Like a pitcher carrying a no hitter into the ninth inning, quarterback Kodi Burns sat quietly on the Auburn bench as time ran down in the third quarter of Saturday night's 26-21 loss to LSU. There was not an Auburn teammate within 15 feet of the backup quarterback. It was clearly an uncomfortable situation for Burns and his team.
This football season has played out like a Greek Tragedy, with both Auburn quarterbacks at the center of the story. We learned a lot from starter Chris Todd on Saturday. During a week when his approval rating dropped to single digits, Todd showed guts and determination in trying to find a way for his offense. He's a tough, gritty competitor and by all accounts a good kid.
What's not clear today is whether he's capable of winning in the SEC with this offense. As one reader put it last night, "we have a drop back passer trying to run the spread offense." But does Auburn have anyone who can run Tony Franklin's system? That was the million dollar question before kickoff and even more so following the game.
"I thought we did some good things tonight (Saturday) especially in this atmosphere and type of game," Todd said. "We're getting better and I think we'll continue to do that. I think every game we'll continue to get better. We just didn't make quite enough plays to win it."
Agreed. It's hard to argue with a guy who passes for 250 yards against the conference's best defense. But what's glaringly obvious with Todd is his lack of mobility. At times Saturday, he made Brandon Cox look like Usain Bolt. This leads to the big question: Why is Kodi Burns not getting any snaps at quarterback?
The Tigers certainly could have used him with a little more than five minutes to go and trying to run the clock down. Call me stupid, but I thought when you're nursing a lead late in the game, you run the ball and eat up time.
Franklin chose to continue throwing. Sure LSU was putting eight in the box on defense. But what impact would Burns have had back there being the run threat that he is? My guess is he would be good for ten yards and a move of the chains.
Most telling was Franklin's post game comments. When asked about using Burns in the second half he said, "There was a time in the second half when I thought about it for some of the zone reads, but I just never did it." Huh? Did you just never get around to it or did you just forget?
Following Tommy Tuberville for ten years, I've never seen him more removed from the offensive side of the ball. Listening to him, you get the feeling he's talking about someone else's team and not his own. He's quick to defend Franklin and hesitant to make any tweaks to the new offense.
Someone screamed last night, "It's time to start coaching again Tommy!" Those sentiments are felt by a lot of Auburn fans today. Chris Todd did not cause the loss to LSU. The offensive line did not cause the loss to LSU. But the coaching staff did.
Agree with me or not, Tuberville has been out coached the past two weeks. More accurately, Tony Franklin has been out coached by Miss State and LSU. He's a brilliant mind and I believe a very good coach. But his move to real Division I football is experiencing growing pains. Tuberville's job is to help him along - not be a yes man.
Next week doesn't get easier. Don't be fooled. Tennessee is dangerous. Their backs are against the wall and Phil Fulmer is more uncomfortable in Knoxville than John Edwards having lunch at his in-laws.
The SEC race is far from over. Auburn will likely not face a defense this good the rest of the way. If Franklin can expand his play book more and finally come up with a way to use Burns, then this team has a chance to head to Georgia week with only one loss.
With two green quarterbacks, LSU stands a better than average chance of losing twice this season in conference. The bloom is not offer the flower yet. We just need Tommy Tuberville to start coaching again.