StatTiger: Analyzing AU's Football Numbers

Columnist Stuart Carter (StatTiger) reflects on Auburn's 40-14 victory over Washington State with his statistical analysis.

Inside the Numbers – Post Game Thoughts & Numbers

*Any thoughts of the coaching staff and players over-hyping the tough spring and preseason camps were put to rest Saturday night. The Auburn coaching staff implemented a good game plan and for the most part, the players executed it very well. Coach Tommy Tuberville wanted his team to get off to a fast start this season and the Auburn Tigers delivered.

*Auburn's 40-14 victory over the Washington State Cougars was the largest margin of victory over an opponent from a major conference during a season opener since the 1995 season when the Tigers defeated the Ole Miss Rebels 46-13. It was also the fourth highest margin of victory in a season opener since 1951 against an opponent from a major conference.

*The Auburn offense averaged 11.3 yards per play on first down against the Cougars, which is the highest average by an Auburn team in the last 150 games.

*Is there any doubt Kenny Irons is one of the top running backs in the country? During his brief Auburn career, Irons has averaged 144.6 yards rushing in games with 20 carries or more. His 183 yards against Washington State marked his fourth career game of 170 yards or more rushing.

Kenny Irons, shown above running through the Cougars' secondary, and Brad Lester were a tough one-two combo on opening night.

*The combination of Irons and Brad Lester totaled 294 yards on 30 offensive snaps against the Cougars. This topped the best outing between Carnell Williams and Ronnie Brown from the 2004 season when the duo combined for 285 yards on 36 plays against Mississippi State.

*Since Tuberville's arrival in 1999, Auburn has rushed for more than 190 yards in 36 of 88 ball games. During the previous 88 ball games prior to Tuberville's arrival, Auburn eclipsed the 190-yard rushing mark 27 times. Irons' 183-yard rushing performance was the 48th 100-yard individual rusher since the 2000 season. During the six seasons prior to 2000, Auburn had only 14 individual 100-yard rushing performances. Auburn is 43-5 under Tuberville when a running back rushes for 100 yards or more.

Game Day Highlights...

*John Vaughn made four of five field goal attempts. Matt Clark was called upon to make nine kickoffs against Washington State, with seven going for touchbacks. Kody Bliss averaged 49 yards per punt.

*Tristan Davis had 67 yards on two kickoff returns. Before the season is over, Davis and or Lester will take one the distance.

*Brandon Cox was perfect on first down passing, completing all eight attempts for 143 yards and one touchdown.

*Washington State's average starting field position was its own 20 and Auburn's average starting field position was its own 34. The Cougars averaged 25 yards gained per possession, while Auburn averaged 44 yards gained per possession.

*Since throwing four picks against Georgia Tech to start the 2005 season, Cox has thrown only four interceptions in his last 280 pass attempts.

*The Tiger defense held the Cougars to no gain or a loss on 28 of 61 snaps. Washington State averaged five yards per play on first down and was held to just 3.75 yards on second and third down plays.

*Auburn was flagged only three times, which was terrific considering it was a season opener.

*Of Auburn's 63 offensive snaps, 47 were part of the Tigers' eight scoring drives. Only 15 of Washington State's 61 offensive snaps eventually resulted in points.

*Auburn's offense finished the game with 16 consecutive run plays for 101 yards and two touchdowns. Now that's smash-mouth football.

Game Day Lows...

*The Auburn offense converted only three of 12 third down conversions. Cox continued to struggle on third down, completing only one of his four third-down passes. Last season, Cox completed only 47 percent of his passes on third down.

*It's difficult to find fault in a 40-14 victory, but Auburn actually struggled in the red zone against the Cougars. The Tigers came away with only two touchdowns from five trips inside the Washington State 20-yard line.

*Too many missed tackles and blown assignments on defense. Of course with so many new faces on defense operating in a new scheme, it was to be expected.

*Robert Dunn did a solid job fielding punts, but needs to move more north and south than east and west.

Final Thoughts…

*There was no doubt Auburn was the better team on paper coming into the season opener, but teams don't always play up to their potential. Auburn simply had the better game plan on both sides of the ball and the coaching staff did a superb job of scouting Washington State.

Coach Al Borges played to his team's strength (running backs and offensive line) and he made sure to put the ball into the hands of Irons and Lester. Defensive coordinator Will Muschamp applied pressure early and substituted often to insure the defense was fresh in the second half.

Except for punt returns, Auburn's special teams were very good completing a "team" effort and victory. The fake-punt by Will Herring was a prime example of Auburn's coaches scouting the Cougars. Though one play would not have changed the outcome of this game, it certainly changed the momentum. For the most part, Auburn looked like the No. 4 team in the country considering it was the season opener.

Will Herring played quarterback in high school but has played exclusively defense at Auburn. On Saturday he got to run with the ball twice, a 42-yard run on a fake punt and the other on an interception.

*As successful as it was, it's important to keep this victory in perspective. Until the season is completed, we won't know just how good of a team Auburn defeated this past Saturday night. However, should the Cougars post a losing season in 2006, this season opener was still more impressive than the 2004 Tigers season opener against Louisiana-Monroe. Obviously there is plenty to be excited about, but there are a few kinks to work out before the Tigers take on the LSU Tigers in two weeks. Mississippi State will pose a much greater challenge in terms of its defense, holding Auburn to 320 yards last season. The Tigers will not find the same running lanes they did against the Cougars and Cox will need to be more efficient on third down against the Bulldogs. Mississippi State's front seven will be more physical than Washington State.

*It's important to remember a team is only as good as its effort on that given day. Since the restructure of the Southeastern Conference in 1992 only three teams have gone undefeated and won a bowl game. As good as the Florida Gators were under Steve Spurrier, they never accomplished this goal. Talent, depth and coaching are pivotal, but injuries and a few breaks can make the difference.

After the first week of games within the conference, Auburn remains a heavy favorite to win the SEC and the Tigers raised their stock with an impressive performance against Washington State. The 2006 Auburn Tigers worked diligently during the offseason, resulting in a dominating performance against Washington State. This should not be forgotten as they prepare for the next 11 opponents.

Inside The AU Tigers Top Stories