Stagnant Second Half Dooms Tigers

A disappearing act in the second half on offense cost the Auburn Tigers a chance at victory Monday night in Los Angeles.

Los Angeles, Ca.--It was a tale of two halves for the Auburn Tigers on offense Monday night against the USC Trojans. After piling up 246 yards of total offense in the first half with 142 coming on the ground, the Tigers went three-and-out twice in the second half and could manage but 35 yards the rest of the way as they came up just short in their bid for the upset. Offensive coordinator Bobby Petrino said that while there were some positives to take out of the night he wasn't pleased with what he saw out of senior quarterback Daniel Cobb.

"On the entire offense I'm disappointed," he said following the game. "I thought we moved the ball in the first half but we had the interception going in. That was a bad mistake by Daniel, he should have never made that throw. Then we got stopped on the fourth and one. Actually I thought we blocked it pretty well up front and I think Carnell (Williams) slipped. Those two things hurt us. We should have at least had 10 or maybe 14 more points on the board. That was hard to come back from.

"Then in the second half we had two series where we went three-and-out, which we can't do. We have to keep the defense on the sideline. That is the offense's responsibility. I was disappointed in the second half with Daniel on his getting out of a bad play. He had not, up until that point, made those mistakes. In the first half he did a great job in the run game but in the second half he made two major mistakes that cost us dearly."

The mistakes for Cobb involved All-American safety Troy Polamalu and his alignment on the field. Respecting his ability to make plays, the Tigers had decided to run away from him at all time but twice in the second half the Tigers ran key plays right at the tough senior for little or no gain. Petrino said he didn't understand why that happened but it wasn't in the plans for Monday.

The middle of the Auburn offensive line take a break during Monday's game. Ryan Hockett (76), Ben Nowland (55) and Danny Lindsey (68) keyed a first half Auburn ground explosion but couldn't keep it going out of the locker room.

One problem the Tigers encountered in the second half was a less-than-full-speed Cadillac. After tearing up the Trojan defense for 97 yards in the first half, Williams got dehydrated during the halftime break and struggled to get enough fluids in his body for the final 30 minutes. Favoring a banged-up left knee as well as cramps, Williams wasn't himself in the second half and was completely shut down by USC's front to make Auburn a one dimensional team. That is something that Petrino doesn't want to see happen again.

"We were going to play it very conservative in this opener," Petrino said. "We felt like if we went in and did a good job running the ball and made a few plays throwing it down the field, obviously we're not going to be that conservative for every game. We're going to have to make plays. We're going to have to do a better job of throwing the ball and catching it."

One area of the offense that was a pleasant surprise for much of the game was up front where new starters Ryan Hockett and Danny Lindsey joined veterans Ben Nowland, Mark Pera and Monreko Crittenden for the Tigers. After dominating the line of scrimmage in the first half, Hockett said the Trojan defense began doing something a little different in the second half. Without the threat of the pass, Tigers couldn't overcome USC's defensive changes.

"I know they are supposed to avoid us but it seemed like they weren't coming off the ball," Hockett noted. "They were running sideways. They watched what we would do and they either slanted with us or away from us."

After working together for much of the last two weeks as the first unit Hockett said they are not happy with how things turned out on this hot California night. With Western Carolina just five days away, the senior said that now is the time to keep moving forward and that begins with a practice back in Auburn Tuesday afternoon.

"It's real disappointing," Hockett noted. "It hurts but you have to move on to next week and put it in the past. We'll just keep working hard."

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