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Monday, Oct. 26, 2009

Auburn coach Gene Chizik will stay with Todd at QB

- abitter@ledger-enquirer.com
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AUBURN, Ala. — Gene Chizik reviewed his quarterback options after Auburn’s ugly 31-10 loss at LSU and came to a decision.

He’s sticking with Chris Todd.

“We still think Chris gives us the best chance to win,” Chizik said Sunday.

Todd had his third straight rough outing Saturday in Baton Rouge, completing 8 of 14 passes for 47 yards against an LSU defense that was the best Auburn has played this year. He had one interception, one lost fumble and no touchdowns.

It was Auburn’s lowest passing total in a game since a 2006 loss to Georgia, when Brandon Cox managed only 35 yards in a 37-15 loss.

“We’re going against much better competition than earlier in the year,” Chizik said. “And we’re to that point where we’ve got to execute better. Chris had a lot of pressure on him last night.”

Todd, who won the starting job in August, has seen his numbers drop off considerably the last few games. He threw for 1,230 yards and 12 touchdowns in the first five games but is only 33-for-66 for 260 yards in the last three games, all losses for a reeling Auburn (5-3, 2-3 SEC).

“As a quarterback, you have to take that on your shoulders and take some blame when things are going bad,” Todd said. “When things are good you get some credit for some stuff, and when things are bad, you take that too.”

Backup Neil Caudle led Auburn on its only scoring drive last night, going 3-for-5 for 34 yards and connecting with Philip Lutzenkirchen on a 1-yard touchdown pass in the final seconds.

Chizik said he and offensive coordinator Gus Malzahn talked in depth about what the offense needs to do as a whole to pull out of its current funk, although changing quarterbacks wasn’t at the center of the conversation.

“That’s from offensive line to wideouts to Wildcat to the whole gamut,” Chizik said. “So it wasn’t specifically related to one guy, if that makes sense.”

Auburn has seen its yardage plummet each week since beating Ball State on Sept. 26, going from 560 yards to 459 to 375 to 315 to 193 against LSU. The Tigers’ point totals have followed the same downward trend, from 54 to 26 to 23 to 14 to 10, leading many to believe that defenses have simply figured out how to defend Malzahn’s up-tempo offense.

“Does everybody know what we’re doing on offense right now? Without question,” Chizik said, citing the all the game film that is available to opponents this deep into the season. “But it still comes down to execution. I know everybody wants (to know), ‘Has it all been figured out?’ Well, again, it’s out there for everybody to see. Of course they have a better idea of what’s going on. We’ve got to execute better. It’s that simple.”

Chizik said Auburn’s downfield passing problems are a big reason for the struggles. The Tigers’ longest pass against LSU was 17 yards. After having 20 passing plays of 20 or more yards in the first five weeks of season, they’ve had only three the last three weeks.

Auburn’s two starting receivers — Darvin Adams and Terrell Zachery — combined for 1 catch and 1 yard Saturday.

“There’s a significant drop-off there,” Chizik said. “Sheer numbers will tell you that’s been an area over the last couple of weeks that we certainly need to improve on, whatever we need to do.

“Moving guys around to different positions, getting the ball to other people. There’s been a good bit of press coverage on our guys.”

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