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Auburn Drops Another One at LSU (Grading Auburn’s 27–23 loss to LSU)

By on October 15th, 2017 in Football 34 Comments »

Auburn receivers had a spectacularly bad day
(Photo by Albert Cesare, AP)

     War Eagle, everybody. It’s time now for the Acid Reign Report on Auburn’s 27–23 loss to LSU. On a hot afternoon in Baton Rouge, dreams of playing for any championships all but went up in smoke as LSU recovered from a 20–0 second quarter deficit to take the game away from an Auburn team that was rolling.

     In the last 3 quarters of play, there were letdowns in nearly every facet of the game, but the difference in this game really centered on catching the football. For Auburn, there were at least a dozen times that the ball hit the receiver in the hands, only to flutter harmlessly to the turf. Meanwhile, when LSU needed to convert a 3rd and long, LSU receivers would go up and get the ball. It really was the difference in the game. Without any threat to actually catch the ball, LSU was able to clog running lanes and take away what Auburn does best.

     Seven games into the season, Auburn appears to be a wounded football team. A significant number of starters missed part or all of this game. With defensive leaders Tré Williams and Tray Matthews out, as well as Auburn’s fastest cover corner Javaris Davis hobbled, LSU was able to pick Auburn apart with simple lob passes and speed sweeps. Auburn’s vaunted ability to tackle in the secondary disappeared.

     On offense, everything starts up front. Thanks to injuries, first to Darius James a few weeks ago, to Mike Horton last week and in this game to Casey Dunn, Auburn struggled a bit up front. Auburn had a nice scheme early on, showing a 4-receiver look, only to bring a guy in motion, often tight end Jalen Harris, to give Auburn a blocking numbers advantage. Unfortunately, by the mid second quarter, LSU had figured it out and realized that Auburn wasn’t going to do any damage through the air. LSU basically went man-free and slowed down the Auburn rushing game. Auburn certainly helped LSU out with predictable play calling. At one point, Auburn ran the ball on 17 consecutive first-down plays.

     Even Auburn’s normally good special teams had a bad moment in this one. There is a reason for all those 35–40 yard dribbly punts Auburn has become known for the past few years. Those are hard to chase down and corral. This game, Aiden Marshall was booming them away, and it cost the Tigers late. A 50-yard boot gave LSU return man DJ Chark room, and he took advantage of an Auburn coverage unit that forgot everything it knew about angles and solid tackling. Prior to that return, Auburn had a 9-point lead and was going to make LSU have to score twice. Instead, Auburn gave up all but a 2-point lead on a punt return.

     I’m not going to spend too much time bashing individual units. There was enought bad play to go around to most units, but I fault the coaches for really poor play calling from the 2nd quarter on and for not teaching our receivers to catch the ball. Grades after the jump!

Defensive Line: B. For the most part, these guys filled gaps and took running lanes away but failed to set the edge on speed sweeps a number of times. Auburn did finish the game credited with 3 sacks, but it also had trouble getting LSU quarterback Danny Etling to the ground. The home statistician only credits Auburn with a couple of quarterback hurries, but I remember several times Etling being in the grasp of a defender, only to remain standing and sling the ball out for another first down. This defense needs a Nick Fairley type who can reliably get the quarterback to the ground. As a unit, the line totaled 24 tackles, and held vaunted runner Darius Guice to 71 rushing yards and only 3.5 yards per carry.

Linebackers: C. The linebackers in this game totalled only 21 tackles, being outplayed by the line in front of them. Most notable was the lack of pursuit on speed sweeps. Frankly, I didn’t think LSU called enough of those plays. Auburn never stopped them.

Secondary: B. This unit had 29 tackles, but a lot of them were way downfield, either after a successful sweep or yet another LSU reception. Prior to this game, Auburn was doing a great job of limiting teams to mostly short passes. This game, Auburn was often unable to keep covered receivers from catching the ball anyway.

Punting: D+. Auburn punted 6 times for 40.0 yards, but consistency was a big problem. There were some long rain makers, but one of them Auburn didn’t cover well. Then there were a couple off the side of the foot, including one that happened right after Auburn declined to go for it on 4th and 1. On 6 punts, Auburn was unable to pin LSU inside its 20.

Punt Returns: C+. On 6 punts, Stephen Roberts had 1 return for 4 yards and a couple of fair catches. Near the end of the game, Auburn was badly whipped by LSU’s gunners, and an LSU coverage man was actually able to field the punt in the air, killing the ball dead at Auburn’s 2-yard line.

