stinger. Fingers crossed he doesn’t miss the re-match with Georgia next week.

He finished with 30 runs for 104 yards, three catches for 21 yards and he had two touchdowns including a TD pass.

Johnson was absolutely hammered by Ronnie Harrison just before he scored his rushing touchdown. That could’ve led to some kind of injury. Harrison delivered two crunching hits during the game and made some really crucial tackles. He flashed on a tough day for Alabama. Harrison is a very interesting prospect.

I wanted to spend a bit of time talking about pass protection. It’s important. It’s really the one thing that’ll keep a rookie running back off the field.

Here’s a series of protection clips involving Harris, Johnson and Bo Scarborough with a breakdown underneath:

Clip 1 — Damien Harris absolutely unloads on a rushing linebacker and dumps him on the ground. Harris seems to enjoy pass pro and this another great example. He’s a bad ass. This block allows the QB to make a key gain on the ground.

Clip 2 — Kerryon Johnson takes on an edge rusher here and does a really good job stalling him. There aren’t many RB’s who can block a defensive end like this.

Clip 3 — Ronnie Harrison blitzed up the middle. Kerryon Johnson wipes him out, sending him to the turf. Huge hit. It allows the QB to convert a big third down.

Clip 4 — Minkah Fitzpatrick blitzes tentatively off the edge. Johnson takes him out of the play allowing the quarterback to convert another third down.

Clip 5 — In a similar situation to Damien Harris’ block in the first clip, Bo Scarborough gets absolutely nowhere near blocking anyone and the quarterback is sacked.

Little things like this matter. And while nationally Bo Scarborough is the more well known player — he isn’t the better player either as a running back or doing the little things that go with making a complete player.

I didn’t intend to focus on pass-pro in this game. It was just noticeable with Harris and Johnson in a big, positive way. Johnson in fairness also had a whiff against Fitzpatrick on a blitz not highlighted here — but there’s plenty to work with.

Harris and Johnson, if they declare, might be the next two best running backs available after Saquon Barkley. They warrant a lot more hype for 2018.

The good news for Seahawks fans is this going to be potentially a deep draft for running backs.

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112 Responses to “Auburn handle Alabama — thoughts on the game”

  1. Ground_Hawk says:

    Great summary Rob! Auburn controlled the game after halftime. Wouldn’t mind seeing K. Johnson on Seattle’s roster next year. If, after a trade back, they could somehow land K. Johnson and J. Jewell with their first two picks that would be a great way to inject talent into positions of need. Of course a lot depends on the futures of Avril and Kam.

  2. Greg Haugsven says:

    This game reminds me of how the Seahawks used to win games. Auburn was the bully today.

    • Greg Haugsven says:

      I’ll also take Damien Harris please, didn’t see a lot of him but you can see the physicality

  3. C-Dog says:

    I really have come to love Damien Harris’ play style. Befuddling what Bama was doing. Maybe felt they needed to make it the Jalen Hurts show?

    Really hope that injury to Johnson isn’t seriously injured. Fingers crossed big time.

    • Rob Staton says:

      The Georgia game was in Alabama’s head. They watched Georgia try to run vs Auburn and get run out of town. They went too far away from what works for them and out-thought themselves. Too many substitutions, too many intricate plays. Alabama is at its best being physical and winning with their 5-star studs in the trenches. And today they desperately tried to avoid a trench battle with Auburn — and stunk as a consequence.

      • C-Dog says:

        Well, that might have just cost them a chance at the college playoffs. Not sure that two teams from the SEC will be selected, especially considering the Bama schedule. Can’t wait to see that SEC championship game.

  4. Mitch says:

    Hi Rob,

    Would you prefer Harris over Guice? They both seem to offer exactly what Seattle would need as a complement to Carson?

    Cheers!

  5. Trevor says:

    Auburn was the first team I have seen physically dominate Alabama in 3 years. What an impressive effort in back to back weeks.

    If the Hawks want a ball control pounding RB who can be the lead dog and play all 3 downs. Johnson looks like the ideal pick is JS wants to do a trade back into the early 2nd round. So impressed by him the last couple of weeks.

