Dye-Gest: Frustrating Year For Tiger Fans

College Football Hall of Fame coach Pat Dye writes about the Auburn Tigers as they prepare to play the Idaho Vandals.

It hasn’t been a lot of fun for Auburn fans as they have watched their football team miss opportunity after opportunity this season. Last Saturday’s home loss to the Georgia Bulldogs was another example of a game that was very disappointing.

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Facing Georgia the Tigers didn’t lose because they were in a mismatch talent-wise, but when they had a chance to make key plays they didn’t get it done. Earlier in the season a lot of the issues were with the defense, but Saturday against Georgia the problems were with the offense. You can’t score 13 points and expect to win an SEC football game.

While the defense has certainly improved, it is too early to say that group has arrived. While Auburn’s defense gave up just one touchdown in each of the last two games, the Tigers caught Texas A&M and Georgia at times of the year when they are struggling offensively.

That is certainly true of this Auburn team, even though it looks like to me the Tigers are getting good play up front at the line of scrimmage and the running backs are playing well, too. However, this team is not getting nearly enough production from the quarterbacks as passers or runners, and that is a big problem. In this conference the defenses are too good if you don’t have the ability to attack them by successfully throwing the ball down the field.

We saw that last Saturday and we will see it again in the regular season finale vs. Alabama. In Auburn’s two most recent wins vs. the Tide and last year when the Tigers scored 44 points in Tuscaloosa, a key to offensive success was Auburn’s ability to throw the football down the field for big plays. This week is probably a good time to work on that because right now Auburn is not good enough line up and do nothing but run the ball against a real good defensive team, which is exactly what they will see in the Iron Bowl.

Georgia is a pretty good defensive team, but was vulnerable to the run in games it has lost. However, if you don’t threaten the Bulldogs with passes down the field they can put more defenders at the line of scrimmage than you can block and that is what happened last Saturday at Jordan-Hare Stadium.

I am not expecting to see this Auburn team become really good at throwing the ball until the quarterback play improves, but it can certainly be more effective than what we saw vs. Georgia. The Tigers don’t have any great receivers, but Ricardo Louis, Tony Stevens and Jason Smith are talented. Marcus Davis and Melvin Ray are dependable possession receivers.

With Auburn at 5-5 going into this week’s game vs. Idaho, I know it’s frustrating for the fans. I know it’s frustrating for the coaches and probably for the players also. However, I really think the coaches and players have done a marvelous job of holding their team together and not quitting. I didn’t see any signs of lack of effort on Saturday on either offense or defense.

Looking around the SEC West, there is only one team playing dominant football and that is Alabama. Like Auburn, most of the teams in the league have weaknesses than can be exploited. Some are able to better overcome those problems than others because they don’t have a weakness at quarterback. I am thinking about teams like Arkansas, Ole Miss and Mississippi State who were able to make enough plays to get past Auburn.

In the SEC East, Florida has been good enough on defense to win the division despite having issues at quarterback, but I think the Gators have been helped by playing a less challenging schedule than some other teams in the league.

One thing I would like to mention in closing is that I really hate to see the SEC lose Gary Pinkel at Missouri. I think he was a great asset to the conference because he is a quality coach and because of the type of man he is. I watched his team’s game vs. BYU last Saturday night after the word about him stepping down got out a day earlier. I don’t think I?have seen a bigger show of love for a coach than I saw from his players. He will be missed.

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