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Auburn Goes Down Swinging Against LSU (includes unit grades)

By on September 22nd, 2013 in Football 27 Comments »

This edition of the Tigers keeps fighting!

     War Eagle, everybody. It’s time now for the Acid Reign Report on Auburn’s 35-21 loss to LSU in Baton Rouge. On a national television stage, a young Auburn team had some early jitters, and did not handle a monsoon rain well at all. LSU took advantage of early Auburn turnovers and mistakes, and built a 21-0 lead early in the 2nd period, and never looked back. At the time, it looked like Auburn might give up triple digit points.

     Defensive adjustments were made, and LSU’s powerful running game was slowed down, but the damage was done. LSU hit some big plays in the passing game later on, and finished with a balanced offensive box score of 228 rushing yards and 229 passing yards. It was good to see Auburn get some late pressure on the quarterback, and the team officially tallied 2 sacks. However, Auburn’s early defensive downs were marred by misalignment on unbalanced offensive lines, and a total lack of any ability in the back seven players to track down Jeremy Hill running loose in the secondary.

     The Auburn passing game never got in sync other than the quick screen, which LSU limited to modest gains for the most part. Downfield passes were nearly all sailed high or behind the receiver. It looked like quarterback Nick Marshall was having real trouble with wet footballs, and he admitted as much in post-game comments. As his passes continued to be off target, he regressed some, throwing off his back foot, or with his shoulders not squared, or even on a couple of occasions side-arming the ball. And as has happened every week, a few balls did arrive on target that were promptly dropped.

     Lost in this debacle of a game is that the running half of the offense did astonishingly well. Auburn banged and bashed for 213 yards in this one, three touchdowns on the ground, and no fumbles lost. Much of this yardage was between the tackles, and the figure includes a 10 yard sack and a 16 yard loss when Steven Clark fumbled a punt snap. That’s a lot of yards for an LSU defense to give up on the ground.

     Special teams took a big step backwards in this contest, but the weather and a big early deficit dictated some risky calls. A dropped punt snap was the worst mistake, but not the only one. The Tigers failed on two onside kick attempts, although the second one may have been a blown call by the replay official. Tre Mason again brought a kickoff out of the end zone with no chance of even making the 20. Quan Bray fumbled a punt, but did recover it himself.

     There were some bright spots on special teams, as Steven Clark again hammered the ball high and deep, and the Auburn coverage units continue to do well. Although Quan Bray didn’t have but 5 punt return yards, he fielded 5 of 6 LSU punts, which negated any rolling ball yardage, and LSU was held to 38.2 yards per punt.

     The Tigers have a bye week coming up, which should allow plenty of time for the offense to put the passing game back together, and scheme for Ole Miss, which is currently ranked 76th in the country in pass efficiency defense. The defense should be working on tackling angles, because Ole Miss has good backs and scrambling quarterbacks to deal with.

Unit Grades after the jump!


Defensive Line: C-. It was a very tough start for this unit, as no one got any push early. The only lineman who consistently beat his man off the ball was true freshman Montravius Adams, and he didn’t play many early snaps. Ultimately, the line did generate 18 assists, but only 2 solo tackles, 2 total tackles for loss, and no quarterback hurries. LSU’s veteran offensive line won decisively for much of the game.

Linebackers: D. This was looking like an F-minus early on, but there was some improvement as the game went on. Rather than harping on guys who look too slow, or indecisive, I’ll relate a little comparison I made during the game. When LSU was running the ball, we’d see Auburn linebackers standing flat-footed, with big 270 pound fullback J. C. Copeland or tight end Travis Dickson barreling downhill towards them. That collision never went well for Auburn’s linebackers, who give up at least 30 pounds in that equation. On the other side of the ball, LSU’s linebackers were supposed to be a question mark. On Auburn’s running plays, often the LSU linebacker would go around pulling guards and marauding H-backs, and make a play on the ball-carrier. We’ve got to teach our linebackers to move their feet, and not get pointlessly locked up with more powerful blockers. The linebackers did tackle better in this game, when they got there. McKinzy and Therezie led the team with 8 tackles each, and McKinzy and Jake Holland had the only sacks for the Tigers.

Secondary: D+. I thought the corners played ok against a pair of really dangerous receivers. Landry and Beckham Jr. combined for 12 catches, but they were generally tackled pretty quickly. Both White and Mincy broke up passes, or made the quarterback throw it away. Safety play was not good. Aside from a Jermaine Whitehead interception, little got done by the Auburn safeties. On a night when LSU runners and receivers were tearing through the Auburn secondary, the safeties only totaled 1 solo tackle 4 assists, and no pass breakups. Plenty of times these guys were way out of position. Early in the game, we might as well have played defense with only 9 guys on the field.

