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Auburn falls to LSU (Grading Auburn’s 23–20 Loss at LSU)

By on October 27th, 2019 in Football 12 Comments »

Schwartz was a forgotten man again this day
(AP Photo/Gerald Herbert)

     War Eagle everybody! It’s time now for the Acid Reign Report on the disappointing 23–20 loss to the LSU Tigers. There was lots of talk about how the Auburn offense could not go silent for long stretches at LSU or it would cost Auburn the game. Instead, much like the game at Florida, the offense cratered under a miasma of poor play at a number of positions till late in the 4th quarter.

     Auburn’s second drive of the game was a good one with the Tigers earning a first and goal at the 7. One would think that Auburn has lots of talented skill players who might benefit the team carrying the ball in that situation. Auburn was unable to even get the ball on a handoff to any of them. The play sequence went like this: mixup in the backfield/keeper for nothing; a throw out of bounds; false start, then another throw out of bounds. I suppose I should be grateful Auburn got a field goal out of the drive and an early lead.

     A long dry spell ensued for Auburn. Auburn was able to cash a touchdown out of a muffed punt by LSU, barely converting on 4th and goal. But during the long spell Auburn had a drive crippled by a false start, another drive doomed on 1st down by an intentional grounding call, yet another false start-killed drive, and a drive before halftime killed by an interception.

     Auburn opened the 3rd quarter with a 70-yard D. J. Williams run, for a first and goal at the 9-yard line. Again, Auburn could manage only a couple of short runs up the middle and a thrown away ball on 3rd down. The Tigers did take the lead on a field goal. Auburn stopped LSU on the Auburn 1-yard lin, but could not move the ball. Anthony Schwartz was wide open on a quick hitch pattern, but Auburn could not connect with him, throwing the ball way early. Auburn again stopped LSU with an interception at the 2-yard line, but consecutive slant passes were thrown off target, and Auburn had to punt again. The next drive featured a 3rd down hold-the-ball sack.

     Early in the 4th quarter, Auburn got a first down on a pass interference penalty, but the drought wasn’t over. A horrific snap sailed backwards 20 yards, and another drive was doomed. On the next drive, another intentional grounding/sack killed it. Time was running short, with Auburn trailing 23–13. Auburn started moving the ball a bit with 7-and-a-half minutes left, but another drive was killed with an illegal block call. Auburn got a late touchdown finally by throwing the ball at Seth Williams nearly every snap. By then, it was too late, as an onside kick failed, and LSU ran out the clock.

     On defense, Auburn again had a mismatch up front. This week, LSU decided to just grab and hold onto Auburn linemen and see what happened. Not a single holding penalty was called on LSU. Not even one. There were other blatant no-calls also. Derrick Brown took a hand to the face and had to leave the game with an injured eye. An LSU receiver punched an Auburn defender in the face out of bounds, and that wasn’t called. Numerous times LSU defenders ran into Auburn receivers before the ball arrived and nothing was called. I’m usually not going to gripe too much about officials, but Auburn got a raw deal from them during this game.

     Auburn special teams played well enough to win, especially punter Arryn Siposs and the coverage teams.

Unit grades after the jump!

Defensive Line: A-. It was amazing how disruptive the line was, even when being held. Auburn utilized just a 3-man line for much of the game, which caused some issues on run fits. Despite only 3 men on the field at a time, the line contributed 18 total tackles.

Linebackers: B+. There were just a few missed tackles and run fits, but this team was on the field a long time due to Auburn’s inept offense. I was going to complain about the linebackers not covering backs very well, but that proved to be a false opinion. Auburn held a pair of dangerous receiving backs to just 8 yards per catch with none covering more than 13 yards. Auburn linebackers made 17 total tackles.

Secondary: A-. The philosophy this week was to keep the lid on LSU receivers. LSU was able to throw the short passes, but Auburn largely prevented big gains on those. The secondary carried a heavy load, making an astounding 71 total tackles if the stat sheet can be believed. The LSU statistician handed out a ton of assists in this game, resulting in the high number.

Punting: A. Arryn Siposs kept Auburn in the game with a great day punting the football. He had 10 punts for an average of 46.2 yards. The ball was killed deep in the LSU end 3 times, and Siposs had 3 punts of more than 50 yards. Despite the distance, LSU could manage only 2 returns for 7 yards, and 1 of those was a lost fumble.

Punt Returns: B-. I gave this grade due to 5 fair catches on 6 LSU punts. On the other hand, Auburn prevented any bad field position due to rolling, and there were no punts dropped on the ground this week. LSU was punting short to try to limit returns.

