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AU defense rises up, team falls short by Andy Graham

September 27, 2012
Sportz Blitz

I believe the best word to describe Saturday night’s game in Jordan Hare Stadium against LSU would be encouraging, at least from an Auburn perspective.
It certainly wasn’t surprising that the national media chose to see it as an LSU failure instead of an Auburn improvement; however, I maintain the Auburn defense deserves an enormous amount of credit for an inspired effort.
The Bengal Tigers ran 20 plays for 115 yards and one touchdown on their first two possessions.
That’s an average drive of 57.5 yards per possession.
On their final 11 possessions, they ran 51 plays for 236 yards and scored one field-goal. That’s an average drive of 21.4 yards per possession. After the Auburn defense settled down, it produced by far, the most complete and impressive performance of the year.
Coming into the ballgame, LSU was averaging 269 yards rushing and 48.3 points per game.
The Auburn defense allowed 182 yards rushing and 10 offensive points.
I said last week that Brian VanGorder’s defensive unit had improved every week in extremely small increments.
This week, they took a big step forward.
It doesn’t guarantee they’ll play at that level every week, but it was proof that it’s possible.  The Tiger’s goal must now be to play at a high level on a consistent basis.
Unfortunately, the offense did not rise to the occasion quite like its counterpart.
It will be extremely difficult for Auburn to win games in the SEC only gaining 183 yards of total offense. Granted, LSU has a tremendous defense, but Scot Loeffler’s offense must find some way to improve their third-down conversion percentage.
The Tigers were 2-of-12 on third-down and only had nine first downs in the entire game.
I personally believe running back Tre Mason needs to get more carries and Onterio McCalebb a few less.  Mason had 54 yards on just nine carries which is an average of  six yards per rush.
I’m still wondering why he did not touch the ball more against LSU.
Auburn needs to make a concerted effort to give him the ball 20 times a game. McCalebb definitely has a role to play and I believe he should touch the ball at least 10 times, but he cannot be the featured back at 170 pounds.
Kiehl Frazier made some very good throws and made some very poor throws.
He obviously has a very strong arm, but his field vision seems to be below average.
Frazier must make quicker decisions and look for other receivers besides Emory Blake.
Kiehl isn’t going to become a great quarterback overnight, but he must start showing more improvement if the Tigers are going to win some games.
The big question becomes where does Auburn go from here?  The bottom line is the Tigers are 1-3 and 0-2 in the SEC.
If it’s possible to gain confidence from a loss, I believe Auburn did that Saturday.
The next five games on the schedule are winnable if the Tigers play with the same intensity they did against LSU and continue to improve.  After this week’s bye, Auburn faces Arkansas, Ole Miss, Vanderbilt, Texas A&M and New Mexico State.  The Tigers have a clear opportunity to turn their season around and it all begins at home with a game against the downward trending Razorbacks.

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