Archived Story

Lessons learned following a deluge in Baton Rouge

Published 12:07pm Wednesday, September 25, 2013

By Andy Graham

When the Auburn Tigers traveled to Baton Rouge this past Saturday to face No. 6 LSU, it was supposed to answer a lot of questions about how far the Auburn program had come under the supervision of Gus Malzahn.
As it turned out, I think a lot of questions were answered, but some still remain a mystery.
Although it’s not an excuse, the weather played an enormous factor in the first half.  A quarterback making his SEC road debut in Tiger Stadium at night in a monsoon might tend to struggle. Who knew?
To LSU’s credit, they handled the extreme conditions far better than Auburn, and that proved to be the difference in the game.
So, how far have the Tigers come under Malzahn? As I said last week, the LSU game in 2012 was actually one of Auburn’s better games as far as effort and intensity.
Looking back at the statistics, I would say Auburn has traveled miles.
In 2012, AU had nine first downs, 86 yards rushing and 97 yards passing for a grand total of 183 total yards and 10 points (at home on a beautiful night by the way).
Saturday night, AU had 21 first downs, 213 yards rushing and 224 yards passing for a grand total of 437 total yards and 21 points (in one of the most hostile environments under extreme weather conditions).
Defensively, the numbers aren’t nearly as encouraging.
The Auburn defense held LSU in 2012 to 182 yards rushing and 169 yards passing for 351 total yards and 12 points.
Last Saturday night, the Auburn defense gave up 228 yards rushing and 229 yards passing for 457 total yards and 35 points.
Oddly enough, in both games LSU had two turnovers and Auburn had three turnovers.
Running back Jeremy Hill gashed Ellis Johnson’s defense for 184 yards and three touchdowns on 25 carries, but 154 of those yards came in the first half.
As usual, the defense got stronger as the game went along, but this time it was too little, too late.
That brings us to the mystery yet to be solved, which is why Auburn cannot seem to play with any consistency on either side of the ball.
The Tiger defense consistently plays well in the fourth quarter having only given up seven points all season, but their first-half performances have best resembled a sieve.
Whether it was Washington State throwing the ball all over the field or LSU running wild, the Auburn defense has been consistently inconsistent.  While the offense has made progress each week, it remains Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde for four full quarters.
For some strange reason the second quarter seems to be the most troublesome for the Auburn offense.
In fact, the Tigers on the season are 1 for 11 on third-down (0-4 on Saturday) in the secnd quarter.
I’m all for winning the fourth quarter, but there’s no law against winning the second quarter as well.
Gus Malzahn and this Tiger team proved once and for all Saturday that there are no quitters to be found in 2013.
The entire team played horribly for the first 30 minutes, but they kept their resolve and made a game of it against a very good team in the second 30 minutes.
That’s an enormous step forward. Now, Auburn must develop some consistency on both sides of the ball in order to take the next step forward.
The good news is they have an extra week to try and figure it out.
Graham is a sports columnist for The Outlook.