Kick Returns: A- Noah Igbinoghene had one return for 32 yards, and Shaun Shivers had one for 27, late. Both returns helped Auburn field position.

Place Kicking: A. Anders Carlson hit all of his place kicks, 2 short field goals and 2 extra points. Carlson kicked off 4 times, and none of them were returned.

Offensive Line: C. As the game wore on, LSU really sent the house after Auburn showed that its passing game was ineffectual, and 5 linemen can’t block all 8 or 9 defenders that were coming. Repeated false starts were a big issue. I have to wonder if some of the problem wasn’t with the snap count being messed up. If 2 or 3 linemen jump on a given play, that can mean that the center didn’t snap the ball when he was supposed to. There were several bad snaps, as well.

Running Backs: B+. There were a few big runs sandwiched in between lots of 1-yard gains. I would like to see more of the long runs actually finished off in the end zone. Honestly, the backs didn’t get a lot of blocking help on most downs and did a good job of holding onto the football.

Receivers: B+. I could count off for about a half-dozen dropped passes, but there was early contact on every one of those drops. LSU was only called for a couple of pass interference penalties. By my estimation, that is about 10-percent accuracy by the SEC officials.

Quarterback: C+. There were a number of bad throws, but also some good ones. Too often, Bo Nix had to deal with a blown-up play at the line of scrimmage. Or, he had to try to deal with a big pass rush on 3rd and long due to penalties. I would like to see Auburn work more on just the basic short passes. A 5-yard hitch pass should be nearly automatic in single coverage. Likewise, Auburn has trouble hitting receivers on simple slant patterns.

     I complained last week about Auburn’s short yardage packages, and this week was rewarded by seeing some successful quarterback sneaks. I think those need to stay in the play book. Likewise, I was pleased to see some successful wildcat plays with JaTarvious Whitlow unexpectedly returning from knee surgery.

     All the Auburn Tigers can do now is try to fight through the rest of a difficult schedule. Mathematically, Auburn can still win the Western Division if Alabama, LSU and Auburn all finish with 6–2 records. For that to happen, LSU will have to beat Alabama and lose 2 of 3 against Ole Miss, Arkansas and Texas A&M. Auburn will have to beat Alabama. All that’s highly unlikely.

     Ole Miss is up for the Tigers next weekend, followed by a bye week. Ole Miss is coming off a bye week and desperately needs a win. The Rebels stand at 3–5 overall and need 3 wins to become bowl eligible. The Rebels have lost 4 of their last 5 with the lone win coming over Vanderbilt. After Auburn, Ole Miss has New Mexico State, LSU and at Mississippi State. New Mexico State might be the worst team in the FBS, and Ole Miss should win that one. It also needs wins over Auburn and MSU to go bowling.

12 Comments

  1. easyedwin easyedwin says:

    We have twice died with Bo at the qb position. Poor qb play was a MAJOR contributor this loss.
    Knowing that Auburn was not a threat to pass, we never let Joey in for a try at running and / or passing the football. We are committed to live or die with Bo and that is sad. Two SEC games were squandered by an inept offense and by our coach’s refusal to change quarterbacks.

  2. easyedwin easyedwin says:

    Our vaunted defense will not be there in 2020.

  3. zotus zotus says:

    Acid, Great job by Coach Kevin Steele, his staff, and his defensive football players in Death Valley. They deserved better against LSU Saturday. I believe we all know that.

    … but, sadly Auburn’s offense makes Auburn a very m-e-d-i-o-c-r-e football team. And, that reality is there for all to see when Auburn plays power-5 football teams that have winning records. I believe we all know that too.
    ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
    Here’s some more sad reality:

    In “Play-Caller-In-Chief” Gus Malzahn’s 100th game as a head coach, it was his 15th-worst offensive output.

    Half of Auburn’s yardage in the second half came on one play: D.J. Williams’ 70-yard run to open the third quarter. Five straight drives in the second half accumulated only three total yards on 16 plays.

    LSU forced seven three-and-outs and Auburn faced nine third downs of nine yards or longer, and converted only one for a first down. Auburn was also an eye-popping 0 for 5 on third-and-goal conversions.

    Auburn also committed three false-start penalties on third down in the first half as the Tigers finished with a season-high 15 penalties for 98 yards.

    Against the four Power 5 teams with winning records Auburn has faced this season, the Tigers have averaged 22 points and 310 yards.