Kick Returns: C. Auburn had a couple of kick returns by Noah Igbinoghene, who averaged 19.5 yards per return, which is pretty pedestrian. LSU covered well.

Place Kicking: A+. I have nothing to complain about here. Daniel Carlson hit all of his placekicks and had 5 touchbacks on 6 kickoffs. On the one ball LSU could return, it only got 20 yards.

Offensive Line: C+. Technically, Jarrett Stidham was sacked 3 times and hurried 3 more times, which isn’t too bad against a defense like LSU’s. On the ground, LSU held Auburn to 4.3 yards per carry, but honestly this mediocre average isn’t on the line. They blocked decently for the most part. Auburn’s lack of production was thanks to painfully-predictable play calling the last 3 quarters.

Running Backs: A. Auburn had no turnovers, Kerryon Johnson ran hard, and blitz pickup was good with maybe one exception.

Receivers: F. Auburn finished this game with only 4 worthwhile catches. There was the Hastings touchdown on the post over the top, there was a big screen to Ryan Davis, and a 25-yard fade catch by Darius Slayton. I also give a nod to a one-handed 7-yard grab by Sal Cannella. Auburn threw the ball 26 times, hitting the receiver in the hands most of the time, and only had 4 plays of note. This might be the most dropped balls I’ve ever seen in an Auburn game.

Quarterback: B. It’s hard to fault quarterback Jarrett Stidham too much in this one. Perhaps he could have thrown to open guys a little better, but the run-run-pass on 3rd and long strategy in this game certainly did not help Stidham out. For the most part, Stidham put the ball on the receivers’ hands. He also again played turnover free.

     In coming weeks, Auburn HAS to catch the ball better, or more losses are coming. Auburn gets a bleeding Razorback team in Arkansas next weekend, then a much-needed bye week. I vote for the receivers to have to face the jugs machine for several hours each day! In November, Auburn will face Texas A&M, Georgia and Alabama. All of those teams have covered receivers decently or better in recent weeks. Auburn is going to HAVE to make some contested catches to have any chance in those ball games.

     As bad as the LSU loss was, Auburn is still in the SEC West title race, hanging on by a thread. Auburn needs LSU to drop a game, but Alabama is likely to do us that favor. To win the division, Auburn needs to sweep Arkansas and Texas A&M on the road, and Georgia and Alabama at home. It doesn’t seem terribly likely, but the game is not played on paper. If this team will pull together and execute, and the coaches stop handicapping the team with poor play-calling, it’s still possible.


  1. CapnVegetto says:

    It wasn’t the receivers, or the QB, or anything. It was coaching. Coaching, coaching, and COACHING. Same reason we lost the Clemson game. Same reason for most of the losses last year. Some guy posted it on another thread, but did anyone notice they ran the SAME DIVE PLAY UP THE MIDDLE 17 TIMES IN A ROW ON 1ST DOWN IN THE 2ND HALF?? Does this moron coach not understand that every team out there knows that when Devan Barrett comes in and runs motion he’s getting the ball???? EVERY DAMN TIME??? I’m a stupid schlub on the stupid interwebz and I can see it. The guy we’re paying millions to can’t. When this is pointed out in press conferences, he makes excuses. Excuses!!!!!! “Oh, if we had converted some third downs we would have won.” No $–t, Sherlock. And you probably would have if EVERYONE ON THE DAMN PLANET COULDN’T PREDICT YOUR PLAYCALLING!!!

    I am so sick of Gus’s bull$–t. I want to care about Auburn football again. I want to enjoy watching it again. I want to care again. Gus effing Malzhan has literally ruined 30 years of watching Auburn football for me. I hate him. I want him fired NOW. I don’t care who we hire. I don’t care. Just GET RID OF HIM!!!!!!

  2. neonbets says:

    I have a hunch these grades aren’t going to go over very well with a fan base that’s spewing venom towards Malzahn and the play calling. By your rendering, had the receivers caught the catch-able passes, Auburn would have won the game. I respect your opinion…but I don’t know.

    Stidham gets a B? Didn’t see that at all. Sure the play-calling was atrocious, but Stidham just did not play very well. I don’t think I’ve ever seen a QB so lacking in improvisational skill.
    At RB, KJ was great, but what happened to Pettway? That is one s-l-o-w dude.
    Secondary gets a B? Again, safety play alone warrants a C-.

    My knee-jerk reaction after this loss is that you’re being too kind, and this report card feels like it was written on a Millennial Grade Curve: Trophies for everyone!

