Auburn Football: 5 Keys to the Tigers Game vs. Louisiana-Monroe
Auburn enters Week 3 with a 0-2 record riding a downward spiral of inconsistencies on both sides of the football. Adjustments obviously need to be made for Auburn to earn its first win of the season with five key areas of focus coming into view this week.
Auburn will face a hot Louisiana-Monroe team coming off a huge win over then-No. 8 Arkansas. The Tigers will have their hands full with an excited team that has a "win-at-all-costs"-type attitude.
After last week’s upset win, this will not be a pushover Warhawks team that Auburn faces on Saturday. Auburn will have to keep the focus and provide answers to these five keys to get the win.
Settle Frazier in the Pocket with Easy Reads
Kiehl Frazier has had a rough start attempting to settle into the starting quarterback role for Auburn this season. Frazier is 24-of-49 with 319 yards and four interceptions so far on the season. He does have one touchdown toss to his name as well.
That is far from even mediocre, but the former USA Today Player of the Year has the potential to get back to the basics and make plays happen for the Tigers. Frazier is a young starter with a lot of room for growth.
Frazier was groomed in the Gus Malzahn offense through high school and his first year on the Plains. The offensive change was major this year for Auburn—especially for the quarterback position.
As the season progresses, Frazier should gain confidence in his decisions and protections, bringing better results for the Tigers offense down the road.
To start, Scot Loeffler needs to continue to give Frazier easy reads that will get him more comfortable in the pocket and produce short yardage gains through the air. Downfield throws will come with time. What Frazier needs is completions to boost his confidence from the pocket.
Expect those short throws and easy reads to come often this Saturday.
Focus on the Run
Auburn attempted 39 run plays against the Bulldogs this past Saturday. That number can be a bit deceiving though, as 11 came on quarterback runs by Frazier. Of the 11, two to three appeared to be scripted, the rest were improvised scrambles.
The Tigers have done moderately well with a push up front so far this year and will have the size advantage this week against ULM. The Tigers have to focus on running the football if they want this win.
The Warhawks do run a 3-3-5 stack defense which can confuse linemen searching for their blocking assignments. That being said, it should not affect the Tigers' want and need to gain yards on the ground.
Auburn has to come out on fire, producing yards on the ground and getting confidence instilled into Frazier and the offense. Earning four to five yards a carry will give this offense a huge boost of confidence early.
Arkansas only attempted 26 total runs against ULM, but Dennis Johnson was able to gain 50 yards on seven carries, giving him a 7.1 yards per carry average. Auburn will spread the ball to three different backs, looking for the same results.
Play Four Downs Defensively
ULM attempted seven fourth-down plays, converting six of them in last week’s shocking win over Arkansas. Expect much of the same tenacity this week against Auburn.
The Tigers will need to be prepared to stay on the field for four complete downs if they want to stop the Warhawks.
One area that the Auburn defense has really picked up the pieces is on third down efficiency this season. Last year the Tigers allowed 48 percent of third-down conversions. This season they sit at 33 percent heading into Week 3.
The effort and want-to that has gotten the Tigers more efficient on third-down defense has to carry over to the fourth and final down this week. ULM will pull out all the stops to beat the Tigers—Auburn has to expect as much and be ready to play four hard downs of football on defense.
Stop Short Routes from Becoming Big Gains
Auburn has struggled to stop short passing routes consistently over the past four years. A lot has to do with the inability of Auburn’s linebackers to break into passing lanes and the lack of man defense that Auburn plays on the corners.
The Tigers are not going to man up anytime soon so that option is out the window. Defensive coordinator Brian VanGorder said via AL.com Wednesday, "We're going to play to our player's strengths, and right now, that's not one of our strengths” when talking about press-man coverage.
Safety Demetruce McNeal may have a better solution. McNeal also said via AL.com, "We have to close space on the receivers when the ball is in the air." That is the key for Auburn in the secondary and at linebacker this week.
Press-man is simply not doable. To replace that, Auburn has to read the opposing offense better and fill gaps in space quickly. ULM will hit the short throws because Auburn will not play press-man coverage. What the Tigers do once the ball is caught will be the difference.
Contain Kolton Browning
Kolton Browning is no stranger to Jordan-Hare Stadium. He led the Warhawks to the Plains during the 2010 season. That was a game the Tigers won 56-3 despite Browning throwing for more than 200 yards that day.
Auburn isn’t likely to score 56 this season, and ULM will likely score more than three. Holding Browning in check is the key for Auburn’s success.
Browning threw for 412 yards and ran for another 69 yards against Arkansas. He also attempted 67 passes. Short and intermediate routes are the bread and butter for the Warhawks offense.
Getting consistent pressure may be tough with the quick-strike tendencies, but hitting him every play is a must. Getting to the receiver the minute the ball is thrown has to happen for Auburn to succeed.
The Tigers will not stop Browning from earning completions, but they can hurt his consistency. Bringing pressure constantly will also throw off his rhythm. Containment of the ULM offense will be the focus on Saturday. It starts with Kolton Browning.