Auburn Football: 10 Things Learned from the Tigers' Win vs. Louisiana-Monroe
It took the Auburn Tigers two blocked field goals and one overtime period to defeat the Louisiana-Monroe Warhawks 31-28 in Auburn, Ala., on Saturday.
Despite the way the game was won, the Tigers earned a victory. That is what matters most for a team that was facing its first 0-3 start since 1950.
Here are 10 things we learned about the War Eagles in this game.
The Rushing Game Can Be Effective
Auburn had a lot of success running the ball. Onterio McCalebb had a stellar day, finishing with 11 carries for 128 yards and a touchdown. McCalebb also added 24 yards in the return game.
Auburn also got a lot of yards from Tre Mason, who took on the workhorse role, rushing 22 times for 90 yards and a touchdown. He also added a catch for 34 yards.
Auburn finished with 42 carries for 255 yards, an average of 6.1 yards per carry, and had two rushing touchdowns.
The Tigers relied on the rushing game, and it helped lead them to victory.
Kiehl Frazier Shows Growth but Makes Major Mistakes
Quarterback Kiehl Frazier had the best showing of his young career, going 10-of-18 for 130 yards, one touchdown and one interception. He showed poise in the pocket and did well going through his progressions early, but he lost that concentration later on.
Frazier gave the Tigers a reason to believe in him, but he still made critical mistakes that could have easily led to a loss.
He reminds me a lot of Jason Campbell when he was a sophomore.
Defensive Line Is Inconsistent
The Auburn defensive line continued its inconsistencies.
The Tigers allowed 165 rushing yards, four yards per carry. Auburn also had several opportunities to tackle Louisiana-Monroe runners for a loss, but were unable to secure the tackle.
The Auburn defensive line has to get off blocks quicker or teams will be able to pile up rushing yards against the Tigers this season.
Penalties Were Too Abundant
The Tigers played a sloppy game, especially in the late quarters. Auburn had seven penalties for 65 yards.
The Tigers nearly handed the game to the Warhawks when they were charged with two consecutive penalties on ULM's last two drives. Louisiana-Monroe capitalized on the yardage they were given, as two two penalty-filled drives resulted in touchdowns.
Auburn jumped offsides twice in the final minutes when crucial stops were needed. The Tigers were also called for several pass interference penalties, which led to ULM scores.
Auburn Has to Finish Every Defensive Down
Auburn allowed Louisiana-Monroe to convert 3-of-4 fourth-down tries.
Louisiana-Monroe used the same strategy against Arkansas and it led to a win. The Tigers knew that the Warhawks would push for a win at all costs, but appeared unprepared to stop some of the fourth-down opportunities.
The Tigers also allowed 9-of-21 third-down conversions. That is not a terrible number, but ULM's 42 percent conversion rate was higher than the Tigers had been allowing. Entering this game, Auburn had been allowing teams to convert only 33 percent of third-down tries.
Auburn Plays Itself out of Games
Auburn had two turnovers and key penalties that allowed the Warhawks to come from behind and force an overtime period.
The Tigers have shown a consistent tendency to play themselves out of games early in the 2012 season. Auburn has to find a better way to finish drives and not shoot itself in the foot when it makes it into scoring position.
A key fumble by Mike Blakely at the 2-yard line led to a Louisiana-Monroe score, as did a late interception by Kiehl Frazier.
Auburn Has a Playmaker in Sammie Coates
Sammie Coates has received high praise since arriving on the Plains a year ago, but he had yet to have a breakout game. Despite only two receptions for 34 yards, Coates had the biggest touchdown catch of the game against ULM and had another spectacular touchdown catch called back on an illegal formation penalty.
Coates proved that he could be a viable option opposite of Emory Blake. The Tigers desperately needed for a second option in the passing game and Coates fit the bill on Saturday.
Look for Coates’ time to increase and for Frazier to go his way much more often.
Tre Mason Can Be a Workhorse
Auburn had a major question at running back heading into the season: Who would be the workhorse?
Tre Mason stepped into that role on Saturday, carrying the ball 22 times for 90 yards, and seemed to get stronger as the game wore on.
Mason also has elite speed, allowing him to be effective in a number of ways. To add to his stat line, Mason caught a 34-yard pass.
Auburn will continue to feed McCalebb and Mason as the starting tandem. Both bring unique talents, but Mason has earned the workhorse role.
Auburn Will Play Press-Man Coverage
Auburn has not played press-man coverage in more than three years under Gene Chizik. But on Saturday, they showed press coverage at times, which came as a major surprise.
The Tigers did well sticking with their receiver and stunting routes off the line. Louisiana-Monroe had most of its success in the passing game when Auburn fell back into zone coverage.
Auburn will not play a lot of press-man moving forward, but it was promising to see that it could be in the defensive repertoire.
Brian VanGorder Is the Leader This Defense Needs
Auburn head coach Gene Chizik did a great job selecting a defensive coordinator when he hired Brian Van Gorder from the Atlanta Falcons.
Van Gorder brings an intensity to the sideline that has been missing at Auburn over the past three seasons. The defense plays more inspired, and Van Gorder is quick to correct his players from the sideline.
Auburn has a long way to go before the defense is considered elite in the SEC, but Van Gorder can get the Tigers there. For the third week in a row, the defense progressed.
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