By Jay Coulter
Perhaps the best line of Saturday night's game came from ESPN 2 analyst Bob Davies. Watching the Auburn offense raise up out of their stances and look to the sidelines for the next play, Davies commented, "If they (the coaches) keep calling those kinds of plays they are going to quit looking over there."
That's funny because I was thinking the same thing. I wanted to stop looking myself. But like watching a train wreck about to happen, I couldn't look away.
I've reached way back in the recesses of my brain to find a worse offensive performance than Saturday's 3-2 win over Miss State. Maybe we had one during the days of Doug Barfield or Terry Bowden. If so, I've had way too many beers over the years to remember. The only thing close to comparison is maybe Tennessee's 42-0 throttling of the Tigers in newly expanded Jordan-Hare Stadium in 1980.
Instead of collecting a workman like win against the Bulldogs, Auburn finds itself in a similar situation to last year's squad prior to the Florida game. It's an offense without an identity or leader. On this Monday, the prospects of Auburn beating LSU Saturday night appear to be nothing more than a pipedream. Fortunately for Auburn fans, Tommy Tuberville has a good track record in those pipedream games.
Much of the criticism of Auburn by fans centers on quarterback Chris Todd. If you watch the game again, you'll see that it goes much deeper. Tommy Tuberville was vocal after the game about the blame falling on him. I couldn't agree more.
Tuberville is rarely out-coached. Sylvester Croom took him to the woodshed. He talked throughout last week about using quarterback Kodi Burns in situational plays. With a first and goal from the seven you have to wonder if there was ever a better situation to put Burns in the game.
"I know everybody wonders why Kodi didn't play, a lot of that had to do with me," Tuberville said. "I thought putting him in a situation where our back was to the wall a lot, I wanted it to be a positive note when he goes back in the game. He was ready to go. He's a team player. We've got to find the right situation."
Kodi has been down this road before. He's not a freshman. Something tells me he could be an asset inside the red zone. Auburn has faced 13 opportunities inside the 20 yard line this year and has come away with only five touchdowns. You can't beat LSU, Georgia or Alabama with those stats.
After a night to sleep on it, Tuberville appears to be more determined than ever to make this offense work. "I've told everybody all along that this is going to take a while," Tuberville said. "This is a lot more execution from a lot more people. You've got three wide receivers on the field. The offensive linemen are more vulnerable because people are going to be getting off the ball on you because you're in shotgun. The little things add up in this offense a lot more than when you line up and pound it.
"I like this offense. You can take advantage of people more but you can't beat yourself. Right now that's what we're doing. We're basically beating ourselves and putting ourselves in a hole. You can't fumble the ball eight times in two games and expect a whole lot."
Lost in the ugly win was the performance of Auburn's defense. How quickly have fans forgotten Will Muschamp? This may be the best three game stretch for an Auburn defense in school history. You'd have to go back to the defenses of the 1950's and the unit that lead Auburn to its national championship in 1957.
The question is, can they keep it up? Will there be enough gas left in the tank to beat a stout LSU offense? Teams always say that you feel it after playing Miss State. They are as physical as any team in the conference.
Defensive coordinator Paul Rhoads will have to walk a tight rope this week getting his guys mentally and physically prepared to go another 15 rounds. The Tigers head into the game with the tenth-ranked unit in the country, allowing just 213 total yards a game. The bad news is LSU's defense ranks 12th, allowing only 219 total yards a game.
Offensive coordinator Tony Franklin is sure to have many sleepless nights this week. Auburn obviously has big problems offensively. Luckily, they all appear to be fixable. Franklin must find a way to cut down on the fumbles and get out of second and long situations.
It won't be easy. But Tommy Tuberville has overcome worse. Let the countdown begin...