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Inconsistent quarterback play hampers Auburn's offense

Michael Niziolek

mniziolek@ledger-enquirer.com

Auburn players have done their best to publicly back the way the coaching staff has handled the team’s quarterback situation this year.

Cracks in that united front started to show following Saturday’s 29-13 loss to Alabama in the Iron Bowl at Jordan-Hare Stadium.

“Great teams they always have rhythm on both sides of the ball especially on offense,” Auburn wide receiver Ricardo Louis said. “Your quarterback has rhythm nobody can stop you. If you don’t have rhythm with your quarterback then you can’t have rhythm in the game. You can’t score. You can’t hold on to the ball and you can’t do anything.”

Jeremy Johnson started at quarterback against the Tide throwing for 169 yards and a touchdown on 10 of 23 passing. The majority of his yardage came on a single throw in the third quarter to Jason Smith.

Smith made a spectacular catch by tipping the ball twice to himself in midair. It accounted for 77 of Johnson’s passing yards.

Since returning to the lineup against Texas A&M, Johnson hasn’t thrown the ball for more than 200 yards in a single game and the coaching staff has been reluctant to throw the ball down field.

Redshirt freshman Sean White was dressed to play Saturday, but remained on the bench. He was still sporting the left knee brace he started wearing after injuring the leg against Arkansas game.

White practiced during the week, but coach Gus Malzahn said in his post-game press conference the Florida native wasn’t healthy enough to play. White made five starts this season and a brief appearance against Georgia two weeks ago.

A lack of consistency in the passing game has been a source of frustration for players that’s been building in recent weeks.

Louis finished his final Iron Bowl with one catch for 24 yards. It was the third time in four weeks he had less than 25 yards receiving.

“We just couldn’t finish," Louis said. "We got to the fourth quarter and couldn’t get it done. It sucks.”

Johnson admitted missing what could have been a pair of long gains to Louis. He also said he could have been better down the stretch when he threw a number of incompletions with the game on the line.

At the start of the fourth quarter, Auburn had the ball with a chance to take a lead trailing 19-13. Johnson missed Louis on first down, Smith on second and was sacked on third down. Alabama extended its lead with a field goal on its next possession.

The lack of chemistry on offense isn’t a surprise to Johnson considering the way the quarterback situation was handled this season.

“We’ve been playing both quarterbacks so you know it’s kind of hard for the receivers and getting used to throwing to those guys,” Johnson said. “It’s all about rhythm.”

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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