It's seldom to play in Baton Rouge against the LSU Tigers, but on Saturday night Auburn ran into a particularly tough environment at Tiger Stadium. With a steady rain falling and wind plus a new quarterback in his first road start, it wasn't a surprise to see the offense stall early on. However, as many problems as there were early on offense, Nick Marshall and his teammates didn't let that get to them as they came out and made plays in the second half to put the pressure on LSU.
In the final 30 minutes against an LSU defense allowing just 267 yards per game entering the contest, Auburn gained 333 total yards. That's more offense than all but one of the eight 2012 SEC games for the Auburn offense. While there are still plenty of things that must improve, game four was another learning experience and a game that showed the Tigers will be a team that can cause problems for opponents this fall.
Front Four Must Get Better
LSU ran over, around, and through Auburn's defense early on Saturday night and it set the tempo for the entire game. Allowing 184 yards and three touchdowns to Jeremy Hill, Auburn's alignment was one of the problems for Coach Ellis Johnson's defense, but the biggest problem continues to be up front.
Auburn's defensive line, and in particular the tackles, are still not making enough of a push to give opposing offensive lines a problem. Able to block Auburn's front four with just four guys leaves one and sometimes two blockers free to get to Jake Holland, Kris Frost and Cassanova McKinzy on the second level. Until the defensive line can command a double team Auburn's run defense is going to continue to be a tough challenge for the Tigers.
With injuries to Dee Ford and Craig Sanders in the first four weeks, Auburn needed someone to step up at defensive end. That player has been Justin Delaine. A relative unknown prospect coming out of tiny Linden High in Southwest Alabama, Delaine has battled back from an injury of his own to provide pass rush punch for the Tigers. Athletic with enough power to hold his own, Delaine could be huge with upcoming games against athletic quarterbacks Bo Wallace from Ole Miss and Johnny Manziel from Texas A&M.
Auburn's offense has been looking for a wide receiver to step up and so far in 2013 that guy is coming to the forefront through four games. A physically gifted player with the speed and size to create problems for any defense, Sammie Coates continues to deliver for Rhett Lashlee, Dameyune Craig and the Tigers.
Leading the team with 11 receptions for 306 yards and a touchdown, Coates had two catches on deep balls at LSU and should continue to be a featured target for Marshall. With Ricardo Louis finding his niche in the offense and both Quan Bray and Trovon Reed doing the same, youngsters Marcus Davis and Tony Stevens are quickly becoming important options for Auburn's passing attack.
Mason Continues To Deliver
It baffles me that Tre Mason's name rarely comes up when you hear people talk about SEC running backs, but he continues to show why he's among the top guys at his position in the league. Saturday night Mason ripped up LSU's defense for 132 yards and two touchdowns on 26 carries.
It was his best performance in a conference game to this point in his career, but I think Mason is far from done. Playing behind an improving offensive line and in an offense that has the potential to keep improving, Mason has big days ahead in 2013.
Off Week Comes At Great Time
With players on both sides of the ball injured or less than full speed having an extra week to prepare for game five vs. Ole Miss is a good thing for the Tigers. The most important player to get back on the field is senior cornerback Chris Davis. Preparing to face the second month of the schedule against teams featuring talented receivers, the Tigers need their best defensive player back on the field.