Auburn’s offense is left looking for more answers after her snarling performance last weekend against Georgia, and one of the most pressing problems the unit needs to solve as week seven enters – with a trip to Ole Miss on the itinerary – is finding a way to keep driving. .
The Tigers struggled to do so in the SEC game, and that was especially noticeable during the team’s 42-10 loss to rival Georgia last weekend.
“You want to keep the ball in your attacker’s hand,” said Auburn coach Brian Harsin. “I think that’s one of the things that hurts the defense (against Georgia).”
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Auburn had 14 possessions during his loss to Georgia, with nine of those drives ending in kicks, including six in three. The Tigers had only one drive longer than 39 yards—the fourth-quarter drive in which Jarques Hunter scored a 62-yard touchdown—and only one possession longer than 4 minutes (that trip ended with a flight after eight plays), as the Bulldogs dominated possession time between the fence, especially In the second half, when they dominated the clock twice as Auburn.
Auburn was simply unable to maintain his offensive in the field for extended periods of time against Georgia. Her longest run of the day was the aforementioned eight-game possession, which spanned just 28 yards and resulted in Oscar Chapman’s sixth kick in the afternoon. The attack struggled for success in the running game, and the passing game was choppy, with Robbie Ashford completing only 13 of 38 passes.
Of course, the Tigers did no favors themselves, making 10 penalties a day, with seven of them coming in attacking and swaying drives while putting themselves behind the chains. Of the seven cars in which the crime had a penalty, Auburn hit five of them. The other ended after a failed attempt at a mock gamble, while the other – the Tigers’ most promising first-half campaign – ended in faltering.
In all, Auburn’s average distance to gain in the third touchdown against Georgia was 8.1 yards. The Tigers converted only five of their 17 attempts in Game Three.
“That’s the consistency part in doing, over and over and over again, giving our guys the best chance with our play calls to keep ourselves on the court, and put ourselves in manageable situations,” Harsin said. “The sanctions, we need to eliminate them, because that creates a more difficult situation, just a short distance away.”
Having those problems moving the ball against Georgia, the highest-rated team in the nation and national champion, is one thing. It’s another thing for these issues to recur week after week, as has been the case for Auburn playing in the SEC this season.
Auburn had early attack success against both Missouri and LSU, but outside of those early touchdowns, Harsin’s offensive struggled to maintain leadership in both games.
In the SEC’s opening game against Missouri, Auburn had 12 holdings in the organization, and signed eight of them, and four of them resulted three times. There was also a spin in defeats that culminated in five driving games and a missed field goal at the end of four possession games. Half of Auburn’s possessions in regulation gained less than 10 yards, with two of them actually losing yards. Outside of the opening drive, when Auburn scored a touchdown after 14 consecutive lunge attempts, the offense had possessions just over 4 minutes.
Auburn’s average distance to gain in the third pullback against Missouri was 9.4 yards.
The following week against LSU, Auburn had 13 possessions. Four of them finished in kicks, with three throws. Auburn had two drives that took over 3 minutes; One ended in an interception, the other in a missed field goal. The team’s average starting position was the 28-yard streak. Auburn averaged 8.4 yards to go on the third drop.
“Continuing to drive is huge,” Harsin said. “Getting a field site up is huge, and then those motivations eventually turn into points, and that should be something we do a much better job of.”
That will certainly be true this weekend, when Auburn (3-3, 1-2 SEC) travels to Oxford, Miss., to take on the No. 9 Ole Miss (6-0, 2-0). The Rebels have one of the best scoring offenses in the country, averaging 39.7 points per game (17th nationally, third in the SEC) – despite touting the lowest acquisition time among all FBS teams.
In other words: Ole Miss scores often, scores in a hurry.
The longer Auburn’s attack is on the field, and certainly the more points he can put up after a sustained drive, the more time the Tigers’ defense will have to regroup — and of course, keep Ole Miss’s attack on the sidelines.
“We want to keep the leadership, stay on the field and really balance the time in possession,” Harsin said. “The only thing for the Ole Miss, they go fast. They won’t talk about when to take possession, and that’s not always the key factor in the game. But for us, it’s just about execution, it’s about staying on the field and putting the ball in a position where we can keep those Engines, doing those three slips, setting up a field position, eventually getting to the red zone and finding ways to score.”
Tom Green is the Auburn Beat correspondent for the Alabama Media Group. Follow him on Twitter Tweet embed