The Auburn Tigers took the No. 3 LSU Tigers to the wire on Saturday night in a game that was a defensive battle from start to finish. Auburn had some players turn the light on, while others committed crucial mistakes ending the Tigers' shot at the upset victory.
One glaring issue for Auburn was the offensive play-calling. Auburn was gaining .3 yards a play on first down midway through the fourth quarter. There were some execution issues at times, but the overall decisions from the offensive coaching staff left any football-savvy mind scratching its head.
Auburn showed a lot of promise for the future with the loss, but this is just one turn in the long road that is the 2012 season. Here are the grades for the Saturday night contest against the No. 3 LSU Tigers.
Auburn had the opportunity to knock off a top-five team Saturday in Jordan-Hare Stadium. The Tigers played a controlled game, but they were unable to get consistency on offense.
Auburn did face one of the country’s most prolific defenses, but the offensive play-calling was atrocious. Offensive coordinator Scot Loeffler consistently called stretch-run plays and passes on first down. Those plays led to miscues which put the Auburn offense in 2nd-and-long situations consistently in the game.
Letting Onterio McCalebb take handoffs on early downs in an attempt to outrun the LSU defense to the perimeter was a bush-league type mistake.
Loeffler needs to regroup in the off week and dig to find better play selection in his offensive scheme before Arkansas.
Defensive coordinator Brian VanGorder showed why he carried the reputation as a tough-as-nails defensive mind. His demeanor finally came through in his squad with the Tigers playing their best defensive game of the year.
The VanGorder scheme is known to be very dangerous against conventional offenses, and it showed this week. The Tigers looked prepared and played lights out from start to finish.
The play-calling was scouted well, exposing the LSU offense on a number of occasions. The Auburn defense also played a bit of press-man coverage, showing the Tigers have the ability to make plays against elite receivers.
Overall, it was the best defensive performance from Auburn in two years.
Kiehl Frazier had another stellar first half, finishing the first two quarters 8-of-11 and looked very confident from the pocket. LSU was getting pressure, but it was sporadic and more of a collapsing pocket than free-for-all on Frazier.
In the second half, Frazier didn’t look as bad as he has in the past three games, but he did get antsy and tried to force a few throws. There were a few designed runs, but they came with little success.
Frazier did account for two interceptions and fumbled one carry, leading to his failing grade. There still is no reason for calls for replacement, as Frazier is continuing to show progression with each week.
The Tigers can’t rely on Frazier to win a game for them yet.
13-of-22 for 97 yards, two interceptions; six rushing attempts
The Auburn Tigers did not limit carries for Onterio McCalebb this past weekend. Most would assume that his lack of size would have limited his carries against a fast and tough defense.
McCalebb was able to score the Tigers' lone touchdown in the game, pulling Auburn within two points as time ran out in the first quarter.
Auburn turned to McCalebb on a number of first-down plays and in crucial running situations. It was a surprising strategy, considering the speed that LSU possesses on defense. The Bayou Bengals pursued well and limited McCalebb’s effectiveness.
11 carries for 24 yards and one touchdown; 2.2 YPC; Long of 20
Tre Mason was limited to less than 10 carries in the game this past weekend. Whether that came by design or not is tough to tell. The Tigers got a lot of hard carries out of Mason. He arguably had his best game to date considering the competition.
Mason is a back who has the ability to carry the ball 20 times in a game, but he hasn’t been cut loose to do so. Over the next few weeks, Auburn should focus on increasing Mason’s carries, so that the Tigers offense can maximize from his production.
Nine carries for 54 yards; six YPC; Long of 26
Philip Lutzenkirchen did not have his best game at Auburn this weekend. There were a number of blocks that were missed that could have led to big gains in the ground game for Auburn.
Lutzenkirchen continued with his circus catches on a few occasions. He has become a very steady-handed option for Frazier in the passing game.
There were a few plays that could have made big gains for the Tigers if the ball would have come more directly to Lutzenkirchen. Overall, his performance was overshadowed by the missed blocks.
