Let’s get right to it. You know what happened yesterday in Baton Rouge — Auburn lost for the 11th straight time. It really sucked, as it felt like we had so many opportunities to make hay and even extend the leads that we held instead of letting LSU off the hook. There’s a ton to get to, so we’ll dive right in. First, the word from the head coach:
What we saw yesterday was really similar in many ways to what we saw in Gainesville. That is... it was frustrating. That word was thrown around so much yesterday that I almost wanted to hit the thesaurus to find something better, but it’s the best word to describe the missed chances that Auburn had during the course of the game. We couldn’t run up the middle save for the two long runs by D.J. Williams (which only netted us 3 total points), and we couldn’t complete basic passes. LSU’s defense isn’t great. It might be overlooked, but it’s not great.
I think we knew that we would likely be incapable of making a huge hole in the middle of that defense, though, and that’s why what happened yesterday was really tough to watch. LSU wanted to make Bo Nix beat them, and he couldn’t. He just couldn’t hit the passes we needed to win. Our receivers weren’t on the same page with him, and he missed a ton of open guys. When they weren’t open, and had a one-on-one chance, he completely missed and never really let our guys make a play.
The game turned on the sequence near the end of the third quarter. LSU moved down to the goal line, and Auburn’s defense stuffed them on a 4th and goal from the 1-yard line. Backed way up, Nix missed an open slant to Anthony Schwartz and threw the out route instead. Schwartz had single coverage and a broken/missed tackle results in a 99-yard touchdown. Auburn punts from the end line. Roger McCreary then makes the (at the time) defensive play of the game by picking off Joe Burrow at the goal line, but Auburn’s right back where they were a minute ago.
We get a little breathing room and then Nix misses a pair of passes to Sal Cannella and Seth Williams. On the ensuing LSU drive, they take advantage of a tired Auburn defense and score the go-ahead touchdown. That was followed by another touchdown at the start of the fourth quarter, and Auburn couldn’t catch up.
For Nix, I’m not sure what it is. In his three home games, he’s completed 64% of his passes, with 6 total touchdowns and no turnovers. On the road — and against top ten competition — he’s completing 45% of his passes. That number includes the Oregon, A&M, Florida, and LSU games. Arkansas doesn’t really count. Under pressure, something changes, and it needs to be fixed. Who knows if it’s a road atmosphere thing, or a competition thing, but the inaccuracy on passes that are definitely open is troubling.
I don’t really know what else to say here. They’ve been fantastic, and this is definitely the best defense that Auburn’s had under Gus. I really wish we could’ve had the 2013 or 2014 offense with this unit on the other side of the ball. We’d definitely have one national championship, and maybe another.
Derrick Brown and Marlon Davidson continue to roll along toward All-SEC seasons, and K.J. Britt played like a manimal yesterday as well. The young guys in the secondary were mostly fantastic save for a few plays here and there where the LSU receivers and Burrow just combined for great completions, but Auburn won its share of battles on that front. Roger McCreary gave up a few completions, but got the interception at the goal line. Jamien Sherwood, Jeremiah Dinson, Daniel Thomas, and Javaris Davis all added double-digit tackles.
They defended 88 total plays yesterday. There wasn’t much time to rest, and we nearly pulled it out.
As far as the lack of holding calls goes, there’s nothing we can do about it, and there’s nothing that’ll be done to make up for it either. Thankfully, to their credit, CBS addressed it a few times that LSU was getting away with some major stuff, and I’m sure Gus will submit 50 or 60 plays to the SEC for review, but that’s that. LSU was almost daring the refs to call penalties and they didn’t. In a close game like that, Gus can’t afford to go nuts on an official to get their attention either. You hate to have to semi-believe the conspiracy nature of the SEC wanting that #1 vs #2 matchup in Tuscaloosa in a couple weeks, but it certainly looked that way a few times yesterday.
The streak is really terrible. Both of them. The Baton Rouge streak and the Ed Orgeron streak. Gus is 0-3 against Coach O, and Auburn has lost 11 in a row in Death Valley. Coach O really isn’t all that different from Les Miles, he’s just a little bit more willing to adapt. Les got stale at LSU, while Coach O decided to do something unexpected and bring in the offensive whiz of Joe Brady. Thankfully, there’s no way that guy sticks around long. Even better is that Joe Burrow will be gone next year too. He’s what makes that offense click, and without either one of them, LSU will fall back to earth a bit.
Thinking about the Baton Rouge streak, however, I felt a little better. Looking at each of the years we’ve lost, I don’t know how many times we honestly had the better team. 2001, 2003, 2007, and 2011 LSU ended up winning the SEC Championship. In 2005, I think we were the better team, but ya know... field goals.
2009 was Chizik’s first year, and we were even at best, but the atmosphere was way too much. 2013 we turned out to be better, and had we played LSU in late October rather than late September, we win by two scores at least. 2015 was Gus’ worst season, and in 2017 we were the better team by far. Going by that, only in 2005 and 2017 should we absolutely have won the game going by the odds. We’ve choked away two games there. It sucks, but it’s not the worst thing in the world.
We’ll stifle Ole Miss this week and get to 7-2 in time for Georgia to come in, and unless the Bulldogs really improve on offense and decide not to have the flavor of pease porridge in the pot nine days old, we may just shut them out. Pray that they don’t lift the reins off of Jake Fromm and let him go nuts before then.
Auburn’s going to finish 8-4 at worst, 9-3 could be likely with both the Georgia and Alabama games at home, and a 10th win could be in the cards with a bowl win. Auburn fans are super fickle, as you well know, and if someone had guaranteed a 9-3 year before the season started, many of us would’ve been ecstatic. Now, we’re frustrated because we see how close we are to being undefeated. It’s the nature of college football. Still, please don’t lose sight of the fact that our schedule has been by far more difficult than anyone else near the top of the polls. Auburn’s opponents’ record so far? 40-24.
We’d also be undefeated if we played basically any other schedule. Does that help? Probably not, but it needs to be noted.
Alright, Ole Miss up next, we’ll be talking with the fine folks at Red Cup Rebellion soon, so get your bowties ready. War Eagle.