Louisiana-Monroe vs. Auburn: Final Report Card, Player Grades for Auburn
No one wanted it so close with Louisiana-Monroe, but Auburn got their first win of the 2012 season against the Warhawks in overtime this afternoon in Jordan-Hare Stadium by a score of 31-28.
Is Louisiana-Monroe that good of a football team, or is Auburn that bad of a football team?
How would you grade the Tigers after their performance on Saturday?
Let's take a look at each position and grade the Tigers after their first victory of the season.
Kiehl Frazier started out on Saturday looking like a different quarterback from the one we saw last week. He was making good reads, accurate throws and looked much more comfortable. Then the fourth quarter happened.
On the first drive of the final quarter, Frazier threw a beautiful pass. The only problem was that it was to a Louisiana-Monroe linebacker. This put a damper on Frazier’s confidence and he played scared for the rest of the quarter when the game was on the line.
Overall, Frazier went 10 for 18 and had 130 yards along with the interception.
For the most part, Frazier only threw the ball when he was in the shotgun formation. This allowed him to make quicker, better reads. He looked much more comfortable throwing in those instances.
How a quarterback ends will be judged much harder than how he begins. This is the case today. Frazier took a couple of steps forward, but when his team needed him most, he crumbled and took one step back.
Auburn put up 255 yards of rushing against Louisiana-Monroe. That is 120 yards more than their season average after their first two games.
Onterio McCalebb was the third different running back to lead the Tigers in rushing this year. He had 128 yards on 11 carries. McCalebb got the scoring started as he took the handoff from Kiehl Frazier and scored from 27 yards out.
Against Clemson, Tre Mason got the bulk of the carries. Against Mississippi State it was Mike Blakely. This week, it was Tre Mason again.
Mason had 90 yards on 22 carries for Saturday. Mason scored Auburn’s first red zone touchdown of the year on a one yard carry.
Blakely picked up 32 yards on four carries but had a big turnover inside ULM’s five yard line.
Wide Receivers: B
The passing game was once again not very effective. Auburn threw for a total of 163 yards. We did see some different receivers step up for Auburn on Saturday, though.
It was long awaited, but Sammie Coates finally made his presence felt. He caught the long hail mary touchdown pass from Kiehl Frazier to end the first half. Coates has all of the intangibles to be a great receiver for Auburn. At 6’2" and 200 pounds, he has the size to out-jump most defensive backs, as he showed.
Coates caught two passes for 34 yards along with the touchdown from Frazier.
Quan Bray and Emory Blake had two catches for 14 and 26 yards, respectively.
Bray added a touchdown pass to his resume when he threw a 33 yard touchdown on a quarterback throwback to Kiehl Frazier.
Tight Ends: A
For some reason, Kiehl Frazier has even worse accuracy issues when throwing to Phillip Lutzenkirchen. Lutzenkirchen only had one catch on Saturday. With the exception of one throw against Clemson, every throw this year to the senior tight end has been extremely inaccurate.
Most of the throws have been high and put Lutzenkirchen in a position to get seriously hurt. The one throw that Lutzenkirchen caught today was floated to him and resulted in Lutzenkirchen taking a big hit on the ULM sideline.
Lutzenkirchen has been an extremely effective and reliable when run-blocking. He and fullback Jay Prosch have been a big key when Auburn is running the ball effectively.
Offensive Line: B
The offensive line played well on Saturday. On the opening drive of the third quarter, the offensive line looked dominant as they drove down the field.
On rushing plays, Auburn averaged 6.1 yards per rush. That is a big credit to Jeff Grimes’ unit.
The offensive line allowed only one sack in the game. They gave Kiehl Frazier plenty of time to sit back and progress through his reads.
Defensive Line: C
The defensive line play was very average today. The defensive ends continued their bad habits of getting too far upfield and not being able to crash down on read options and creating big holes on counter plays.
Dee Ford had the only sack for the defensive line today. Corey Lemonier led the unit in tackles with five.
Lemonier had a mental mistake when he helped extend a drive for the Warhawks when he jumped offsides.
The interior portion of the defensive line continues to be a disappointment in 2012. Kenneth Carter and Gabe Wright combined for one tackle on the day. Starters Angelo Blackson and Jeff Whitaker only had three.
There is simply not enough push from Auburn’s defensive tackles this fall.
On Saturday, there was more of the same from the Auburn linebackers. There were gaping holes that the ULM running backs were able to run though. Most of the time, there were no Auburn linebackers to fill those holes.
Jake Holland continues to have his struggles. He has not proven he is capable of getting off a block yet this season. We saw Cassanova McKinzy in a few times on Saturday. How long does Brian Van Gorder stick with his struggling middle linebacker?
The Warhawks gained 179 yards rushing on Saturday, although they netted 165.
Daren Bates led the Tigers in tackling with 14 total tackles, Holland had 10 and Justin Garrett added one.
Defensive Backs: D
Even Sun Belt quarterbacks can pick this secondary apart. Kolton Browning threw for 245 yards and three touchdowns against Auburn on Saturday.
Simple things such as not turning around to find the ball when it is in the air or not widening with the receiver on long routes continue to be a staple of the Auburn secondary.
Brian Van Gorder shook things up when Trent Fisher got the starting nod on Saturday at safety, but nothing changed.
There were still communication issues and receivers slipping behind the secondary and zone coverage.
Demetruce McNeal was second on the team in tackles with 11, while Jermaine Whitehead added eight tackles along with a sack.
Special Teams: A
If there are any bright spots on this Auburn team, it is the special teams. Cody Parkey won the game for Auburn on a 35 yard field goal in overtime.
There were two blocked field goals. It was the second straight week that Auburn had a field goal block. The second one came in overtime when Angelo Blackson just barely got enough to knock the ball off of it’s course.
Steven Clark had six punts and an average of 40.2 yards on Saturday.
The average starting field position for the Warhawks was on their own 22 yard line.
Even with a fairly young team, it’s head scratching that players from three-straight top 10 recruiting classes can not blow a Sun Belt conference team out of the water. Is it the coaching? The players?
It didn’t appear that Auburn was not ready to play or looking forward to next week. They were playing intense and aggressive football for three quarters.
Offensive coordinator Scot Loeffler went extremely conservative in the fourth quarter. It’s understandable that he doesn’t trust his young quarterback, but in order to have any reward, there must be some risk that is taken.
The offense was also very predictable. Most of the time the Tigers are going to run the ball to the left behind Greg Robinson and John Sullen. When they were in shotgun, they were going to throw. If Frazier was under center, you can expect a run. That does not take a football expert to figure that out.
The offense had some semblance of balance after the first quarter. That trend did not continue. Auburn attempted 19 passes compared to 42 rushing attempts.
Gene Chizik made the correct call in overtime to not risk anything and go for the winning field goal on second down.
The coaches have their work cut out for them and they’ll take a win over anyone at this point. However, they must look internally at what they can do differently to improve in the fundamentals of the game. If this team doesn't improve then Auburn will struggle to get to four wins.
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