Auburn, Ala.--It was a trying game for the fifth-ranked Auburn Tigers on offense, but despite having to do some shuffling on the offensive line because of a foot injury to right tackle Patrick Miller, Nick Marshall and company made enough plays to get a comfortable 45-17 victory over Louisiana Tech.
Now the stakes will ramp up dramatically in the coming weeks, starting with next week’s showdown against a hungry LSU team.
Even with Auburn grinding out 473 total yards in the victory, including 254 on the ground, senior center Reese Dismukes said the Tigers will once again have to improve this week if they hope to remain undefeated and on track for another shot at the SEC Championship down the road.
“I would say we ‘ve done what we’ve had to do,” Dismukes said about the season to this point. “Obviously we’ve got a lot of room for improvement. That’s our motto, getting better each and every day and each and every game. I think we’ve done that in some areas, but we’ve got to keep improving.”
Part of the improving for Auburn’s offense is to be better on first down. Some of that goes to the execution in the running game for the Tigers, but it’s also about giving the players a chance to make plays. With teams continuing to stack the line of scrimmage or disguising run blitzes on first down, Auburn is going to have to make more of an effort to throw the ball consistently on first down.
The Tigers threw the ball on first down just give times against Kansas State and matched that number against Louisiana Tech with one wiped off the board because of a penalty. In those four throws the Tigers completed all for a total of 38 yards. The one that didn’t count was a 10-yard gain to Quan Bray.
That lack of a presence in the passing game has made it tougher for Auburn to run the football, particularly with Cameron Artis-Payne. Although he had 82 yards on 12 first down carries against Louisiana Tech, the senior runner had gains of 37 and 17 yards on two of his runs. That means his other 10 first down carries netted just 28 total yards, putting the offense behind the chains far too many times.
Dismukes said the goal for the Tigers is to improve and that means executing the play that is called and making a play when called upon.
“Obviously we’ve got to get better, and that’s the bottom line,” Dismukes said. “I think we have the potential to be a great offense. I don’t think we’re there yet, but we have a lot of room for improvement and I think we’ll improve.”
Auburn’s challenge only gets tougher this Saturday when the fifth-ranked Tigers take on No. 15 LSU in one of three SEC Western Division games featuring teams ranked in the Top 25 of the latest associated press poll. No. 1 Alabama will be at No. 11 Ole Miss while sixth-ranked Texas A&M travels to No. 12 Mississippi State.