  3. meathead530 says:


  4. ATL_AU_FAN ATL_AU_FAN says:

    I don’t know what to think — I go from one extreme to the other. All over the spectrum.
    This loss was just so demoralizing — And, to make things worse, the LSU fans on the way out of the stadium and on the bus ride back to NOLA – seemed to actually feel SORRY for us. They take their win as just another reason for Coach O not to be fired.
    I have zero idea how the remainder of the season plays out. I have my thoughts and opinions and will post those early next Saturday morning.
    It’s still Great to be an Auburn Tiger…


  5. Squeakywheel says:

    Agree with the Captain – it’s one thing to have mediocre talent and be struggling. It’s an entirely different situation when talent exists. Coaching is sorely lacking. Poor play calling, inability to adjust, bad catching, and missed tackles all boils down to poor coaching this far into the season. Hoping for changes on the Plains…

  6. Col.Angus Col.Angus says:

    I’ll give you credit Acid, you somehow maintain a positive attitude. I try to…..and I know that in college football, one week means nothing….but I have seen too much evidence to believe that this team will end up any better than 7-5. I know we have the talent to compete on the level of Bama and UGA , but as you said, we are handicapped by our coaching staff. Whether it is gameday playcalling, halftime adjustments (which never seem to be made on offense) or just inability to be properly prepared to play for 60 minutes, Gus and the offensive coaches just are nothing more than average. Against superior competition we do not measure up. We average team with elite talent.
    And I don’t want to hear the excuses about the transfers, the suspensions, the guys who don’t play because of “whatever”. The good coaches get good talent and get them on the field and get them to perform. I don’t see that witht this staff on the offensive side of the ball. We’ve seen this movie three or four times now and we know how it ends. I’m ready to try a new script r and see if the ending can get any better. I would rather take my chances with Kevin Steele at the helm and let Chip Lindsey loose the rest of the way. If they can’t do any better, well at least we know we tried to do something to save the season. Gus doesn’t have anymore tricks, his ideas aren’t fresh and our opponents know how to stop him. He doesn’t have what it takes anymore. I’d rather call Chip Kelly now, than later….or whoever we really want. The competition at the end of the season will be fierce.

  7. audad says:

    Thanks as always Acid for the time you put into these weekly grades. Would probably agree with some others that perhaps you were a bit too generous in some areas this week. But when you get down to it, what really matters is that with all the other upsets this week AU would have had a real chance to legitimately include itself in the discussion as the first BCS rankings get closer. Forget that now. This Auburn team has a great deal more talent than the Bayou Tigers this year. That was evident for the first quarter and a half when we outplayed them and manhandled them in every aspect of the game. Every aspect. And then somehow, some way, it all turned. And our Tigers couldn’t get out of their own way, forgot how to tackle and defend receivers, and as pointed out the play calling became atrocious and the second half performance by the offense may have been the worst 30 minutes of football we’ve witnessed in a long time. Including the Clemson game.

    We’ve been seeing for a long time the calls for Malzahn’s head. Many of us remain unsure on that I believe, but after yesterday it’s understandable the vultures are circling. And rightfully so. To get embarrassed and outcoached so badly by Ed O. may not be something that he can survive. We were all crushed and greatly disappointed when AU blew the 21-3 lead against FSU in the natl. championship game. FSU was a high quality football team with a now capable NFL QB and Auburn at least competed all the way to the end, and let’s not forget we were 8 pt underdogs in that game. In my mind, yesterday’s collapse was several times worse and a much greater indictment on Gus’s ability (or inability) to take this program back to national prominence, as in being a playoff contender.

  8. ATL_AU_FAN ATL_AU_FAN says:

    And what is up with this little tidbit of info??

    “Auburn’s starting quarterback doesn’t have the power to audible out a given called play” –

    We have a coaching staff that will not allow the starting QB to change the play even after he sees the set of the opposing defense? So, the starting QB has to run whatever has been called even though he can plainly see that said called play may not (won’t) work?

    As per Stidham. “That’s something just to look at and talk to coach (Chip) Lindsey about,” Stidham said. “I’m just doing what I’m told to do and I’m trying to execute at a high level. That’s really what it comes down to, just trying to execute the called play.”

    So, yet again, I’m still blaming the coaches and not the players —

    If the above is true then we very well know wherein lies the issue. (Not that we probably already did know…

    War Eagle anyway and always…

    • Third Generation Tiger Third Generation Tiger says:

      I can’t imagine a college quarterback not having at least limited ability to audible. However, that seems consistent with Malzahn policy to me. You know, the same type of policy that wouldn’t allow quarterbacks to work with QB gurus in the offseason, yet ironically QB development is nonexistent.