Five catches for 29 yards; 5.8 YPC; Long of 23
Auburn showed some good signs on offense. One of the brightest spots was Emory Blake who had a great game against LSU. Blake made a lot of solid blocks and pulled some tough catches out of the air.
There aren’t many times that the ball is within reach that Blake doesn’t make the catch. The best snag of the game was on a middle-seam route where the ball seemed uncatchable. Blake plucked the ball from midair, helping continue an Auburn offensive drive.
Blake showed a lot of concentration and skill throughout the contest against LSU. He may not finish with his goal of 80 receptions, but every catch he makes is key to the success of the Tigers offense.
Four receptions for 56 yards; 14 yards per catch; Long of 22
Travante Stallworth was a non-factor in the game for Auburn. He kept his edge sealed often, but he couldn’t seem to find room to make a catch for the Tigers.
Sammie Coates was also used in the game often instead of Stallworth, but Coates was also unable to make plays. He was open on one play in the first quarter and couldn’t secure the big catch.
Stallworth is a hard-working senior for Auburn, but the Tigers need to plug in as many bodies on the outside, so that they can find some plays. At this point, Auburn has not found anyone outside of Blake who can be consistently reliable in the passing game.
Quan Bray gave up one of the key plays in the game when he fumbled a punt, turning the football over to LSU near midfield late in the game.
That mistake was the turning point in a very tight game. Bray did make a few plays offensively, but he made a lot of key mistakes. Bray performed well as a blocker and made a key reception in the final drive of the game, but it wasn’t enough to overshadow his miscues.
Two catches for 10 yards; five yards per catch; long of seven
Greg Robinson made some key blocks and did well against the LSU rush ends. He did allow some pressure at times and was flagged for a penalty at a key point in the game.
Robinson had a good game against a tough defense, but key mistakes led to some breakdowns along the offensive line on the left side.
John Sullen had a good game against the LSU Tigers, but he also gave up a few plays that he shouldn’t have.
The Tigers have had a lot of success with this line, so far, this season, but Sullen has had some very inconsistent play.
There wasn’t a lot of extra pressure given up through the middle, but Auburn gave up a safety running to the left side. Auburn struggled all night to run to the left side of the offensive line.
Reese Dismukes made some mistakes against Louisiana-Monroe last week. This week, Dismukes continued to struggle for the Tigers in the center.
Auburn had a strong showing against the LSU defensive line, but Dismukes did not attribute much to the effort. For the second week in a row, Dismukes struggled to hold blocks and spent a lot of time on the ground.
Chad Slade has become one of the better linemen whom the Tigers have. Slade has turned up the game in the past few weeks.
Auburn didn’t run the ball inside as often as they should have, but when they did, they ran off the back of Slade and the right side of the line.
In a surprising move, the Tigers changed right tackles for the LSU game. Avery Young had been the starter for the first three games. This past week, Patrick Miller got the start on the right side for Auburn.
Miller showed a lot of tenacity in the game, getting to the second level often to make more room for the Tigers in the running game. Miller showed a lot of promise for his first start as a freshman.
Corey Lemonier had a great game from the outside for the Tigers, building on a great season, so far, for Auburn.
There were a few plays that Lemonier missed in the run game. Overall, the disruption that came to Zach Mettenberger from the rush that Lemonier and Dee Ford brought was key in the Tigers' defensive success.
Three total tackles, three solo; two sacks
Dee Ford had one of the best games of the season with a strong performance alongside Corey Lemonier on Saturday night.
The LSU offense struggled to keep the two talented ends out of the backfield. Ford also made a lot of plays against the Bayou Bengals running game. Ford has showed that he is among the SEC elite at the defensive end position.
Six total tackles, two solo
Angelo Blackson had his strongest performance of his young career with a big performance against LSU this weekend. Blackson grabbed a fumble for the Tigers, one of the crucial turning points in the game that gave Auburn an edge against LSU.
