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Auburn Falls in Atlanta.

By on September 2nd, 2012 in Uncategorized 15 Comments »

Tre Mason darts through traffic.

     War Eagle, everybody. It’s time now for the Acid Reign report, on Auburn’s 26-19 loss to the defending ACC champion Clemson Tigers. The teams met in Atlanta Saturday night, and the result was similar to the last two contests between the teams. Clemson ran at will, overpowering the Auburn defensive front. Generally speaking, when Clemson was stopped, they typically did it to themselves with mistakes. While Auburn showed promise in a lot of areas, seeing the defensive line pushed around by a Clemson offensive line with 4 new starters was a bitter pill to swallow. Clemson rang up 320 rushing yards, many of them after contact, as Auburn’s defenders failed to wrap up on numerous occasions.

     While Auburn’s line was pushed around on running plays, they did generate a better pass rush than at any time last season. If Clemson’s Tadj Boyd didn’t get rid of the ball quickly, he was knocked around and forced into mistakes. Unfortunately for Auburn, the secondary played exactly like one would expect a unit with three of its members making their first start. Boyd was able many times to take the snap, take a short drop and fire to wide open wide receiver DeAndre Hopkins or tight end Brandon Ford. And then Auburn would be chasing a guy down in the open field once again.

     Having receivers get open for short completions is nothing new to Auburn fans. We’ve seen plenty of that the past few seasons. And last year, seeing defensive tackles getting pushed aside or knocked back was common. This year, after a year of workouts, that wasn’t supposed to happen. And yet, facing a line full of new starters, guys were getting pushed around once again. What was most disappointing of all were many, many missed tackles.

     Except for one short punt, Auburn’s special teams couldn’t have played much better. Punts were un-returnable, Cody Parkey kicked mostly touchbacks, and the two that were returned were snuffed well short of the 25 yard line. Parkey made all 4 of his field goal attempts, including a career long 46 yarder.

     If the defensive line was a disappointment, the offensive line was surprisingly decent. With 3 new starters, there were some mistakes made, but this unit protected well, and opened up running lanes, even against 7 or 8 guys in the box. With Clemson camped out on the line, Auburn needed to find open receivers down the field. That did happen a couple of times, but way more often the ball was sailed high, or short-hopped to the receiver. Auburn’s Khiel Frazier made his first career start, and I think he’d like to have some of those throws back. If there’s a silver lining, it’s that Frazier didn’t try to force too many into coverage. He managed the game decently, and that’s something that can built upon. If a guy can make good reads, his footwork can be corrected.

Unit grades after the jump.

Unit Grades

Defensive Line: C-. When tackles were made on the line in the middle, it was because Corey Lemonier or Dee Ford pinched down to the middle and made the play. While Ford and Lemonier made some plays doing that, they also opened up glaring contain problems, flashing inside, while Clemson was running an off-tackle play, or sweep. Starting tackles Jeffery Whitaker and Angelo Blackson combined for just one tackle and one assist. Whitaker’s name doesn’t even appear on the tackles list.

Linebackers: D. Defensive coordinator Brian vanGorder’s defense was designed for the line to create trouble in the backfield, and free up linebackers to make plays. Auburn’s crew of two seniors and one junior were freed up, to get mowed down by H-backs and tight ends, or to dive and miss, or to make lunging grabs. Most of this crew’s 28 tackles were assists, chasing runners down after they’d made a big gain. Of those 28 tackles, only 7 were unassisted. That pretty much tells the tale, as does Clemson’s 320 rushing yards. I give a passing grade here only because of Darren Bates’ heads-up interception that set up a go-ahead field goal.

Secondary: C. If the mission of this group was to prevent the deep ball, the day was a rousing success. Clemson did not complete a pass over 25 yards, and that one was a catch and run. On making tackles on the sideline, this unit had lots of trouble. It also looked like the two new safety starters were a step slow on recognition, and flowing to the ball. They had to make a ton of tackles, but it was often after the damage was done. This unit contributed 47 tackles to the cause, which is way, way too many in the secondary.

Punting: A-. Once again, Steven Clark hit some towering shots that were likely close to hitting the Georgia Dome ceiling. Two of his three punts were killed inside the 20. Points off on one kick that only went 30 yards, and pulled the average down to 39.3.