  9. Tigers5711 says:

    The LSU game was a bitter loss. It reminded me of the FSU loss in the NC game complete with kick run back for a TD. And the 2010 Bama game in reverse. Our coaches have no idea of how to adjust at half time but LSU does. Same thing last week vs Ole Miss. This is the team that Troy beat and Miss St destroyed a few weeks ago. Have our coaches have no pass plays where the receivers come back to the ball to get them open? Or why not some screen passes where you can get a running back open? Has no one on the coaching staff told our punter not to kick to the speed demon on their team and to put some hang time on a punt? What ever happened to punting it out of bounds? Malzahn said this loss is “not the end of the world” but it is the end of what could have been a very special season. What kind of confidence builder do we get when we lose every time we go to their field? Our students weren’t even born in 1999 when we won there the last time. If we don’t improve quickly we’ll lose to A&M, GA and Bama and it could get ugly early in the game. War Eagle anyway I love Auburn football!

  10. Tigers5711 says:

    And why haven’t we designed a package for QB Malik to do a run pass option to get away from our predictable play calling? Why did we use the half back pass last week when we didn’t need it and had no deception this week?

  11. fasttimes says:

    i said the anther week i wasn’t convinced of the offense. the ole miss showed chinks in the armor and was told i was being absurd. i said i had seen this moving before and sure enough its the same one.

    im done watching the coaches squander what is a stacked roster. whether is is several coaches or just one, this cannot go on. it isn’t fun to watch. hasn’t been since last year.

    someone else wrong above they didn’t know much about the game and playing it, but even they knew what plays were coming when. i feel the same way. im just a casual fan. give me a defensive play sheet and i can call a good game against our offense. no reason it should be that way.

  12. almightytmc says:

    I remember saying even before Auburn hired Gus, that he wasn’t the right coach. He did well to start, but then time caught up with him. Simply put, the SEC is the league where the best of the best prove their mettle. The organization, recruiting and planning at this level is the best. Malzahn needs to be a coordinator. He just doesn’t cut it as a head coach, not in this league.

  13. wde1988 wde1988 says:

    The man doesn’t have a killer instinct. Nope. He figured 20 points was enough so he switched off his offense and went conservative. In the process he allowed LSU to climb out of their coffin and somehow get back in the game.

    And like a bad horror movie no matter how much he wanted to turn the faucet of whoop azz back on… it simply wouldn’t come. The well done went dry.

    Our defense got tired and quit.

    It boggles the mind.

    The question is do we want to pump more sunshine or deal with the real problem. It’s not going to go away or be remedied. Too much data here to ignore.


    • AUTiger57 says:

      No killer instinct!!!!!! 100% correct. A coach should always develop this in his team. And demand perfection!! Even in games that we are winning by a large margin, you still demand these things!!! Afraid that we’ve accepted mediocrity in our football program. We are miles behind Alabama, Georgia and soon maybe Tennessee (when they make a move to hire another coach) Guys, I don’t have the answers, but what I do know is that what we have isn’t working and acceptable at Auburn. Seems like a change is needed. War Eagle

  14. uglyjoe says:

    I am in agreement that Gus needs to go, but the inconvenient truth is that it’s not going to happen this year. Here’s the deal – we will probably finish the regular season at either 7-5 or 8-4. If we win a minor bowl, we finish 8-5 or 9-4, maybe top 25. That doesn’t look terrible on a national news scale. We have a new president who has to find a new athletic director, a basketball program that will be in shambles after the FBI and the NCAA get finished with a possible new coaching search, and a former softball program scandal that will be brought up at every game. The powers that be will not want another story about auburn buying their way out of a average football season, four ex-coaches on payroll, etc. I get the feeling that the football program is going to be the least of our new president’s problems. Buckle in and enjoy the ride.

    • neonbets says:

      That’s a great comment. I know I’m in the minority, but if the “Trustees” are dumb enough to allow for 3-4 ex-coaches to be on the payroll, then we need to live with the coach we got. It’s absurd and frankly, disgusting, to operate a university in this manner. Keep Malzahn and dump the Answer-To-Nobody Morons who purport to oversee this institution. Maybe suffering with Malzahn for another year or two will spur the Alumni to (finally) demand some accountability at the top.

  15. Jonathon Jonathon says:

    We either accept the mediocrity Gus has settled into and now asks for us to get used to OR the obvious shortcomings, audible fan base and will-to-compete at a higher level grants us a new head football coach. Having to sugar coat all of these wounds and say that Gus is with us for the long haul is just unacceptable to me moving forward. We’re better than this. WDE!

