RHETT LASHLEE (PHOTO BY JASON CALDWELL)

Can Auburn's Offense Bounce Back From Its Late Season Slump As Auburn Plays Oklahoma Is A Key Question for the Sugar Bowl

Auburn's offensive coordinator talks about his team as the Tigers prepare for Monday night's Sugar Bowl game vs. Big 12 champion Oklahoma.

New Orleans, La.--If Auburn is going to have a solid shot at knocking off Big 12 champion Oklahoma the AU offense is going to have to recover from its late-season funk.

Rhett Lashlee, Auburn’s offensive coordinator and quarterback coach, said on Saturday that the Tigers understand the challenge they are facing when going against an OU football team averaging 44.7 points per contest.

Oklahoma’s defensive coordinator, Mike Stoops, said from watching game video of the Tigers this year a major key to making AU’s offense successful is for quarterback Sean White to be able to challenge defenses with play-action passes.

Lashlee agreed with that point and said, “There is no question that when we were playing well in the middle of the year we had pretty good balance offensively. We were very efficient throwing the ball.

“Right before he got hurt he was leading the league in passing efficiency, completion percentage, touchdown/interception ratio, yards per completion--a lot of good categories,” the coach pointed out.

“He got hurt and as a whole the last couple of games we were very poor in the passing game,” Lashlee said. “We have to keep the balance that allowed us to be successful when we were passing well.”

White missed the final two games of the regular season and before that he struggled to throw the football in a loss to Georgia. White said on Saturday he is back to full speed throwing the football and has felt good since the Tigers returned to practice back in Auburn before breaking for Christmas following countless rehab hours to overcome a shoulder injury.

“Sean has practiced the entire bowl prep,” Lashlee said. “I think he is looking pretty good. He has had a couple good days the last few days.”

Asked if the AU offense feels pressure to put up a lot of points on Monday night when facing an Oklahoma team that has been so productive offensively, Lashlee said, “What they do offensively is impressive,”?he pointed out. “They put a whole of pressure on you as a whole football team. It is a team game and that is why we are going to have to play extremely well. It is a team game. We have to pick the defense up and they have to pick us up. The last couple games we didn’t do our part.

“We do feel like we are healthy,” Lashlee said. “We do feel like we have had good preparation. This Oklahoma defense is a pretty good defense now. They are sound. They do a very good job of mixing up coverages and fronts. They are very multiple. They have got a player who can really get after the passer, No. 31 (Ogbonnia Okoronkwo). He is really, really good and can affect the game.

“I think for us to go out and just play our best and be balanced is key for us, always. We can’t be one-dimensional. We have to be better on third down. Most of the season we were one of the better third down teams in our league. The last three games we were obviously one of the worst.

“Staying on the field, and keeping the ball away from them, obviously giving us a chance to score some points, that is when we were at our best this year. We have to be more explosive and get back to that balance that we had.”

Kickoff for Monday night’s game is set for shortly after 7:30 p.m. CST and it will be televised on ESPN. The Tigers take an 8-4 record into the contest while Oklahoma is 10-2.

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