Red Zone A Season-Long Dead Zone For Tigers

Auburn head coach Tommy Tuberville discusses the Tigers' red zone woes.

Auburn, Ala.--It's no coincidence that the team leading the nation in red zone scoring percentage is also leading the nation in scoring.

The Oklahoma Sooners are averaging 51.4 points per game in large part due to their success in the red zone. Once they've gotten inside the opponent's 20-yard line, the Sooners have scored a touchdown on 50 of 56 opportunities. They've also gotten three field goals, bringing their scoring rate to 95 percent.

Auburn has gotten three touchdowns from the special teams and three from the defense, but ranks 107th in the nation in scoring at 18.9 points per contest. Statistically, the Tigers are the worst red zone offense in the Division I football by a large margin. Miami of Ohio is 119th of 120 teams at only 64 percent. The only team behind the Redhawks is Auburn at 57 percent on the season, converting just 20 of 35 opportunities.

"You just keep practicing," says Auburn head coach Tommy Tuberville. "I think we've gotten better between the 20s, but it hasn't gotten much better down there. Some of it has gotten better, but sooner or later you've got to make plays though.

"We're a mix of running, we're a mix of throwing," Tuberville continues. "We're not all one-sided, which is good. We have pretty much become a better football team on offense doing both of them, but when it gets down there it gets even harder. People play you tighter, closer, more physical. You've got to be a much better offense inside the 20 than outside the 20. It's limited in space."

The kicking game has obviously cost the Tigers a better chance at winning in the losses to Vanderbilt, Arkansas and this past weekend to Georgia. However, it hasn't been just the kicking game. Auburn has fumbled three times, thrown two interceptions and turned the ball over on downs three times. The Tigers have even punted once after getting inside the red zone.

"If you look at last year, the same thing–the last couple of years," Tuberville says of close games. "Most of our games come down to one point games, three point games. I'm not going to blame our kicker. Sooner or later you've got to score some points on offense. That's the reason why I tried to change offenses this year. You can't live off a kicker and a defense forever. Sooner or later you've got to start scoring some points, and obviously that didn't work in that scenario.

"It's just frustrating," he adds. "You go back and look at it, three games would have been very, very close if we would have just been a little bit better in red zone, kicking or penalties."

Auburn was 13 of 20 with Tony Franklin as the offensive coordinator. Trying to clean up the mess, Steve Ensminger's offense is just seven of 15.

Kicker Wes Byrum has an injured kicking knee and according to the head coach, and Morgan Hull will "more than likely" be the kicker on Nov. 29 in the Iron Bowl unless Byrum "makes a miraculous recovery."

Red Zone Lowlights

* Against ULM, the Tigers had a 2nd and goal from the two-yard line and were forced to kick a field goal.
* In game two of the year against Southern Miss, the Tigers drove down the field on their first two drives of the game. Brad Lester fumbled on 2nd and 4 from the 12 and on their next possession Ben Tate fumbled the ball away on 1st and 10 from the Eagles' 13. Late in the game Auburn failed to convert a 3rd and 2 from the four-yard line and had to kick a field goal.
* Against Mississippi State the Tigers couldn't convert once getting a 2nd and goal from the two and Byrum missed a short field goal.
* With a chance to go up 21-3 or 17-3 against LSU, the Tigers had a 1st and 10 at the LSU 19. Three plays later a fourth down punt went out of bounds at the 20.
* Versus Tennessee, the Tigers were playing outstanding defense and had a chance to go into halftime with a two-possession lead. However, Byrum's 35-yard field goal sailed wide right.
* In the one-point loss at Vanderbilt, the Tigers quickly marched inside the Commodores' five-yard line on the opening possession. However, they were stuffed on run plays of 1st and Goal from the four, 2nd and goal from the two, 3rd and goal from the one and 4th and goal from the one. A missed extra point on a touchdown proved to be the difference in the score.
* Auburn was just 2-5 in the red zone in the three-point loss to Arkansas. Burns threw a first-down interception and Byrum missed a chip-shot field goal. With a chance to win the game with a 1st and goal from the five, the Tigers came up empty with three consecutive incompletions.
* At West Virginia, the Tigers had already moved the ball 78 yards and had a 1st and goal from the three. Three straight runs were stuffed and they had to settle for a field goal.
* At Ole Miss and trailing by just three points late in the game, an Auburn drive ended when Burns' 3rd and 12 pass found its way into the hands of a Rebel, ending the scoring threat.
* On Homecoming against UT-Martin, a 1st and 10 from the 17 tuned into 4th and 22 after a draw play lost 12 yards on first down. Byrum missed from 46. He later hit a field goal after the Tigers stalled inside the 10.
* Auburn was 0-2 in the red zone against Georgia. A second down run by Mario Fannin would have given the Tigers 1st and goal from the five. Instead, a holding call pushed the Tigers back. The ball slipped out of Burns' hand on 3rd and 16 and Georgia recovered. The Tigers had a chance to win it, but threw incomplete on 3rd and 4th down from the 14.
* In the red zone, the Tigers have eight rushing touchdowns, five passing touchdowns, seven made field goals, five missed field goals, three lost fumbles, two interceptions, three turnovers on downs, one punt and one time the game clock ran out.

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