Blackson also filled gaps against the run very well for Auburn. LSU was not nearly as effective as it had been in the previous three games on the ground. Blackson had a lot to do with that lack of success.
Two total tackles, two assisted; one fumble recovery
Jeffrey Whitaker has been struggling this season to find his groove against opposing offenses in the middle of the line, but against LSU, the light turned on.
Whitaker played a very good game against the Bayou Bengals, making plays in the backfield and stopping the LSU rushing attack by filling gaps for the Auburn defense.
There was consistent pocket collapse forced by the Auburn interior defensive line, forcing errant throws from Zach Mettenberger. Whitaker was a key to that penetration for Auburn.
Four total tackles, two solo
Jonathan Evans played a decent game for Auburn from the outside, but he gave up the biggest play of the game in the fourth quarter.
Evans squared up with Spencer Ware after Mettenberger tossed a dump pass to the running back. Evans missed the tackle, allowing LSU to gain a first down and kill more crucial time late in the game.
Outside of that big whiff, Evans was consistent but not flashy. Evans had the worst day for any linebacker for the Tigers, and it was a better performance than the Tigers have given all season.
Three total tackles, two solo
Jake Holland had the strongest game of his three-year career this weekend against LSU. The middle linebacker hit his assignment consistently and made some big strikes on the LSU ball-carriers.
After struggling mightily in the first few weeks of the season, Holland seems to have found his way to consistency. There were no major missed tackles from Holland which was a change for the better.
The defense never appeared out of place, another testament to Holland and his leadership from middle linebacker.
10 total tackles, two solo
Daren Bates continued putting on his tackling clinic this past Saturday for the Auburn Tigers. Even if Bates did not make the tackle, he was in on nearly every defensive play.
Bates was flying to the football and making LSU ball-carriers know when he arrived with strong hits. Bates also played well in what little pass coverage he had to perform.
The Tigers were looking for a passionate leader for the defense and the team as a whole. Bates has taken on a large part of that leadership, and it continues to show for the Tigers.
Nine total tackles, four solo; two tackles for loss
Jermaine Whitehead continues to grow into the safety position with this being his fourth start of his career at the position. Whitehead showed a lot of growth on Saturday, making big hits and a major pass breakup for the Tigers.
Whitehead has had some mistakes in the first three games, but he played a near flawless game against LSU. Whitehead was a leader from the secondary and gave Auburn his best game this season.
Four total tackles, three solo; one pass defended
Demetruce McNeal finished Saturday’s game as the Tigers' leading tackler. He played well overall, despite giving up a big play in the passing game. He recovered after a misstep quickly and made the tackle before the play turned into a major gain.
McNeal has come into his own this season. This was a major test for McNeal as a run-stopper, and he stood up to the challenge. It was a very good game overall for McNeal.
11 total tackles, four solo; two tackles for loss
Jonathon Mincy earned his first start of the season against LSU and performed very well in the game. The Tigers have been looking for consistency in the secondary, and it is finally coming into the picture.
Mincy has been a major part of the Tigers' consistency against the pass. Mincy played a lot of man coverage in the game and was able to hold the Bayou Bengals receivers at bay.
Five total tackles, four solo; one pass defended
Chris Davis continued on with his strong season against LSU this past Saturday. He played well against the run and pass, consistently finding his way to the football when the ball was on his side of the field.
Davis has been one of the most consistent bright spots for the Tigers defense all year. Davis played very well in man coverage, staying tight to his man all night, keeping the LSU offense from finding big plays in the passing game.
Six total tackles, three solo; one pass defended
Cody Parkey continued to have a great season, hitting a crucial field goal to give the Tigers the lead late in the first half. Parkey hit his only extra point. Parkey is perfect on field goals and extra points for the year.
1-of-1 field goal, 1-of-1 extra points
Steven Clark was on the field a ton against LSU, but the usually reliable punter had a few kicks that went awry. None of his punts were returnable, but LSU did receive a few favorable starts on offense because of bad punts.
Seven punts, 41-yard avg.; two downed inside the 20