Auburn's Offense A Study In Mistakes

Auburn's problems continue on offense and negative plays are a big reason why.

Auburn, Ala.—Negative plays are a killer for an offensive unit in football no matter the level of play. Putting Tom Brady and the New England Patriots in more than 10 yard situation is a recipe for failure for even one of the greatest quarterbacks of our generation.

Do that to an offense that struggles with making plays in positive situations and you have the 2012 Auburn Tigers. Among the worst teams in the country in just about every offensive statistical category following a 17-13 loss to Vanderbilt Saturday, Auburn's problems stem from mistakes and negative plays that are drive killers.

Heading into Saturday's game, Auburn's offense had 73 offensive drives this season and on 37 of those the Tigers have faced more than 10 yards to go for a first down. That means over half of the time Auburn has to attempt the toughest thing for an offense to do, get long yardage on third down.

Against the Commodores on Saturday Auburn faced more than 10 yards to go on four of 11 drives, which is actually an improvement over what they had done this season. Still, two drives perfectly summed up the problems for the Tigers on offense this season and the 1-6 start in a nutshell.

The first came to open the third quarter with the game tied at 10. Taking over on their own 19-yard line, the Tigers got runs of 10 yards from Tre Mason, nine yards from Onterio McCalebb, and five yards from Jay Prosch to move the ball quickly to the 43. Another run of 12 yards by McCalebb moved to the ball into Vanderbilt territory and Auburn was on the move.

That's when the mistake hit for the Tigers. In the Wildcat, freshman quarterback Jonathan Wallace bounced outside for extra yardage and coughed up the football. By the time it was recovered by Prosch it was at the Auburn 45. Following a six-yard pass on second down, quarterback Clint Moseley was sacked on third down to kill the drive. Vanderbilt responded with a touchdown drive that would be the eventual game-winner.

The second situation was even more self-destructive for the Auburn offense and it came late in the third quarter. Taking over on its own 20, Auburn got a six-yard pass from Clint Moseley to Emory Blake before Mason galloped 34 yards to the Vandy 40-yard line. With an opportunity to punch the ball in and tie the game, Auburn instead got a false start on first down to put the Tigers in first and 15.

Following a pass for no gain to McCalebb, another false start proved to put the final nail in what was a promising drive. Another pass for no gain on second and 20 followed by a sack left Auburn punting on fourth and 30 yards to go and effectively killed the momentum for the offense once again.

Even on the last offensive drive of the game mistakes were the order of the day for the Tigers. Taking over on the 32 following a Vanderbilt fumble, Moseley completed three consecutive passes for 27 yards to move the Tigers to the Vanderbilt 41. Pressure on first down forced an incomplete pass and a sack on second down left the Tigers in a third and 13 situation. Another incompletion gave the Tigers one final shot on fourth down and with Sammie Coates running free down the sideline following a double move, Moseley's pass sailed out of bounds. In the end even a completion wouldn't have mattered as the Tigers lined up wrong and were called for an ineligible receiver downfield.

It was the perfect ending to another imperfect day for the Auburn offense.

Inside The AU Tigers Top Stories