Auburn, Ala. (EETV) - Auburn impressed the college football world after their dominating performance over Georgia Southern; a team that tends to give ranked teams fits.
With Week 1 in the books, the Tiger’s showed their fans how good they can be and where they have their strengths.
Here are my 5 takeaways from Week 1:
1) The Defense is Dominant
It was no question who the star of the game was on Saturday. For anyone who watched the game, it was clear to see that the Auburn defense is a force to be reckoned with.
Defensive coordinator Kevin Steele said earlier this week that the key for the Auburn defense to stop the triple option was “eye control.” Well, there was no question that Auburn certainly had the eye control this week.
The Tigers were able to hold Georgia Southern to 78 yards total offense and zero points offensively.
Linebacker Tre’ Williams was a major part of the Tiger defense and has improved greatly over the offseason. Malzahn said that Williams “has raised his level.”
Williams led the Tigers defensively with 10 tackles and had 2 sacks.
Auburn’s defense was dominant at all spots on the field: the line, linebackers, and the backfield.
Marlon Davidson showed absolute dominance on the line. Davidson was questionable before the game with an injury, but he managed to light up the Georgia Southern backfield.
Davidson had 2 sacks and provided constant pressure on Georgia Southern quarterback Shai Werts.
But one unexpected Tiger to shine was Jeff Holland.
The junior defensive end had one sack and 5 tackles. But Holland was part of almost every single pressure rush and was able to stop most plays before they even started.
The tandem of Holland and Davidson on the defensive line is one to watch for this season.
2) Multithreat run game
With Gus Malzahn suspending Kamryn Pettway before the game, many wondered how the Tigers run game would look with just one of their star backs playing.
Kerryon Johnson steam rolled his way over Georgia Southern’s defense in the first half. In the first quarter, Johnson was able to break free and run for a 60-yard touchdown.
As you may remember, Johnson went down with an injury after breaking out on a long run. He did not return to the game, leaving may Tiger fan’s wondering if Auburn’s run game would still be a factor in the game.
Well, to answer your question, it was. With Pettway suspended and Johnson out with injury, sophomore back Kam Martin stepped up and became the number one back the rest of the game.
And boy oh boy, Martin came to play. After coming in for Johnson in the second quarter, Martin ran over Georgia Southern’s defense to score a 36-yard touchdown.
Martin finished the night with 136 yards rushing, averaging 9.7 yards per carry.
Malzahn said Pettway will be back for week 2 at Clemson. With him back and if Johnson is healthy enough to go, it will be interesting to see the role Martin will have. But I expect to see Auburn have an even more complex running game that will focus on having 3 power backs instead of 2.
3) Stidham is rusty
Tiger fans were all hoping that Jarrett Stidham would be the key to the Auburn offense this season and would lead the Tigers to a national title.
After Saturday night’s performance, it was clear to see that Stidham was rusty, nervous, but had a lot of promise.
Stidham hasn’t played a single snap in 2 years, and Malzahn noted that he has only played in 4 college games.
From the beginning, Stidham looked like he was playing nervous. Stidham held onto the ball longer than he should and looked hesitant in the first half when passing.
In the first quarter, Stidham looked to hit an open Darius Slayton, only to have Slayton drop a would be touchdown. This pass looked like it shook Stidham’s confidence.
This confidence shake was apparent later in the first quarter, where on back-to-back drives; Stidham turned the ball over, with Georgia Southern scoring on one.
The good thing to see was that Stidham was able to gather himself, and not let the turnovers shake his confidence.
Stidham didn’t turn the ball over the rest of the game and was able to rush for a touchdown and pass for 2 touchdowns following his turnovers.
Overall, Stidham looks like he could be “the savior” of the Auburn offense, but he has a lot of room to improve.
Even Stidham said, “ I just have to get a lot better.”
The most promising thing to come from Stidham was his accuracy. Stidham was able to place the ball almost perfectly on almost every pass he threw. This was apparent with the “dime” of a ball he threw to Will Hastings in the corner end zone in the fourth quarter. The pass had to be thrown perfectly in order for Hastings to score.
This accuracy is going to be huge as the season wears on.
4) Turnovers still a thing
As I said in my 5 keys to victory, Auburn had to limit turnovers in order to win in week 1. Well, that was true in a way.
The Tiger’s were able to win despite their turnovers, but they still have a major problem with turning the ball over.
Last season had 14 turnovers, and now they are 12 turnovers away from meeting that number.
Although both turnovers came from Stidham, turnovers will occur at every position this season.
Auburn has to learn to have better ball security, at every position, if they want to win a national title this season.
The Tiger’s obviously have a problem with ball security and will have to fix that if they want to win next week on the road in Clemson.
5) Daniel Carlson is not the same
Last season was the season of Lega-tron. Carlson made pretty much every field goal he took last year.
This season seems to may be a different season for Carlson.
Carlson missed two field goals early in the game, something that many Tiger fans are not used to.
It looked like the two misses did not rattle Carlson because he was able to go back out in the game and make a 37-yard field goal.
Malzahn still has confidence in his kicker.
“He is the best kicker,” Malzahn said. “You aren’t going to make every one.”
But with Malzhan’s confidence in Carlson there, do the fans trust Carlson in the same way they did last season.
Those two uncharacteristic missed fields goals have Tiger fans questioning if Carlson peaked last season.