Auburn Football: 10 Things We Learned from the Tigers' Loss vs. Arkansas
By Week 6, a team is who they are. There will not be much change in what they do or how they play. This is the case for the 2012 version of the Auburn Tigers.
The Auburn football team lost to Arkansas 24-7 at home on Saturday, and it looked even worse than the score indicates.
This team unlocked the elusive achievement of becoming worse during its bye week.
Win or lose, there are always lessons to be learned. Let's find out what we learned in Auburn's Week 6 loss to Arkansas.
The 2012 Season Is Officially Lost
Pride is all that is left to play for this year. You can shut the doors on the 2012 season. This Auburn team is not going to a bowl game, and it is not going to upset any of its rivals.
October was supposed to be the month that Auburn regrouped after a rough start and began to show some real improvement. Going 3-1 or 4-0 in October would propel Auburn to a berth in a bowl game.
Not to be the bearer of bad news, but that isn't happening.
Scot Loeffler Is Not the Right Person to Lead the Offense
It was bad to begin with. Gene Chizik took ages to name an offensive coordinator after Gus Malzahn left after the 2011 season.
Most of Chizik's hires have graded out to be "good" or "very good." Those terms do not apply to offensive coordinator Scot Loeffler.
He is not the right person for the offensive coordinator job. His offense is statistically worse than Tony Franklin's 2008 Auburn offense through six weeks.
After Week 6 in 2008, Auburn was 4-2. In rushing offense, passing offense, scoring offense and total offense, Auburn was ranked 60, 103, 103 and 104, respectively.
We don't know national rankings for Week 6 in 2012, but Auburn was ranked 75, 114, 114 and 113 in those same categories. It's a safe assumption that Auburn will drop in those rankings after this week.
Against the worst defense in the conference, Auburn had only 40 yards rushing. It had 320 total yards of offense.
Last week, Arkansas gave up 716 yards of offense to Texas A&M. The week before that, Arkansas gave up 525 yards of offense to Rutgers.
Yes, this is a transition from the spread to a pro style. That is not an excuse for as bad of a performance as we saw on Saturday.
The worst part about the offensive performance this season is that the offense has gotten worse over the course of the year. By Week 6, improvement is expected. It hasn't happened, and that is a direct reflection on Loeffler's coaching. A tweet by the Columbus Ledger-Enquirer's Aaron Brenner sums it up.
Gene Chizik: "You can start with turnovers and sacks. Don't have to go any further than that. The offense has regressed."— Aaron Brenner (@wareagleextra) October 6, 2012
It's time for a change in coordinator. Offensive line coach Jeff Grimes should call the plays for the remainder of the year.
Kiehl Frazier Should Remain the Starter
We've now seen the first-, second- and third-string quarterback for Auburn.
We learned that the problem with the offense isn't the quarterback. Offensive play was bad if it were Clint Moseley or Kiehl Frazier.
Having said that, Frazier needs to remain the starter. No one is questioning his talent. The last thing that anyone wants to do is to have Frazier looking over his shoulder all season. His mentality and confidence could very well be damaged for the rest of the season—or longer.
Frazier was having his best game of the year through the air before being pulled in lieu of Moseley. He went 9-of-14 and 118 yards.
The Auburn Defense Continues to Improve
For the second week in a row, Auburn's defense got off to a shaky start. For the second week in a row, Auburn's defense made in-game adjustments and played formidably for most of the game.
Arkansas is averaging 417 yards of offense a game. It only had 372 yards of offense on Saturday. Through the air, Arkansas is averaging 310 yards a game. It only had 242 yards passing against Auburn.
Maybe it's due to three years of watching a Ted Roof defense, but this defense is coming together. It hasn't put a complete game together yet, but it's getting closer.
Arkansas moved the ball fairly easily on Auburn to begin the game. As the game wore on, Auburn began to get consistent pressure on QB Tyler Wilson.
The Auburn offense did not do its defense any favors. Multiple turnovers gave the Razorbacks the ball in Auburn territory.
Compared to games against Arkansas the last couple of years, Auburn will take giving up 24 points to the Hogs every time.
Turnovers Continue to Be a Problem
Coming into the game, Auburn was ranked 117th in the nation in turnover margin. It will plunge deeper in those rankings after their performance against Arkansas.
Auburn had five turnovers (three interceptions and two fumbles) against the Razorbacks on Saturday.
Kiehl Frazier threw one interception in the first half, and Clint Moseley threw two in the second half.