Punt Returns: B. Clemson only punted 3 times, and twice there was no way Bray could get to it. On his one return, he got away from the initial contain, but the blocking did not set up for a big return. This is the first year in many years that we’ve had the luxury of a proven return man going into the season, and not worrying about a rookie, or a guy with a history of fumbles. Bray’s gonna make some plays this year, if the defense can make some stops.

Kick Returns: C. Most of Clemson’s kicks went to the end zone, but there was one kick to the goal line, which Quan Bray returned to the 21. Blocking was poor on that one, and Bray made half that making tacklers miss.

Place-kicking: A+: Cody Parkey pretty much was successful in everything asked of him, hitting 4 field goals, and either generating touchbacks or a couple of short returns on kickoffs.

Offensive Line: C+. I expected to be issuing either a D or an F here, but this unit surprised me. Sure, there were plenty of mistakes, such as probably a half-dozen off-target deep snaps. Left tackle Greg Robinson hit the trifecta with two false starts and a holding penalty. For the most part, though, this unit blocked the front four, and opened running lanes. I was particularly pleased with true freshman right tackle Avery Young. That guy is going to be a monster sooner rather than later! I saw one time that Young got beat with a swim move to the inside, but most of the time Young handled the dangerous Clemson ends. Penalties aside, Greg Robinson was a driving force on running plays, and protected pretty well. I also have to salute Tunde Fariyike for a good job with line calls. Generally speaking, the line knew who to block on any particular play.

Running Backs: B+. Letter grade off for Tre Mason’s early fumble, but this unit was pretty solid. Jay Prosch didn’t touch the ball, but he was a force in the running game. The only real fault that I can find with the running backs is that we didn’t give them the ball enough. I think we might could have really worn on the Clemson’s thin front seven, had we not insisted on throwing repeatedly on first down.

Receivers: B. Working against a veteran Clemson secondary, it took a while for the veteran guys to get free, and by that time Frazier was scrambling. I thought that outside of Emory Blake, downfield blocking could have been better. Points off on Trovon Reed for running a route beyond the back of the end zone. That can’t happen. If you run out of bounds, you’re out of the play.

Quarterback: C. On a night with a lot of missed throws, I have to give Frazier credit for managing the game, and not turning the ball over. (The one pick was a desperation play with little time left in the half, and turned out better than a punt would have.) He certainly could have done far worse in his first start against a blitzing Clemson defense, and a very green offensive line. What I’m sure will be stressed this week in practice were fundamental breakdowns. Frazier looked so good on A-Day, setting his feet, following through, etc. In this game, often he was throwing off his back foot, backing away from the throw, or not stepping up when the pocket was still intact. Auburn had guys on the shallows wide open just past the line of scrimmage, and Frazier seldom got the ball to them. Had he done so, it would have greatly cut down on those 8-man blitzes Clemson was sending.

     From an offensive standpoint, this game was frustrating to watch. The team was blowing up big holes, and running wild, then suddenly we were in the shotgun on first down, and overthrowing an open receiver. We’d go from mashing Clemson, to 2nd and 10, or 2nd and 15 with a penalty. So many promising drives melted down on a first down penalty or bad throw. As much as I hate to say it, this was very reminiscent of Tony Franklin play-calling. The crowning Franklinism was the 3rd and 12 short-side screen to McCalebb. It was the most useless playcall of the day.

     I’ll always wonder if this game could have turned out differently with about 20 carries each from Mason and McCalebb, and another 15 by Frazier on the designed keeper. It would have certainly helped the defense out!

     Somehow, some way, Auburn must get better tackling. They’ll face even faster runners next week in Starkville, and a more experienced offensive line. LSU’s monster line and runners come to town in 3 weeks. Against modern multiple offenses, the good defenses have to have speed, and make tackles in space. I think Auburn showed the speed against Clemson, but the tackling must get better. Let’s hope Auburn improves drastically in week two.

     For those who tried to tune in to our open thread and play by play, I apologize. That thing was a mess, and I know many folks were not seeing the comments at all. We’re still working the kinks out, unfortunately. We’ll make an announcement on any changes, hopefully later this week.

