Auburn offense goes down hard against top ranked LSU defense
Before Auburn and LSU lined up to play on Saturday, LSU coach Les Miles knew that Auburn's offense was struggling. Miles knew a replacement quarterback would be starting and he also knew that Auburn would probably play without its two top receivers. Did he take advantage? Big time!
At game's end, the scoreboard told the story: LSU 45, Auburn 10. Auburn was taken to the woodshed by LSU and only the Bengal Bayou Tigers walked away without injury, insult or loss.
Auburn, on the other hand, suffered its worst loss by margin of points under third year head coach Gene Chizik. Prior to the game in Death Valley, Louisiana, Chizik's worse loss came only a few games ago against Clemson in Death Valley, South Carolina. No more Death Valleys, please.
Auburn came into Baton Rouge with an improved defense and an excellent special teams unit. They also came to Baton Rouge with a struggling offense and those recent struggles caused Auburn coaches to replace their starting quarterback on the road.
Prior to the game, Gene Chizik said Moseley would start because he provided a spark to the Auburn offense last week against Florida. That spark was evident early in the first quarter when Moseley completed five of his first six passes to set up a Cody Parkey field goal. Thereafter, the Clint Moseley spark fizzled.
Clint Moseley's first career start at Auburn did not go as he most likely planned. LSU defensive coordinator John Chavis launched his version of blitzkrieg on the Auburn Tiger offense. Before the night was through, LSU's defense racked up six sacks and four hurries on Moseley. The constant pressure was simply too much for the inexperienced Auburn offense to handle.
Is Auburn quarterback Clint Moseley to blame for the loss? By no means.
Les Miles and his coaching staff took full advantage of Auburn's young and inexperienced offensive line. Consequentially, Moseley was not able to look down field for more than a half of second before the new, all white uniforms of LSU were in his face. In an attempt to elude the LSU blitzkrieg, Moseley carried the ball a total of nine times. His result: a negative 44 yards. The replacement quarterback ended the game 12-for-20 for 145 yards with no touchdowns and one interception that was returned for a touchdown.
Much of the pregame chatter revolved around the three LSU players suspended earlier in the week after testing positive for synthetic marijuana. Starting LSU ball carrier Spencer Ware and starting cornerback Tyrann Mathieu were two of those players and they were not missed. After all, it was Mathieu's replacement, Ron Brooks, who intercepted Clint Moseley's pass and returned it for a touchdown.
Most people surely did not expect Auburn to upset LSU on Saturday. On the other hand, those same people did expect a much better showing from the Auburn Tigers. After the game, Chizik commented that his team had played an unacceptable game and that Auburn fans deserved better. Clint Moseley also put in his two cents worth, labeling the loss as embarrassing.
Embarrassing is certainly the right word for Auburn's performance against LSU. Auburn could muster only 10 points all game and the loss to LSU marked the fourth straight game in which the offense has failed to score more than 17 points. Simply put, the struggling Auburn offense is now at the height of its affray.
Auburn running back Michael Dyer was practically a non factor, but it was no surprise to me. Auburn went to Baton Rouge with very few weapons on offense and the LSU defense capitalized. Dyer rushed only 12 times for 60 yards, gaining 29 of them on one run.
On the other side of the ball, the Auburn defense, at times, played rather well. Many will not see it that way, being that LSU scored 45 points. At other times, Auburn's defense practically handed LSU several scores by way of poor pass coverage and penalties. At least three times, Auburn's defense appeared to have LSU stopped on third down. Costly penalties such as face masking and jumping offsides kept the ball in the hands of the LSU Tigers. Poor pass coverage by Auburn allowed two touchdowns at a critical point in the second quarter, resulting in a 21 - 3 deficit at the half.
Overall, nothing went right for Gene Chizik's Auburn Tigers, including special teams play. Auburn's usually strong punt team struggled for the first time all year, as did the punt and kick off coverage teams. Before the whipping at the hands of LSU, Auburn's return specialists had failed to turn the ball over but that statistic changed on Saturday when Tre Mason fumbled a return after being struck by an LSU wrecking ball.
LSU had never beaten Auburn by 35 points. They have now. To add insult to injury, former head coach Tommy Tuberville took his second year Texas Tech Raiders on the road for an upset of No. 3 Oklahoma. It appears Tuberville has not lost his moxie for upsetting highly ranked teams on the road.
No worries. Gene Chizik accomplished more in his second season at Auburn by upsetting several highly ranked teams on the way to a National Championship.
Did Auburn lose because it started a new quarterback, or were the numerous mistakes and penalties to blame? I believe it was neither.
Auburn lost because LSU is the better team. Auburn lost most of its 2010 personnel whereas, LSU did not. Nearly all of the LSU players who lost to Auburn on the Plains last season were present and accounted for on Saturday. Surely, they wanted revenge and surely, they got it.
The hangover must go away for the Auburn players quickly. October is yet to be completed with Ole Miss waiting in the wings. The Rebels came close to shocking Arkansas on Saturday by playing their best football under Houston Nutt thus far into the 2011season.
Can Auburn figure out a way to put the ball in the end zone? Can the defense bounce back after giving up so many points? And, what about the special teams? Will they return to being special or will they go the route of the Auburn offense and falter more and more each week?
Gene Chizik and his coaching staff must enter this week of practice with the resolve to get Auburn back on track. The players must go all in—no pun intended—with the mind set to improve on their overall season record of five wins and three losses.
Who will show up? Will it be the Auburn team that stunned South Carolina? What about the Auburn team that played stingy defense against Florida?
Hopefully, we've seen the last of the Auburn team that played so miserably at Arkansas and again on Saturday at LSU. Hopefully, Auburn coaches can perform open playbook surgery on this young and fragile team. Hopefully!