  6. Trevor says:

    Say what you like about Lane Kiffin he was a great OC with Alabama and I think Hurts and that offense miss him calling plays etc. I have never been a fan of his but what he has done with that Florida Atl offense this year has been crazy.

  7. Thy Hawk is Howling says:

    I Live in Seattle and I took a tokie toke of Weed it’s Sooooo legal y’all I tought ” is that how you say “Thought” in UK English? Well at least that tis be how it sounds pronounced like.

    We must not become “Blinded in Want” for a Running Black because we all have a delusional Lust to replace Beastmode?

    Canibis for Thought

    Go Hawks!

    • Thy Hawk is Howling says:

      Or is it Tought?

      • Thy Hawk is Howling says:

        Well I feel rather silly now.

        Uhh?

        Go American Football !

        You should probably block me Robbie because I don’t want to tread on anybody’s feet. I don’t spend my time analysing other teams and players however I’m fairly internet addicted to your Blog because I think you’re Fucking Awesome especially since you’re from the “Bloody” Mother Land!

        I was born in Washington State but My heart is somewhere between Glasgow, Manchester, and Dublin. I should probably get into World Futbol, I’m sure it’s a lot of fun just like anything once you get emotionally involved.

        May Peace be with those who have Love in their Heart

      • East Side Stevie says:

        ????????

        • Thy Hawk is Howling says:

          Yeah I know Stevie I rarely partake in canabis I have pondered and looked for other blogs to chat on. I’m silly because you guys are only talking Draft and football and I talk about my feelings sometimes. I guess it’s because I feel connected to everyone here because we share a infatuation for the Seahawks. Every time I see your name I think of Stevie Rae Vaughn Eastside Stevie you like guitar? When you say Eastside you talking Spokompton or Bellevue East?

          • Thy Hawk is Howling says:

            My name’s Craig and I’m a Hawk’s holic. Admittedly accepting your addiction is the first step to recovery, and when I say recovery I mean…….

            Go Hawk’s Forevermore!

  8. no frickin' clue says:

    Rob, what did you think of DaRon Payne, Alabama DT? He’s really quick for a big man.

    • Rob Staton says:

      Thought he played well. He’s a block-absorber and not a pass rusher, so that will limit his stock. But he’s huge, tough to bring down and will be a really good early down DT.

  9. DC says:

    Any OL guys stand out from either side?

  10. GoHawks5151 says:

    Kerryon Johnson looks great. But he is so similar to Carson to me. Power, strength, strider, up right runner. I know that Carson may not return to form like Rawls (I know, I know. I think/hope he will be fine) so there is a case for replacing him with Johnson. But I’d rather have a little different of a runner like Harris or Love rather than a carbon copy. The best tandem RBs have diverse skill sets (Murray/Henry, Freeman/Coleman, Ingram/Kamara). Someone like Harris is a more compact and explosive runner compared to Carson or Johnson. He also a great pass catcher and blocker. Makes the RB group more well rounded.

  11. Donald says:

    Rob, did you see any of the Oregon -Oregon State game? Royce Freeman just broke the pack 12 record for most rushing scores.

    Also, Oregon has a very good offensive tackle, have you seen him?
    From the blog Addicted to Quack:

    There would be no Royce without the help of the best left tackle in college football. Tyrell Crosby gave Oregon four years of brilliance and is primed for a special career at the next level. His leadership on and off the field was a great example of how it’s done.

    Keep up the good work.

    • drewdawg11 says:

      Crosby has the athletic ability to play well at the next level. He’s going to rise if he tests remotely well.

    • Rob Staton says:

      I didn’t see this game but I saw Oregon live a few weeks ago.

      Tried to focus on their left tackle but it was a tough game to judge because of poor QB play and the way the game spiralled out of control quickly. Freeman is a good player. I just wish he played with a bit more physicality. He’s big — but is more finesse than anything. Good athlete, makes big plays — but not sure he’ll ever get the tough yards.

