After breaking down the game tape a second time, Aggie Websider's David Sandhop hands out his final grades for the Auburn game that includes a look at the offense, defense, special teams, and coaching.
Johnny Manziel had his usual production on Saturday with 350 yards of offense and five touchdowns, but this was the first game in four weeks that he did it efficiently without any turnovers. If you've followed my report cards over the years, I'm a tough grader that has a hard time giving out A-pluses. In fact, this is the first time I've ever given an a total offensive or defensive grade of A-plus. We've gotten numb to all of these football statistics that the redshirt freshman puts up, and those stats should be discounted when you combine those numbers with 3, 4, or even 6 turnovers. But that wasn't the case on Saturday. Manziel looked crisp and in control marching down the field on the unit's first seven full drives that led to seven TD's. He also did more damage with his arm than his legs. I thought his first touchdown pass to Ryan Swope while rolling out to his right was his best collegiate throw. If he can start making those kind of throws on the run, the future is very bright. Granted, Auburn's defense was brain dead and I want to caution A&M fans as the results are a bit skewed, but Manziel and the offense took advantage of the situation and stepped on Auburn's throat immediately and convincingly.
The running game tempo appeared to be much quicker up the middle, and the backs did a good job of efficiently bouncing to the outside and running hard when the opportunity arose. Malena did most of his damage right up the middle in the first couple of series. Then Christine Michael came in, bounced a few runs and ran over some Auburn defenders in his most energetic outing of the season. Finally, Trey Williams had some electric runs that led to his first 100-yard game of his collegiate career. To top it off, there were no fumbles to go with 260+ rushing yards by the running backs. That's an A-plus in my grade book.
It's clear that Ryan Swope and Mike Evans have established themselves as the go-to targets for Manziel. Swope and Manziel struggled to connect early in the season but it's evident now that the two are on the same page. Swope has also become pretty good gaining yards after the catch. Evans is still hampered with the leg injury, but he's a trusted receiver for Manziel because of his size and ability to grind out critical yards after the catch. Even when Jameill Showers came in and started firing hot passes, the receivers didn't drop a pass.
The offensive line was dominant. They opened holes for the running backs. They protected Manziel and allowed him to get comfortable in the backfield running the offense. The only minor hiccup was the back-to-back holding penalties on Cedric Ogbuehi, but the game was well out of hand and the unit scored immediately after the flags so I'm willing to overlook it and keep the A-plus streak going.
OVERALL GRADE – OFFENSE A+
After rewatching the game, I had a hard time coming up with my final grades. The defensive front and the defense overall looked so good in the first quarter. The unit held Auburn to -10 yards in the first quarter en-route to a 28-0 lead. The defense had a big hand in the quick start. Damontre Moore registered yet another sack and the DL controlled the line of scrimmage and allowed the linebackers to make plays in the backfield. Now, once the Aggies led comfortably, the defense did relax, especially when the freshman QB came into the game. In addition, the second and third team units didn't match the intensity of the first team early in the game, so that caused some of the grades to come down a notch or two.
The linebackers had some big plays in that first quarter with sacks by Sean Porter (that took out Mosley for the game) and Steven Jenkins. Later in the game with the game safely tucked away, the linebackers had some mistakes in pass coverage. That caused their grade to come down.
Look, I don't care if the team is up 28 points and the defensive backs are playing soft, the DB's simply gave up to much real estate. Many completions by the inexperienced run-oriented QB came with receiver targets wide open and plenty of room to run after the catch. I wasn't expecting bump-and-run, but I was expecting DB's to be in the same area code. This position continues to be the biggest area of concern. If a freshman dual threat QB can come off the bench and throw for two bills, you must be concerned with this unit going up against MSU's Tyler Russell who is significantly better.
OVERALL DEFENSIVE GRADE B
Special Teams A
One punt….one long field goal attempt….no missed extra points…no fumbles…no major returns on either side and it was quiet weekend for special teams. When you are the better team, that's a good thing.
This team had every reason to come out flat after the emotional home game with LSU and a difficult three-game SEC road trip in front of them. Instead, they came out hot and basically won this game in the first 15 minutes. Kudos all the way around from the two coordinators to head coach Kevin Sumlin. It was a perfect start. It would have been nice to see the back-ups play with more energy, and that's what dropped the grade from a perfect A+ to an A-.
OVERALL TEAM GRADE A
Hop's Final Report Card - Auburn
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