Mike Leach and company will march into Jordan-Hare Stadium with an offensive style that the Tigers have not seen this season: the air raid.
It’s been a strategy that Leach has been known to use throughout his head coaching career, but he’ll bring it to Jordan-Hare Stadium for the first time on Saturday. In the game between Auburn and Mississippi State last season, Leach’s quarterback Will Rogers threw 51 passes.
The Auburn defense limited Rogers to 30 completions, 221 yards passing and a touchdown, but not without intercepting him twice.
It was Rogers’ freshman season, but this year’s Rogers is more experienced, more patient and is having more success in the air raid.
Through nine games this season, Rogers has 3,307 yards passing, 23 touchdowns while only throwing seven interceptions. To put that number in perspective, Rogers totaled less than 2,000 yards passing in his freshman stint.
Even with a 5-4 record, don’t brush off Mississippi State as a team that doesn’t have the skillset to take down Auburn. It took down two Top 15 opponents this season, one of which was Auburn’s latest loss, at Texas A&M.
Nonetheless, Auburn’s secondary is set for a battle against the Bulldog wide receiving core. Led by Roger McCreary, who leads Power 5 cornerbacks in most forced incompletions with 13 and leading tackler Zakoby McClain, the defense could be troublesome for Rogers.
Especially considering that the defense has been playing its best football lately. Over the last six quarters, offenses have been limited to only field goals against the Tiger defense.
Field goals are not exactly Mississippi State’s strength either. Leach announced that the team will have open tryouts to play kicker after the Bulldogs missed three field goals against Arkansas, including a potential game-tying field goal as time expired.
Rogers averages 53 pass attempts per game for the Bulldogs, completing an average of 40 passes per game. The most attempts that an opposing quarterback had this season against Auburn was LSU’s Max Johnson, who attempted 46 passes.
He completed 26 of them for 325 yards passing, the most passing yards in a game against the Tigers this season. That was a game that Auburn came out victorious in, following a second-half comeback.
Auburn is 3-2 in games where it gives up more than 200 yards passing this season. In the three victories, though, Auburn’s offense has thrown for over 275 yards.
That becomes a potential problem this weekend, seeing that the sluggish offense over the last six quarters has only put six points on the board. If the Tigers want to see the narrative reversed, they’ll need to have a bounce-back game on Saturday.
And Rogers is not messing around. He’s only thrown for less than 300 yards once this season and the Bulldogs still won that game. The 5-4 record is deceptive, Mississippi State lost three of its four games by a total of eight points.
Sound the sirens. Ready the defense. The air-raid offense is on its way to the Plains.