Auburn High is getting set to take on their third straight region opponent when battling Enterprise Friday night at Duck-Samford Stadium in Auburn. The Tigers rose to number seven in Wednesday’s Alabama Sports Writers Association High School Football poll after an impressive win in Prattville last Friday night and hopes to carry that momentum into Duck-Samford against the Wildcats. Even though the playing status of senior Auburn running back Garrett Morris is uncertain, sophmore Jay Walker has done an impressive job in his place, including a 146 yard night against Prattville and a 169 yard night against Central.
Enterprise is having a rough start to their 2017 season, despite going 11-2 overall (6-1 in region play) last season, which earned them a spot in the AHSAA 7A playoff spot. The Wildcats beat Baker in round one of the playoffs, but then was defeated by McGill-Toolen in the second round. Enterprise defeated Dothan in week one of this year, but then fell to Northview, Prattville, and Jefferson Davis.
Last year, the Tigers traveled to Enterprise and was defeated by the Wildcats by a final score of 28-14. Enterprise quarterback Koty Fulton-Tice had 145 passing yards and Enterprise wide reciever Cincere Flowers recorded two touchdowns in the game. The Wildcats ended the game with 234 yards of total offence. Auburn hopes for more success this season with their strong running game and their stout defense led by Mohamoud Diabate, Cally Chizik, and Griffin Speaks, who had two interceptions last Friday night.
Airtime will be 6:30 CT on Wings 94.3 with the broadcast team of Scott Bagwell, Blake Ramsey and Noah Gardner providing coverage. The game will also be streamed online at wingsfm.com and on the Wings 94.3 app.
People are abandoning the Gus Bus like it’s the Titanic, but I’m staying in my seat for now.
#15 Auburn struggled to put away a plucky Mercer squad before finally emerging victorious, 24-10. The Tigers turned it over five times and couldn’t generate a consistent running game, allowing Mercer’s chances at victory to linger like a bad smell. The Bears even had an opportunity, however slim, to mount a game-tying drive late in the fourth quarter. It was much more competitive than expected.
Sure, Auburn didn’t necessarily take a sledgehammer to its opponent from the FCS last week (a caller to AFTER THE GAME contemptuously referred to the Bears as “Mercer High School”). I’m not concerned. I saw enough positives from AU quarterback Jarrett Stidham to calm any worries about whether Auburn will be able to effectively pass the ball once SEC play begins.
Stidham’s arm is sensational; he fits the ball into tight spaces and some of his pass attempts against Mercer traveled thirty (or more) yards in a real hurry before arriving at their destination. He won’t have the time afforded him against Mercer when Auburn plays against better defenses, but his ability to effortlessly complete challenging passes reassures me. If Stidham’s protection allows him to get comfortable, Auburn’s offense will be difficult to stop.
Auburn’s sluggish running game, again reliant entirely on bruising tailback Kamryn Pettway, was effectively bottled up by Mercer, and the Bears deserve credit for keeping Pettway from breaking away on any of his thirty-four (34!) carries. Pettway’s health was a question entering the Mercer game, especially after it was revealed that he played against Clemson despite plankton facetiousness (I think that’s what it’s called?). Auburn’s decision to rely solely upon Pettway when running the ball deserves scrutiny for a variety of reasons: he doesn’t appear to have the same explosion that made him so devastating last season, there are talented running backs on Auburn’s bench who weren’t utilized, and such heavy usage early in the season (Pettway had 22 carries against Clemson) could wear Pettway down and leave him more susceptible to injury, rendering him unavailable as Auburn goes deeper into conference play.
The expected return of Kerryon Johnson, who ran effectively against Georgia Southern, should give Auburn a reason to stop relying so heavily on Pettway when attempting to run the ball against Missouri. If Johnson plays, it will be the first time all season that Johnson and Pettway appear in the same game – potentially giving Auburn a potent one-two punch in its backfield. If Auburn continues to use Pettway exclusively and things don’t get better, the second-guessing of Malzahn and his coaches will only intensify.
