Tigers Collapse Against Arkansas.

By Posted on: October 7th, 2012 in Football 18 Comments »
Arkansas-block

This blocked field goal was one of the few highlights of the day. (Images courtesy of my brother’s i-phone. I know I can always count on my great family! Thanks for bailing me out!)

     War Eagle, everybody. It’s time now for the Acid Reign report, on Auburn’s 24-7 loss to the Arkansas Razorbacks. It’s another gloomy Sunday, picking through the wreckage. While there’s plenty of blame for this stinker to go around for the whole team, the largest share goes to offensive play-calling. I don’t think I’ve ever seen an Auburn coordinator as determined to avoid a team’s strengths as this one. After five games, I think it’s pretty clear that Mr. Loeffler’s not going to change his approach, either. He’s got his prepared script of plays, and he’s going to run them regardless what’s actually happening on the field.

      There has been talk about head coach Gene Chizik meddling with his assistants this year and last. In this case, I think he has no choice. The ship is going down on offense, and it’s time to stop rearranging the deck chairs, and seal off some bulkheads. Needless to say, the play-calling was even poorer in this game than earlier in the season. We have an all-American fullback who transferred to Auburn from Illinois, and he spent at least 80 percent of our offensive snaps on the bench. Despite having three running backs that are all averaging over five yards per carry, Auburn had just 21 handoffs to the running backs in this one. We’ve got an offense struggling to throw the ball, and manage only 21 rushing attempts. In addition, with all of the speed we’ve got in the backfield, only three of those carries were to the wide side of the field, with room to work. Folks, that’s beyond inexplicable.

      The biggest factor in the failure of the passing game was inaccurate throws. Khiel Frazier continues to sail passes that are ten yards or more overthrown. He had a couple of bad balls hauled in anyway, thanks to athletic plays by Emory Blake and others. The coaches switched quarterbacks and brought in Clint Moseley after the half. I felt bad for Moseley, because his first drive started with a false start, then on his 2nd down pass attempt, he had about a half a second in the pocket before he was flattened by defensive end Trey Flowers, who wasn’t even touched by the offensive line. After that big hit, Moseley’s throws were even more inaccurate than Frazier’s, and had little zip.

      Quote of the day from the ESPN-2 announcers came from Beth Mowins, who exclaimed, “It’s Sack City on the Plains!” And yes, it was. Auburn had passing plays called 44 times on the day. Once, Khiel Frazier took off up the gut for a big gain. And then there were eight sacks. The majority of that blame goes to the offensive line, specifically Patrick Miller on the right side. I don’t know what former starter Avery Young did to get benched, but wow do we need him back! Miller plays hard, but he’s very undersized for an SEC tackle, and looks more like a middle linebacker than an offensive lineman. For a complete breakdown on every sack, and what caused them, I refer you to Aaron Brenner’s great piece in the Columbus paper. Yes, the quarterbacks tended to hold the ball too long, and to run backwards under pressure. That contributed also.

      Before the season, I think we would have all been happy about holding Arkansas to 24 points. After the Razorbacks’ disastrous start to the season, it doesn’t look so good. The thing that bothered me the most was that frequently Arkansas was already running their offensive play, while Auburn was still trying to get lined up. The secondary was particularly confused, often leaving receivers out there with no defender. That might have been a factor of starters Chris Davis and T’Sharvan Bell not being in the game after the first quarter. Also, Auburn was still vulnerable to being run over in the linebacker corps. The Tigers were unable to pressure Tyler Wilson much, and opted for a lot of fake blitzes, and just trying to cover everyone. Wilson has a great combination of mobility and a quick release, and he’s difficult to defend. Arkansas wide receivers were pretty well limited, but Auburn had no ability whatsoever to handle tight ends and backs out in the flat. That dump off pass was there all day long.

      Auburn’s usually great special teams had some struggles in this game. Cody Parkey missed his first field goal of the season, though it would have been a career long one. We allowed a couple of punts to hit and roll for big yardage. The worst mistake was when Onterio McCalebb dropped a kickoff in the endzone, fumbling it forward out to the seven yard line. Auburn got it back, but had to start that drive from the seven. Steven Clark’s punting was mostly effective, as he parked three of six inside the Arkansas 20, and allowed zero return yards. Although he let a couple of punts roll, Trovon Reed didn’t do too badly, returning two punts for 25 yards and fair catching one at the ten that would have likely been coffin cornered otherwise. The lick of the day came on special teams, as Joshua Holsey laid a good one on a late punt return. The impact of the hit on an unsuspecting Arkansas gunner completely flipped the man over on his back, and drew a collective “ooooo!” from the sparse remaining crowd.

