After what appeared to be a step forward during a close loss to LSU 2 weeks ago, the Auburn Tigers took 3 steps backwards with an embarrassing performance against a struggling Arkansas team. The game was Auburn's 7th loss by 14 or more points in their last 16 games and their 9th overall under Gene Chizik. The Auburn defense started off slowly but after the first 2 possessions, the Tigers held Arkansas to 20-yards or less in 6 of the next 7 possessions. The defense did enough to keep Auburn in the game through the first 3 quarters but the Auburn offense failed to score during their first 9 possessions of the game. The stagnant Auburn offense resulted in a quarterback change at halftime but the Tigers managed just 1 scoring drive during the second half and 3 additional turnovers. When the offense finally generated a touchdown, the defense collapsed on the subsequent series.
The offensive line played perhaps their worst game of the season, making Arkansas look like a top-10 defensive front. I'm not sure if Avery Young played on offense this week (I don't recall seeing him) but his recent benching has been a "head scratcher" to say the least. Auburn had two weeks to prepare for this game against a defensive opponent, one of the worst in the nation. Auburn finished with 321-yards, 7 points, 5 turnovers and 8 sacks. Auburn managed to snap their 16-game consecutive streak of being held under 200-yards passing. Though I understand the concept of changing quarterbacks to possibly ignite the offense, Auburn is now back to where they were last year, in terms of quarterback identity on offense. I thought Moseley did okay but the two interceptions were costly.
Arkansas did a terrific job of neutralizing Auburn's defensive ends by chipping them off the line with their TE. Not only was the chip effective in slowing down the pass-rush, the Razorbacks also cashed in with the TE releasing into the flat after the chip to generate 3 impact plays off the same play. Tre Mason finished the game with just 6 carries, which is perplexing since he has been Auburn's most efficient and consistent running back. Mike Blakely has the potential to be a solid running back but I don't understand why the coaches have been so reluctant in allowing Mason to be the featured back. How are any of the backs expected to develop a rhythm on 6-9 carries per game? At minimum, it certainly doesn't make sense that he has a grand total of 15 carries during the last 2 game.
Inside the Numbers…
- The Auburn offense was more effective on first down this Saturday, finishing with 6.5 yards per play. Auburn averaged 5.1 yards on first during the first half and 7.6 yards during the second half.
- Auburn's opponent has averaged more yards on first down plays in 17 of the last 22 games, which includes 10 of the last 11 games.
- Kiehl Frazier finished the game with a pass rating of 120.8 and Clint Moseley finished with a 123.8 rating. The "spark" attempt failed for the most part and now the coaches are faced with the beginning stages of a quarterback controversy.
- Auburn has scored a total of 15 offensive touchdowns during their last 10 conference games and 5 of those came against Ole Miss last season.
- Emory Blake recorded his 6th career 100-yard game with 10 receptions for 118-yards. Blake is currently on pace for an 800-yard season.
- 11 different players were targeted in the Auburn pass-offense against Arkansas. Emory Blake has been targeted 23 times during the last 2 games.
- DeAngelo Benton, Jaylon Denson and Ricardo Louis recorded their first receptions of the season.
- In only 2 of Auburn's last 16 games, Auburn has registered more tackles for loss than their opponent. Their opponent has consistently won the line of scrimmage.
- During the 28 conference games under Gene Chizik, Auburn has recorded more tackles for loss than their opponent only 5 times.
- Auburn's quarterbacks were sacked 8 times and hurried 7 times against Arkansas.
- Auburn's defensive line accounted for 18.8 percent of the tackles, their lowest output all season.
- Auburn has scored in 60.0 percent of their regulation quarters through 5 games, the 3rd worst percentage over the past 32 seasons (1981-2012).
- In 9 of their last 16 games, Auburn has been shutout during the 4th period.
- During the past 2 seasons, Auburn has been outscored in the second period, 146 to 67 and 100 to 54 during the 4th quarter.
With Auburn falling to 1-4 on the season, it marks only the 4th time Auburn has began the season with only 1 victory during their first 5 games since 1951. The 1952 team went 2-8, the 1975 team went 4-6-1 and the 1998 team went 3-8-0. With one of the worst offenses at the FBS level this season and a Jekyll and Hyde defense, it's not likely this team will win enough games to garner a bowl invitation. The concern for the current coaching staff is whether or not the team will begin to slip away from them. Auburn came into the season with a lack of senior leadership, which makes the coach's job even more difficult to keep their personnel focused.
At this point Auburn needs to treat each game like a 1 game season. The only goal should be improving execution and nothing more. Before Auburn can win another game, they must win the possession and before they win the possession, they have to win the play. Not only do the players need to look in the mirror but the coaches also need to revaluate their preparation during game week and their game plans for Saturday. With the extra week off, it appears the players and coaches missed out on the opportunity to improve. Arkansas came into the game with only 2 forced turnovers and 4 sacks on the season. Against Auburn the Razorbacks had 8 sacks and 5 forced turnovers.
For every offensive touchdown Auburn has scored this season, they have turned the ball over 3 times. The self-inflicted miscues this team has battled through this season is a strong indicator of how poorly prepared the Tigers have been this year. As long as this continues Auburn will fail to perform consistently and will fall victim to additional lopsided defeats. Should Auburn finish the season 3-9 or 4-8 with 5-6 blowout losses, it would certainly require a strong consideration for changes all the way to the top of the program. It's not about where the team is now but how they arrived here and what direction are they taking from this point on. Initially 2011 was thought to be a steppingstone for 2012 and 2012 has now turned into a steppingstone for 2013. How many stones must this program now take after 4 years to prevent being stepped upon?