     There’s nothing for Auburn to do but keep working and try to get better. I’ve got a feeling that this may be a pretty rough September, but I think by November, this will be one of those nasty teams no one wants to play! War Eagle, folks! It’s great to be an Auburn Tiger!



  1. Tigertracker . says:

    Oh what could have been. For as frustrated as we all are we were very much in this game until the end. We did that with many players making their first career start. I thought all things considered the O-line did a good job of giving frazier time to complete passes. He just didn’t seem sure of himself at times, but that bomb to blake with a clemson player at his ankles was a thing of beauty. My one issue with them was that when the pocket broke down and frazier was looking to scramble those guys were just standing and watching him instead of knocking someone on their a$$. Fundamentals is key like you said acid, from throwing to tackling that is where we need to improve. I was ok with playcalling for the most part, but wish we would have targeted lutz alot more. My hope with CSL was that he would run the patriots type offense which featured two athletic tight ends that create killer mismatches and we just didn’t do it. Lutz was on point almost all night when he got the ball. He just didn’t see it enough. I haven’t looked at a replay yet and maybe he was doubled all night, but he looked to be running wide open from where I was sitting most of the night. Frazier seemed to be on target on the curl routes, but struggling with the corner routes overthrowing pretty much every one of them. CSL will look at this film and probably call more plays that are in fraziers comfort zone next week. That’s where this sunday morning coach would start anyway! I was pleased with the effort and didn’t see anyone giving up out there. Boyd played like a seasoned vet. We got a dose of our 2010 medicine with him slipping sure sacks and gaining positive yards much of the night as well as ellington’s own version of the no whistle missle mike dyer (I think that was the right call, but couldn’t we get a review?? Heck clemson got 2 reviews on one fumble!) So let’s get behind the guys and see how much improvement we can get from week 1 to week 2. War Eagle!

    PS- For the love of claude I thought our DBs would finally get their heads around this year!!! Correct me if I’m wrong, but if they see the WR eyes bulging and turn to find the ball they can run up one side and down the other of the receiver as long they are pursuing the ball…AMIRIGHT???

    • Acid Reign says:

      …..I didn’t even get into the officiating. There were some bad no-calls, particularly holding on Lemonier and Ford. We could have been flagged a few times, too. We got tackled out of bounds a few times with no call, too.

      …..DBs looked very tenative. You have to remember Whitehead and Ryan Smith were making their first starts, as was Ryan White. Clemson really picked on White.

  2. Carrollton Tiger says:

    It was strange – I expected the BVG defense to be stronger than expected, and the O-line to be weaker. It was the opposite. Not impressed with BVG’s debut – our boys are missing tackles. And don’t forget, Clemson stopped themselves with a bunch of dropped passes. They make those catches, and the game would have gotten out of hand early.

    Frazier looks like he holds on to the ball too long. I couldn’t tell what was going on with the receivers, whether they were covered or what, but Frazier had a lot of time back there a lot of times!

    As bad as the defense looked, we still held them to a close game. Tajh Boyd looked very poised and scrambled like a boss.

    Let’s beat the (Miss) Bulldogs!! War Eagle!

  3. AubTigerman says:

    Clemson clearly looked like the better team. Yet we still had a chance to win this one. While I was pleased with the effort, there were too many killer mistakes. Reed’s lack of concentration in the back of the end zone being the most frustrating. We gotta get better quick with MSU and LSU coming up.
    Good write up Acid – Beat the maroon bulldogs!

  4. augaub says:

    all in all i think by the end of the year this team is going to be really good.

    keihl frazier looked good at other times but made fixable mistakes at others. his completion percentage doesnt look good, but it wasnt because of bad reads he was just high on some throws..if you would have told me he would have almost 200 yards before the game i would have taken it.

    the running backs looked unstoppable at times(minus the fumble)..but the play calling was iffy when we got close to scoring. we ran mccaleb to many times and mason not enough in those situations..also i would have liked to see blakely a couple more times and prosch was a beast but that goes without saying.

    the O line looked really good at times but also missed some blocks. fariyike did fairly good filling in for dismukes, but some of his snaps were as accurate as im sure he would like. hopefully dismukes comes back this week and if he does the line should be in good shape.

