AU Notebook: Offensive And Defensive Woes

Auburn's offense and defense both struggled in the loss at Georgia.

Auburn, Ala.--Auburn’s struggles on defense have been well documented in recent weeks, but Saturday night in Athens it was the offense that couldn’t get anything going after a strong first drive for a touchdown. Penalties and dropped passes were a big part of the reason why the Tigers sputtered all night long against the Georgia Bulldogs said offensive coordinator Rhett Lashlee and his group couldn’t overcome the continuous problems.

“At that point you’d like to think we’re going to play pretty well,” Lashlee said of the first drive. “We didn’t get hardly any explosive plays so that made it hard to ever get any tempo or rhythm going so you always felt like we were fighting for everything we could get because we just didn’t get any explosive plays. They did a good job of limiting that, and the ones we did get we hurt ourselves and they came back with holding penalties. That was a big negative.

“Then when we had our opportunities we didn’t make the most of it. We go into halftime down 17-7 and come back out and have a pretty good idea of what they are doing and we drop the first two balls that would have been big explosive plays. Then Nick scrambles for a big first down and it comes back for a holding penalty. That’s just kind of how it went.”

Even though his numbers were very ordinary, completing just 11-23 passes for 112 yards and an interception through the air and adding nine carries for 41 yards on the ground, Nick Marshall’s night didn’t end with a win going back to Georgia where he was once a Bulldog. That could have made for a bitter experience for the senior, but Lashlee said he saw some great things from Marshall before, during, and after the game.

“I was really proud of Nick,” Lashlee said. “That’s a tough environment. It’s a tough situation that everybody made a big deal about going into. He competed as hard last night as he ever has. He was Nick. He fought, he competed, he made plays. A lot of them got called back or a lot of them didn’t get finished. He’ll be the first to tell you he should have played better and made more plays and done this and done that.

“Obviously, we didn’t give him as many opportunities as we’d like. I was proud of the way he competed in a bad situation. Obviously, in the second half it wasn’t looking great and he kept fighting and competing. But the teammate he was, the way he handled himself, the class he had after the game, I’m really proud of not only how he played but if that young man.”

Concerns Up Front

Auburn continues to be hurt by penalties up front with many coming from left tackle Shon Coleman. He’s far from the only one making mistakes as seniors Reese Dismukes and Chad Slade have both had critical penalties in the last two games, but Coleman’s are definitely more glaring. That was the case against Georgia as two key holding calls wiped out big plays for the Tigers and were drive-killers. Lashlee said despite his struggles they are still big believers in the big tackle.

“What I can say is that Shon did not play very well last night and he knows that, especially in the pass protection,” Lashlee said. “No one cares more about that than Shon. He feels as badly about that as anybody. He got beat a couple of times and held and it brought back some big plays, but we still have a lot of confidence in Shon and his upside and his ability. The last two weeks he’s struggled a little bit in pass protection. That’s obviously going to be something he works hard on.”

What’s The Problem?

Auburn’s defense is searching for answers at the moment and not getting much in the way of results. While getting beat up front in the second half against Georgia is one thing, the problems come from the constant mistakes that have killed the Tigers in key situations. Whether it’s leaving the back wide open coming out of the backfield, missing a tackle or just blowing an assignment, Auburn defensive coordinator Ellis Johnson said the problems start with him and his coaching staff.

“We're going to always think it's coaching, because if you don't then you don't have any solutions,” Johnson said. “I'm not going to sit there and say we're doing some of the same things everybody else in America does, but we have to do it on a more consistent basis. And that's what I was just saying. When you have that issue as a coach you always take that upon yourself.

“I either have to teach it better, we've got to rep it more frequently, we're doing too much, somehow he's not understanding it. If you get to a point where the players just can't perform, then you've got to make a change there. The first thing you're going to do is make sure you're coaching it and teaching it right.”

Reality Check For Defense

Nobody is hurting more than Auburn’s players about the performance in the loss at Georgia on Saturday night. That’s especially true on defense where the Tigers gave up more than 30 points for the fifth consecutive game, extending a dubious school record. Getting his first real taste of defensive football this season, sophomore safety Rudy Ford said their play wasn’t what being a Tiger is all about.

“It’s very disappointing,” Ford said. “That wasn’t Auburn football. We’re going to go back and look at our corrections and get back to Auburn football. We had too many missed tackles, myself included. We have to get back at it. I’m going to do what I can to get better. We just have to gang tackle and get to the ball. Everybody has to get to the ball. We just have to keep battling. As a defense our job is to stop the offense. It’s very tough right now, but we’re going to get back on track.”

Hall of Famer

Congratulations to Auburn staff member Doug Goodwin on being selected for the Alabama High School Athletic Association Sports Hall of Fame. A member of the AHSAA’s 200-win club as a prep football coach, Goodwin, 52, began his head-coaching career at Marion County from 1987-92, then was at Lineville (1993-98), Demopolis (1999-2006), Russellville (2007-10) and Homewood (2011-13). He led Lineville to the state finals in 1996 and 1998, won a state title at Demopolis in 2004 and set a state single-season scoring record (761 points) in the process. His Russellville teams reached the state finals in back-to-back years in 2008 and 2009. His Homewood teams won region titles in 2012 and 2013.

His career record is 234-91 with five state championship appearances and was the first coach in AHSAA history to guide three different schools to the state finals.

He was selected ASWA Coach of the year in Class 4A in 2004 and the Alabama Football Coaches Association 5ACoach of the year in 2008. He coached in the Alabama-Mississippi All-Star Game in 2005 and the North-South All-Star Game in 1998. Goodwin is a graduate of Sylacauga High School (1980) and Auburn University (1984). He currently serves as Director of High School Relations and NFL Liaison for Auburn University.

Tiger Ticket Notes

Auburn wide receiver Duke Williams continues to be “day-to-day” for the Tigers after injuring his knee in the win over Texas A&M. Saying that the junior is coming along nicely, Lashlee said they are still optimistic about his return at some point this season.

Things don’t sound as good for senior defensive tackle Jeffrey Whitaker. Not on the trip to Georgia because of back problems, Johnson said the veteran is dealing with a nerve issue in his back and they are still doing examinations on him. His status for this weekend and the rest of the season is still very questionable.

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