Auburn's defense was called out following last season's loss to LSU and questioned for being soft by many. That wasn't the case at all Saturday night as Brian VanGorder's group survived an early onslaught from LSU to have one of the better defensive performances for an Auburn team in the Chizik Era.
Allowing just 236 yards of total offense and only three points after the first two drives, the Tigers didn't allow a drive of more than five plays in the next nine possessions with the exception of a seven-play, 35-yard drive for the field goal.
There wasn't a whole lot of positive from Auburn's performance offensively, but when the Tigers got an opportunity to punch the football in the end zone following Zach Mettenberger's second fumble of the night they did that. Tre Mason's 26-yard run on second and 14 was a good sign for an offense that had struggled moving the ball on the ground to that point and Onterio McCalebb finished it with a touchdown. With nine carries for 54 yards, Mason showed that he can get the tough yards against even the toughest of defensive fronts.
Tre Mason dives for the goal line
Throwing the football Kiehl Frazier took a few more steps forward in my opinion. Finishing the first half 8-11 for 61 yards, the sophomore had an opportunity for a huge start to the game when made a perfect throw to Sammie Coates that would have been at least a huge gain and possibly a touchdown if caught. Make that play and a possible 9-10 passing start and 140 yards and a touchdown would have been just what the doctor ordered for the Auburn offense.
The Not So Good:
Auburn's defense continues to struggle against the run when the opposition is in passing formations. Whether it's the draw play or just a straight run, the Tigers haven't played it nearly as well this season as they have obvious running situations.
Part of the reason for that is that Auburn uses five defensive backs the majority of the time in that scenario, but more often than not it's the middle of the line that gets too far outside and allows too much room to run. That was the case late in the first half Saturday night when LSU got the ball back on its own 25 and just 1:21 left on the clock. Instead of throwing the football, they gave it to Spencer Ware up the middle and nobody was at home. Crossing midfield 30 yards later, he put LSU in a position to score crucial points. While the defense held, it's still a concern heading into the Arkansas game that will feature a spread offense and a dynamic tailback running the ball in Knile Davis.
While Frazier's throwing in the first half was solid and his numbers could have been much better with one more completion, in the second half the sophomore again ran into trouble. Completing just 5-11 passes for 36 yards and two interceptions, the last coming on the final play of the game, Frazier missed some key opportunities down the stretch that could have made the difference for Auburn.
What could have been for Auburn Saturday night
The biggest came early in the fourth quarter. With Auburn at the LSU 40 and facing a third and four situation, Frazier had a wide open McCalebb down the sideline for what would have been a big gainer and possibly a touchdown. Putting too much on the throw, he sailed the football over the head of the speedy McCalebb, forcing an Auburn punt. It was the last snap of the ball on the LSU side of the 50 for Auburn in the game.
Frazier's struggles in the second half were far from the only ones for Auburn's offense Saturday night as the perimeter blocking left much to be desired. With a plan to stretch the field on LSU, Auburn couldn't hold the edge whether it was an offensive tackle, tight end or wide receiver. Several glaring misses on the edge and perimeter blocking kept Auburn's offense from some big gains on third down that could have sustained drives.