The final score of the Mercer game doesn’t reflect how well Auburn played on offense. Flukish mistakes (specifically fumbles) kept Auburn from beating Mercer by much more. As the passing game gains momentum, it will be crucial for Auburn to correct those errors and fix its once-overpowering rushing attack. If it can, it has a chance to embark on an impressive winning streak against SEC teams. If it can’t, the results could be disastrous.
Personally, I’m optimistic that Auburn’s offense will be able to keep defenses off-balance. The big-play potential is there: Stidham can back defenses up and keep them from focusing on the run, the receivers can get open and move well after the catch, and a combination of Pettway and Johnson could remedy the ailing run game; combine that with a defense that has excelled on nearly every series of the season and Auburn looks to be on the verge of breaking through and emerging as a very tough draw for any opponent in the conference.
WHAT TO WATCH
F FOR EFFORT: Missouri is spiraling downward, having lost two consecutive home games by a combined 50 points. Head coach Barry Odom played linebacker at Missouri in the ’90s, and the decision to promote him from defensive coordinator to head coach after the 2015 season was incredibly popular at the time. Fifteen games later, he’s answering questions about his team’s apparent lack of effort. A win at home against a ranked opponent would drastically improve the apparent trajectory of Missouri’s season. He doesn’t have to win this game – Auburn is seen as the more talented team – but a particularly one-sided loss would continue to fuel speculation that his team has quit on him and increase the chances that he will be replaced at the end of the season, if not sooner.
NEXT MAN UP: After Sean White, last season’s starting quarterback, was dismissed from the team on Monday, it left Auburn with two scholarship quarterbacks: Stidham and true freshman Malik Willis. Auburn’s coaches initially planned to redshirt Willis this season, but he could be forced into action if Stidham becomes unavailable. This leaves Auburn with a difficult decision: should they prepare for a bad situation by keeping Willis off the field until absolutely necessary (and potentially preserve his extra year of eligibility), or find ways to give him playing time so that he’s not completely caught off guard if they need to call on him later in the season?
NOT-SO-SPECIAL: Auburn’s disappointing special teams play was a sore spot for Gus Malzahn after the Mercer game. Heralded kicker Daniel Carlson has already missed three field goals, Ian Shannon has had two punts travel fewer than thirty yards, and Auburn fumbled during a punt return against Mercer. Shannon appears to be in the most jeopardy to lose playing time; Malzahn demands consistency and a punter who can’t be relied upon will suffer the consequences.
PECK’S PICKS (Last week: 2-3 against the spread; Year to date: 10-5 against the spread)
Colorado @ Washington: Both teams are 3-0, but Washington’s slow start against Rutgers in the season opener makes me wonder if they’re a much better team at home. If Washington can start out of the gate quickly, they could pound Colorado into mush, but Colorado didn’t lose a conference game at home last season and it would be surprising to see them roll over against a team that is still trying to replace crucial parts of last year’s defense. Washington should win, but the potential for an upset is real and I expect the Buffaloes to keep the game close. PECK’S PICK: COLORADO +11.5
USC @ California: The Trojans survived a big scare against Texas, while the surprisingly stout Bears put away Ole Miss with a late interception. Like Colorado/Washington, this is another game where the highly rated visiting team could find themselves in a closer battle than the rankings would have you believe. USC is better than Cal, but they make too many mistakes. PECK’S PICK: CALIFORNIA +17.5
UCF @ Maryland: Maryland surprised everyone by winning at Texas on opening day, and now they welcome a UCF team that hasn’t played a game since August 31. UCF coach Scott Frost has implemented the system he learned as a position coach under Chip Kelly at Oregon; Frost is a good coach and will be on a lot of wish-lists after the season if he wins most of his games this year. Maryland doesn’t have Tyrrell Pigrome, the quarterback who led their charge against Texas, and UCF’s talented offense will present a unique and dangerous challenge before they head into conference play. PECK’S PICK: UCF +4
