"I feel the same way at the end of this game as I did after Clemson," Chizik said. "We played Top 10 teams and put yourself in a position to win the game. We had several different opportunities and they are different opportunities. Sometimes it's a big defensive stop, sometimes it's a big pass completion, and sometimes it's a punt."
Much of that inconsistency came on offense as quarterback Kiehl Frazier missed some open opportunities in the passing game, but also delivered a perfect strike that Sammie Coates dropped early in the game. The lack of a consistent running game also contributed to finishing with less than 200 yards of total offense, but Chizik said the first order of business has to be continued improvement by his sophomore quarterback.
"I feel like there's been some good and there's been some improvement," Chizik said. "Take the early throw that was a big play in the first series; that was a big shot that really would have got some energy going. I think in the first half he was 8-of-11 or what not and that would have made it 9-of-11 so, again, I think you see some similar thing that happened the week before. Then we come back in the second half I don't feel like he was quite as sharp. I felt like he held the ball some too much.
"At times he's doing some better things and at times he's reverting back to some things that he still needs to improve on. He's got to get back there, he's got to set his feet, he's got to make a decision, throw the ball. There's obviously a lot of room for improvement as well but he did some nice things too. It's a journey and it's one that he's got to continue to grow."
With freshman Jonathan Wallace seeing his first action of the season, Chizik said they wanted to get him some action this season and that was the plan since they saw how developed he was during training camp. After seeing him handle things well against one of the top defenses in the country, Chizik said the plan is to use him even more in the coming weeks.
"I think that with him having such a comfort level of doing a lot of this in high school, he's a guy that can throw it," Chizik said. "We've got some of the passing game in there for him as well. We didn't end up doing it last night with him, but he's able to do that, and we just feel like he's a very competent runner that gives a good little changeup. That's the idea behind it. It could range from zero plays to 20 plays when it's all said and done. The difference is that you're able to really take a guy and work on that small portion of the game, to try to really master that and the comfort level that he's got doing it."
While Frazier's play must improve, so must that of the other 10 guys on offense for the Tigers. That means not only improved play by the offensive line, but also better blocking on the perimeter that could turn negative or short gains into big plays. That was the case Saturday night time and time again.
"Part of the plan was to get the ball on the perimeter a good bit, and there were times when it blocked up the way you would like it," Chizik said. "And there were many times when we were one block away, and they're getting penetration back there. So, overall, we need to improve a great deal on the perimerer blocking against some very good teams if we're going to have a chance to get some guys out there, and that didn't happen near as much as we needed it to last night."
Defensively the front four for Auburn played as well as it has all season against the powerful LSU offense, holding them 80 yards under their season average on the ground in 2012. What makes it even more impressive is that 42 yards came on two runs in passing situations on draw plays showing that Auburn's defensive front more than held up to the task Saturday night.
"I'm really, really proud," Chizik said. "As we went back and scoured through the film one of the things I'm definitely proud of and that stood out was that we tried to play a physical brand of football last night. We thought that after the game, but we certainly feel that today."
Saying the defensive tackle position has improved, Chizik said that among the players that stood out to him on that side of the ball Saturday night were defensive end starters Corey Lemonier and Dee Ford. In addition he said sophomore Jonathon Mincy made several nice plays as did true freshman Josh Holsey.
"I was really proud of him," Chizik said. "You know, he played around 30-some-odd plays at corner, and as you saw, the one big play he made, he made a big play on the post, he really did a nice job closing on the ball, and that was a big play. The ball was put basically where they need to put it, and he made a really good play on it.
"Guys like Josh, some of the young guys like Josh are starting to come around, and it usually starts on special teams. You see some production from those guys on special teams, and then, you know, in his case, it's been that, and now he's kind of worked himself into a spot defensively, at least to be in the rotation. We're very proud to see a young guy like that come in and make some plays in a big game."
Auburn will take Sunday and Monday off before returning to practice this week. Chizik said how much they practice and do this week will depend on the health of the team. He said getting the work in and improving is the first order of business, but also they have to make sure to get guys ready to play the final eight games of the regular season.
"I think we've really got to go back and do a great assessment and evaluation of everything that we've done up to this point," Chizik said. "Without having to prepare for an opponent immediately – not that we won't get to that very soon – but it gives you a little bit of breathing room to go back and evaluate and assess everything that you've done."