Auburn trick play, explained: Gus Malzahn vs. Cleave Saban – Banner Society
All evening, the 2019 Iron Bowl felt like it would come down to whoever had the ball last. To make sure that was Auburn, the Tigers did something clever with a 48-45 lead. Alabama’s Joseph Bulovas doinked a 30-yard field goal off the left upright with two minutes left. The Crimson Tide had two timeouts…

All evening, the 2019 Iron Bowl felt devour it would reach down to whoever had the ball final. To ensure was as soon as Auburn, the Tigers did one thing suave with a Forty eight-45 lead.

Alabama’s Joseph Bulovas doinked a 30-yard field goal off the left correct with two minutes left. The Crimson Tide had two timeouts left at that level, and Auburn wasn’t inclined to place the ball within the air with lawful freshman QB Bo Nix. So, after three performs and two Bama timeouts, the Tide successfully forced a punt.

The Tide would salvage the ball support with a dinky bit under a minute left and no timeouts. They’d potentially be around their possess 30, unless returner Jaylen Plug did one thing basically special. And perchance Plug also can’ve, with a kick return and three receiving TDs already under his belt.

But Plug on no legend got a risk. Officials flagged Bama for having too many men on the sphere sooner than the play, giving Auburn a sport-sealing first down. The sphere appeared on in skittish bemusement that the Tide, with out a cease in sight the sport’s most disciplined program, would mess up so badly.

It didn’t correct happen, though. Auburn created it.

What Auburn did is sneaky, nonetheless also stunningly straightforward.

The Tigers lined up in a long-established offensive formation, legally talking. They’d seven men on the road of scrimmage, five carrying offensive lineman numbers as required by NCAA rules. On fourth-and-Four, they also can’ve correct snapped the ball from that formation and long gone for it.

In the X receiver role, on the underside right here, was as soon as #ninety, punter Arryn Siposs. That is how Bama got into ache:


Due to Auburn was as soon as in an offensive formation, the Tide didn’t personal Plug on the sphere lawful away. As Gus Malzahn would characterize journalists later, this was as soon as exactly what he wanted: to ship the punter support to kick after Bama’d already substituted, leaving no one deep to return it.

“We were correct attempting to search out ways to again [Waddle] off the sphere in that 2d,” Malzahn acknowledged. “We felt devour if we salvage the defense [we want to see], we can kick it and flip the sphere.”

And endure in thoughts: Bama was as soon as out of timeouts. Cleave Saban’s workers was as soon as no longer frigid with Auburn punting to no returner, nor with Auburn running an offensive play against the punt return unit. The Tide tried to manual determined of both. Then the flags flew, and it was as soon as sport over.

I’m skeptical Malzahn had any belief to in actuality kick the ball from that bundle.

His QB, Nix, was as soon as on the sphere, and did Malzahn in actuality desire a QB and presumably a running support to act as protectors for the punter inner Auburn’s possess 20-yard line? The Tigers level-headed had a timeout, which they also can’ve known as if anything appeared abominable. One other FBS special groups coach I talked to identified taking a extend of sport was as soon as an risk, too.

And the instantaneous fist pumps from Nix and Malzahn after the flag came down suggested the penalty was as soon as the belief.

But perchance Malzahn wasn’t in actuality gunning for an illegal substitution penalty at all. Perhaps the used excessive faculty coaching significant individual’s belief in actuality was as soon as correct to motion his punter support deep and boot it away.

“When guys are trying to ship a Sunday sport to Saturday, he’s brought a Friday night time sport to Saturday, and he’s been in actuality big at it for years now,” acknowledged Brennan Marion, a used receiver for Malzahn at Tulsa who’s since change into offensive coordinator at Howard and William & Mary. “Bringing excessive faculty soccer tricks — he doesn’t name them tricks, he calls them special performs — nonetheless bringing special performs in instances devour that, in enormous video games.”

Both manner, Alabama didn’t belief Auburn’s tradecraft unless it was as soon as too late.

College soccer’s substitution rules are straightforward. The main things right here:

  • If the offense substitutes, the defense will get to substitute. As prolonged because the defense acts moderately promptly, the offense can’t chase to the road and snap the ball sooner than the D is willing. Officials exhaust their only judgment to opt what’s reasonable.
  • The defense “is allowed to temporarily take care of more than eleven avid gamers on the sphere to predict the offensive formation, nonetheless it will also no longer personal more than eleven avid gamers in its formation if the snap is coming near near.” So if the offense is willing to plod after giving the defense a risk to salvage subs, the defense better no longer personal more than eleven our bodies on the sphere.