  16. Tigerstripe Tigerstripe says:

    It’s like our coaches show up each week to play checkers at a chess tournament… I don’t get it. No meaningful adjustments at halftime – “more wildcat” is the most creative thought that they can come up with. Unfortunately, all this negativity will bleed down into the players which is sad but that’s on Gus, not the fans. Gus looks lost in all of this, like he has absolutely no idea how to climb out of this when it’s so very simple.

  17. Tigers5711 says:

    The sad thing is if we fire Malzahn we’d lose the best defensive coordinator we’ve had in a long while…

  18. WDE7385 WDE7385 says:

    I went from “Woo Hoo” in the first quarter to “Aw, s&!t” in the second quarter and didn’t (couldn’t stomach) watching the second half.
    Predictable (I’m no guru) coaching on offense, no ability to adjust (????) when LSU adjusted to attack running game and somebody get to resin for the receivers, PLEASE.
    One more thing and I’ll shut up.
    Please, Gus, keep your fingers out of your nose and your hands away from your mouth. You remind me of Capt. Queeg.

  19. War_Eagle_2010 War_Eagle_2010 says:

    That was disappointing…………..

    Glad I was backpacking and didn’t have to suffer through it live.

  20. Brady1984 says:

    IT’S THE COACHING. IT’S THE COACHING. IT’S THE COACHING. Gus Malzahn went as conservative as possible as soon as we got ahead against Old Miss. Vs a team with a pulse there is no way you can go that predictable and expect to win. I don’t care who you are playing that is not a recipe for success. Then in his press conference he says it’s not the end of the world. I feel like he s**t all over the fans when he said that. I hope it’s the end of Gus Malzahn as the head coach. The program has great talent and all of the pieces to win; if we just had a coach to take us there.

    • audad says:

      Excellent point when you said it felt like he dumped on the fans with that statement, especially considering AU has not won in that stadium since BEFORE THE TURN OF THE CENTURY. He’s right in that they still control their own destiny, and I suppose they could conceivably still make the final four if they win out and win the SEC championship. But having this second loss could weigh heavily depending on how it all plays out for others in the running. Regardless, it was a major meltdown in a game they could have and should have won easily. And he seemed pretty nonchalant about it all things considered.

  21. idnod idnod says:

    Dear Offensive Brain Trust… that game plan sucked. However, at least we didn’t look as ugly as the new Florida “Gator” uniforms. . . that’s worse than the hideous orange shoes we wore against Clemson 2016 !!!!

  22. sparkey sparkey says:

    I am not the kind of guy to say I told you so, but…


  23. Tigers5711 says:

    I have the highest respect for Kodi Burns but when can he teach our receivers to catch passes just as well as LSU? And how about some pass plays that give receivers a chance to get open? A team at midseason should have the kinks worked out but not us. WDE anyway.

    • Tiger Tiger says:

      Ok, someone help me out here. There’s no denying the stats on our WR’s from this past weekend.

      But how, how in the world, can we go from hardly any dropped passes and Stidham setting passing efficiency records over the past three weeks….to not being able to catching anything at all against LSU?

  24. Tiger4Life says:

    Responding to Tiger says– See 2016 6 game winning streak then FAILS AGAINST GEORGIA, ALABAMA, AND OKLAHOMA.
    Seems cruel that the Gus who said “we have to get our edge back in 2013”- And did! Lost that edge after that FSU loss and hasn’t been able to recapture it since…

  25. almightytmc says:

    BTW Acid, I appreciate the read and I respect your eye for the game. But in the end the AU offensive secret is out in the open now. Load the box and pressure the QB. That is what every team that’s threatened AU has done. Even Mercer. AU is playing scared and the coaches are coaching scared. When AU hit the top ten, everyone started playing/coaching like they had something to lose. And so…they did. If everyone can play and coach like its the last play of the last game, this team has potential.

  26. Rebel Yell says:

    50 years of being an AU fan, and this is as dis-heartening a loss as I can remember. We should have beaten these guys by 40 points, but the reality is they quit! Quit on their fans, their coaches, and themselves! Gus is toast. It’s just a matter of time. After one good year (which was great – even if we did lose to Free Shoes U!) he’s won fewer games, with more talent, than any other coach in America. If there was any justice in this world, we’d be able to buyout Gus’s contract for $0.00, because as a coach, that’s what he’s worth!

  27. tigrrr tigrrr says:

    If it was going to be exposed better now than vs. A&M with Georgia next. We have time to fix this.

    The Prez needs to tell Gus he is out if we have a performance anything like LSU ever again. If we do he is out immediately.