Auburn falls to LSU. (Grading Auburn’s 23-20 loss at LSU.)

Sunday, October 27, 2019

Auburn falls to LSU. (Grading Auburn’s 23-20 loss at LSU.)

Schwartz was a forgotten man again this day.
(AP Photo/Gerald Herbert.)

     War Eagle everybody! It’s time now for the Acid Reign Report on disappointing 23-20 loss to the LSU Tigers. There was lots of talk about how the Auburn offense could not go silent for long stretches at LSU, or it would cost Auburn the game. Instead, much like the game at Florida, the offense cratered under a miasma of poor play at a number of positions till late in the 4th quarter.

     Auburn’s second drive of the game was a good one, with the Tigers earning a first and goal at the 7. One would think that Auburn has lots of talented skill players who might benefit the team carrying the ball in that situation. Auburn was unable to even get the ball on a handoff to any of them. The play sequence went like this: mixup in the backfield/keeper for nothing. Then a throw out of bounds. False start, then another throw out of bounds. I suppose I should be grateful Auburn got a field goal out of the drive, and an early lead.

     A long dry spell ensued for Auburn. Auburn was able to cash a touchdown out of a muffed punt by LSU, barely converting on 4th and goal. But during that long spell Auburn had a drive crippled by a false start, another drive doomed on 1st down by an intentional grounding call, yet another false start-killed drive, and a drive before halftime killed by an interception.

     Auburn opened the 3rd quarter with a 70 yard DJ Williams run, for a first and goal at the 9 yard line. Again, Auburn could manage only a couple of short runs up the middle, and a thrown away ball on 3rd down. Tigers did take the lead on a field goal. Auburn stopped LSU on the Auburn 1 yard line, but could not move the ball. Anthony Schwartz was wide open on a quick hitch pattern, but Auburn could not connect with him, throwing the ball way early. Auburn again stopped LSU with an interception at the 2 yard line, but consecutive slant passes were thrown off target, and Auburn had to punt again. The next drive featured a 3rd down hold-the-ball sack.

     Early in the 4th quarter, Auburn got a first down on a pass interference penalty, but the drought wasn’t over. A horrific snap sailed backwards 20 yards, and another drive was doomed. The next drive, another intentional grounding/sack killed it. Time was running short, with Auburn trailing 23-13. Auburn started moving the ball a bit with 7 and a half minutes left, but another drive was killed with an illegal block call. Auburn got a late touchdown finally, by throwing the ball at Seth Williams nearly every snap. By then, it was too late, as an onside kick failed and LSU ran out the clock.

     On defense, Auburn again had a mismatch up front. This week, LSU decided to just grab and hold onto Auburn linemen, and see what happened. Not a single holding penalty was called on LSU. Not even one. There were other blatant no-calls also. Derrick Brown took a hand to the face and had to leave the game with an injured eye. An LSU receiver punched an Auburn defender in the face out of bounds, and that wasn’t called. Numerous times LSU defenders ran into Auburn receivers before the ball arrived, and nothing was called. I’m usually not going to gripe too much about officials, but Auburn got a raw deal from them during this game.

     Auburn special teams played well enough to win, especially punter Arryn Siposs and the coverage teams.

Unit grades after the jump!

Defensive Line: A-. It was amazing how disruptive this line was, even when being held. Auburn utilized just a 3 man line for much of the game, which caused some issues on run fits. Despite only 3 men on the field at a time, the line contributed 18 total tackles.

Linebackers: B+. There were just a few missed tackles and run fits, but this team was on the field a long time due to Auburn’s inept offense. I was going to complain about the linebackers not covering backs very well, but that proved to be a false opinion. Auburn held a pair of dangerous receiving backs to just 8 yards per catch, with none covering more than 13 yards. Auburn linebackers made 17 total tackles.

Secondary: A-. The philosophy this week was to keep the lid on LSU receivers. LSU was able to throw the short passes, but Auburn largely prevented big gains on those. The secondary carried a heavy load, making an astounding 71 total tackles, if the stat sheet can be believed. The LSU statistician handed out a ton of assists in this game, resulting in the high number.

Punting: A. Arryn Siposs kept Auburn in the game with a great day punting the football. He had 10 punts for an average of 46.2 yards. LSU was killed deep in their end 3 times, and Siposs had 3 punts of more than 50 yards. Despite the distance, LSU could manage only 2 returns for 7 yards, and 1 of those was a lost fumble.

Punt Returns: B-. I gave this grade due to 5 fair catches on 6 LSU punts. On the other hand, Auburn prevented any field position due to rolling, and there were no punts dropped on the ground this week. LSU was punting short to try to limit returns.

Kick Returns: A- Noah Igbinoghene had one return for 32 yards, and Shaun Shivers had one for 27, late. Both returns helped Auburn field position.

Place Kicking: A. Anders Carlson hit all of his place kicks, 2 short field goals and 2 extra points. Carlson kicked off 4 times, and none of them were returned.

Offensive Line: C. As the game wore on, Arkansas really sent the house after Auburn proved that the passing game was ineffectual, and 5 linemen can’t block all 8 or 9 defenders that were coming. Repeated false starts were a big issue. I have to wonder if some of the problem wasn’t with the snap count being messed up. If 2 or 3 linemen jump on a given play, that can mean that the center didn’t snap the ball when he was supposed to. There were several bad snaps, as well.

Running Backs: B+. There were a few big runs sandwiched in between lots of 1 yard gains. I would like to see more of the long runs actually finished off in the end zone. Honestly, the backs didn’t get a lot of blocking help on most downs, and did a good job of holding onto the football.

Receivers: B+. I could count off for about a half dozen dropped passes, but there was early contact on every one of those drops. LSU was only called for a couple of pass interference penalties. By my estimation, that is about 10 percent accuracy by the SEC officials.

Quarterback: C+. There were a number of bad throws, but also some good ones. Too often, Bo Nix had to try to deal with just a blown-up play at the line of scrimmage. Or had to try to deal with a big pass rush on 3rd and long due to penalties. I would like to see Auburn work more on just the basic short passes. A 5-yard hitch pass should be nearly automatic in single coverage. Likewise, Auburn has trouble hitting receivers on simple slant patterns.

     I complained last week about Auburn’s short yardage packages, and this week was rewarded by seeing some successful quarterback sneaks in this game. I think those need to stay in the play book. Likewise, I was pleased to see some successful wildcat plays with JaTarvious Whitlow unexpectedly returning early from knee surgery.

     All the Auburn Tigers can do now is try to fight through the rest of a difficult schedule. Mathematically, Auburn can still win the Western Division if Alabama, LSU and Auburn all finish with 6-2 records. For that to happen, LSU would have to beat Alabama, then lose 2 of 3 against Ole Miss, Arkansas and Texas A&M. That’s highly unlikely.

     Ole Miss is up for the Tigers next weekend, followed by a bye week. Ole Miss is coming off a bye week of their own, and desperately needs a win. The Rebels stand at 3-5 overall, and need 3 wins to become bowl eligible. The Rebels have lost 4 of their last 5, with the lone win coming over Vanderbilt. After Auburn, Ole Miss has New Mexico State, LSU and finishes at Mississippi State. New Mexico State might be the worst team in the FBS, and Ole Miss should win that one. They also need wins over Auburn and MSU to go bowling.

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