Auburn football: 5 burning questions after disappointing loss to LSU

Jarrett Stidham lost 26 yards on sacks against Southern Miss. (Photo by Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images)
Jarrett Stidham lost 26 yards on sacks against Southern Miss. (Photo by Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images) /

We get it. You’re angry after the Auburn football team let that one slip away (again) on Saturday.

Auburn, which dropped to No. 9 in the AP Top 25 poll after losing 22-21 to LSU, has seen this happen too often.

And like us, you probably have a lot of questions about what happened.

After letting the loss set in, we thought we would get that list off to a start with some questions and speculation of our own.

1. Why isn’t Auburn sustaining drives?

If you throw out the final possession of the first half where Auburn took a knee, the Tigers had seven drives of five plays or less. Those drives resulted in five punts and two interceptions. Auburn had only one drive that lasted at least three minutes — the 10-play, 75-yard scoring drive that lasted 3 minutes, 31 seconds. By comparison, LSU also had seven possessions of five plays or less (one was the 1-play, 71-yard TD toss). LSU also had five possessions that lasted between 4:10 and 5:38 and won the time of possession battle, 35:04 to 24:56.

Must Read. When a big win turns into a 1-point loss. light

2. What’s happening at receiver?

Does anyone remember seeing Sal Cannella or Nate Craig-Myers on Saturday? I know both played. I also know that neither caught a pass. Craig-Myers was targeted once in the second quarter and drew a pass interference penalty against LSU. Cannella didn’t have his number called once. It was assumed that Ryan Davis and Darius Slayton would be the top two options. But with Cannella (6-5, 232) and Craig-Myers (6-2, 215) as two of the team’s biggest targets, it’s as if they don’t exist. Cannella had the huge TD reception against Washington. Craig-Myers has two catches this season a big third-down reception in Week 1. We understand that the Tigers have a lot of talent at the position, we’re just unsure why two reliable targets aren’t seeing more action. Seth Williams had two nice catches and nearly a jaw-dropping third, but dropped a third-down pass for the second consecutive game. No doubt he’ll be a big part of the passing game, but it seems odd that he’s getting more looks than the other two big receivers.

3. Where’s the pressure?

After totaling nine sacks in its first two games, the Auburn defense got to Joe Burrow just once Saturday. The defensive line held LSU to 2.9 yards per rush and generally made things difficult for Nick Brossette (19 carries, 69 yards), but Burrow was way too comfortable in the pocket. Auburn needs more from T.D. Moultry, Big Kat Bryant, Nick Coe and Marlon Davidson (he had the sack Saturday) in rushing situations. There are far better quarterbacks ahead on the schedule.

4. Why not utilize the speed on offense?

We all saw the weapon Anthony Schwartz can be in this offense when he scored on a long pass last week and a reverse run. He caught two passes against LSU and lost six yards on a sweep. He also was targeted on a long pass but never really had a chance at it. But if he’s isolated 1-on-1, there’s no one in the country who can run with him. No one. And when it comes to the jet sweep, where did it go in Week 3? Yes, JaTarvious Whitlow ran for 100 yards for the second consecutive game, but too many of the running plays are slow to develop. Nine of his 22 carries went for three yards or less.

5. What can Auburn do about the defensive pass interference?

Auburn was whistled for pass interference four times Saturday. Javaris Davis was caught twice — once in the second quarter and once in the third — and then the two really big calls on LSU’s game winning drive. First, on third-and-11 from the LSU 23, Jeremiah Dinson was called for interference, giving the Tigers a first down. Later, Jamel Dean was called for interference on second-and-10 from the Auburn 39. Both calls looked questionable, especially after Greedy Williams grabbed Darius Slayton with both hands on an Auburn possession earlier in the fourth quarter, but Gus Malzahn wasn’t using that as an excuse after the game.

The bottom line is this: Auburn has to find a solution. Being aggressive is one thing, but collecting four automatic first-down penalties in a single game, including two on a game-ending drive is too much. It starts with pressure on the quarterback. The longer Burrow had to throw, the longer defensive backs have to cover their man one-on-one.