Punting: B. Obviously, the dropped punt snap that gave LSU the ball at the ten yard line was a huge blow in this game. Steven Clark did well otherwise, though. He hammered a wet ball 6 times for a 43.5 yard average, and LSU only managed 10 return yards. Clark only had 1 punt pinned inside the 20, but that’s because he was usually punting from deep in Auburn territory. When Auburn made it past midfield, they usually went for it on 4th down, because of the score.

Punt Returns: B-. Points off on the fumbled punt, but at least Quan Bray recovered it. Bray didn’t have the stats to show for it, but it was big to field 5 of 6 LSU punts. We’ve given up a lot of hidden yards of field position in years past, because of guys letting the ball hit the ground and roll.

Kick Returns: D. Had only one kick return, which was brought out of the end zone by Tre Mason and only brought to the 14 yard line. It wasn’t well blocked, either. I give a passing grade because Auburn was trailing by double digits, and needed points any way possible. Mason had to give it a shot, I suppose.

Place-kicking: A. Parkey hit his three extra points, kicked a touchback, and had one kick returned for only 19 yards thanks to excellent coverage. There were two failed onside kick attempts, but I don’t think either was on the kicker. The first was a poor call, for a sky kick. That’s a low-percentage call, basically hoping for an up back to fumble it. LSU was well-coached on that one, and immediately called for a fair catch. The second was a trademark Parkey roller, with a blocking shield. It was ruled successful on the field, then overturned in the booth. ESPN never showed us an angle that showed contact with the ball before it touched the 45 yard line. I’m not sure what the SEC official saw, there.

Offensive Line: B+. This unit did a good job getting a push against LSU, and providing a pocket for Nick Marshall. There were a few problems on pulling guard plays, where they failed to hit anyone on the edge, and there was one false start on Patrick Miller late in the game. Auburn did fail on 4th down once, where the right side was stood up. Still, these guys pretty decisively beat up on the LSU defensive line and linebackers, for the most part.

Running Backs: A. These guys ran hard, and with a purpose. On a soaking wet night, these guys held onto the ball and powered for positive yards. Tre Mason ran like a back 30 pounds heavier, with punishing purpose. I regret that Auburn didn’t run the ball more in this game, but it’s tough to be run-heavy trailing by double digit points.

Receivers: B. Wet nights make it tough on receivers, and Auburn had a few drops, as usual. What really hurt this unit was spotty or non-existent blocking on quick screens. Jaylon Denson had been doing a pretty good job with this, and his knee injury is a big loss for Auburn. He’ll be sorely missed. Sammie Coates made some great catches in traffic on deep balls. He’s pretty much taken over the role as Auburn’s home run receiver. LSU had him doubled all night, which helped open up the running game.

Quarterback: D. Nick Marshall completed his quick screens, but little else till late. While he did contribute 46 rushing yards, a lot of those yard were when he took off out of the pocket on 3rd and long, and didn’t make the first down. We’ve got to stop trying to run for the stake against decent defenses, when it’s 3rd and 10 or more. Taking off only risks injury in that instance. There were some less than stellar reads, too. If a young quarterback is going to take a step backwards in his development, a rainy night in Baton Rouge is a likely place for it to happen. I think Marshall will regroup from this.

     Southeastern Conference officials continue to baffle me. Obviously, they are not going to see every infraction on the field. However, in this game, they had a disturbing tendency to call things that didn’t happen. And this didn’t appear to be any sort of partisan effort. LSU’s Odell Beckham Jr. was called for offensive pass interference once, before the ball was even in the air. And it was one of those little hand-checks that happen between receivers and defensive backs nearly every play. LSU also got at least one false start penalty that the replay showed no one moving. I think Auburn was robbed on their second onside kick attempt, when there was “insufficient evidence” to overturn the ruling on the field.

     Kudos to LSU for handling the conditions and taking care of business early. And kudos to Auburn for not giving up, and making the game interesting. If nothing else, those hard-played snaps against LSU were good practice, and that can’t be simulated against the scout team at home. I fully expect Auburn to jump on Ole Miss in two weeks, and take a major step forward. War Eagle, folks! It’s great to be an Auburn Tiger!


  1. wde1988 wde1988 says:

    Good article and read.

