Film Room: Why Auburn couldn't pass at all vs. A&M — and what might come next
The Tigers had almost as many sack yards as passing yards in Week 4. No matter who's at QB, a lot has to change through the air.
QB Robby Ashford (Austin Perryman/Auburn Tigers)
Hugh Freeze gets to his postgame press conferences quickly, which is something that wasn’t common among his predecessors at Auburn.
So, when the first-year Tigers head coach took questions from the writers who made the trip to College Station after Auburn’s 27-10 loss to Texas A&M on Saturday, he hadn’t been off the field for too long.
That makes any takeaways or observations from Freeze truly instant reactions, cobbling together moments he remembered in the heat of the moment. It can make for some interesting insight, but it also means he hasn’t had much time to think back and reflect.
Freeze took several questions about Auburn’s brutal offensive showing against Texas A&M — one in which the Tigers only had 56 passing yards, 200 total yards and one (defensive) touchdown. And he didn’t want to jump to conclusions on who or what was to blame.
“I certainly don't want to sit here and make a lot of assumptions without watching the film,” Freeze said.
Later, when I asked Freeze about the high number of sacks and the overall pressure from Texas A&M, he had this to say in response:
“Yeah, I don't know. Again, I would rather watch the film. I'll tell you Monday.”
That’s understandable, and everyone associated with the Auburn football team most likely watched the film from the Texas A&M game shortly after it left College Station. Sunday would be a critical day for review, just like it’s been after the first three wins of the Tigers’ 2023 season.
We’ll see what Freeze has to say about the offensive performance in a few hours, during his usual Monday press conference.
In the meantime, I also watched the film Saturday night and into Sunday — more specifically, I went back and charted all of Auburn’s passing plays on a day when it couldn’t get much of anything right through the air.
Auburn’s 56 passing yards stand on their own as a woeful stat. However, you have to also keep in mind that the Tigers surrendered seven sacks, and I would argue it should have been judged as eight by the official scorer.
There was a passing play that truly wasn’t one: The designed toss play to Damari Alston that almost resulted in a scoop-and-score but was later ruled to be a forward pass. There was also a rushing play that started as a pass: Payton Thorne knocking a deflected pass backwards for what would be ruled as a 15-yard loss on a fumble.
Of course, the run-pass option blurs the line between run calls and pass calls, as the decision to throw the ball or hand it off usually happens before the snap or shortly after it — depending on what the defense does.
So, instead of getting bogged down on the calls, I’ve broken it down between pass plays and run plays.
And, against Texas A&M, Auburn had 33 pass plays. When you take the completions, incompletions, sacks and scrambles into account, Auburn finished with just 26 yards on those plays… a ghastly average of 0.79 yards per passing play.
That means Auburn averaged less than a yard when it threw the ball or wanted to throw the ball. By any standard, it was an utterly disastrous showing through the air.
“You've gotta stay balanced, and we just weren't efficient at all in throwing the ball to open receivers when we had them, for whatever reason,” Freeze said. “It could've been pressure. We'll have to look at all of it to see. We certainly were struggling with that aspect of the game that resulted in a lot of negative plays.”
Why did the Tigers struggle so much when looking to pass? And did anything really change between the quarterbacks? Let’s dive into what we found in the Film Room.
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