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Report card: Auburn’s Iron Bowl struggles follow familiar script

Michael Niziolek

mniziolek@ledger-enquirer.com

Auburn defensive back Stephen Roberts celebrates making a stop Saturday, Nov. 28, 2015 at Jordan-Hare Stadium in the Iron Bowl.
Auburn defensive back Stephen Roberts celebrates making a stop Saturday, Nov. 28, 2015 at Jordan-Hare Stadium in the Iron Bowl.

Offense D: If Jason Smith doesn’t make a miraculous in the third quarter there would be little to celebrate about Auburn’s offensive performance. Alabama dropped an extra defender into the box in the second half forcing Auburn to abandon a run game that had success in the early going. After halftime, the Tigers barely tried to test its luck running the ball with only eight carries for one yard. Jovon Robinson had 53 yards in the first half, but only touched the ball twice. Jeremy Johnson and the receivers weren’t on the same page as he completed only 10 of 23 passes. It was the third time this season Auburn was held to a touchdown or less and that’s not good enough in the SEC.

Defense B: It’s easy to see the negative in the performance as the defense gave up 271 rushing yards to Derrick Henry, but the group had the Tigers thinking upset into the fourth quarter. The defense forced the Tide to settle for field goals in the first half to keep the game within reach and was better Saturday on third downs (5 of 16) than it had been all season. Auburn needed its playmakers to step up more finishing off plays when it pressured quarterback Jake Coker and forcing turnovers, but the group stepped up to the challenge of playing the No. 2 team in the country.

Special Teams C: Daniel Carlson missed a 48-yard field goal at the end of the first half that would have tied the game going into halftime. It was his first miss in 17 tries. Auburn allowed a long return in the kicking game, but bottled up dynamic returner Cyrus Jones on his only punt return.

Coaching D: Auburn’s coaching staff takes a hit for an unsportsmanlike conduct penalty on the bench that helped Alabama score a field goal in the fourth quarter. It appeared the call was on the defensive coaching staff for arguing a questionable late hit call on Coker. The issue on the other side of the ball was a more sustained one with the offense’s play calling and execution a major stumbling book in the second half.  

Overall C: The storyline in the second half of the season for Auburn is the wheels falling off on offense. If the group had given up at least there would be an easy explanation for the continued inconsistency. The Tigers find themselves ironically going into a bowl game with the opposite problem they had last season when they couldn’t stop anybody.

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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