    Goes down swinging is an interesting analogy. I envision it would be like professional boxer versus a 5th grader. It was brutally ugly and hard to look past it to find positives. But they were there as you point out.

    It’s about the future for sure… because it certainly wasn’t about this game. Never was. We still looked scared I thought. And when things went to hell… we REALLY looked scared.

    Let’s hope some time off helps us prepare for Ole Miss.


  2. Tiger on the mountain Tiger on the mountain says:

    I was proud of how the defense adjusted. I was proud that they never quit fighting. By all accounts, with 6 minutes left in the game, they had me believing that they could pull a close one. IMO, they did what they needed to do. If they keep working hard, they will be in the position to win these types of games. I like that they get better every week….which bodes well for November.

  3. AuburnMisfit AuburnMisfit says:

    So Acid, if Hill did not have that 56 yard run for a TD, where would you have graded the defense? I think CEJ deserves the blame for that since that was his strategy on calls going into the game. But also credit the same guy for making adjustments and cooling off that LSU offense. I thoroughly enjoyed watching the defense step up as the game progressed. Ya, they gave up some big plays that kept LSU going, but LSU doesn’t get to be a top team because they play conservative ball.

    I want to rant about this wildcat with Frazier in the game. I recall a youtube video of CGM drawing out the wildcat on a whiteboard. He says that you put in your best runner running behind your 2 best blockers/linemen. So why isn’t Mason or CAP running that?? Frazier hasn’t shown to be a back.

    • restless6 says:

      Kill the Kiehlkat. I hate that play. It sucks bad, like Jake Holland bad.

      What in the hell happened to Jonathan Wallace? Is he or is he not the 2 QB? I don’t get the Frazier love at all.

      • wde1988 wde1988 says:

        That’s code for a coordinator being lost in the sauce? If so – I agree. This 20 or 30 something gets paid a crap pot full of money… and for what? To throw screens on 4th down with a defense that has sucked the air out of the room? Or maybe running a double reverse that got maybe 2 yards? Wait…. wait. I know the answer… we take what the defense gives us. What happened to run the damn ball right up the gut with 3 yds and a cloud of dust?? That’s AU football. And when they stop the run……. we throw?

        That brings me to the next topic: it makes my skin crawl that with the folks we recruited… why we have so little on the sidelines. Someone going to tell me that NM is the ONLY guy at AU that can throw the ball??? LOL. If so we are in BIG, BIG trouble.

        Also – did anyone see CJ Uzomah last night?? Did he catch a ball at all?

        I can’t understand the disconnects.



        • Acid Reign Acid Reign says:

          …..Simple answer on Uzomah… he doesn’t hit like Fulse does. Take a series or two to watch #11. He’s going to jack someone up, every play. He’s a hard guy to keep off the field.

          …..Throwing? A-day was torture. Nick IS the best we’ve got, and we’d better coach him up.

          • sparkey sparkey says:

            No, Jeremy Johnson is the best we’ve got by far. And, WDE 1988 you’re just going to have to be patient and stop whining so damned much. Somehow, you’re worse than me.

    • Acid Reign Acid Reign says:

      ……I’ve always had reservations about Ellis Johnson, because he’s a coach that I can’t anticipate. I don’t have a handle of what’s going on in his head. At times, he looks brilliant, like this year with a porous defense suddenly looking prescient in the 4th quarter. Then again…

      ……He defended Cam poorly two times in 2010. He totally missed LSU’s unbalanced line/covered tight end strategy in the first quarter, and we basically had an undefended gap there for at least 20 minutes. On this series, LSU lines the tight end up on the weak side, on the line, covered up by the split end. Tight end is no longer an eligible receiver, and the tackle technically is, on the other side. What this does is create an extra gap on the double-end side.

      …..Some teams just stay in their base defense, which works ok, as long as you aren’t wasting a player trying to cover an ineligible receiver. Ellis had us widening out, to cover that extra outside gap, and still had zone coverage on the tackle-eligible side. Safeties were moving out over the hashes to provide deep help against Beckham-Jr. and Landry. Basically, that left the B-gap to be filled by the middle linebacker, with a 270 pound fullback leading the play and taking on the middle linebacker. That defensive scheme had no chance to work. And LSU has run that set for several YEARS. It’s not like there wasn’t film on it.

      …..So what happened early was that Hill was going through a hole early that had only Jake Holland trying to fill it, and Holland had a guy that outweighs him and is faster blocking. Safeties could not get back to the middle of the field to make anything but a failed diving tackle attempt.