      • Donald says:

        The game you probably saw had a 3rd string backup QB playing instead. Justin Herbert had been injured for a few months because of a broken collar bone, and returned last week. Oregon’s offense has greatly completely improved since he has returned. Please review the game and/or highlights of Oregon’s game yesterday against Oregon State where you can see Royce and Crosby at their best to beat the Beavers 69-10. Oregon’s play resembled the days with Mariota a few years ago, it is like night and day with the Herbert back as QB.

      • Kenny Sloth says:

        He’s such a pretty runner. One of the most natural players from hand-off to the line.

        No wasted steps. Super feet and decent vision. He’s just got dancer feet rob.

        Crosby, like most Oregon OL, is slightly undersized, but highly athletic and supremely well-conditioned.

        Haven’t had a chance to focus on OL play yet, but he is high on my priority watch list

  12. CHawk Talker Eric says:

    Thoughts on Chip Kelly to UCLA?

    • CHawk Talker Eric says:

      Mine are: anyone is better than Jim Mora (except Jeff Fisher who was also rumored to be in consideration). Also, Chip built a mini-dynasty at Oregon, and seems much better suited to CFB than the pros.

      I’m looking for an immediate improvement next year (not hard to do), followed by 2-3 years at or near the top of the PAC-12 (and perhaps FBS), followed by a period of disquiet and unease due to Chip’s tyrannical style of coaching, then perhaps a sudden departure for a greener pasture.

      • East Side Stevie says:

        Helps UCLA recruiting. They desperately need to recruit their ass off to compete with the likes of usc Washington and stamford. Chip Kelly will bring that. I’m not sure an offensive minded head coach who has been run out of his previous gigs is what UCLA needs. Pac 12 and the Big 12 don’t play defense. That’s what made Washington so fascinating last year. How they were so talented on the defensive side of the ball.

    • C-Dog says:

      It will be a big transition from Mora. It might take a couple seasons to see the dividends, but I like that Kelly is back in the PAC 12 and CFB. If I were a Ducks fan, I might be a bit irked.

  13. AlaskaHawk says:

    Stanford looked impressive tonight in win over Notre Dame. Love had a good game as running back. Their sophomore Tight end Smith showed excellent route running and catching ability combined with some speed and toughness. He is listed at 250#.

    Washington’s Gaskin had a dominant running performance, as did their defense.

  14. cha says:

    Well Vea locked himself up a spot in the top of the first round with tonight’s game.

    What a performance. Unblockable. The Cougars consistently couldn’t contain 3 Husky DL with 5 OL.

    • C-Dog says:

      When that dude turns it on, he is a bonafide game wrecker. Gaines also brought it.

      • mishima says:

        Agree with both: Gaines and Vea looked like men among boys.

        Under the radar: Keishawn Beirria. Loved his game: all over the place, high energy.

  15. hawkdawg says:

    Rob, did you see Vita Vea play this evening against Washington State? The dude had 2 tackles and had 1/2 a sack…yet dominated that line of scrimmage like few I have seen since Emtman.

    • Rob Staton says:

      I didn’t have access to the game because it was on Fox (we only get CBS and ESPN games over here). Not surprised though — Vea is an absolute beast and could easily land in the top ten next year.

  16. Kenny Sloth says:

    Man alive…… I didn’t think I was gonna care about the civil war this year, but man that was fun to watch. Good to see us firing away under a new coach.

    Super liberating as a fan to not worry about playoffs

  17. Kenny Sloth says:

    Pettway and Penny were both 3 star recruits like Foreman last year.

    Rivals had Sony Michel higher than Nick Chubb coming out. A lot of scouts like his pro potential too!

    Roc Thomas former 5 star recruit to Auburn had a nice game against Chattanooga at his current school of Jacksonville State. Not sure the reason for the change, but he’s quick and tricky.

    Kid from Miami; Yearby ain’t bad either. Similar player to Roc Thomas perhaps.

    I really like Iowa’s OL. Akrum Wadley is really dangerous behind them.

    I want to like LJ Scott, but he’s soooo slow. Decent feet and vision, but can you call him patient if he’s only got two speeds? Caught from behind. LeVeon Bell had similar criticisms coming out, lost weight for Pittsburgh and is the best rb in the nfl (when he plays) so he could be a steal.

