Post-game analysis: Can Auburn even compete for the SEC West?
Auburn’s much-anticipated conference debut ended in disaster.
The other Tigers from Louisiana dominated in all aspects of the game and embarrassed Auburn to the tune of 45-21. The team who was once in the discussion as a playoff contender will now have to double its efforts if it merely wants to stay in contention in the SEC West.
After watching Auburn against LSU, here is a breakdown of the team’s performance:
- Something needs to change at QB or somebody needs to change: I don’t want to be overdramatic by saying Jeremy Johnson will go from preseason Heisman hopeful to the bench, but the caliber of his current performance cannot be allowed to continue. The topic of changing QBs came up as early as halftime, when sideline reporter Allie LaForce asked Gus Malzahn if that was a possibility. After the game, Malzahn was also asked.
Gus said “we’re going to reevaluate” every position, when asked if he’s committed to Jeremy Johnson at QB
— Tom Green (@AUBlog) September 19, 2015
- Auburn isn’t strong enough to win with just the rush alone: Auburn certainly tried today, especially after Johnson showed he was still unreliable. But relying on Peyton Barber and Roc Thomas is not enough when you go against a defense like LSU, and Auburn will be going against many more such defenses as the season progresses.
- Duke Williams has become a non-factor: An effect of having a struggling quarterback is your receivers also don’t have a chance to play their game. The preseason All-American receiver had a grand total of two receptions against LSU. To echo what Gary Danielson said in the second half, “Does he have any stats?”
- Auburn’s veterans on defense leave something to be desired: Leonard Fournette was a nightmare, of course. But even on non-explosive run plays, it was frustrating to see LSU ball-carriers sneak straight through the middle of the defensive line untouched to go for five or more yards before they were stopped.
- Muschamp needs to address poor tackling and poor effort with his squad: Rudy Ford had a chance to make a tackle on Fournette, but instead Ford trotted over and stuck out an arm that was easy brushed aside. LSU running backs and receivers also benefited from missed tackles and poor tackles. Muschamp was seen giving his defense an earful on the sideline, but this isn’t something that can be fixed with just some yelling.
Offense: D — The passing woes continue, but at least Johnson was able to find his feet. He ran for a 65-yard touchdown. He also was able to lead Auburn to two touchdown drives during second half, kept alive by desperate tosses. But it’s an issue when Johnson ends the game as your leading rusher with 41 yards, and the most receptions by a single receiver is three.
Defense: D- — Leonard Fournette put the Auburn defense to shame, and everyone took notice. The losing Tigers allowed LSU 411 rushing yards, were unable to create any turnovers, and showed trouble yet again defending a mobile quarterback. All of that, combined with the inability to tackle that was mentioned before, made defensive play well below average.
Special Teams: B — Auburn punter Kevin Phillips was called on a lot on Saturday, and averaged 50 yards a punt. Auburn was also able to down a punt inside the 10.
Coaching: C — It was clear from the very first 71-yard Fournette run of the game that the Auburn defense came to the game unprepared. The multiple looks LSU showed on offense kept Muschamp’s defense off balance and adjustments were hard to make. Given the circumstances, Malzahn may have done the best he could with his offense. Neither the passing game nor the running game revealed itself as more effective against LSU. Keeping Johnson at quarterback, however, was the right move. An inexperienced quarterback with a tendency to make mistakes could have made the loss even worse than it was.
Overall: D — All of Auburn’s inadequacies were exposed by their first SEC opponent. They have a lot of catch up to play if they wish to stay competitive against all further SEC opponents, and especially if they want to hold a candle to Alabama by the end of the season.
Because of Johnson’s still-shaky performances and the success of the running game, Auburn went into the ball game wanting to play a more conservative run-based offense. However, the LSU defense shut the game plan down on all fronts, Auburn fell behind and Johnson was forced to throw picks and lose fumbles.
- RB Leonard Fournette (LSU): A well deserved accolade for dismantling the Auburn defense to the tune of 228 yards and 3 touchdowns.
- QB Brandon Harris (LSU): The young quarterback maintained composure in a big time SEC game by going 12 of 17 for 74 passing yards. He also chose perfect moments to make a run for it, adding 66 rushing yards to his stats.
- S Jamal Adams (LSU): Adams caused all sorts of problems for the Auburn offense. He had one tackle for a loss, broke up two passes, and gave Johnson his sixth interception on the season.
- DE Carl Lawson will remain off the field due to hip injuries, and it is unsure when or if Lawson will return. Malzahn stated during the post-game press conference that he was “hopeful” Lawson would return this season.
- DB Joshua Hosley has a torn ACL and will out for the rest of the season. He suffered the injury last week.