Offensive Change Doesn't Work For Tigers

Auburn's switch to a more traditional offense in 2012 has been proven to be the wrong move for Gene Chizik and his program.

Auburn, Ala.—While the defensive problems have been numerous for the 2012 Auburn Tigers through 11 games, the numbers on the offensive side of the football are the stuff that nightmares are made of for coaches Gene Chizik and Scot Loeffler heading into the annual Iron Bowl this weekend in Tuscaloosa.

Averaging just 20.4 points per game this season and 317.9 yards of total offense, the Tigers rank 107th in scoring offense, 111th in passing offense, and 112th in total offense in the country through 11 games. Rushing offense is the only category ranked higher than triple digits for the Tigers this season and that comes in at 73rd in the nation.

The scoring numbers are even more mind-numbing when you take away games against Louisiana-Monroe, New Mexico State and Alabama A&M. In the remaining eight games Auburn has scored just 100 total points, an average of only 12.5 per game.

It's not the kind of year offensively Chizik was hoping for when he ditched the successful hurry up/no huddle attack for a more traditional offense this season. While Auburn wanted to continue to run plays out of the shotgun this year, Chizik was hoping more plays under center and a slower pace would make the Tigers more physical on offense and also help his defense.

It didn't work.

While Chizik said he doesn't regret making the switch this season he did admit with the struggles at the quarterback position and on the offensive line have made it a first year to forget with the offense.

"You've got to point back to a couple of factors," Chizik said. "Starting with the offensive line, it's a little bit different. And you've got a lot of young guys up there. The quarterbacks and what we've had to go through quarterback-wise in terms of some struggles we've had. It's not just going from one system to another. Those are a couple different reasons why we've had some struggles.

"It still comes down to blocking. It still comes down to running and doing those types of things. We've had some struggles with a couple different areas of our offense -- not just the fact that we changed offenses."

There is no question that while everything doesn't fall on the play of the quarterbacks, the transition has been more difficult than Chizik envisioned at the position. Kiehl Frazier and Clint Moseley were the two experienced players at quarterback coming into the season and both had been primarily used out of the shotgun in high school and at Auburn. That's just one of the problems with making the switch to the new offense this season as it also required more of the quarterbacks to make reads in the passing game and at the line of scrimmage. That proved to be more than they could handle.

Combining for just 1,126 yards and three touchdowns with 11 interceptions this season on 100-175 attempts, the duo struggled to consistently move the football team down the field. Chizik said looking back they can see the move was just too much for the quarterbacks.

"Initially, we didn't think that it was," Chizik said. "As the season moved on and progressed, it was evident that it was a little bit different for them. How much of that is the new system? You've got to think that some of it is for sure, and just a new coach. All of those factors play into that."

Facing a defense that is allowing just 10.1 points and 240.1 yards of offense per game this season, Auburn's chances to pull off an upset will likely come not from the passing game or how well freshman Jonathan Wallace plays, but from the running game. In a year when seemingly nothing has gone right for the Tigers, sophomore Tre Mason is one of the few bright spots on that side of the ball.

Needing just 80 yards to top the 1,000 barrier and currently sixth in the SEC in rushing, Mason is averaging more than six yards per carry in 2012 and has eight of the team's 16 rushing touchdowns. Averaging just 13.6 carries per game, Mason needs to get the ball early and often for the Tigers if the offense hopes to put together one complete game before the footballs are put away until spring practice.

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