Rushing for just 40 yards on 38 carries, the fewest allowed by Georgia Tech since 2000, the Tigers fell to 0-2 on the season with an anemic 17-3 loss Saturday at Grant Field. Manhandled for the second straight week on offense and hit for a few big plays on defense by freshman quarterback Reggie Ball, Auburn limps into the conference opener next weekend in Nashville against the Vanderbilt Commodores.
That means trouble for a team that has become as bad offensively as any in recent Auburn history. Sacked seven times by the Yellow Jackets, the fourth-most in the history of Georgia Tech football, quarterback Jason Campbell took yet another beating as he attempted to bring the Tigers back late by throwing the football. In the end nothing seemed to matter as a penalty or blown assignment was always present, ready to put an end to an Auburn drive.
"Everybody is doing a pretty good job of zone blitzing and making us hold the ball a little bit longer," Tuberville said. "That's the reason this year Jason is holding the ball. We're not seeing many zone defenses, straight zones with a four-man rush, people are bringing five and six. They're making us hold the ball a little bit longer and they're getting to us. That's one place where we have to step up. We have to be able to block five or six guys and give the quarterback a little bit longer to throw it."
Jason Campbell looks for a receiver downfield in Saturday's game.
That wasn't the problem some of the time on Saturday as the offensive line did well at times, but Campbell appeared to hold the ball longer than necessary and brought the Georgia Tech rush into play. Tuberville said that is something he's going to have to improve quickly if the Tigers hope to get in the win column in Nashville.
"It's hard to assess it (Jason's performance) when he's got people hanging on top of him," Tuberville said. "He is going to have to get rid of the ball. We took way too many sacks. We've probably had more sacks in two games than we had in half the season last year. He's just going to have to learn to throw the ball away.
"We're going to have to find a way to get open. We're going to continue to see this same thing. Vanderbilt runs this same defense so next week we'll get a little more of the same. We haven't scored a touchdown in eight quarters. That might set a record. We'll find the answers, but now we've run out of time. We're getting ready to go into conference play and if we find the answers it will have to be this week."
One question following the game was on the play calling for the Tigers. With so much talk about that part of the coaching in the USC game, it didn't seem as if that was a big problem for the offense against Tech. Tuberville said much of the problem in Saturday's game was execution and the failure to seize opportunities when they presented themselves.
"We didn't score any points again and obviously we'll look at that," Tuberville said. "You can't tell about the plays until you look at the film and see how close you were. We were close a couple of times. The first screen pass was wide open, it would have been a touchdown, but we didn't execute. You have to execute. We didn't execute on some of the plays that they gave us and you only get so many plays a game. We have not taken advantage of it either game."
"We had way too many penalties," Tuberville added. "You would hope you wouldn't get those. Some of them were very silly penalties. We knew that we were going to fake that punt with the formation that they ran and we didn't stop that. The first touchdown they scored was a couple of penalties and a fake punt. They took advantage of what they needed to and they won the football game."
There was little doubt what Auburn's offensive play was early as running backs Carnell Williams and Ronnie Brown combined to rush for 69 yards on 19 carries in the first half. That plan changed in the second half as the Yellow Jackets stacked the line and forced the Tigers to throw. The result was just five carries for 15 yards as Campbell had to put the ball in the air with his team down two scores late.
"It didn't work," Tuberville said. "We made some plays, but you just can't count on a running game. Everybody was complaining last week when we didn't run the ball, you have to be able to throw the ball when they put eight or nine people up there. It doesn't make a lot of difference how great your running backs are, you have to have a passing game. That's what we've got to get better at. We've got to get the ball downfield."
Auburn now looks to win its first game of the season when it travels to face the improved Vanderbilt Commodores. Tuberville said the toughest thing facing his team this week is to get some confidence in themselves heading on the road.
"We don't have any right now, but we'll get it back," Tuberville said. "This was the last non-conference game. This was tough coming over here opening up their new stadium. These guys were ready to play and they had a few days more rest than us. We never got any momentum. Right off the bat they hold us and come back and get a big play.
"That let the air out of us for some reason. We don't have that drive and we have to get it back. We don't have the hunger feeling that it takes to win. That all starts with me and the coaches. We're going to coach harder and do everything we can to get this team ready again next week. It's going to be another tough road game against a team that's going to be fired up and ready to play."