Auburn, Ala.--When you look at the numbers it's easy to see why the Auburn Tigers suffered their first defeat in 2006 and why the team has some serious soul searching to do before next week's game against Florida.
Expected to have a chance to control the football against one of the league's worst run defenses, Auburn instead had little in the way of a running game on a day when the Razorbacks torched the Tigers at every turn. Rushing for just 60 yards on 31 attempts and finishing the day with just 213 yards of total offense, coordinator Al Borges says things couldn't have gone much worse than they did against Arkansas in the loss.
"We were pathetic," Borges says. "The second half in particular. In the first half we showed some signs of life and did some good things. We got in too many bad down and distances. Any time you're in that kind of situation you subject yourself to some problems and they showed up.
"There were times we were open and we didn't make some plays or didn't make some throws," he adds. "It was a typical team loss just like a typical team win. We had a multitude of problems. Generally it's not one thing and it wasn't in this game. If it wasn't getting open it was protecting. If it wasn't protecting it was the inability to make the throw. It was a combination. When you get your tail beat that's what it usually is."
From the outside looking in the running game might not have been that bad on Saturday. Tailbacks Kenny Irons and Brad Lester combined for 103 yards on just 19 carries but it was the inability of the offense to sustain drives that was the downfall. Some of that had to do with the execution of the offense and some had to do with how the game was called.
Early on the Tigers tried a trick play with Tre Smith in the backfield at the Arkansas 42. The play lost 11 yards and from that point forward the air seemed to come out of Auburn's sails. Borges says that call is all on him and probably shouldn't have come at that time.
"We had a throwback to the quarterback and they got a bunch of heat on Tre," Borges says. "It was just a badly timed call on my part. It wasn't Tre's fault. But it broke up the drive. It really hurt us. That happens. Trick plays are a funny thing. Either you look like a genius or look like an idiot. I looked like an idiot on that one."
Borges consults with the offense on the sidelines during the 27-10 loss.
Playing in the first game without starting center Joe Cope the Tigers had some protection problems but for the most part Jason Bosley held his own. Auburn did move Jonathan Palmer to center early in the fourth quarter but Borges says that had little to do with how Bosley was playing.
"I don't think it was that Jason Bosley was playing so bad," Borges says. "We just needed to shake it up a little bit. We were struggling a little bit with the protection so we decided that we wanted to make that move and let Leon Hart play outside at tackle."
In the end this game was one that had been bubbling on the surface since Auburn defeated LSU at home three weeks ago. In victories over Buffalo and South Carolina the Tigers struggled on both sides of the ball to get things clicking with the offense lacking any big play potential in the passing game other than Courtney Taylor.
Saturday that was again a problem but this time the running game couldn't bail the Tigers out. Facing a team determined to make Brandon Cox and the rest of Auburn's receivers win the game, Borges says the Tigers couldn't get the job done.
"They play a lot of press man coverage," Borges says. "Sometimes it takes another beat to get free. Sometimes you have to hold the ball a little bit longer than you want to hold it. Sometimes they covered us good. They did a good job with some stuff. It was just one of those games where you don't have to deal with it so much if you're not dealing with so a lot of third and longs. A year ago we didn't have that problem. This year we did and it showed up."