Michigan @ Purdue: Michigan looks to be among the best teams in the Big Ten, but they remain largely untested and face off against a Purdue team that is playing good football under newly hired head coach Jeff Brohm (who, like Frost, is a former quarterback who will get himself a great job at a big-time program if his team continues to impress). Purdue’s offense is hard to stop; Michigan could squeak out a victory, but the Boilermakers will keep it too close for comfort. PECK’S PICK: PURDUE +10
Florida @ Kentucky: Kentucky’s impressive win at South Carolina last week was just the third time Mark Stoops has won a conference road game since he took the job before the 2013 season. The Wildcats are battle-tested and confident, having already played two road games; now they welcome a Florida team that has beaten them thirty straight times. If it doesn’t happen Saturday, it’ll never happen. I think it happens. PECK’S PICK: KENTUCKY +2.5
BONUS PICK: Alabama @ Vanderbilt: Vanderbilt’s defense is a huge reason they’re 3-0; teams have only scored 13 points against Vandy all season. Alabama represents a massive step up in competition, but the Crimson Tide haven’t played a true road game all season and the Commodores will play too much defense to let the game get out of hand. I’m not sure Vanderbilt has the horses to win, but they’ll put in a good showing against an Alabama offense that is still establishing an identity early in the season. PECK’S PICK: VANDERBILT +19.5
DOUBLE BONUS PICK: Oregon @ Arizona State: I’ve picked a lot of home underdogs this week, but this is a game where I expect the road team’s superior talent on both sides of the ball to simply overwhelm the opposition and disappoint the home crowd. Oregon might be the best team in the Pac-12; Arizona State can’t hold anyone under 30 and its athletic department is telling fans to stop sending harassing messages to players on social media. The last thing Arizona State head coach Todd Graham needs is a blowout loss at home, but I think that’s exactly what he’s going to get. PECK’S PICK: OREGON -14
UNPRECEDENTED TRIPLE BONUS PICK: Auburn @ Missouri: Auburn has a terrific opportunity to get itself on the right track. Missouri appears to be the worst team in the conference, and its potential home field advantage will be somewhat negated if the fans leave early (or don’t show up at all). Look for Auburn to fix the run game, throw the ball effectively, and come away with a convincing win in its first conference game of the season. PECK’S PICK: AUBURN -18
Enjoy the games!!!
Co-Host, THE DRIVE (4-6PM, ESPN 106.7 FM, ESPNAU.com)
Host, AFTER THE GAME (Immediately following Auburn University football games, Wings 94.3 FM, WingsFM.com)
The Auburn High Tigers have improved to 3-1 this season and 1-1 in region play on Friday night after an impressive win over Prattville. Auburn traveled to Prattville to defeat the Lions by a final score of 21-6. The Lions drew first blood early in the first quarter with a 25 yard touchdown pass to Ryan McDanial, but it was all Tigers after that. Auburn scored in the second quarter on a Jay Walker 8 yard touchdown run to make the score 7-6, followed by a Brooks Fuller 1 yard run to make the score 14-6. The score remained 14-6 until the fourth quarter on another Brooks Fuller 1 yard touchdown run to make the score 21-6.
Tigers quarterback Brooks Fuller finished the game 10 for 20 and 109 passing yards while running back Jay Walker had 26 rushes for 146 yards. Trey Elston finished the game as Auburn’s leading receiver with 3 receptions for 40 yards. Prattville quarterback Tra Edwards went 7 for 18 passing and 124 passing yards. Edwards is known to be a running threat, but the Tigers defense kept him to just 15 yards on 7 carries. Prattville running back Deangelo Jones finished the game with 14 carries for 74 yards on the ground.
Next, the Auburn High Tigers will take on Enterprise High School at Duck-Samford Stadium in Auburn. Join the Auburn High Broadcast team of Scott Bagwell, Blake Ramsey, and Noah Gardner Friday night at 6:30 CT on Wings 94.3, wingsfm.com, or the Wings 94.3 app.
The Auburn High Tigers (2-1) come off a loss to the number-one team in the state last Friday night against Central-Phenix City (recap) and travel to Prattville (2-1) this Friday for a region 7A match-up. Last season at Duck-Samford Stadium, Auburn defeated Prattville 31-14 in a game where running back Garrett Morris scored three touchdowns, two on the ground and one receiving. Morris’ great performance was part of the Tiger’s offensive showing that night, as Auburn finished the game with 317 rushing yards and 433 total offensive yards.
