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Auburn's Rhett Lashlee: Offense not a 'stat machine' right now

Michael Niziolek

mniziolek@ledger-enquirer.com

Auburn offensive coordinator Rhett Lashlee knows that anyone pouring through the box score isn’t going to be impressed by the Tigers’ output.

Outside of Peyton Barber’s five touchdowns, the offense had a ho-hum performance in a 35-21 over San Jose State, but Lashlee defended the way his group played Sunday night.

“We’re not a big stats machine right now,” Lashlee said. “I don’t think that’s a big secret to anybody else but what we did yesterday was finish drives better in the red zone, which the exception of that third-and-1, we got to pick that up, that’s inexcusable. We didn’t turn it over, we didn’t have an offensive penalty, we were over 50 percent on third down and I think we only punted it two times in the game.”

For a program that prides itself on offensive ingenuity, Lashlee’s group has failed to consistently get the ball down field. Outside of Ricardo Louis, the other receivers have disappeared for long stretches.

Duke Williams was expected to shine his senior year, but is averaging a paltry 29.4 yards per game, and has only scored one touchdown. Louis and Williams are still the only players with more than 10 catches on the season.

“Right now we’re starting to execute at a better level; we’re just not explosive enough and that’s something we’ll continue to work on in getting those playmakers the ball that need it,” Lashlee said.

A stat that jumped out Saturday was that Auburn only ran 58 plays on offense, a number far below the 70 to 80 that the Tigers expect. It was the second time this season the offense has run less than 60 plays (56 against LSU).

In 2014, they weren’t held to less than 60 in any of their 13 games.

Lashlee pushed back against the notion that there is a threshold for offensive success based on any single stat. 

“At the end of the day we’re going to do whatever it takes to win,” Lashlee said. “If it’s ugly, if it’s pretty, if it’s 88 plays, if it’s 55 plays, that’s all that matters.”

All the offense can do is “maximize” drives when it has the possession of the ball. Of Auburn’s nine drives Saturday, they scored touchdowns on five of them, missed two field goals and only punted twice.

As for the conservative nature of Saturday’s game plan, Lashlee pointed out that it wasn’t how the team prepared to call the offense during the week.   

“Just the way the game unfolded after we got up 21-7, we were never in a situation where we had to throw it a lot and we were running it effectively, so it just didn’t call for it. It wasn’t planned,” Lashlee said.

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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