    • East Side Stevie says:

      I also like Iowas O line. Akrum Wadley could be a 4th rounder.

      Boone Meyers (Sr)
      Ike Boetteger (Sr)
      James Daniels (Jr) probably wont declare for draft
      Sean Welsh (Sr)

  18. Ukhawk says:

    Must be someone worth drafting on the Auburn OL

  19. SheHawk says:

    Keishawn Beirria would be a great fit and likely a good mid round LB option
    Vita Vea — wow just wow! Will be long gone when hawks draft
    My Husky hope on offense was Coleman and Petis but both were injured😨
    My husband the Coug was seriously bummed as they are capable of so much more. Hate to say this but the coughs fans are somewhat used to this.
    Go Dawgs + go Hawks

  20. Volume12 says:

    Kevin Sumlin is a great hire for Arizona St., Dan Mullen is grest for for Florida, Scott Frost would be amazing for Nebraska, Chip Kelly is good for UCLA, and then there’s Tennessee.

    Greg Schiano. Really? He had Rutgers in the top 10 11 years ago? Were Love Smith and Raheem Morris next on their list if Schiano said no? This man covered up child molestation, but grest get Vols.

  21. Volume12 says:

    The NFL is so bad right now. Just flat out boring. When does the season end again?

    • Ishmael says:

      The balance is wrong. They’ve got things wrong on a cultural level – the game isn’t ‘fun’ in the way that, say, the NBA is. Players aren’t free to express themselves. That’s partly tied to contracts, but that’s another problem. They got the last CBA wrong, too many rookies, not enough mid-career guys in the league at the moment. Added to all the problems kids are having learning NFL techniques and skills. The rule changes and interpretations have led to a series of offenses turning to gross little dink and dunk stuff. Look at someone like the Lions, they’re horrible to watch. The Raiders? Awful. And then I don’t think they read the balance between offense and defence right, no coincidence that the most exciting team this year is, amazingly, Jacksonville. Guess you could also say the Rams, but that Jacksonville D is electric.

  22. Volume12 says:

    Why did Buffalo go back to Tyrod Taylor? He’s not coming back next year. Its not like their in the middle of a playoff race and haven’t been back in 17-18 years or anything.

    • cha says:

      This whole Tyrod mess has a distinct feel of ownership meddling. Why make all these smart moves and then bench your QB? I really hope Taylor gets to go to a stable situation in 2018.

      • Volume12 says:

        The Marcell Dareus trade was awful too. For a 6th rounder!?

        Before he got to Jacksonville they were 31st in the league in YPC (5.32) and 30th in Rushing yards per game (120.0) Since acquiring Dareus? Jacksonville now gives up a league best 2.39 YPC and are #1 in 42.3 rushing yards per game.

        Bufallo meanwhile went from 3.54 YPC (5th best) and 74.3 rushing yards per game (7th best). And are now giving up 5.44 YPC (2nd worst) and 170.9 rushing yards per game (dead last).

        • Hawk Eye says:

          Dareus was a salary dump. He did not give an effort all the time. Bloated salary. They still take a big cap hit next year, but get out of 2019 commitments. Addition by subtraction.
          They have to play Taylor or they lose the locker room. You cannot tell the players you gave up on the year or they give up on you. Just like when hawks went to playoffs at 7-9 under Carroll. Better draft pick to miss the playoffs, but you have to establish the culture or players don’t believe you.

          • Volume12 says:

            Obviously missed the sarcasm in the Tyrod Taylor comment.

            Salary dump for what? To attract all those FAs to the destination that is Buffalo? Or to pay all those young ‘studs?’

            • Hawk Eye says:

              reading it again, I see the sarcastic font, my bad

              run down buildings, bad roads, tire fires, large empty industrial buildings, lots of snow in winter, what’s not to love?? Don’t forget they also have a great hockey team, but without their tears Niagara Falls doesn’t get enough water

        • cha says:

          Are you certain that’s all on Dareus and not on qualify of competition and other factors? Dareus hadn’t played much for Buffalo this year. Something in the range of 30% of the defensive snaps and missed a game or two. Hasn’t played much more than that for Jacksonville yet for that matter.

