Clemson slips tackles all day long.
Photo by Streeter Lecka/Getty Images
War Eagle, everybody. It's time now for the Acid Reign report on Auburn's 38-24 loss to the Clemson Tigers. The seventeen game win streak is at an end. The final three quarters were ugly. Auburn blew a 21-7 lead, lost by 14, and gave up 624 total yards. In just three games, the Tigers have given up 107 points, more than the 1988 team gave up all season. This is Auburn's first loss to Clemson in 60 years, dating back to a 34-0 loss in 1951 by Shug Jordan's first team.
Once again, the defense could not get off the field. Clemson ran 92 offensive plays, to just 63 for Auburn. Tackling was atrocious. There's just really not a nice way to put it. It's one thing to miss assignments, and we did have plenty of those, too. But this team must tackle a whole lot better to win another game.
Special teams were solid in this one, but the return game took a few steps backward. A couple of balls were run out of the end zone when they should have been downed. Coverage was good, and Parkey and Clark continue to hammer the ball.
We've been expecting a new quarterback to struggle some, and that game surfaced this week. Barrett Trotter made a number of bad throws under pressure this week. He'll learn from that, but we had no chance to win this time. The drops returned, as several receivers failed to bring balls in. The running game with Michael Dyer was superb. I can't understand why they keep yanking him out of the game. That Dyer only touched the ball 16 times is criminal. On those 16 carries, he ran for 151 yards and accounted for half of Auburn's scoring. We've got to use him more!
Unit Grades, after the jump!
Defensive Line: F. There was occasionally a defensive lineman in the backfield, but we only wrapped up one time on those, on a tackle by Nosa Eguae. Starting tackle Jeffery Whitaker had no tackles, no assists, no nothing. Ends didn't get pressure and repeatedly lost contain. Clemson made it look very easy, rushing for 246 yards.
Linebackers: D-. Darren Bates made 10 tackles, but probably missed that many, too. Jake Holland was OK in the middle, some of the time. Eltoro Freeman was the invisible man, with only 2 assists on the day. The Auburn front seven basically looked helpless after the first quarter, en route to giving up 634 total yards. We don't have any linebackers with coverage skills. Dumps to the tight ends and backs were wide open all day.
Secondary: C-. On the wide receivers, Auburn actually covered pretty well. Picking up secondary guys and tight ends wasn't so good. Neiko Thorpe came to play, and led the team with 16 tackles. You don't want your free safety to be the leading tackler, though. With the speed we have at safety, there's no excuse for giving up a 15 yard cushion on the corners when we play zone. I just can't believe Chizik, Roof and Lolley drew it up like that.
Punting: A. This was easily the bright point of the day. Steven Clark killed 4 of his 6 punts inside the 20, and still managed a 41.3 yard average. Coverage was good, allowing no returns.
Punt Returns: D+. Credit Trovon Reed for fielding all three punts. No telling what Dawson Zimmerman's average would have been had we let one of those howitzers go! On the other hand, Reed fielded one in the end zone, and got tackled at the 4 yard line. That's a big goof. We're not going for the blocked punt, and not blocking well setting up the returns. One or the other, please?
Kick Returns: D+. Blocking vanished in this game, and Tre Mason only averaged 15.8 yards on his 4 returns. On one return, Mason hesitated, then brought it out of the end zone and got tackled at the ten yard line. There was a big step backward here.
Place-kicking: A. Cody Parkey has yet to miss on a scoring opportunity, and continues to kickoff for touchbacks. Clemson managed one measly 16 yard return on 5 kickoffs. Bravo.
Offensive Line: C-. Blocking was good in spurts, and not so good at other times. Both tackles had drive-killing penalties. We also got eaten up at right guard, trying to deal with the tackle/end twist in the second half. We can't have defensive ends taking free inside runs at the QB.
Running Backs: B-. Outside of number 5, we were not very effective. We dropped several well set up screens on the ground. Michael Dyer ran like a man possessed. We've got to give him more carries.
Receivers: C+. Travante Stallworth had some nice catches, and Trovon Reed was elusive on the quick screens. We had a couple of ugly drops this game, though. Guys really struggled with being jammed at the line, too.
Quarterback: C-. Aside from an early touchdown toss, Barrett Trotter looked harried and uncertain. He forced a few into coverage, but upon further review he did a better job than I initially thought scrambling and avoiding sacks. If we're going to keep the zone read in the arsenal, we've got to do a better job on that read. Trotter only completed 12 of 25, and that won't win in the SEC. Trotter was hampered by about a half dozen drops, though.
I'm sure Ted Roof is going to get hammered on the boards for his defensive play-calling, but that's not what doomed Auburn. It doesn't matter what you call, if you can't tackle. I think the Auburn defense got themselves in trouble allowing a few first-half third down conversions, and got really winded as the second half rolled on. I think Holland and Bates played every snap on defense. On the field for 90+ plays, this unit struggles.
It's hard to argue with the success Gus Malzhan has had over the years, but I think we've got to second-guess a few things thus far. I think we've got to get Michael Dyer AT LEAST 20 carries a game, if not 25. He's killing defenses. It makes no sense to sit him on the bench for large stretches.
Well folks, it's been a great streak, but we're back to reality now. These young Tigers will go to work this week, and try to get better. We've got a suspect Florida Atlantic team coming in next weekend with a later kickoff. I don't think this Auburn squad can take anyone lightly, at this time. Two weeks from now, it's back to the Palmetto State for a show-down with South Carolina. I'm sure they are licking their chops, and are out for some payback. I think we'd love nothing more than to derail their season. War Eagle! It's great to be an Auburn Tiger!