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Report card: Auburn can’t hide from failures in blowout loss to LSU

Michael Niziolek

mniziolek@ledger-enquirer.com

AP

Report Card

Offense F: Hard to go with anything other than a failing grade when coach Gus Malzahn labeled Saturday’s offensive performance that himself. He attributed much of the problems in the 45-21 loss to LSU to timing issues. He also declined to give quarterback Jeremy Johnson a vote of confidence for the first time this season. Johnson continues to turn the ball over at an alarming rate – six interceptions, one fumble – while struggling to complete even the simplest of throws. The running game struggled for an entire 60 minutes, but an early deficit forced Auburn to move away from its run-heavy game plan. Fans looking for bright spots will be hard pressed to find them.

Defense F: The stats speak for themselves. Auburn’s defense gave up 411 rushing yards, one of the worst performances against the run in program history. Leonard Fournette looked like he was playing against a junior varsity at times by manhandling guys in the secondary. On a play in the second half, he gave freshman Nick Ruffin a stiff arm that sent the defensive back to high school. The defense isn’t living up to the “fast, physical” motto new defensive coordinator Will Muschamp laid out when he arrived in Auburn. Outside of a hit on Colin Jeter by Blake Countess in the second quarter, it’s hard to find examples of Auburn being more physical than LSU’s offense. One alarming stat from Saturday is that of LSU’s 48 carries by six different players, not a single one went for negative yardage.

Special Teams B: Daniel Carlson didn’t have any field goal opportunities Saturday. He did well on kickoffs with three kickoffs while punter Kevin Phillips might have earned the lone game ball. Het set a career high with a 56-yard punt, landed two inside the 20-yard line and had a nice per punt average of 50 yards. Coverage was a little more suspect with Auburn allowing its longest punt return of the season of 23 yards. Special teams continue to be one of Auburn’s least concerns.

Coaching F: Coaches got a bit of a pass last week for the near disaster against Jacksonville State. They get no such kindness this week. Auburn continues to make the same mistakes, and looks ill-prepared early in games. Leonard Fournette rushed for 71 yards on the first play. The offense was shutout with only six first downs at the half. Malzahn’s popular “we’ll get better” refrain isn’t convincing when the team has actually looked worse each week.

Overall F: Penn State buried the film of its opening look loss, and Auburn might want to do the same when it returns home from Baton Rouge. This loss was a real setback for a team that came into the season with national title aspirations. The problem for Auburn is who does it turn to now? They don’t have any players consistently producing on either side of the ball. Defensive lineman Carl Lawson might not be back this season, Jeremy Johnson could find himself on the bench and no one has stepped up to make this their team. Auburn has to go back to the drawing board, but has very little time to figure out solutions with hosting another SEC rival Mississippi State Saturday night.

Michael Niziolek covers Auburn football for the Columbus Ledger-Enquirer. Email him at mniziolek@ledger-enquirer.com or follow him on Twitter, Facebook or Google+

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