- A.J. Brown stepped up in the first game without D.K. Metcalf.
The talented junior was operating at full capacity. Brown’s ability to make defensive players miss tackles in the open field became the offensive coordinator and quarterback’s best friend. Brown tallied 10 catches for 155 yards and the team’s only touchdown. His 15 targets on the game were one more than teammate DaMarkus Lodge.
As the game went on, Auburn’s defensive line began to pressure quarterback Jordan Ta’amu more often. Brown became Ta’amu’s first read many times on short routes to get rid of the ball quick. Auburn was able to keep Brown contained on most of his receptions. Five of Brown’s catches went for less than ten yards. Eight went for less than 15 yards. However, he did provide two explosive plays. On a 51-yard catch, Brown caught the ball near the sidelines and stopped on a dime. This caused two defenders to run past him, allowing Brown to extend the play. There is not another weapon on the offense that can provide the spark he can.
- The team felt D.K. Metcalf’s absence.
Braylon Sanders is more than capable to fill in for Metcalf on the outside at receiver. Most teams would want Sanders as a starter, let alone a fourth option when everyone is healthy. Sanders caught three passes for 18 yards. He also forced a defensive pass interference call that set up the offense deep in the red zone.
DaMarkus Lodge usually lines up on the sideline opposite Metcalf. He will now get the majority of Metcalf’s downfield targets. No receiver can mimic the 6-foot-4, 230-pound stature of the injured star, and this was crucial on a few occasions. Lodge had beat the Auburn secondary on a route up the seam, and the ball just missed his outstretched arms. The 50/50 balls no longer feel that way. Ta’amu and the outside receivers need to use the bye week to get back on track when it comes to staying efficient in the deep passing game.
- The defense did its job.
The third quarter was bad. Ole Miss allowed Auburn to score three touchdowns in a row and gave up 228 yards. That effectively ended the game. However, the Ole Miss defense forced as many three-and-outs as Auburn did. They surrendered five scoring drives – four touchdowns and a field goal.
With how this team is currently constructed, giving up 31 points to an SEC team is a win. The defense needed the offense to answer its stops with scores, and the field goals and punts were not enough. The shortcomings on the defensive side of the ball are well-noted. The explosive plays in the third quarter decided the game. Matt Luke would probably have been thrilled before the game if he knew his defense could hold Auburn to 31. The offense dropped the ball. Give credit to the defense for keeping the Rebels alive.