Prattville finished their 2016 season with a 1-8 overall record (1-5 in region) and missed a spot in the AHSAA 7A playoffs. Things are looking better for the Lions this season, however, as they have bounced back from an early loss to Wetumpka to win two in a row against Stanhope-Elmore and Enterprise.
Auburn High is ranked eighth in this week’s Alabama Sports Writers Association High School Football Poll and hopes to prove worthy of a much higher ranking in Prattville on Friday night. Airtime will be 6:30 CT on Wings 94.3 with the broadcast team of Scott Bagwell, Blake Ramsey and Noah Gardner providing coverage. The game will also be streamed online at wingsfm.com and on the Wings 94.3 app.
Unfortunately, questions were answered.
#15 Auburn suffered its first loss of season, falling to #3 Clemson 14-6 after the worst offensive performance of the Gus Malzahn era. Clemson’s lauded defensive line chased Auburn quarterback Jarrett Stidham virtually every time he attempted to pass; Auburn was held to just 79 yards through the air and Stidham was sacked 11 times. It was the first time since 2008 that a team from a Power Five conference gave up 11 sacks without scoring a touchdown. Auburn had 59 total yards on its first drive and 58 throughout the rest of the game. If you subtract Auburn’s yards lost from sacks from Auburn’s yards gained passing the ball, you’re left with 7 yards. It was bad. You get it.
The optimist in me remembers that Clemson isn’t a team full of bums and Auburn might not face another defense that good all season, but doubt still lingers. The developing offensive line appears to be behind schedule. Auburn is too dependent on running back Kamryn Pettway, even when he isn’t healthy. Auburn’s receivers are full of potential that hasn’t shown itself on the field. Offensive coordinator Chip Lindsey might not be ready to call plays against defenses as good as the ones Auburn will face once conference play begins. It’s elitist, but success in Conference USA isn’t success in the SEC, and quarterbacks won’t regularly have a lot of time before they must get rid of the ball or suffer the consequences.
And, of course, there are the problems at quarterback. Jarrett Stidham is unquestionably gifted, but it’s fair to wonder if he’s not enough of a threat with his legs to succeed in Gus Malzahn’s offense. Gus Malzahn’s best offensive seasons at Auburn (2010, 2013, 2014) have utilized a quarterback who ran the ball. Stidham’s ability to throw the ball quickly and accurately (and his willingness to throw the ball deep) could be better utilized by a coach who runs an offense that relies on those skills, instead of a coach who expects the quarterback to take off and gain positive yardage with his feet if his first and second choices are covered. When Rich Rodriguez arrived at Michigan, he encouraged Ryan Mallett to transfer because Mallett wasn’t a good fit for the offense Rodriguez chooses to run. Mallett’s in his eighth season as an NFL quarterback; the thought of a coach encouraging a quarterback who will go on to enjoy a lengthy NFL career to transfer from his program seems unthinkable, but Rodriguez knows what he needs his quarterback to do. Stidham could thrive in an offense built around getting the ball out of his hands and allowing him to spread the field, but that’s not how Auburn used him in Clemson. After watching Stidham run for his life as Clemson continuously hunted him down on Saturday night, one can’t help but wonder what he thought he was getting himself into when he agreed to play at Auburn.
Much like Stidham in Death Valley, Auburn doesn’t have the luxury of time. After its game against the visiting Mercer Bears on Saturday, conference play begins with a trip to Missouri and a pair of home games against Mississippi State and Ole Miss (three teams that would love to surprise the rest of the league by beating an Auburn team with more preseason hype) before its trip to LSU. If Auburn’s offense insists on overpowering teams with its rushing attack and using Stidham in a way that doesn’t put him in position to do what he does best, the heat on Gus Malzahn will increase after every sub-par performance by his offense. Everyone is out of patience. He’s never been under more pressure to win.
