Brad Zimanek: Tigers’ offensive attack plays beautiful Music with new maestro
Maybe Gus Malzahn should stick to play calling. His recent head coaching resume is suspect, but the embattled 49-million-dollar man switched to exclusive play-calling duties in Auburn’s bowl game with Purdue and it paid immediate dividends.
Auburn’s offense exploded in a 63-14 win over Purdue in the Music City Bowl on Friday afternoon.
The only time this season Auburn’s offense looked as impressive was against Alabama State and Liberty.
The 63 points by the Tigers was the most ever scored by an SEC team in a bowl game.
A clear indication of the difference in the Tigers’ attack came on the first series of the game.
On a third-and-1 play from its own 34-yard line, quarterback Jarrett Stidham faked a run up the middle and dropped back and connected on a swing pass to JaTarvious Whitlow.
The play was a similar formation to what Auburn would use during the season while struggling in short-yardage situations.
This time, however, Whitlow caught the ball in full stride and weaved his way through a flailing Purdue secondary for a 66-yard touchdown. The game was different from that point on.
Rather than struggling rushing the ball and being outmatched in third-and-long passing situations, Auburn was dictating the tempo and keeping Purdue defense on its heels.
The Boilermakers didn’t really know from which direction Auburn was going to come at them next.
Would it be Darius Slayton on one of his three first-half touchdowns measuring 74, 52 and 34 yards? Or, Seth Williams on a 40-yard back shoulder throw near the sideline? Or, Anthony Schwartz on an end around for a 6-yard touchdown?
That’s what was the most impressive part.
The names were all the same from Auburn’s attack all season.
The only difference was the one who was making the play calls. The same plays that were called during the regular season looked dramatically different against Purdue.
Receivers had yards between them and the nearest defender. Jarrett Stidham stood in the pocket without fending for his own survival.
While there were not gaping holes in the running game, even smaller-than-you-would-like back Kam Martin ran effectively between the tackles for the first time this year.
Will that be the case when Auburn opens next season on Aug. 31 against Oregon at AT&T Stadium in Arlington? Maybe … maybe not? But at least the praise or the blame will fall on who it should have rested all along — Malzahn.
There will be no more wondering whether Malzahn stuck his head in the middle of the offensive coordinator’s plans at the wrong time.
The success of the Tigers’ offense and its identity will rest with the head coach. Malzhan rose through the coaching ranks because of his offensive game-planning.
He’s proven that he’s not the best game manager.
He’s not good at making halftime adjustments.
He misuses timeouts more often than he uses them correctly.
But he has made his career directing offenses.
Auburn needed a blowout bowl win in the worst way.
With the victory, Malzahn improved his record in bowl games at Auburn to only 2-4, but at least the Tigers enter the offseason knowing their head coach is in the driver’s seat, doing what he does best.
Ask the Boilermakers, they felt the brunt of that in the worst way.
Contact Montgomery Advertiser Sports Editor Brad Zimanek at email@example.com.