 

In addition to forgetting my camera, I parroted meteorologist James Spann’s “mostly cloudy” forecast on the open thread. That was a bust, too, as the Auburn faithful baked in the bright sunshine, and I do have the sunburn to prove it!

 Unit Grades, after the jump!

Defensive Line: C-. Against a team struggling to run the ball, Auburn gave up 116 yards rushing, and generated only one sack. Arkansas’ much-maligned tackles did a good job of handling Auburn’s dangerous ends. Corey Lemonier and Dee Ford combined for just three solo tackles and two quarterback hurries. Blackson and Whitaker in the middle had three total tackles, a fumble forced, and a half a tackle for a loss. The Arkansas strategy of quick passes and plays in the flat really took this unit out of the game.

 Linebackers: C-. The linebackers were just OK against the run, but pretty poor in pass coverage. Darren Bates did record the only sack of the game. Justin Garrett played a good many minutes and picked up 4 tackles and a forced fumble. I don’t think the Tigers have realized that the fullback or tight end can legally receive a forward pass. Fullback Austin Tate caught four dump-offs, and no Auburn defender was in the same zip code on any of them.

Secondary: B+. Despite troubles lining up, and missing two starters much of the game, Auburn limited the talented Razorback receiving corps pretty well, for the most part. Cobi Hamilton had seven catches, but only 86 yards on those. Arkansas had only one touchdown pass, and it was on a tricky fake reverse, double pass from backup Brandon Mitchell. True freshman corner Joshua Holsey was burned on the play, having read run, and letting his man get behind him. Holsey was credited with a pass breakup, after he jumped in front of a slant pass and should have had a pick six. Safety Jermaine Whitehead had two knockdowns on throws over the middle. The secondary is still making too many tackles. Arkansas had only 22 completed passes that weren’t touchdowns, but the Auburn secondary came up with 34 tackles.

 Punting: B+. Steven Clark pinned the Razorbacks inside their 20 three times vs. one touchback, but only had a 37.7 yard average. Most of these punts landed closer to the 20 than to the goal line. Clark’s average was particularly hurt on one punt, where he dropped a punt snap that hit him in the chest. Somehow, Clark quickly picked up the ball, and managed to kick the ball right through two defenders who were all over him, for 31 yards. Clark’s best effort of the day was a towering 41 yard rainmaker that Arkansas return man Keante Minor mishandled, giving Auburn the ball back at the Razorback 39. Of course, Auburn quickly overthrew Blake, got a substitution infraction, a bad pass incomplete, and a sack.

Punt Returns: B. Trovon Reed fielded only two of Dylan Breeding’s monster punts on the fly, and picked up a third hopping ball late in the game. Breeding did a great job of getting distance, and playing keep away. Reed wisely fair caught one at the ten, and picked up 25 yards on his two returns. Auburn was just a shade away from blocking two punts, also.

Kick Returns: D. I counted a letter grade off for Onterio McCalebb’s fumble and recovery at the seven yard line on a play that should have resulted in a knee in the end zone. Arkansas kicked two returnable balls, and Auburn managed only 19 yards per return.

 Place-kicking: A-. I can’t count off much for a missed 49-yarder. NFL kickers routinely miss those. Parkey was pretty much rendered a non-factor due to the ineptitude of the offense. He kicked off twice and both of those balls landed in the stands, denying dangerous return man Dennis Johnson a chance.

Offensive Line: F. Tackle Patrick Miller’s struggles are already mentioned above, but he was just one symptom on a line that played without fire and purpose. Arkansas has been pushed around up front by every team they’ve played this year, including Jacksonville State. Auburn pretty much failed to generate any push in the running game, and had pass protection mistakes by several guys. It looks bad when a linebacker fires through the middle untouched, and you have a guard and a center standing around with no one to block. Reese Dismukes was called for an illegal snap, and Greg Robinson had a false start. I’d say that the lone bright spot here was Robinson. Aside from his penalty, he was able to handle his man. But one man does not an offensive line make…

 Running Backs: C+. I counted a letter grade off for Mike Blakely’s lost fumble. It came at a critical time, as Auburn was trying to battle back from a 17-7 deficit early in the 4th quarter. Blitz pickup was pretty poor, too, although I question a scheme that has McCalebb trying to chip a defensive end. That was Loeffler’s solution to our woes on the right side of the line. Sit our All-American fullback down, and have our lightest running back try to block defensive linemen. Our backs actually ran well in this game, when given a chance. Despite being run to the short side of the field or up the middle, the running game actually averaged 4.6 yards per carry in this game, which would have knocked out first downs, if our offensive brain trust had called more runs. After consistently looking like Auburn’s most complete back, HOW does Tre Mason only get six carries?

