Auburn coach Gus Malzahn had a hard time discussing the team’s offensive struggles this season.
In his brief remarks following the Tigers’ 29-13 loss to Alabama, Malzahn summed up a disappointing year in a series of clipped sentences.
“We just haven’t played consistently well,” Malzahn said.
The performance was in sharp contest to Malzahn’s first year as coach when he was credited for turning Auburn into an offensive juggernaut that averaged just shy of 40 points per game and led the country in rushing offense (328.3 yards per game).
The Tigers were still a “run-play action” offense in 2015, but one that didn’t do either very well.
Auburn’s quarterback situation this season overshadowed an underwhelming rushing attack.
The standout individual moments including Peyton Barber’s five touchdowns against San Jose State and Jovon Robinson going for 159 yards against Texas A&M didn’t add up to much.
Against some of the tougher defenses Auburn faced this season, the team’s backs disappeared for long stretches as evidenced by the second half of the team’s regular-season finale against Alabama.
Coming out of halftime in the loss, the coaches called only eight running plays.
Auburn averaged 191.8 rushing yards per game as a team with an average of 4.3 yards per carry.
If you take out games against non-Power 5 teams (Jacksonville St. and Idaho) the numbers look even worse with those averages falling to 178.3 yards per game and an even four yards a carry.
When the Tigers led the country in rushing two years ago, it averaged 328 yards rushing and 6.5 yards per carry.
There are plenty of potential reasons for the decline — play calling, lack of an established rotation, the offensive line and injuries — but the bottom line is that Auburn didn’t get enough production from a highly touted backfield.
Failure to launch
Auburn quarterback Jeremy Johnson went from preseason Heisman hopeful to backup to “game manager” over the course of 12 weeks.
The confidence coach Malzahn and his staff had in Johnson coming out of fall camp vanished with each interception he threw.
When the junior returned to the lineup for the team’s final five games, there was a clear reluctance to call on Johnson to make intermediate throws. The bulk of the calls were screen and swing passes at the sidelines with an occasional shot down field.
The overall numbers for Auburn’s passing game were ugly. The Tigers averaged of 175.5 yards per game was ranked 107 out of 127 FBS teams.
Final grade: D