Auburn Football: Auburn Shows Youth in Loss to Clemson


Mandatory Credit: Daniel Shirey-US PRESSWIRE

The more things change, the more things stay the same.  Auburnopened its 2012 campaign with a heartbreaking loss to the 14th ranked Clemson Tigers.  In front of a record crowd, Clemson proved they were the more physical team as it ran through, around and overAuburn’s defense to a tune of 320 rushing yards.

Auburn’s offense showed signs of both greatness and youth as it was able to drive the ball down the field, but couldn’t capitalize on its opportunities in the red zone.  Cody Parkey hit all four field goal attempts, but it wasAuburn’s inability to get in the endzone that proved the difference in the game.

Unless they can improve quickly,Auburnlooks like a mediocre SEC team at best. Auburn’s youth was apparent all night as pivotal mistakes were made and good scoring chances were squandered. Auburnhad plenty of chances to score touchdowns, but they couldn’t find the magic touch in the redzone. Auburnaveraged 5.8 yards a play and showed they could run the ball effectively.  With the defense struggling, they could only run 64 plays, a mere 23 plays less than their opposition.

Auburn was outgained by Clemson, 529-374 yards, but it was Auburn’s inability to get off the field on 3rd down that once again plagued Auburn’s defense.  Clemson ran a whopping 87 plays and averaged 6 yards a play and simply wore down the defense in the 2nd half.  Clemson was 8 of 17 on 3rd down conversions and once again, this proved to be the difference in the game.  Before the game, the matchup of Clemson’s inexperienced offensive line andAuburn’s talented defensive line was the key matchup.  Clemson returned only one starter from last year’s team andAuburn’s defensive line is one of the deepest and most talented units on the team.  Clemson was able to negate this advantage forAuburn as it simply wore out the defense by continually converting first downs and keepingAuburn’s defense on the field.

Brian VanGorder took over for Ted Roof after Auburn’s defense gave up record points and yards last year.  The defense looked pretty much the same as it was plagued by missed tackles and failed attempts to stop the opposing team on 3rd down.  Auburn’s secondary continued to play soft and allow Clemson’s receivers to catch short passes.  Auburnwas able to apply a little pressure on Tajh Boyd, but he kept escaping and burning Auburn’s defense with 1st down runs.  Boyd was sacked four times, twice by Dee Ford, but it was Boyd’s ability to escape Auburn’s pressure and run for 1st downs that hurtAuburn the most.  Missed tackles is still a sore spot forAuburn.  Clemson was able to make many plays afterAuburn seemingly had the tackle made.  This set up numerous scoring opportunities for Clemson.

The offense was impressive at times but mistakes on Clemson’s side of the field were the killer.  Kiehl Frazier showed talent at times during the game, but he missed several open receivers that would have provided good scoring chances forAuburn.  The most memorable missed opportunity was the pass in the endzone to Trovon Reed.  Kiehl put a little too much air under the ball and it sailed a little too far to the back of the endzone.  Reed should have had better field awareness and tried to catch the ball inbounds but Frazier sailed the ball a little too deep.  Frazier seemed to throw the ball a lot off his back foot causing several passes to sail over open receiver’s heads.  Frazier seemed a little nervous and uncomfortable all game long in his first college start.  He never seemed to get in a rhythm or comfortable with the defense.  With that being said, I still think he did a good job against an improved Clemson defense.

The young offensive line ofAuburndid a good job of protecting Kiehl and giving him time to throw.  I thought they opened up holes for the backs and looked to pick up the blitzes from Clemson.  They didn’t have a perfect game but I thought they played well enough forAuburnto win the game.  Defensive mistakes, a costly turnover and failed redzone attempts were the reasonAuburnstarts the year 0-1.

Looking at the glass as half-full,Auburnshowed some promise against a top-15 team. Auburnwas projected to lose and it did.  Clemson is a very talented team with a lot of experience at key positions and they took advantage. Auburnis still undefeated in the SEC and has some game film to watch now to correct numerous mistakes.  Two new coordinators and an inexperienced QB is never a good mixture butAuburnalmost pulled out the upset despite this fact.  The new starters have some experience under their belt and maybe the team will learn from their mistakes in this game. Auburnhas more senior leadership this year than it did last year and they are going to have to rely on it as they open SEC play up next week on the road atMississippiState.

We all need to show some patience with this team.  This team has talent.  We now have to hope leadership will carry us to a win next Saturday.