Red-zone struggles ultimately doom spiraling Auburn
With only six points from four trips inside the 20, Auburn’s offense didn’t do much Saturday night to help out its defense, which played much better than its last two outings against Dak Prescott and Mississippi State.
- Red-zone mistakes cost Tigers: Sean White, making his first career start, completed 20-of-28 passes, but one of those throws was an interception in the end zone that nullified a potential scoring opportunity. The misfire snapped White’s four consecutive completions streak to start the game. Another mistake on a terrible snap led to a scoreless trip late in the second quarter that kept the Tigers off the scoreboard in the first half.
- Deficiencies on third down: The Tigers ran 78 plays and dominated time of possession, but third-down struggles (4-of-14) ended drives, notably up front where Auburn yielded four sacks.
- Peyton Barber’s big night: Auburn’s best back recorded his third 100-yard game in four starts and added two receptions for 19 yards. He’s the only threat on the ground thus far for an offense that hasn’t yet found a rhythm doing what it does best.
Offense: (C) — Nine points at home for the preseason SEC favorite isn’t much to be happy about and Auburn’s quarterback situation hasn’t yet been resolved. For the most part however, White did a good job cycling through his progressions and knowing where to go with the football, an element Jeremy Johnson has struggled with early this season. The running game still needs to find a second reliable option behind Barber.
Defense: (B) — Dak Prescott completed 16 of his first 20 passes and largely dissected the Tigers at the back end with underneath routes and crossing patterns, but Auburn didn’t break defensively and stayed within striking distance throughout. The front seven tackled well and limited the Bulldogs to just 2.7 yards per carry on the ground. It could’ve been worse considering Prescott’s poise as a senior and strengths as the SEC’s best quarterback.
Special Teams: (B) — Daniel Carlson made three of his four field goals tries, missing on a 26-yard chip shot just before halftime. His best boot was a 51-yarder with 57 seconds remaining that trimmed Auburn’s deficit to one possession. Auburn’s ensuing onside kick attempt sailed out of play.
Coaching: (C+) — Gus Malzahn and Rhett Lashlee’s hands appear to be somewhat tied this season offensively. The Tigers simply don’t have the personnel many expected. Auburn made four trips inside the 20 against Mississippi State and couldn’t punch it in the end zone. Could the Tigers have done something differently and perhaps went for it on fourth down a couple more times? Maybe, but Auburn’s noticeable lack of confidence is team-wide. Still, Malzahn believes the Tigers can right the ship and turn it around before it gets worse.
Overall: (C+) — Auburn needed to win this one, but instead fell into a catastrophic 0-2 hole in the SEC West that all but seals this season’s fate as a middle-of-the-division finisher. The Tigers have issues that need to be addressed offensively and their defense, playing without Carl Lawson, hasn’t yet found an identity. Finding ways to improve and reaching bowl eligibility should be the new mindset the rest of the way.
Malzahn made sure not to put too much pressure on White during his first start, but too often protection broke down and Auburn’s quarterback was forced out of his comfort zone on the move. White was able to escape several times including once on a 31-yard burst, but four sacks and constant harassment in the backfield kept him unsure on dropbacks. Will Muschamp’s plan defensively was to keep everything in front of the defense and I thought the Tigers did a good job of limiting Mississippi State’s big plays.
- LB Richie Brown, Mississippi State: Managed 13 tackles, three TFL, two sacks
- DB Blake Countess, Auburn: Posted nine tackles and two pass break-ups
- RB Peyton Barber, Auburn: Rushed for 137 yards on 27 carries