      …..And it wasn’t just one play. Hill had a ten yard TD run after the punt-snap-fumble, that could have gone for 80. Drive #3, Hill had another 10 yard burst that Therezie and Smith finally closed out. And drive #4 freatured another untouched burst up the gut for 54 yards to the goal line, setting up a short Copeland TD to put LSU up 21-0 early in the second, and basically ending Auburn’s chances.

      …..Ellis Johnson THEN tightened up the alignment, and put Kris Frost into the game, and Auburn got two stuffed Hill runs, and a three ‘n’ out. But his “wide ends” scheme blew up in his face this week early, and Auburn was down 21-0 before we saw any reaction.

      …..I’ve never been a fan of the wildcat, unless you can run it with your base personnel, AND the guy taking the snap has at least some throwing ability.

    • AuburnMisfit AuburnMisfit says:

      Here’s a bit more of what I mean.

      “”We had a lot of scheme to try to confuse them and the first half we had a lot of missed assignments,” linebacker Cassanova McKinzy said. “We came back in the second half and made it real simple and kind of got after it. We just made a lot of mistakes from the different schemes that we installed for this week for this game. We went back the base and we became better.”

  4. restless6 says:

    I’m still not sold on Marshall.

    Acid is dead on about the mechanics. He doesn’t have Manziel ability to get away with that.

    He’s not as shifty as I expected either.

    Jake Holland sucks bad, and Frost must not be able to grasp the schemes. There is no good solution there.

    I still have the image of Jake letting the tight end get by and then flailing at the ball.

    I hope that Tyler Queen and the White kid are as advertised. Maybe the HUNH works better with a more pocket passer that can make the reads and the throws consistently. I have Georgia envy when it comes to QBs. The succession of Bobo, Stafford, and Murray is awesome. That guy in west central Alabama does ok with QBs too.

    • Todd92 Todd92 says:

      Bobo……Stafford, Murray. Lots of QBs between Bobo and Stafford.

      • restless6 says:

        Yes, but the Dawgs know QBs

        • Todd92 Todd92 says:

          Yeah overall they have always recruited better QBs than us and have always done a better job of development also. Bobo should get the credit for the past few also…. He does a good job.

          • Acid Reign Acid Reign says:

            …..This kind of blew my mind a couple of years ago, but WEA and I sat in the stands at Sanford Stadium surrounded by UGA folk, and they pretty much universally bagged on Bobo. “Y’all will get back in the game. Bobo will blow this, just watch.” Needless to say, Bobo didn’t blow it, and Auburn took a 45-7 shellacking.

            …..I’ll say it again, what UGA did last season with a rebuilt line, two starting receivers going down with season injuries, and two freshman running backs rotating, was astounding. South Carolina/Clowney got a taste of it this year.

  5. Squeakywheel says:

    Always enjoy your thoughts on the game Acid – agree with almost all of them. In this game, I thought the weather caused a lot of problems on offense. These problems got into their heads and really didn’t get out until the second half. To compete with teams like LSU, they have got to get roaring in the first half – up tempo and everything else. It seems we let the environment and the weather intimidate us on offense – go figure with such a young team? Defense is a very different situation. Johnson simply didn’t have his personnel ready. It’s one thing to have a great back dragging tacklers, but LSU’s back had clear sailing quite a few times. I applaud the adjustments in the second half, but the D started off “broken.” This is a rebuilding year, and against great teams like LSU, some of this is expected. I have much more confidence in this coaching staff than last years. It’s still great to be an Auburn Tiger!

    • Acid Reign Acid Reign says:

      …..Yes, it is. I don’t think Ellis Johnson anticipated a power run game up the gut, as that’s the only explanation for why we were so poorly prepared. I think he expected play action on first down, and runs to the corner by the speedy LSU tailbacks.

      • Todd92 Todd92 says:

        One of my biggest gripes on defense is EJ not adjusting the defense earlier and playing that damned zone coverage for too long.

      • wde1988 wde1988 says:

        Yeah… I mean, it’s LSU and they got a power run game. What’s not to prepare for. ???? The problem AU had was whether we were going to comit to stopping the run or if we were going to try to stop the pass. We did neither in the 1st half.

        In the same vien… it’s like someone saying we didn’t prepare for weather yet we had the forecast… stating 100% rain. Makes no sense.