 Receivers: B-. I counted off a letter grade for Emory Blake’s lost fumble. A senior should not fumble on a curl route. You know you’re going to get hit when you go down eight yards, and turn back to the quarterback. It’s pretty much a given. I also fault some route-running errors for contributing to Auburn’s quarterback woes. I never thought I’d see Phillip Lutzenkircken get out-wrestled for a jump ball, but it happened in this game. In the occasional running game, Lutzenkirchen had his best day of the year as a blocker. There were a lot of wildly thrown balls in this game, and the receivers actually did a pretty good job overall corralling these things. I thought a lot of the less-used receivers did a good job of coming in and getting open.

Quarterback: F. There were so many things done poorly at this position that it’s impossible to include it all in a paragraph. It’s shocking to me that Auburn does not have a quarterback on the roster that can throw a deep ball accurately. You know, if Zeke Pike had not been sent home last summer, he might well be a successful Auburn starter at this point. On the other hand, look who’d be coaching him… Auburn lost 80 yards on 8 sacks, and over half of it was because the quarterback ran backwards when the protection broke down. Quarterbacks must be coached to cut their losses in that situation. One should never take a sack on a first down pass attempt. Throw that ball out of bounds.

      We’ve picked out offensive scheming errors here on TrackEmTigers.com before, and really to go all through it here again is just harping. I’ll add just one thought to my mounting list of criticisms. Why not utilize players to their strengths? I can cite numerous examples of not doing this. It starts with having Onterio McCalebb as a pass blocker. We’ve got an All-American fullback, and two bigger tailbacks. There was a tendency in this game on 3rd and long to pull Sammie Coates, Jaylon Denson and even Emory Blake out of the game, and go with all smaller receivers. Why? The only chance to get a first down is to throw it up downfield, and you need the bigger receivers who can go up and get it! Either that, or to block for the draw play. I’ve certainly mentioned this many times, but why do we try to run the ball with no tight ends or fullbacks in the game? There was a late decision by Clint Moseley to try and throw a post pattern over the middle to tight end Brandon Fulse. Fulse was actually open, but Moseley sailed the ball over his head for an interception. We’ve got possibly the best hands Auburn’s ever had at tight end in Phillip Lutzenkircken, but we have yet to try that play with him. Instead, we try it with the great blocking tight end with a reputation for dropping balls.

      Finally, on Auburn’s last interception, we tried the old Airraid staple, the smash-corner route. There were so many things wrong with the execution of this play that it’s hard to list them all. First, it’s not really a great red zone play. There’s not a lot of field to work with close to the goal line. The gist of that play is to run a slant or a quick stop route with the outside receiver, to draw the cornerback in. The slot receiver runs a corner route behind it, creating a mismatch against a safety. This thing is supposed to produce home-run balls from the middle of the field, isolating a speedy slot receiver on a safety. You know, someone like Trovon Reed or Travante Stallworth. Or heck. We certainly lined Onterio McCalebb up as a wide receiver enough this game. (With no intention to throw it to him.) Auburn’s answer was to take our slowest receiver on the field, Phillip Lutzenkirchen, and run him out of the slot to the corner. The play still had a chance to work, but Clint Moseley wounded the call further by locking in on Lutzenkirchen before the ball was even snapped, and he kept his head that way the whole time. The quarterback has to sell the slant, possibly with a pump fake. Lutzenkirchen actually got behind the safety, but Moseley waited to throw the ball, and when he did, he underthrew it, forcing Lutzenkirchen to try and reach back over the defenders shoulders to get the ball. As has become typical of the Scot Loeffler offense, it was the wrong play call, run to the wrong receiver, telegraphed to the defense before the snap, with a bad throw.

      Where does this team go from here? Performances like this one will not beat an SEC team, and we’ll likely struggle with New Mexico State and Alabama A&M with this level of play. Folks keep mentioning coach Chizik’s seven million dollar buyout, but it’s hard to see a three win season being tolerated with the level of talent on this football team. The last Auburn head coach to return after a three win season was Doug Barfield, and that 3-8 season in 1976 was his first. Barfield did beat Ole Miss and Tennessee that year. I find it hard to cut that much slack for an Auburn head coach in his 4th season.