Mike Blakely returned to the field for the first time since his fumble against ULM against Arkansas, and we learned why he didn't see the field against LSU. Early in the fourth quarter, Auburn could have gotten to within a field goal when Blakely fumbled. It'll be surprising to see him on the field any more this fall.
Emory Blake also fumbled earlier in the game after a big stop by the Auburn defense. Arkansas took over at Auburn's 29-yard line and kicked a field goal to go up by 10 points.
Auburn's offense is bad when it plays without turning the ball over. Fumbles and interceptions compound that bad play and make it even more frustrating to watch for Auburn fans.
The Offensive Line Is Inconsistent
With three freshmen, some things can be expected. Inconsistency is one of those things, and that's what we've seen with the Auburn offensive line.
Arkansas had eight sacks on Saturday. It was averaging just under two sacks a game coming into the game against Auburn.
Some of that blame can go to the quarterback, who waited way too long to make a decision on many occasions.
Auburn was only averaging just over two sacks a game this season prior to Saturday. LSU, with a much better defensive line, only had four sacks in Week 4.
Practice Isn't Transitioning to the Field
Gene Chizik and the Auburn Tigers had a bye week in Week 5. That is usually a good time for teams to get back to fundamentals and improve. Chizik expected Auburn to come out and show a lot of improvement in the game vs. Arkansas.
"Our one goal and intent in the off week was to improve, I feel like we’ve done that." Chizik said. “I feel like we’ll continue to do that this week, but we’ve got to go out and show it Saturday."(via Charles Goldberg, AL.com)
Either Chizik is blind, or the way the Tigers practice isn't transitioning to the playing field. The latter is more likely.
The last time I looked, teams that just practice good do not win championships (or even compete with bad teams, apparently).
Secondary Will Get Picked on
There were some bright spots in the Auburn secondary on Saturday. It is always an accomplishment when you can hold Cobi Hamilton to only 72 yards receiving.
There were also some low spots. A good play-caller and a senior QB went after freshman Joshua Holsey on a double-reverse pass early in the fourth quarter.
Holsey's eyes went to the reverse and away from his receiver. By pausing just a couple of seconds, Holsey allowed Arkansas' Herndon to get behind him and catch a touchdown pass from Brandon Mitchell.
This secondary has a bright future, but because of their youth and inexperience, they will get picked on.
Receivers Responded to Chizik's Challenge
Last week, Gene Chizik challenged his wide receivers.
“They’ve got to grow up, they’ve got to step up, they’ve got to play better. It’s that simple,” Chizik fired off. “If the ball hits them in the hands, they’ve got to catch the ball. We haven’t done that every time. We ask the route to be at 15 yards, it needs to be at 15 and not 12. We haven’t done that all the time.” (via Joel Erickson, Columbus Ledger-Enquirer)
Chizik probably still wants more production from his wide receivers than he got on Saturday, but Auburn took a step in the right direction.
Ten players caught a pass for Auburn on Saturday. That's a long way from only having two or three receivers catch the ball.
Only one drop sticks out, and that was by a running back. Onterio McCalebb took his eyes off the ball and dropped a pass where he had plenty of room to run in the second half.
Emory Blake once again led the way for Auburn's receivers. He recorded 10 catches for 118 yards. Travante Stallworth and Trovon Reed had two receptions.
Gene Chizik's Seat Is Hotter Than We Thought
I, and others, have taken a pretty strong stance on Gene Chizik, so far, this year. We've said all along that things have to become completely unglued in the 2012 season for Chizik to not be the Auburn head coach in 2013.
Apparently, the glue is closer to Elmer's glue than it is Gorilla Glue.
From this view, if Auburn comes out and performs the way it did against Arkansas, there will be change at the top of the Auburn football program.
We're beyond the fact that Chizik has made the 2013 season a season that will require nine wins or more.
Sure, Chizik has a great recruiting class coming in for the third straight year, but what does that matter when the other two recruiting classes have not shown any signs of becoming 5-star caliber players in college, like they were in high school.
Chizik gets credit for holding the 2010 team together, despite the swirling rumors and NCAA investigation and bringing a championship to the Plains for the first time since 2010.
With every eight-win or less season that Chizik has going forward, the argument that Auburn fans have learned to hate (the one that says Chizik is only 17-14 at Auburn without Cam Newton) begins to make more and more sense.
A poor performance by Auburn on the road against Ole Miss and Vanderbilt may force Auburn AD Jay Jacobs to make an uncomfortable decision.