    WR’s looked decent for the most part..blake looked like himself but i didnt see much from anyone else..bray caught a short pass, coates was thrown to twice but neither one was catchable, and reed just forgot where he was and missed and easy TD catch..lutz was great as usual too.

    def looked good to start the game but the no huddle combined with our offense not having a lot of time of position made them wear down..
    DE’s looked really good at points, but over pursued to many times.
    DT’s didnt get much of a push at all, but i did see gabe wright in the backfield a few times.
    LB’s struggled most of the night, bates played the best and got and INT but holland was horrible in my opinion..i think serious thought has to be given to letting someone else play MLB, maybe mckinzy?
    DB’s looked ok at times but played with to much cusion most of the night..i think florence will work his way into a starting stop and im hoping to see thereize get in some more

    i think we will beat miss st. and run the ball a lot more, especially with tre mason in the redzone and i expect frazier to continue to improve. i expect we will see some changes along the d line this week and i think they will play better. DB’s will get better with experience..but the bad news is our LBs wont get much better this year..

  5. myauburn says:

    BVG should devote the entire next week to tackling. We had runners stopped stone dead so many times last night and let them slip through our grasp. I did not see how many of the 300+ yards were after contact but I bet it was 250.
    Even though Ontario is a Senior, right now I think he is the 3rd best running back on our team. I wish they would move him to flanker or wide receiver and let him show his speed. I bet he could run by any cornerback in the SEC. He is just too small to run from scrimmage and trips on too many yard markers. OK, Ok I know I am acting like an armchair coach but when you have a guy with his speed and smallish stature you don’t run him between the tackles. Does anyone have another opinion on this one?
    I am severely bummed out by last nights lost and right now I have a bad feeling about this season and I hope I am proven wrong in the games to come. I am looking sqarely at the coaches to prove me wrong. They have the knowledge, but can they dial up the answers.
    Acid, this may be your best breakdown yet.
    In spite of my bad mood about last night I am still an Auburn Tiger and proud of it!!
    War Eagle

  6. LSU Jonno says:

    I’m glad we catch you guys early. Frazier will probably settle down after a few games. Hopefully you guys can grind one out of State. It’s a shame Frazier has to start his first two games away from home.

    • Acid Reign says:

      …..I think this team will absorb more and more of the philosophy of the new coaches as the year goes on, and become progressively more dangerous.

      …..I meant to ask earlier, is Zach Mettenberger OK? I saw him take a bad hit in a clip Saturday night. Concussion?

      • LSU Jonno says:

        He went to the locker room, got checked out and came back into the game. His first two series after he came back he wasn’t playing well (5 of his 7 incompletions on the night I think). After that he was ok.

        Biggest holes I see for us right now are pass protection and DB depth. North Texas drove on us when we put in our backup LBers and DBs in the 4th quarter.

  7. Steven Webb says:

    The game really boiled down to quarterback play. Boyd 71% completion percentage. Frazier 41% completion percentage. The defense was on the field way too much and still held an explosive Clemson offense to two touchdowns. Frazier will have to improve dramatically if we want to beat someone of note this season.

    • Acid Reign says:

      …..I’m not ready to give up on Frazier just yet. He was working so hard on directing traffic, and going through his reads… I think due to nervousness he basically forgot the mechanical improvements he’s learned in recent months. I think he’ll get that fixed. I’d much rather see that, than a guy who’s out there with no clue, throwing it up for grabs.

  8. Pepper Owens says:

    The game plan seemed not solid to me, at least after the first series of downs. It looked like we posted our DEs to contain boyd and not let him out. and it seemed to work early, then after he completed a few passes, we ditched that plan and the ends really started going after him. once that happend he was seemingly easily able to roll out and run or throw. on offense, why did we not give frazier some short little 5 yard passes to start out to get his rhythm going and build his confidence? Auburn has never seemed to figure out that those short little routes are hard to defend and open up the deep ball and the run. instead we start out with 15 yard throws after we run up the middle twice. I agree with most of you guys about the running game. at one point it really looked like we were wearing them down, only to ditch it and start throughing the ball. Proch was leveling folks on the drive mason funbled….that was fun to watch up until that point. I think we were worse that we looked and so was clem. I hope i can wrong….probably am, but the good news is that the first game. I hope there is marked improvement for msu this week. it would be really tough to go down there and drop a second in a row….to them no less.

