(Chris Landry is a veteran NFL scout who has worked for the Cleveland Browns and the Houston Oilers/Tennessee Titans. Previously, he ran the NFL Scouting Combine in Indianapolis and served as an assistant coach at LSU. Landry is a consultant for multiple NFL teams and major college programs.)
Auburn’s loss was a gut-punch for Tiger fans. The coaches felt worse.
“That coaching staff was distraught,” Landry said during his weekly podcast after having talked to Auburn assistant coaches both during the week prior to Auburn’s trip to LSU as well as the Sunday morning after the game. “You’ve got the defensive coaches who felt like they had a great game plan, you’ve got the offensive staff who were frustrated about how things were done.
“What I can tell you, without pointing a finger – because I don’t like that, I think you win and lose as a staff – there’s no doubt that the run element and the vertical (passing) game, that’s Gus (Malzahn)… I think there’s plenty of blame to go around, but I think this is on Gus.”
If you recall, Auburn raced out to a 20-0 lead. What happened?
“What did LSU’s defense do at half-time? Two things: they employed more run blitzes, but the most important thing, obviously, they moved the safety into the box,” Landry explains.
Landry expected Auburn to change its offensive focus to make the home-standing Tigers pay for their adjustments, but Auburn never did.
“I made the safe assumption that Auburn was now going to attack the middle of the field,” Landry said. “The middle of the field was displaced as LSU was having to overplay the run. So now Auburn’s got LSU where they want them. They got ‘em on the run… so Auburn’s going to attack the middle of the field.
“Well, no, they didn’t. Inexplicably, Auburn continued to run the football. With a 20 point lead there were 17 consecutive runs on first down by Auburn.”
After watching the coach’s tape, Landry says there was ample spacing to complete intermediate passing routes.
“The biggest flaw for auburn’s offense was not, not getting away running the football, you’ve got to run the football…the biggest flaw Auburn had offensively was the vertical throws,” Landry said. “That was beyond an inane strategy. First of all, it’s a low percentage play. Second of all, it’s a lower percentage play against LSU’s corners. To attack their corners, man-to-man in 50-50 balls, they’re going to win them.
“What you’ve got to be able to do Auburn is work the intermediate routes. You’ve got to be able to make them adjust horizontally in coverage, that takes guys out of the box, that allows you to run the football more and then you’ve got them adjusting to you and you’re dictating to them.”
The mood on the coaching staff following the game was beyond grim, bordering on grave.
“One of the Auburn assistants told me, ‘this game is likely going to cost us our job, we totally collapsed,’” Landry said.
To hear Chris Landry’s full explanation of the the mistakes Auburn’s coaching staff made against LSU, as well as his thoughts on the struggles at Tennessee and Florida, listen to his full podcast embedded below.