        2nd half… we pretty much took LSU’s run game out of synch. Either that or LSU took it’s foot off the gas. I can’t tell which…


  6. Todd92 Todd92 says:

    I thought Marshall took a huge step back in this game. His throws were forced and panicked for the most part. Throwing the ball after running a full two yards beyond the LOS is inexcusable at any level beyond peewee. There were several times including that instance that he could have picked up significant yards by just running out the play to the sideline.

    The OL played pretty well except for the two penalties on Miller.

    The DL played like crap the first half but came alive in the second half. Why Lawson and Adams are not heavily rotated in during the first half is beyond me. I felt prior to the game the defense needed to be aggressive and play press man with the box loaded to stop the run to shutdown the inside run game…. We did in the second half. EJ drug his heels making the changes and after getting gashed up the middle on LSU’s first two scores you would think that would make one change on the fly pretty quickly.

    And while I am a Gus fan I have to give the offensive play calling a C- and I think that’s being generous. In the first half LSU was playing soft in the middle and giving up yards between the tackles and yet when faced with 3rd and short Gus repeatedly went to a pass play or a run around the end. And the decision to go for it on 4th and 5, while your defense is holding the LSU O to next to nothing, was just plain dumb. There was plenty of time left and we were playing at the middle of the field, no need to give up that field position. Very next series after we, again, moved the ball back to the middle of the field he punts on 4th and 2 with about 3 minutes less in time left…. So we were more desperate 3 minutes earlier?

    We need to find that defense from the second half and get those guys to play the second half and Gus would do well to stick to what’s working until it doesn’t… No need to trick them if we truly are a power running team.

  7. fasttimes says:

    the starting defensive strategy to start the game was baffling. I have not played on down of football in my life, only watched a bunch and read about it. I knew lsu was going to pound the ball up the middle. that is what they do. its what they have always done. they have played next to no one so far (save tcu maybe) so all the mettenburger talk needed to be proven. our goal should have been to sell out to stop the run from the get go. if we die by the pass that would be fine. those two huge runs up the middle got 14 points quickly. that ends up being the difference in the game. i actually believe miles called off the dogs pretty early and the game was much more of a blow out than it looked, but i could be wrong about that. just don;t have any other explaination for that fake punt.

    i have read malzahns book and we do not seem to be following his philosophy. i am encouraged by a lot, but im a bit disappointed still in that performance. even if it is to the #6 team.

  8. restless6 says:

    Lots of good thoughts here.

    Since UGA came up, I have a question…

    How is that UGA can reload with ease with superior talent than Auburn year after year?

    It seems like no matter what coach we have had since Tubs, that we can’t match up other than a couple of seasons sporadically.

    Also , good points about the play calling. It is maddening at times.

  9. Tigerstripe Tigerstripe says:

    I have a theory, hear me out…

    LSU fans are really aliens (which explain the corndog smell) like the ones from the movie Signs with Mel Gibson. They are intolerant to water… Who knew the way to take them out of the scariest place to play at night called “DEATH VALLEY” was a little precipitation… gawd, I hope Auburn fans NEVER do that to our players. What an embarrassment for LSU!

  10. sparkey sparkey says:

    Well, I told you guys this game would be ugly and then you’d have the wringing of hands saying Auburn hadn’t moved forward. Yet, somehow, it seems like you guys think exactly that. You folks seem to forget what we were last season. Give Gus time. You know something: Alabama fans even gave Nick more than one season. You guys don’t seem to be giving Gus anything. You expect Auburn to be great right now. Gus is building the foundation for the future. You folks are going to have to accept that or you’re simply going to be miserable all season and you’ll want a new coach before the end of the season.

    The biggest thing that bothers me is the possible politics still going on at Auburn. Slade still playing. Holland still in there every down almost. We still seem to play too much soft zone when man coverage works like a damn charm for this team. On top of that, the offense still seems slower than what Gus wants to run. Why is this Wildcat thing being played like this? You can’t tell me as smart as Gus is that he’s unaware how pour the execution has been so far with Frazier as the Wildcat qb.

    In fact, do the Frazier plays we’ve seen this season not look frighteningly like the 2011 plays with Frazier? We’re all convinced that Chizik meddled a whole lot. Yet, does the offense not have a few scary similarities to it that it did back in 2011 when we were sure that Chizik was meddling with Gus’s offense? At times against LSU, did the defense in the first half not look in an eerily fashion very close to what we saw all of 2011 and 2012 with the soft zone? Look, I’m not saying that any of that means anything. But, can you guys at least admit at times the schemes looked way too similar to what we’ve seen in the past?