Let’s plod step-by-step.

1. Auburn substituted into its new offensive formation, which integrated new avid gamers coming onto the sphere. That the punter was as soon as among them doesn’t topic to the rulebook.

2. Alabama then got time to substitute, too. The Tide were observant. They observed the punter was as soon as on the sphere, so that they sent Plug support deep:


3. When the Tide realized Nix, the quarterback, was as soon as also on the sphere, they modified plans, Saban acknowledged later. They rushed their defense support out, alive to Auburn was as soon as going to plod for it. Test up on five-significant individual cornerback Patrick Surtain Jr. (#2) lining up straight on high of the punter (lol):


Four. Officials marked the ball ready for play. Bama hadn’t quite gotten all people shut to the road of scrimmage off the sphere. On high of that, Plug was as soon as level-headed support deep. CBS didn’t level to the wide camera perspective, nonetheless both coaches and Gary Danielson confirmed Plug was as soon as level-headed on the sphere right here:


There are eleven Bama avid gamers on the sphere in that image, 12 if you count the individual (#14) who’s technically a dinky bit late running off. And out of the image, there’s Plug. That’s as many as thirteen.

In a while, Saban was as soon as enraged. He known as it “an attractive unfair play.” But he on no legend acknowledged Auburn broke the foundations, perchance because he is conscious of he’d be abominable.

“They substituted a punter as a huge receiver, so we build the punt crew in. When the quarterback was as soon as level-headed in there, we tried to place the defense support in,” Saban acknowledged.

“I thought they also can level-headed’ve given us a dinky bit more time to substitute and salvage Plug out as a returner. We salvage known as for 12 guys on the sphere. It was as soon as very disappointing. We’re accountable for that as coaches, nonetheless it was as soon as a extremely uncommon circumstance, to claim the least. Occasionally, must you might perhaps perchance presumably even personal these, they desires to be considered that manner.”

Saban was as soon as alluding to one thing true — that officials personal immense leeway to again the sport under again a watch on within the event that they judge any individual’s performing unfairly.

But what did Auburn enact that was as soon as unfair? The Tigers picked their personnel and lined them up. The Tide had the lawful to enact the the same, and they also did. Bama correct didn’t personal the lawful to enact that twice.

Saban’s beef appears to be like to be that Bama deserved a 2d wave of substitutions on the premise that Auburn was as soon as … being silly? It’s no longer determined. No coach I heard from on Saturday thought it was as soon as out of the humble to unprejudiced enable the Tide one traditional substitution set.

It’s that you just might perhaps perchance presumably judge of Saban is correct indignant he didn’t judge of this ruse first. To that cease, you might perhaps perchance presumably also level-headed potentially predict Bama to beat any individual with it at some level.

In the 2013 Iron Bowl, Auburn beat Alabama thanks in allotment to a chain of speed/plod choices, sooner than the Kick Six executed the Tide off. Saban did no longer devour RPOs or up-tempo offense, nonetheless he ultimately adopted them and personal turn into the Tide’s offense into Voltron.

Saban’s also railed against transfers sooner than taking significant transfers and railed against recruiting satellite camps sooner than taking allotment in them for the coolest thing about Bama recruiting.

None of that also is known as a criticism of Saban. Maximizing the foundations to your advantage, whether or no longer you devour these rules or no longer, is orderly for any coach.

It likely bugs Saban that Malzahn beat him to the punch on this issue trick. It’s edifying to opt Saban will stumble on ways to wreak same havoc later.

But this was as soon as a mismatch, with Malzahn’s finest power as a coach meeting Saban’s finest weak point.

That power for Malzahn: a willingness to are trying tacky schoolyard stuff within the largest sport of the 365 days, even against the single program within the sport’s history. At parts within the previous, that’s been the Wildcat offense, RPOs, QB mercurial kicks, and multi-QB formations. He’s been laughed at loads, nonetheless in that pile of uncommon stuff, he’s came all over things which personal helped him.

“Gus has been doing this since he got out of college,” says Marion, his used participant who’s now allotment of his coaching tree.

That weak point for Saban: special groups. Pointless to claim the one who had his kicker are trying to dam Christian Wilkins on a untrue field goal within the national title sport would tumble for this gambit.