WHAT TO WATCH
– Will Auburn quarterback Sean White make his first appearance of the season? After a suspension rendered him unavailable for the first two games of the season, last season’s best quarterback could be called upon in mop-up duty if the Tigers have a large lead. Nobody should think that Sean White would have been the difference in Auburn’s game against Clemson; there were too many breakdowns in too many aspects of the game. That said, Malzahn has shown a willingness to give the backup quarterback a shot if the starter isn’t giving him his desired results, so White could find himself back in action with the starters if the team can’t figure out a way to maximize Stidham’s talents and score points.
– Will Auburn make changes along its offensive line? Senior transfers Wilson Bell and Casey Dunn stayed on the bench despite struggles from underclassmen at Clemson, but it stands to reason that they’ll be called upon to contribute if Auburn can’t shore up its blocking as the season moves forward. I’m of the opinion that the play-calling asked Stidham to wait too long for receivers to become open, but fingers will be pointed at offensive linemen anytime a quarterback is sacked eleven times in a single game.
– Will Auburn’s reserve tailbacks make a push for more playing time? Aside from a carry by Chandler Cox on the goal line, Auburn exclusively relied on Kamryn Pettway on the ground against Clemson. In post-game remarks to the media, Malzahn cited concerns about Kam Martin’s size. With Pettway banged up and Kerryon Johnson still recovering from an injured hamstring, Auburn will most likely utilize the other backs on the roster against Mercer. Will Kam Martin pick up where he left off against Georgia Southern? Can Devan Barrett, a true freshman who generated a great deal of buzz as a recruit, earn himself more playing time?
PECK’S PICKS (Last week: 4-1 overall, 4-1 against the spread; Year to date: 9-1 overall, 8-2 against the spread)
– South Carolina 28, Kentucky 10. Will Muschamp’s Gamecocks are rolling after a pair of victories away from home, and the Cock Pit should be rocking as they host a Kentucky team that looked shaky in back-to-back wins against less-than-stellar opponents. PECK’S PICK: SOUTH CAROLINA -6.5
– Tennessee 21, Florida 7: The Gators will continue to struggle on offense, dropping their second straight in a rivalry that they dominated until very recently and putting head coach Jim McElwain directly on the hot-seat. Tennessee wins in Gainesville for the first time since 2003. PECK’S PICK: TENNESSEE +5
– Memphis 35, UCLA 28: Mike Norvell was Chip Lindsey’s predecessor at Arizona State; now he’s the head coach at Memphis. The Tigers have a golden opportunity to score a major upset against UCLA. The Bruins completed a remarkable comeback against A&M after finding themselves down 44-10 at home, but you don’t find yourself down 44-10 against A&M without some underlying problems existing. Now the Bruins travel across the country and play a game that kicks off when it’s still 9 AM in Los Angeles. Memphis wins a wild one. PECK’S PICK: MEMPHIS +3
– Mississippi State 23, LSU 20: The upsets continue. Mississippi State puts the SEC on notice, beating LSU in Starkville for the first time since 1999 (and the second time since 1984). Bulldogs quarterback Nick Fitzgerald is dangerous; he showed last season that he’s a perfect fit for Dan Mullen’s offense as he rushed for a Tebowian 1375 yards and 16 touchdowns. Mississippi State’s defense needs to bottle up Derrius Guice (a tall order for any team) but they’ll be able to force LSU into mistakes and do enough to score a huge win. PECK’S PICK: MISSISSIPPI STATE +7.5
– Louisville 34, Clemson 28: The Tigers are confident after flexing their muscles on defense and shutting Auburn down, but 2016 Heisman Trophy winner Lamar Jackson presents an entirely different threat than the one they faced at home on Saturday night. Tigers quarterback Kelly Bryant played well, but there are still big questions about how Clemson will keep up in a game that becomes a shootout; look for Jackson to outrun Clemson’s defenders and showcase his improved passing skills, leading to a huge win for the Cardinals and head coach Bobby Petrino. PECK’S PICK: LOUISVILLE +3
– Bonus: Auburn 49, Mercer 7. Mercer is a 1-1 team from the FCS coming off a heartbreaking loss to the Wofford Terriers. Auburn should steamroll them. If not, problems are far worse than we could have imagined.
Enjoy the games!