      Auburn heads to Oxford Mississippi for another crack-of-dawn matchup. This week, I know the Ole Miss Rebels are looking for a good home win. If Auburn turns it over five times, they’ll surely give the folks in the Grove the party they want. Auburn entered the Arkansas game averaging a turnover every 20 plays. In the game, Auburn generated one every 13 plays. Things are definitely trending in the wrong direction, and it’s up to our highly paid coaching staff to figure it out, and get it fixed. I don’t mind saying that this native is very restless.

 

  1. Bren Dekura Bren Dekura says:

    Good read Acid. I both am and am not looking forward to re-watching the game. Scott Loeffler honestly looks like he has no clue what he’s doing. When the armchair quarterbacks and coaches can recognize that the personnel packages are just completely out-of-whack and the coordinator can’t, there is a very big problem on hand. You did a great job of highlighting some of the weird decisions this man is making on offense. In a sense, this is all on Gene Chizik. As a head coach, how can he not recognize these issues and correct them? It seems like it would be a relatively easy fix here, with the play-calling and personnel at least.

  2. challenger10 says:

    Acid
    I am normally one of the more patient optimistic people on this thread, but yesterday lost me. The offensive scheme and play calling is the worst I have seen in some time.

    I would feel better if for our rush offense we just lined up in the I with 1 or 2 tight ends and 1 or 2 WR. out of this formation just run nothing but power left and right 2/3 of the time with an occasional counter play or sweep thrown in. It might be predictable but it plays to our strengths and is easy on a young line.

    war Eagle anyway!

  3. lionstigersbearsohmy says:

    Acid, great assessment. Two years ago I would have never guessed we would be looking down the barrel of a 3 win season. There seems to be zero player development and very little discipline. And I’m about tired of seeing CTT sling that towel around. He needs to sing in a lower key until he gets his mess cleaned up.

  4. Tiger on the mountain Tiger on the mountain says:

    Acid, do you feel like the defense is making any progress?

    I know the offense is listless and woeful. I’m not giving up on this team and you won’t hear me calling for CGC’s head, but I’m done defending this coaching staff. To see the amount of talent this team continually get mismanaged and underdeveloped, in addition to the off-the-field issues, it is truly disappointing.

    Maybe, Loeffler’s giant cheat sheet needs a chart matching appropriate players for each of his plays. #SMH

    • Bren Dekura Bren Dekura says:

      You should make one and hand it out to him at the next Tiger Walk!

    • Acid Reign Acid Reign says:

      …..The D might have taken a step backward, but they did play a lot better Razorback offense than LSU’s. The secondary seems to be coming around. I really like young Joshua Holsey. He was often matched up on Cobi Hamilton one-on-one. Jonathan Mincy is a good tough, physical corner. Jermaine Whitehead is getting better every week. He’s breaking on the ball, which is something we haven’t had from safeties in quite a while. He’s doing a pretty good job communicating coverage responsibilities, too.

      …..The linebacking corps is the weak link on the defense, no two ways about it. I don’t think there are any quick fixes out there, either. We could put more athletic youngsters out there, but against today’s offenses you will really get gashed if your linebacker takes a wrong angle.

  5. aubb says:

    im done with this staff…we will be firing chizik next year no doubt so just pull the trigger now…would pete caroll come to little ol auburn?

    • Acid Reign Acid Reign says:

      …..I’ve been really impressed with what Kevin Sumlin has done everywhere he’s been. I like Peterson at Boise, too, but that system takes years to fully implement.

      …..A lot of a coaching staff’s success depends on situations. Did you know that Ted Roof managed to seriously disrupt undefeated Northwestern’s attack yesterday, and Penn State looks like one of the better teams in the Big Ten right now? They’ve got a new head coach that plays to strengths, from what I’ve seen.

  6. MyAuburn myauburn says:

    As usual Acid, another great write up. I would like to add a couple of letter grades to this game:

    Offensive Coaching-F- I have never seen such ineptitude in play calling. If I were the Ole Miss DC, my mouth would be watering at the thought of next weeks game

    Defensive Coaching-D-Tyler Wilson could have read a book before throwing the ball, He had an eternity to pick out a receiver. We sure were not getting to him with a 4 man rush so why not dial up some more blitzes from different places.

