Auburn Team News

Same old same old for Auburn: Defense does its job, offense does not

Jarrett Stidham sack
Jeremy Brevard/USA TODAY Sports

Different team, different year, same issues. Auburn traveled to take on defending national champion Clemson in its first road game of the season Saturday night and struggled in its 14-6 defeat.

Here are five takeaways from Auburn’s loss.

Gus Malzahn still has not found an answer for the offense

With Auburn bringing in new offensive coordinator Chip Lindsey and the addition of transfer quarterback Jarrett Stidham, most expected the Tigers to be improved on offense after struggling the past two seasons. But there were questions about Stidham’s fit in the offense last week in the opener against Georgia Southern, and those questions are going to continue. While there is talent on the roster, the coaching staff has had trouble engineering an offense. Auburn finished with just 117 yards of total offense.

The defense remains strong

Despite little help from the offense, Auburn’s defense kept the team in the game. Turnovers were a focus during the offseason and the work paid off as the unit was able to generate two takeaways. Last season, the defense kept the game close between these teams until the final play. Not much was different Saturday. Malzahn has a defense that looks to be among the nation’s best. The offense? Hmmm.

Play-calling should have fans asking questions

With seven minutes left in the game, Auburn’s coaching staff called a rollout to the left with Stidham, who is right-handed, on a third-and-long. The staff chose to make things difficult schematically with route patterns that were short on third-and-8 or shifting to go under center on fourth-and-3. Auburn also ran an outside toss play to H-back Chandler Cox on third down instead of using a running back.

It’s not all on Jarrett Stidham

While Stidham was far from perfect, he was not fully at fault. The receivers struggled to get open. The offensive line couldn’t handle Clemson’s defensive front; Stidham was sacked 11 times. Some things were Stidham’s fault. He held onto the ball too long. He chose to not throw away the football. He lost faith in his receivers. He looked at guys who were open but still went on to the next progression in the play.

Jeff Holland is the real deal

There are a few positive takeaways from Saturday, and one is that Holland could be one of the best pass rushers in the SEC by the end of the season. He stole the show early on but had less of an impact once the Clemson offense started paying more attention to him. Marlon Davidson and Derrick Brown provided a strong push up front for Auburn’s defense as well.

(You can follow Zac Blackerby on Twitter @Zblackerby)

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