Improving Offense A Focus for Tigers

As the Auburn football team prepares for Saturday's Homecoming contest, we feature news, notes & quotes on the Tigers.

Auburn, Ala.--Working out for two hours in helmets, shoulder pads and shorts on Wednesday evening, the Auburn football team continued to focus on improving in all areas as the Tigers head into the second month of their schedule.

Up next is a home game on Saturday vs. Louisiana-Monroe. Auburn’s head coach, Gus Malzahn, said getting his team’s red zone problems fixed this week is job one for the offense and Rhett Lashlee agreed.

Lashlee, who was given the assignment last week of being the gameday primary play-caller, said, “Right now the biggest concern is we are struggling to score touchdowns in the red zone. I think that’s pretty obvious. Everybody knows that. “It kept us from maybe giving our defense some breathing room last Saturday and it will catch up with you,” Lashlee said. “It has already in a couple of games this year.

“Sometimes you play some pretty good offensive football, but if you don’t finish the drives with touchdowns it doesn’t feel that way or doesn’t look that way,” the coordinator said. “That has been the big emphasis this week, not just the red zone but just in general finishing drives with our guys.”

Lashlee said there really hasn’t been a lot of change in his preparations for games whether he is calling the plays or advising Malzahn, who will take the role of advising the offensive coordinator on what plays could work during the course of a game. ““I’m spending about the same time in the film room, I can promise you,” Lashlee said. “Not a lot has changed for the process of how we do it. Our staff gets a lot of the credit each week--we do things together. On Saturday when you’re calling plays you just try to give the guys a chance.”

Auburn made six trips into the red zone last week in its 18-13 victory over LSU. Those possessions led to five field goals and a goal line stand at the one-yard by LSU. Commenting on what went wrong, Lashlee said, “Probably every time is different. Last week it’s the little things. We have a double move to Tony (Stevens) and the quarterback probably should have let it go just a little bit earlier. That’s how we’ve repped it, but at the same time you’re not going to be open in the red zone, wide open hardly ever, and we’ve got to go up and make a play. We had a chance to make a play on the ball.

“I think that third and a foot if we just snap off on the backer he probably doesn’t come clean and maybe we have a chance to score,” Lashlee said. “At the same time we have to look at ourselves, too, and put them in good positions to have a chance to make plays down there. It’s probably a mixture.”

Despite no touchdowns, Lashlee said he there were a couple of positives other than defeating LSU.

“The one thing I was proud of from an offensive standpoint--two things--is we had zero penalties, and that's hard to do in a game,” he said. “To have zero penalties is great progress for our guys.

“The second thing was we didn't score touchdowns, and that is the No. 1 thing, that's frustrating, but what we did do is every time they were ahead, and we had a drive, we scored points.

“They scored and made it 7-3 and we went down and scored. It was 7-6 when we got the ball, and we went down and scored. They scored late after the turnover in the second half and went up 13-12 and we went right down and got points so our guys responded very well. We just need to respond with seven instead of three.”

The Tigers will try to do that on Saturday vs. an opponent from the Sun Belt Conference who will visiting Jordan-Hare Stadium as Auburn celebrates Homecoming.

“They are much better than they were last year,” Lashlee said about ULM’s defense. “You can tell with the new staff that they are very sound. They are doing a good job of pressuring. They probably pressure almost 50 percent of the time-- think it’s 46 percent, which is extremely high, s they try to be very disruptive with their pressures.

“If you look at their last game, Georgia Southern is one of the better opponents in the Sun Belt and they had them on the ropes,” Lashlee pointed out. “I think they had a chance for a field goal late (to win the game, and they’ve already played at OU (Oklahoma) so they’ve been in a big environment. That’s not going to faze them.

“They’re no stranger to taking down SEC teams,” Lashlee added. “They have done it before. The message to our guys this week in practice has been pretty good. It’s just been, ‘We got a good win, aside from the details of red zone and finishing drives, but we need to build momentum.’ We need to play well. We have to play better this week than we played last week, and we’ve had two good days of work.”

In other news and notes:

*Kickoff for Saturday’s game is set for shortly after 2:30 p.m. CDT with TV coverage on the SEC Alternate Channel. *The Auburn Radio Network’s coverage featuring Rod Bramblett, Stan White, Ronnie Brown, Andy Burcham and Paul Ellen can be heard on Sirius channel 108 and XM channel 191.

*Auburn leads the series vs. ULM 9-0. The Warhawks will bring a 1-2 record into the contest. ULM has had an extra week to prepare for the game after being off last Saturday following a 23-21 home loss to Georgia Southern on Sept. 17th. ULM opened at home with a 38-21 victory vs. Southern before falling 59-17 at Oklahoma.

*Sophomore Ryan Davis has caught five passes in each of his last two games. Prior to that he had just two receptions since joining the team last year.

Daniel Carlson is a redshirt junior kicker.

> *Daniel Carlson is 12-12 on field goals this season and has made 13 in a row without a miss, which is three short of the school record he set last year. The redshirt junior’s 84.1 percent success rate on field goal attempts ranks first in AU history and third among all SEC players.

Carlson, who has 53 field goals, is seven short of tying Wes Byrum’s career record set from 2008-2010.

*Carlson is tied with Texas A&M’s Daniel LaCamera for the SEC lead in scoring with 12.5 points per game.

*Kerryon Johnson is seventh in rushing among SEC players at 91.2 yards per contest. LSU’s Leonard Fournette is the leader at 128.7. Kamryn Pettway is 10th at 84 yards per game.

Johnson is fourth in all-purpose yards with 127.2 per game. Fournette leads at 151.7. The sophomore back said it was important to get the victory vs. LSU. “This was a big lift, but within our family we knew how good we could be,” Johnson said. “We knew we were just this close on most of the games this year and most of the games last year, but to actually get over that hump and actually get a ‘W’ that’s going to through.”

*As team the Tigers are sixth in total offense at 438.8 yards per game among SEC teams and eighth in total defense allowing 385.2 yards per contest. Missouri is No. 1 in total offense at 569.5 yards and Florida is the total defense leader at 221.8 yards allowed per game. *Auburn is tied for sixth in scoring defense at 18.8 points per contest and is 11th in scoring at 24.5 points. Alabama is the No. 1 scoring team at 46.5 points per game and Florida is the SEC’s scoring defense leader at 13.0 per contest.

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