          And since they activated Dareus they’ve played the #32 ranked rushing offense, the #25 and #23. Not exactly league juggernauts.

          For all the suspensions, lack of motivation and a killer huge salary I get why they offloaded him and I hope he turns it around in Jax.

  23. Volume12 says:

    Oof.

  24. Volume12 says:

    Howling. Blair Walsh. SMH.

  25. vrtkolman says:

    Seattle taking a shotgun to their foot again.

    • Ishmael says:

      They’re unbelievable. They’ll do four great things in a row, then just when you think they’re rolling they find a new and exciting way to blow themselves up.

  26. Ishmael says:

    Come onn. The Blair Walsh thing has gone far enough. If he can’t get anything past like 45 yards, and he can’t get anything when it’s wet, and he can’t get anything when it’s cold…

  27. AlaskaHawk says:

    I’m counting the missed field goal like an interception. My 5 interceptions and still winning is still on- 2 down and three to go

  28. vrtkolman says:

    Not surprising at all were running at Cassius Marsh.

  29. Ishmael says:

    Fat Eddy finally starts rolling, the Hawks respond by immediately replacing him with Rawls and then passing anyway.

    • AlaskaHawk says:

      Why do they keep running Lacy around the end? That end run by Lockett that was stuffed should have told the offensive coordinator that the 49ers are fast sideline to sideline, and Lacy isn’t .

  30. vrtkolman says:

    Meh whatever, I keep waiting for this offense to put it together but it’s just a waterfall of unforced errors. How many snaps has Graham been on the sidelines for? I don’t think we’ll ever see the second half of 2015 with this regime again.

  31. Ishmael says:

    Run up the middle with Lacy for 11 yards, stretch run to the right with Lacy for 3… Which one would you be returning to endlessly?

    What I find frustrating about the Hawks is they play to the level of the opposition. Teams like the Eagles and Rams absolutely stomp the bad teams they come across, but the Hawks are happy to bumble around in the mud with them

    • Hawk Eye says:

      yep, they can lose to the worst and beat the best.
      I just want them to have a good first quarter and score a couple of Td’s, rather than 3 and outs or TO’s
      Just once

  32. vrtkolman says:

    Wow Crabtree! I wonder if Talib called him sorry?

  33. Volume12 says:

    Not a TD, but hell of a play by the Ninja Turtle there.

  34. AlaskaHawk says:

    Hmm almost had a defensive touchdown to complete my prediction.

  35. vrtkolman says:

    Great play, get Brown out to the 2nd level and give McKissic space.

  36. AlaskaHawk says:

    Okay – I’m not disgusted with the offense anymore! Good job McKissic and Wilson, good job offensive line.

  37. vrtkolman says:

    McVay has decided to give Tavon Austin more carries than Gurley so far.

  38. Ishmael says:

    Know who would have been a great Seahawk? Alvin Kamara, good lord.

  39. vrtkolman says:

    My goodness Beathard is atrocious.

  40. Rowdy says:

    The d-line is getting some shots on the qb

  41. Ishmael says:

    Was that Pocic who missed that block? Awful

  42. Forrest says:

    Lane… -_-

  43. vrtkolman says:

    Unreal the mistakes this team makes, just Unreal.

  44. vrtkolman says:

    The refs finally strike with an absurd call and missed face mask on the same play. The NFL Sucks.

  45. AlaskaHawk says:

    First half offensive stays roughly equal.

  46. Volume12 says:

    That was amazing.

  47. Volume12 says:

    Looks like Seattle found their gadget player in McKissic

  48. Forrest says:

    Oh. My. God. Wilson is a beast!

  49. Sea Mode says:

    Jiiimmaaahhh!!

  50. AlaskaHawk says:

    Looks like Seahawks got this game. Offensive efforts would have been helped if receivers stopped dropping the ball. McKissic has a good game. Graham scored again, but also dropped some easy ones.

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