Auburn football first-half analysis: Despite 17-point lead, offense looks terrible

Ryan Davis didn't find much running room on punt returns. (Photo by Michael Chang/Getty Images)
Ryan Davis didn't find much running room on punt returns. (Photo by Michael Chang/Getty Images) /

The No. 9 Auburn football team leads Arkansas, 17-0, at halftime Saturday, but this one hasn’t felt anything like a convincing first-half lead.

In a nutshell: The Auburn offense has stunk it up.

Jarrett Stidham hasn’t completed a single pass down the field. Everything has gone underneath to backs or Ryan Davis or Anthony Schwartz. Stidham is 7 for 11 for 82 yards but 42 of those came on a quick pass to Schwartz who ran all of those yards.

Arkansas actually has outgained Auburn, 150 to 135.

If not for stellar special teams play, it could be much closer.

Jordyn Peters blocked one punt and forced a short punt when he nearly got another. Auburn has had great field position but has struggled to cash in on that fortune.

Bottom line: There needs to be some soul-searching in that locker room on the offensive side. This game easily could be 35-0, but it’s not. Auburn can’t play this way and expect to beat most the teams remaining on its schedule

1. John Chavis wins the first half

Is the defensive coordinator in Auburn’s head sets? It sure seems like it. The Razorbacks are in the backfield nearly every play and generally making Auburn’s offense look minor league in the first half. Auburn can’t run the ball and haven’t done much with the pass, either.

2. Offensive line getting beat

Jarrett Stidham is running for his life nearly every time he drops back to pass. He scrambled for the touchdown run because he had no other choice. He has not been comfortable at all in the pocket and rarely has had time to look beyond his running back or Ryan Davis or Anthony Schwartz on bubble screens.

3. Fourth down play calling stinks

Auburn was criticized last week when it failed to convert on fourth-and-short deep in LSU territory and it happened again tonight when JaTarvious Whitlow was stopped on fourth-and-1 inside the 10. Whitlow wasn’t even close. The run is too slow to develop, there’s no imagination in the playcall. The coaches need to go to the drawing board and come up with some new fourth-down plays.

4. Anders Carlson is no Daniel Carlson

Auburn keeps sending Anders Carlson onto the field for long field goal attempts and Carlson keeps missing. That’s to be expected some for the young kicker. But here’s an idea: How about putting him in better range to kick a field goal every now and again. Or better yet, score touchdowns so he only has to kick extra points.

It’s obvious Carlson has a big leg and his kickoffs have been great. But he’s 4 for 9 this season after going 1 for 3 in the first half after missing from 51 on the final play of the half.

5. Ryan Davis is real threat on punt returns

The junior receiver put Auburn in scoring position with a 48-yard return that included a dynamic spin move on the its first possession of the game. He’s been forced to fair catch several others, but it’s clear with Auburn’s lack of offense that it needs him to try to make something happen.