    Ol’ Gus’ worst offensive performances as a head coach:
    Sept. 9, 2017: 117 yards vs. Clemson
    Nov. 12, 2016: 164 yards vs. Georgia
    Nov. 26, 2016: 182 yards vs. Alabama
    Sept. 23, 2018: 225 yards vs. Arkansas
    Nov. 18, 2015: 256 yards vs. Mississippi State
    Dec. 2, 2017: 259 yards vs. Georgia
    Sept. 19, 2015: 260 yards vs. LSU
    Sept. 3, 2016: 262 yards vs. Clemson
    Oct. 5, 2019: 269 yards vs. Florida
    Nov. 10, 2018: 274 yards vs. Georgia
    Nov. 14, 2015: 275 yards vs. Georgia
    Nov. 3, 2018: 278 yards vs. Texas A&M
    Nov. 24, 2018: 283 yards vs. Alabama
    Sept. 15, 2012: 286 yards vs. Nebraska
    Oct. 26, 2019: 287 yards vs. LSU
    ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
    P.S. Malzahn’s message after LSU loss: “We’re going to be champions”

    That’s right folks, that’s what he said.

    Memo to Super Agent Jimmy Sexton: Looks like it’s going to be time, after the SEC Championship game, to get ready to negotiate a new contract extension for “Play-Caller-In-Chief” Gus Malzahn.

    Keep Hope Alive … WDE!
    ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

  4. easyedwin easyedwin says:

    At the end of 2004 Tubbs said “we are going to win the National Championship; you write it down”

  5. Tigers5711 says:

    Sadly we Auburn fans now realize that once again we don’t have a ready for prime time QB ready for big games in the SEC. When we had Cam, Marshall & Stidham we had a chance to beat anyone but not now. Nix will be good in time but not now….Of course we all hope he can get ready for GA & Bama really fast. What hurts is Bama, GA, LSU etc always manage to get a top QB every year and their success shows it…but not us.
    As poorly as we played on offense we could have won if we’d completed a few key passes. Very disappointed that we had it in our grasp to beat #2 LSU in their Death Valley but didn’t.

  6. neonbets says:

    If this was a squad with 5-5 talent, then I would relish developing players for a more promising future. But this is an excellent team, so I could care less if Nix is a true freshman. Once a player steps on the field, class is irrelevant. Is he good enough in the current moment? Nix isn’t.

    As for his promising future, he’s too way inaccurate. His shortcomings are much less about inexperience, and much more about the fact that he’s woefully off-target. I don’t get the fuss. Other than his mobility, I haven’t seen one area where he truly excels. I know he’s a legacy, and it’s a nice story that many remember the play of his father. But he isn’t good enough at this time to be a starter. Gatewood deserves an opportunity to show what he can do.

  7. easyedwin easyedwin says:

    Agreed. /\/\/\/\ what he said!

  8. WDE7385 WDE7385 says:

    The defense more than held up their end. I just wonder what “adjustments” were made.

    Gus, during the halftime interview, said:
    “We came here to win the game,” Malzahn said, defending the play. “It didn’t work out. We’re tied at halftime against a really good team.

    “We’ll make some adjustments come out ready to play the second half.”

    Malzahn was asked, “If your defense keeps playing the way they are, do you win the game?”

    “Yeah, we definitely do,” Malzahn said.

    https://www.al.com/auburnfootball/2019/10/gus-malzahn-asked-if-bo-nixs-late-first-half-int-against-lsu-too-much-of-a-risk.html

  9. audad says:

    Good review Acid. Glad to see you point out the horrible officiating. It was as bad as any I've seen in a high level college game for a long time. I counted at least 20 blatant holds against LSU that were not called. On their drive that resulted in their first TD, there were probably 5 plays in a row where holding should have been called. As you pointed out, they were not flagged for it once the entire game.

    I always thought 'bama was the best at having offensive linemen hold and not getting flagged, but LSU set the new standard in this one. Brown and Davidson are even on record commenting Sat. night about how bad it was, and that's a first for those guys to openly complain after a game.

  10. Tiger4Life says:

    https://www.espn.com/college-football/stats/team/_/view/offense/stat/passing/table/passing/sort/completionPct/dir/desc

    SCHEME SCHEME SCHEME

    Put Nix in a passing scheme that focuses on a high completion percentage scheme/routes and he would be a much more accurate passer.

    Completion Percentages (Top 10 plus us)

    LSU- 76.8
    Wisconsin- 75.4
    Alabama- 74.0
    Utah- 72.4
    Oklahoma- 72.2
    Georgia- 71.0
    USC- 70.9
    Indiana- 69.7
    Southern Miss- 69.7
    Washington St- 69.4

    AUBURN- 54.0

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