Photo by Jason Caldwell

Jason Caldwell's Friday QB Column: Offense Steps Up

Auburn's offense had a good night in the win over Kentucky, but the defense still has plenty of work to do.

Another Step Forward For Offense

I thought the Mississippi State game was a step in the right direction for Auburn’s offense in Sean White’s first game and I believe Kentucky was another one of those games for the Tigers and their redshirt freshman quarterback. Completing 17-27 passes for 255 yards, White showed the ability to push the ball down the field, something that had been missing for much of this season.

One of the keys for White and the offense is throwing the football on first down, a big reason why the Tigers came away with a win on their best offensive night of the season. Completing 8-9 attempts on first down for 114 yards, White was at his best on first down.

Now Gus Malzahn has to turn him loose to do more of that in the coming weeks. While the offense did enough to win it could have been even better. Kentucky couldn’t stop Ricardo Louis and there were more big plays there for the taking. With this defense struggling the Tigers will have to continue to turn it loose on offense and that means taking even more of the reins off White in the passing game.

The Auburn offense isn't good enough running the football a high percentage of the ime and needs to rely more on its passing game to set up the run. That strategy certainly worked in the first half iat Lexington. 

Ricardo To The Rescue

Without Duke Williams as the No. 1 receiver many wondered who Auburn would turn to in that role. That is a question that was answered in a big way by the play of Louis against Kentucky. Catching seven passes for 154 yards, Louis made several big plays down the field while adding a nice catch on the sidelines for a first down. 

With Marcus Davis becoming a bigger part of things for the Tigers and Jason Smith getting into the mix along with Tony Stevens, the wide receiver group showed strength in numbers with Louis leading the way. Even though there is still plenty of improvement to be made at the position, Thursday night showed this Auburn offense has some weapons to work with at receiver even without Williams.

Not A Freshman Any Longer

Kerryon Johnson didn’t play like a freshman the first time he stepped foot on the field for teh Auburn Tigers, but it’s fun to watch him play like a seasoned veteran just six games into his college career. Scoring his first touchdown as part of his nine carry, 36-yard night, Johnson continues to show a toughness that comes as no surprise to me after watching him mature as a high school player.

Always a very good runner between the tackles, Johnson just has a knack for finding the hole and combined with his ability to catch the ball out of the backfield he’s got a chance to become an even bigger weapon for the Tigers moving forward this fall.

Time To Make A Play

Over and over again in Lexington the Auburn defense was in the right position only to miss a tackle, drop a would-be interception or interfere in the secondary even though they were in good position.

It started from the very first UK possession when Cassanova McKinzy missed a tackle on Boom Williams that allowed him to rip off a 60-yard gain. That play was the story of the night for the Tigers as they were just a day late and a dollar short on play after play.

Even though Auburn came away with the victory there won’t be many more unless this defense picks up its play on the field. While this group likely won’t become one that shuts down the opposition at the line of scrimmage the Tigers can continue to make a  big play here or there, something they did against Kentucky.

From Carlton Davis’ interception in the end zone to Justin Garrett’s final tackle of Patrick Towles after DaVonte Lambert flushed him from the pocket on the last offensive play for Kentucky, the Auburn defense never stopped playing with energy and that’s what Will Muschamp is looking for from the guys he coaches.

The first step is finding a way to win on defense and this Auburn team has now done that in two straight games. With a tough stretch of games coming up beginning with a trip to Arkansas, the Tigers have plenty of work still to do, but that’s much easier following a win.

Boom It 

It’s hard to imagine a bigger weapon than what Daniel Carlson delivers for Auburn at the moment. Perfect on field goals of 52, 34 and 29 yards, Carlson had touchbacks on five of six kickoffs as well for one of the best nights in recent memory for an Auburn kicker. Combine that with punter Kevin Phillips averaging 40.8 yards and dropping two inside the 20-yard line and the Tigers have things going the right direction in the kicking game heading into the second half of the season. 

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