Add this to the pantheon of games that Missouri fans point to when they say, “Naw man, they’re going to Mizzou this one”. You know what I’m talking about. 5th-down. Flea Kicker. DOOOOOOOOOOOOOINK. And now Peat fumbling out the back of the end zone when simply being tackled out of bounds would have been an acceptable outcome.
These sorts of things happen but you only care about this one because it happened to your team. And, yes, it sucks. Full stop.
It sucks even worse for Auburn fans because now they have to keep Bryan Harsin around for a few more weeks. So, mixed bag!
Here’s the thing: Auburn had this game won four separate times and couldn’t quite close it out until Missouri committed an unforced error. Mizzou had a two opportunities of their own to win it so it was certainly a game of, “Who doesn’t want it the least?”. But there were certainly some things to take away from...whatever the hell it was we just watched.
1) Missouri might not be good but they can fight
Granted, Auburn isn’t very good, either. But we’ve seen Drinkwitz Missouri teams go on the road and completely fall apart. Like, say, against Kansas State! Heading into today’s game it would have been very easy for the Mizzou to go down by 14 and pack it in. Instead, the offense found opportunities to stay in the game and the defense pounced on a rotating cast of backup quarterbacks to muck up the game and keep both Tigers in a rock fight. Given the amount of vitriol we have poured onto this team in the first three weeks, it’s absolutely worth pointing out the fight and give them credit.
2) The running game FINALLY found some life
Heading into this game, Auburn’s defense was Top 30 in almost every run-game statistic you could think of; Missouri, Bottom 30. But Peat and Schrader were able to find holes with a patchwork offensive line against a very good Auburn defensive front. I’m not going to assume all things are fixed at this point but it was nice to finally see the ground game operating at least semi-competently.
3) This defense is legit
Here’s the thing: Blake Baker needs 15 minutes to figure out what you like to do and then shut it down. Missouri opponents thrive in the 1st quarter and then slowly get snuffed out as the game goes on. That was the case again this week as Auburn tore up Missouri on 15-straight runs to start...and then got nothing for the rest of the game. It’s annoying that they need to taste their own blood to become effective but, hey, at least they get better as the game goes on. It’s not perfect but it’s a massive upgrade from last year!
4) Jack Stonehouse is a dude
Sean Koetting has been an excellent kick off guy and did well punting in last year’s bowl game against Army. But in a battle of field positioning, Jack Stonehouse is your guy. He does have a nasty habit of outkicking his coverage...but he also buries punts in opponent territory and quite literally flips the field. That’s a great weapon for a struggling offense to lean on and Stonehouse absolutely delivered on Saturday.
5) Eli Drinkwitz is a coward
This is what you were waiting for, right? Eli goes into “bunker-mode” far too often and dials up conservative schemes and plays to not-lose. Credit to the ballsy down-field throw (out of nowhere!) towards the end of regulation, but then what? You’re on the opponent’s 3-yard line. College kickers, no matter how good, are wildly inconsistent, and Thiccer has shown cracks in the armor in the past weeks. To that point in the game, the offense had shown repeatedly they could open holes against this Auburn front. AND WHAT DOES ELI DO? Takes two straight knee. That’s cowardly football, and that’s not just because they missed the following field goal. You play to win and aggression is usually rewarded and, of course, the football gods push the cowardly kick to the right.
Even before that, Drink dialed up very few passes against an Auburn secondary that was not good at defending any kind of throw. Thankfully the run game found its groove but that’s an aberration on the season as that has not been the case at all this year.
Where was Luther Burden? Where was the wildcat? If you have a quarterback that can’t connect downfield, where’s the creativity in getting your playmakers the ball? This was just another data point in Drinkwitz’s awful record against peer programs and road trips and, at this point, he’s not going to change. It’s clear Drinkwitz plays not to lose but that’s not how you win a college football game. Be better, Eli.