Outscored 62-3 in six games in the final period, Coach Gene Chizik's team has set the benchmark for futility in the final 15 minutes of action. Whether it's lack of offense, struggling defense, mistakes in the normally-reliable special teams play or turnovers, the Tigers have done a variety of things wrong to keep them from winning games.
Turnovers Are A Killer
Last in turnover margin among the 120 FBS teams, Auburn has given the ball away 19 times this season while creating just six takeaways from the opposition. A difference of 13 offensive possessions this season is the last thing a team needs that is struggling to make plays when it has the football.
The turnover problems have been most apparent in the fourth quarter. In 90 minutes of action this season in the final quarter Auburn has turned the ball over eight times. The only game without an Auburn turnover in the final quarter was in the opener vs. Clemson.
Averaging more than one turnover in every fourth quarter, it's not a surprise that the offensive numbers have been paltry, but looking at the rushing stats shows just how much progress the Tigers need to make in order to turn around the fourth quarter.
In six games this season Auburn has just 97 total yards rushing in the fourth quarter, or an average of 16 yards per game. When you take away 43 of those yards that came in the win over ULM in the fourth quarter and overtime, the number goes down to 54 yards in five games. Against SEC foes this season the Tigers have just 30 rushing yards in the fourth quarter in four games.
Coach Gene Chizik's Tigers will take a 1-5 record into Saturday's game.
Playing in close games and with a back like Tre Mason who has shown he can get the job done, it seems logical that the Tigers need to continue to feed him the football and try to shorten the game as much as possible. Turnovers and a lack of offensive plays have obviously played into the lack of production as well, but without question more production from the running game would equal better results for the Auburn offense.
Defense Not Doing Its Part
Because of the turnovers by the offense, the defense has been forced to play more possessions and more snaps in the fourth quarter. Instead of holding up under the pressure, the Tigers' defense has not done its job in the final 15 minutes. Allowing an average of 10 points in the fourth quarter, Auburn has given up 735 yards of total offense in six games (122.5 yards per game) during the final period. LSU is the only team not to gain least 100 yards of total offense in the fourth quarter against Auburn.
Keys To Victory
In the end this game comes down to two keys for the Tigers--win the turnover battle and run the football successfully. This season Vanderbilt is allowing 203.5 yards rushing per game and has given up 12 rushing touchdowns.
In SEC games the numbers are that area of weakness is more apparent. In those four games the Commodores have given up 983 yards (245.8 ypg) at six yards per carry with 10 rushing touchdowns. If Auburn can establish the run and get into a rhythm it will be a great opportunity for SEC win number one.