Auburn, Ala.--With two weeks until the annual Iron Bowl against Alabama in Jordan-Hare Stadium, the Auburn Tigers have to find a way to get some offense if they hope to move their winning streak to six games against the Crimson Tide.
Right now that is going to be a tough task considering the offense is laboring near the bottom of the country in total offense, 99th at just 332 yards per game. Saturday was another in what is becoming a long line of inept performances the last two years for the Tigers as they had just 216 total yards in a 45-20 loss to Georgia on the road. Coach Tommy Tuberville says there is no question they have to see improvements on that side of the ball.
"We've been adequate on offense," Tuberville notes. "We haven't been great by any stretch of the imagination. There were times last night that we looked pretty good. Brandon threw four interceptions and you can't win many ball games. You've got to go back and you've got to give credit. There were a couple of times he tried to force the ball and he was just trying to make a play, and sometimes you don't give enough credit to the defense.
"We've played people and we've forced turnovers, and the defense doesn't get near as much credit as the offense gets blamed. They played very inspired defense last night and they were well coached, as they always are, but we've got to overcome that sometimes and make plays. We have before. We've got to get better. We've got to get better in all areas. On offense you're always looking for the right secret or the right adjustments. Right now we'll go back to the drawing board and get ready for one last game in terms of trying to make this thing better."
At times Saturday night the Auburn offense was very good. In four scoring drives that accounted for all 20 Tiger points, the offense ran 35 plays for a total of 205 yards including penalty yardage. The rest of the game Auburn's offense ran 32 plays for just 39 total yards. Included in that total is a 25-yard completion to fullback Carl Stewart. Tuberville says that has been a problem this season and Saturday night it bit the Tigers again.
"We've gotten better, and like last night we put together some drives and drove the length of the field on a pretty good defense in a hostile environment," Tuberville says. "The biggest thing last night was execution in terms of staying on our blocks at times, getting better at that, catching the football, holding onto the football, doing things we had to do. We made some third-down conversions.
"I thought we looked like a pretty good offense at times. This is big-time college football and you've got to get better. We've gotten better in some areas, and in some areas we haven't. That's the reason you practice and we'll try to get better this week in practice. We'll try to get a little different game plan together and maybe it will work toward our strengths, and that's what you do in a game."
The problem is that right now this Auburn offense doesn't have a strength. Running the football has always been a staple for the Tigers under Tuberville. Even in 2003, the year most fans point to as the year of underachievement on offense, the Tiger rushed for 182.9 yards per game and averaged 378.1 total yards and 26.2 points per game. This season the numbers are below those in every category. Running the football Auburn is ninth in the SEC at just 153.2 yards per game despite the second-most attempts in the league behind Arkansas. Auburn's passing totals are just as woeful with just 178.8 yards per game, again ninth in the league. Rounding out the ninth-place total is scoring offense at 25 points per game. Tuberville says first and foremost the Tigers have to get better up front and work from there.
"We'll start at the offensive line," Tuberville says. "We've got to get better there. They got too much last night on pass rush at times and of course, I thought we could run the ball a little better. Some of that had to do with our running backs, some of it had to do with our offensive line. It's just a combination of things.
"When you've only got a little over 200 yards in offense, you're not going to win many games in the SEC, even for us in terms of knowing we're going to win a lot of games on kicking team and defense. Against a team like that you can't not have better offensive production. We'll go back to fundamentals this week and try to get better in all of it, and we will. They'll work hard to get better."