Offensive meltdowns doom Auburn

Offensive meltdowns doom Auburn

October 10th, 2012 by David Paschall in Sports - College

On Oct. 16, 2010, Auburn quarterback Cam Newton continued his march to the Heisman Trophy by rushing for 188 yards and throwing for 140 in a 65-43 victory over Arkansas.

This year's Tigers may be hard-pressed to score 65 points in their eight league games.

Auburn slipped to 8-5 last season following its 14-0 national championship run of two years ago, an understandable skid given the loss of Newton, defensive tackle Nick Fairley and other key personnel. Yet the plummeting hasn't stopped, as the Tigers are 1-4 this season and inept offensively.

"There is a lot of anger right now," sophomore tailback Tre Mason said. "Everybody wants to win every game, and this is no one's fault but our own. It's like we've got all the pieces to the puzzle, but we can't put it together."

The Tigers have scored 27 points through three SEC losses, with senior tailback Onterio McCalebb accounting for one of the three touchdowns on a 100-yard kickoff return in a 28-10 loss at Mississippi State. McCalebb also scored on a 4-yard run in a 12-10 loss to LSU, but that capped a 26-yard drive that was set up by defensive end Corey Lemonier's strip of Zach Mettenberger.

Auburn is averaging 15.4 points overall, ahead of just Florida Atlantic and Tulane among Bowl Subdivision teams, and ranks last with a minus-2.20 turnover ratio per game. Fourth-year coach Gene Chizik said Tuesday that the game plan is narrowing this week as the Tigers prepare to visit Ole Miss, which is favored despite having lost 17 straight conference games.

"I want us to have definite ideas on how we're going to run the football and stay with the plan," Chizik said. "We need to stay with the run game, and we need to protect our quarterback. The two things that we've got to improve on is we're taking tackles for losses that are not sack-related and we're taking too many sacks.

"We've got too many negative plays out there, so we've got to be able to run the ball effectively and we've got to be able to protect the quarterback, and part of that is the quarterback getting the ball out of his hands and making quick decisions."

Sophomore Kiehl Frazier started the first five games at quarterback but was replaced by junior Clint Moseley at halftime of last week's 24-7 home loss to downtrodden Arkansas. The Razorbacks racked up eight sacks, and Chizik said a decision on this week's starter could come after today's practice.

The offense is under the direction of new coordinator Scot Loeffler, who has the task of developing a pro-style offense following Auburn's three years in the spread under Gus Malzahn, but he does have pieces with which to work.

Frazier was the USA Today's offensive player of the year coming out of high school. McCalebb entered this season with a career yards-per-carry average of 6.5, and senior receiver Emory Blake compiled 1,233 yards his previous two seasons.

And has anybody in SEC history gotten more wide open more often than senior tight end Philip Lutzenkirchen?

"It's tough, because we're expecting to come out and show a lot more than we've shown," Blake said. "As an offense, it's embarrassing. We've got to stay positive, and we can't let whatever is being said outside of our team affect us, because I know a lot of negative things are about to come."

Chizik is 9-9 since winning the BCS title, and he was asked about his job security after Saturday's loss. Such questioning will be certain to continue if Auburn loses at Ole Miss and at Vanderbilt and is 1-6 for the first time in 60 years, and then there is recent history.

Terry Bowden entered the 1998 season with a sparkling 46-12-1 record but felt forced to resign following a 1-5 start. Tommy Tuberville entered 2008 having won 44 of his last 53 games and having defeated Alabama six straight times, but he resigned after a 5-7 season in which offensive coordinator Tony Franklin was fired halfway through.

"I see exactly what's happening and know exactly what's happening with our football team," Chizik said. "I've been doing this for 27 years, and there really isn't something I haven't been through in one way or another. I don't need to seek advice from other people on adverse situations. I've been through plenty of them."