    Head Coaching-D- This grade can be raised for extra credit if Chizik takes SL aside and tells him to quit this crap. Since it is almost an unwritten rule that you don’t change OC’s in midstream (Frankling not withstanding) I think Chizik should bring in a consulting coach to coach Loeffler. NFL teams do it all the time, why can’t we.

    Athletic Director-Incomplete-The is only an incomplete if Jacobs is not already planning what he is going to do next year.

    I am totally with you Acid, the next time we run a sweep to the short side of the field or run a smash play with no big bodies in the game I am going to scream.

    • Acid Reign Acid Reign says:

      …..A short side sweep would actually make sense, IF the defense is overplaying the wide side, AND you’ve got a fullback, a tight end, and a good blocking wide receiver leading it. Auburn ran one good short side run to Trey Mason, but they had the numbers, AND Brandon Fulse just crushed the linebacker on that side.

      …..Arkansas did utilize a fair amount of “field pressure,” bringing a linebacker or corner into the backfield from the wide side of the field, which limited rushing options that way. When they did that, Auburn typically had two receivers out there, and only one defender. A quick throw over that rusher should have been easy to check to, and it would have picked up a dozen or more yards each time. That’s why they call it a “bubble screen.” You bloop that ball over the rusher.

      …..Loeffler did say in the post-game that the offense did not need to add plays, just to roll up their sleeves and work through what’s wrong. Me, I say we need less formations and plays, and just pick from a dozen or so that have consistently worked. You know, Terry Bowden in his first Auburn game beat a top-ten Ole Miss defense with six running plays, and two pass plays in the playbook. That’s all.

  7. Bren Dekura Bren Dekura says:

    Chizik in today’s press conference: “I think it was pretty much what everybody saw. Offensively, it was glaring that we had an inability to run the ball effectively.”

    I chalk that up strictly to play-calling. When your top two rushers are averaging over 5 yards a carry… it’s pretty effective. You just have to keep doing it.

  8. Acid Reign Acid Reign says:

    …..We did have about 4 rushes for losses, out of 21. But every one one of those was from the 3 or 4 wide receiver sets. Every running play Jay Prosch was in there for gained at least five yards!

    ……Chizik clearly doesn’t get it.

    • tigertracker says:

      and this little gem from the post game comments from Tre Mason.

      “We tried to attack the perimeter as little bit. We put Clint (Moseley) in the game and got things rolling with a short pass game, but we have always had the same mindset as a running back group. Just go and get it. If it’s not there, make it there. We just did the best we could and we need to rally together as a team now, figure out our errors and correct them.”

      If it’s not there make it there…and we only give him 6 carries! He received only 19% of the carries/called runs on the day and produced 30% of our rushing total. He produced 9% of our receiving yardage total in 1 catch.

      If y’all need me I’ll be over here banging my head against a wall! However I saw these comments from CGC today so I won’t say I’m pumping sunshine, only pointing out that just MAYBE he has been reading our posts!

      from al.com- Chizik said he would look at ways to get running back Tre Mason more carries. He had six carries against Arkansas for 32 yards.

      “Those are things we need to look at. He has been running the ball well. That will all be part of the evaluate process for us. He needs to carry the ball,” Chizik said.

  9. audude audude says:

    Looking up at the bottom the view doesn’t change much and it isn’t pretty.

  10. LA Tiger says:

    Please. Please. Put JP in an leave him in!!!

  11. wde1988 wde1988 says:

    Funny, I heard it said when AU went to the spread… that AU lost it’s ability to out physical the other team.
    And then 2010 happened. Nah. Can’t be true when you win the NC. Right??

    But then, 2011 happened. We were beat by our major competition by 30 points or more.

    And here we are during 2012. Our OL can’t block. Our running backs can’t run and hang on to the ball. Our QB isn’t really a QB. He is currently leading the SEC in interceptions and turnovers. Our receivers are really non productive. In general, this team can’t move the ball. On defense we aren’t much better. We can’t tackle. We can’t play man to man and teams can generally push the ball on us with little or no effort.

    What do we blame this on this year??

    Injuries? Nope.

    Recruiting/Talent? Nope.

    The only thing I can come up with is that our coaching staff is FAILING. That is the only answer I got. And when you come to that conclusion, the next question you have to ask yourself is do you allow them to continue screwing this up? Sending AU further and further into oblivion?

    It’s a legitamate question.

    Do you want to be rebuilding into the next decade? I mean we are DEAD last now. I don’t see it getting any better any time soon.

    Well, as I have said before – I am letting this go. When ya’ll figure it out – let the rest of us know.

    WDE