Auburn Football: Winners and Losers from the Week 2 Game vs. Mississippi State
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In Auburn's Week 2 loss to Mississippi State, there were few bright spots. The offense struggled to run and pass the ball. The defense improved slightly from Week 1, but there were more issues in the secondary and with tackling.
Before moving on to the Week 3 game against Louisiana-Monroe, let's find three winners and three losers from Saturday's game.
Winner: Jay Boulware
Who had Jay Boulware in their "Best Gene Chizik Hire in 2009" office pool? Probably not too many people.
Special teams and tight ends coach Jay Boulware has done a great job with the Auburn special teams since 2009.
In 2009, punt returners had a tough time, but that has been the only stain on Boulware's time on the Plains with the special teams unit.
Special teams play continued to be special yesterday when the Tigers had a big field goal block late in the second quarter to keep the game close going into halftime.
On the kickoff to begin the second half, Onterio McCalebb gave the Tigers the only touchdown of the day when he returned the kick for a touchdown. The return for a touchdown gave McCalebb "kick returner of the week" award.
Steven Clark and Cody Parkey have also been two of the most reliable specialists in the league.
Loser: Gene Chizik
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As Gene Chizik walked off the field in Starkville, he probably already knew the criticism that he was going to hear from Auburn fans and the media.
Chizik cannot escape his record without Cam Newton. After each loss, Auburn fans are reminded that Chizik is only 16-12 at Auburn without Newton at quarterback. Is that fair? Some say it is, others do not.
Without regard to fairness, Chizik will need to have more than an 8-5 season without the 2010 Heisman Trophy winner if he wants to quiet the critics.
Chizik has the backing of the administration, and he will have the head coaching job at Auburn through 2013.
Chizik did not do anything to help his cause when his Auburn team did not look prepared to play their SEC opener on Saturday. Mississippi State was clearly the more physical and better-coached team in the ball game.
Chizik is taking full responsibility for the team's performance, as he should. "We got outplayed, and I'm going to own it. That's the bottom line," Chizik said (via Charles Goldberg of AL.com).
Chizik will need to put those words into action. If Auburn has another poor performance against Louisiana-Monroe, Auburn fans will start letting him hear their disappointment.
Winner: Mike Blakely
Gene Chizik promised us that we would see more of Mike Blakely this week. That is exactly what happened. Blakely got the most carries of any Auburn running back against Mississippi State. This was a surprise after Tre Mason rushed for 106 yards in the Week 1 loss to Clemson.
Mason was only given the ball eight times on Saturday and rushed for 25 yards.
Blakely rushed 11 times for 42 yards against Mississippi State. He found some success running towards the left side of the line running behind Greg Robinson and John Sullen. When he was brought down, he was able to fall forward for an extra yard or two. He was reliable carrying the ball and ran with a lot of effort. He showed enough power to have success between the tackles and enough quickness to make people miss.
Blakely will continue to see plenty of carries because he is the heaviest of Auburn's primary running backs. Blakely weighs 206 pounds, while Mason and McCalebb weigh in at 198 and 173 pounds, respectively.
Scot Loeffler and Gene Chizik said that Auburn will continue to use Mason and Blakely going forward. "Mike Blakely got a few of those carries that Tre got last week," Chizik said. "We obviously didn't get the type of movement up front we needed, but it had nothing to do with Tre." (via Joel Erickson of AL.com)
Loser: Kiehl Frazier
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No one expected Kiehl Frazier to come in and be a world beater. Mistakes should be expected from a sophomore quarterback starting on the road in his first conference game. It was not expected that Kiehl Frazier would be a liability to the Auburn offense.
Frazier was 13 for 22 and threw three interceptions against a very experienced Mississippi State secondary. Preseason All-American Johnthan Banks was responsible for two interceptions. The third interception came in the red zone in the second half.
Frazier should not shoulder all of the blame, as Gene Chizik pointed out. "I think at times it's protection, at times it's ball security, at times it's missing open receivers. I think, other than that last drive, we struggled all day" (via Charles Goldberg, AL.com).
It has been pointed out that Gus Malzahn did not do a good job of teaching mechanics when he was in Auburn. He taught his system and didn't worry about mechanics. Scot Loeffler has a reputation for developing quarterbacks. It will not be an overnight fix.
How long will Auburn continue to use Frazier if there is no passing threat? Auburn cannot win as a one-dimensional run-based team. Scot Loeffler said they never thought about taking Frazier out.
Frazier continually locked in on his intended receiver and did nothing to look the safeties off. The coaches know a lot more about Frazier than some novice writer, but unless Auburn and Frazier develop a passing game, it will be a long season for the Auburn football program.
How long of a leash does Frazier have against Louisiana-Monroe?
Winner: Jay Prosch
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Jay Prosch probably did not care too much about the outcome of this game. Not because he is a bad teammate or because he is not motivated to be playing football. It's because he was dealing with things much bigger than a college football game in his life.
Auburn fans know the story of Prosch. He transferred to Auburn from Illinois where he was an All-American fullback. He wanted to transfer so that his sick mother would only be a couple hours away in Mobile. He received a family hardship waiver from the NCAA to play immediately for Auburn.
Prosch's mother, Iris, passed away after a long battle with brain cancer just last Monday. Most people would have understandably decided to take the week off and spend time with their family. Jay Prosch wanted time with his second family, the Auburn football team.
Prosch was named a captain for Saturday's game.
After the game, Prosch spoke the the media. "It was nice to get away, get my mind off things. She was on my mind, but not in a bad way, in a good way" (via Joel Erickson, AL.com).
Prosch earned even more respect from his Auburn teammates and coaches by playing on Saturday when he had every reason not to.
Loser: Scot Loeffler
Auburn fans are having flashbacks to the 2008 Tony Franklin experiment. So far, the Auburn offense has only scored one offensive touchdown. They only have one yard in the red zone. Yes, one yard.
Joel Erickson did a compilation of where Auburn stands stastically in the SEC and the nation. You can find that here.
Some highlights (lowlights is a better word) are that Auburn is 14th in the SEC and 108th in the country in total offense. They are averaging 295 yards per game. In passing efficiency offense, Auburn is 14th in the SEC and 112th in the country. In rush offense, Auburn is 11th in the SEC and 80th nationally.
It's understandable that Kiehl Frazier isn't the typical quarterback that Loeffler would prefer in his system. Loeffler cannot fix Frazier over night.
Most people are a fan of Loeffler's offensive system. It's nice to see the I-formation and two tight end sets. The play calling has been the question in regards to Loeffler.
Despite not trusting Frazier, the offense must take some risk to earn any kind of reward. Running a delayed handoff or a draw on third and ten will do nothing when the defense is focusing on the run.
Loeffler may want to consider coming down to coach from the sidelines, although that is not what he prefers. There were communication issues multiple times in the game against Mississippi State. There was a delay of game penalty because the play was not relayed to the field in time. The very next play Auburn burned a timeout because they still couldn't get the play figured out.
Another instance of miscommunication occurred when Frazier audibled at the line of scrimmage. Frazier audibled and it turned into a busted play between Frazier and Onterio McCalebb.
Loeffler will need to start showing improvement in his offense to avoid a replication of the 2008 Tony Franklin debacle under Tommy Tuberville.