Auburn, Ala.--Offensive coordinator Rhett Lashlee has been at the helm for the Auburn Tigers during a part of the season in 2016 that has seen them take things to another level offensively. Unfortunately on Saturday in Athens things went in a much different direction for the Auburn offense in a 13-7 loss to Georgia.
With quarterback Sean White struggling with an obviously sore shoulder and running back Kamryn Pettway out because of a quad injury, the Tigers managed just 32 total yards and no first downs in the second half in the loss.
While White’s play is getting much of the blame after going just 6-20 with 27 yards and an interception returned for a score, Lashlee said it’s the job of the coach to put the offense in a position to win and he didn’t do that against the Bulldogs.
“I need to take more of the blame than he does or anybody else,” Lashlee said. “On the third downs in the second half, I’ve got to give our guys better opportunities. I’ve got to give them better plays. I’m disappointed in our performance.
“We did not play well and we obviously did not make plays at all on third down in the second half. We didn’t do the things we need to do to have the balance we need. You have to give Georgia the credit but we beat ourselves in a lot of areas. I don’t think it has anything to do with who was playing quarterback.”
Auburn could have still won the game even with White’s struggles at the position, but there is no question his lack of ability in the passing game severely hampered the Tigers’ efforts. Already banged up, White got hit on a pass attempt early in the game, something he said caused him even more pain
He played through it and never alerted the coaches as to how much his shoulder was bothering him. Lashlee said that’s just part of White’s competitive nature and they felt like he was still the best option on the field.
“When we started the game there was no reason for us to believe that Sean wasn’t healthy enough to win the game for us. To be honest with you, I know he got hit early in the game and the kind of kid he is he was going to fight tooth and nail.
“There was no indication at that point that there was a reason to take him out for injury. There was no reason to take him out. I think for whatever reason people are trying to put a lot more on him than is fair.”
With or without the injury being a factor there is no question that Auburn’s best chance on Saturday was to keep running the football. Kerryon Johnson carried the ball 22 times for 99 yards with the rest of the team combining for just 10 carries, four of them by White. Lashlee said looking back he sees opportunities to run it more.
“Kerryon, you can see is out there on one leg,” Lashlee said. “Stanton Truitt got hurt early, Chandler (Cox) got banged up in the game. That had a little to do with it. Yeah I wished I’d gone more to that in the second half. It was always on the mind but didn’t get done.
“The big part of what we do is get a first down. We never got that first first down. I know we put Kerryon in there and direct snapped it to him. We had six opportunities to just make one play, whether it was me giving a better play call or our guys to make a throw and a catch. So we were never able to get our guys any kind of tempo to get in those sets.”
Coming into Saturday’s game the Auburn offense was one of the most efficient in the country over the course of the season and especially since Lashlee took over. Now coming off a humbling and disappointing loss, the coordinator said it’s one that they just let slip through their fingers.
“We performed very poorly and it’s unfortunate because the last six weeks we’ve done a lot of good things,” Lashlee said. “You can win six out of seven, but right now we’re feeling as bad as we’ve ever felt. This is probably the toughest loss I’ve been a part of, just about. When you know you have a game even when you’re not at your best, you should find a way to grind it out and win.
“Whether it’s ugly or not, who cares? Your defense plays the way it did and we give up a touchdown and I never do enough to help our guys in the second half overcome the obstacles we have in front of us. It’s tough. Then it goes back to, we also didn’t make any plays. There were six opportunities on third down after that first drive and we’ve got to make one play and it could change everything.
“It was 7-7 and 10-7 forever. If we get one first down we’re going to get rolling, we’re very confident in that. We never did it. We all share in it. We performed poorly and it’s very disappointing.”