  9. Tiger on the Mountain says:

    I saw more that made me happy than didn’t.

    Frazier is drastically improved over last year. He still needs to get better and really embrace his leadership position.

    The defense played with more fire. Would have loved to have seen more tackles, but felt that we got some pressure on a really good qb.

    Really expected to see more running plays. Hopefully, that can be more balanced in the weeks to come.

    A couple of plays go our way and the game was ours. Hopefully, the team feels it and wont let another one slip…

    War Eagle!

  10. Derrick Roberts says:

    The single biggest factor that made this loss such a hard pill to swallow was the fact that it came at the hands of Clemson. I think you’d hear a lot more positive reactions if Auburn had lost to a 14th ranked Michigan or Texas team (or any other team). Two losses to Clemson in a row stings in a unique way.

    Overall I am proud of what our team was able to accomplish on the field against an experienced Clemson unit. Giving up only two touchdowns was huge in my opinion. Also, I know Clemson had some dropped passes but so what. Auburn had missed opportunities as well. It is part of the game. You could go back on every football ever played and pull points out of thin air on missed opportunities.

    I feel like the WR’s played much better but just weren’t able to fully get their teeth in the game in part because of personal mistakes and Frazier struggling to get his legs under him. I saw a lot less panic in our QB than many suspected. He’s only a sophomore and we’re going to enjoy watching him grow into a man I think.

    There are still some things that concern me about this team, but its too early to pass judgement on those things after only one game.

    If Tre Mason hadn’t fumbled and Trovon Reed had known where he was on that pass play in the endzone I am fully confident that AU would’ve gutted out a victory, but those are the little things the great teams always do. Great learning moments for this young team.

    Dear Coach Scot Loeffler, POUND THAT ROCK! You’ve got the personnel and the horses in the stable to do it. Run the ball down their throats until their d-line is drowning and reaching for straws and then bring their world crashing down with the play-action. We did this so well at times Saturday and then many other times it appeared the only person in the building CSL was out-smarting was himself.

    The coaches should build on that defensive success for the MSU game this week. MSU is going to be in full blood-in-the-water mode. Every year they’re licking their chops at the chance to kick Auburn while they’re down. We’ve got to be the better team in Starkville this week because once again the Cousin Eddies (wink wink) are going to be primed to make their annual National Championship run straight through the Auburn Tigers.

    War Eagle! Beat Mississippi State!

  11. Todd92 says:

    The game was a good one minus the outcome and I like many on here saw enough to think better things are ahead. He biggest positive on defense has to be the fact that we were set before the ball was snapped…..Holland gets credit for this he was able to recognize the sets and call the defense in plenty of time which was a huge improvement over last year. The biggest disappointment has to be the defensive tackles, I have to admit that this was a shock, with the experience, talent, and depth we have here I can’t believe not a single one of the were able to win the battle on the line. I know many of you are saying missed tackles are the most glaring deficiency but if the DT position is disrupting the line and closing holes then the linebackers aren’t trying to tackle Ellington with a full head of steam and the DEs aren’t the only ones disrupting the backfield and are able to try and contain Boyd rather than chase him down and ending up over pursuing and sidestepped.

    On offense my biggest concern is not what I thought it would be either. I thought today I would be lamenting our OL not giving Frazier enough time….I was wrong I thought all in all our OL was very strong on both the run and pass. Frazier did look good at times and at others looked like a true sophomore making his first start. About what I expected. His biggest problem was holding onto the ball to long and not throwing it away…..and a few times he didnt get his feet planted before making the intermediate throw and between trying to rifle the ball in and throwing off his back foot ended up zipping the ball ten feet over the receivers head. But as I said this was to be expected and can easily be fixed as Frazier gets more confident and coached up. My biggest concern from Saturday was play calling… I think Loeffler will learn to keep doin what is working until it doesn’t anymore. Prosch was clearing the way on either side of the left tackle at will and rather than riding that until Clemson found an answer or we pounded it in the end zone Loeffler would get cute and try to either pass or run away from our strong side. But like I said I think Loeffler showed us flashes of his ability and I think we’ll see a much better product this weekend. War Damn Eagle…..beat the Mullen out of the cowbells!