Auburn, Ala. (EETV) - For Auburn fans, the loss of the now No. 21 Auburn Tigers at LSU was a new low point of the season.
Auburn has yet to win in Death Valley since 1999 and was poised to win this season after going up 20-0. However, the second half performance of the Auburn Tigers was disastrous enough to help give LSU the win.
Here are my 5 takeaways from Auburn's disappointing loss at LSU:
1) Poor play calling
In the first half, Auburn's offense was firing on all cylinders and was clearly dominating LSU in Death Valley.
But the second half was another story. The Auburn offense was unable to produce and was able to convert one third down in the entire half.
So how could a dominating offense come to a halt during a game? Simple, LSU was able to figure out the Auburn offense because the play calling never changed.
If Gus Malzahn is still influencing play calls I want him fired immediately— Kyle Kolumbus (@kkolumbo) October 14, 2017
In rewatching the game, it was clear to see that the Auburn offense would either run the ball or look for a deep pass. There was no in between, and the LSU defense was able to catch on quick.
"But I'm not going to say I'm frustrated with our coaches, out players --- no," said coach Gus Malzahn.
Jarrett Stidham typically looks to throw across the middle or exploit the quick out passes on second and third down.
But in the second half, those passes were nonexistent. Stidham was only looking for the deep pass which was rarely caught.
The second half playing calling by the Auburn coaches made it easy for the LSU defense to defend and shut down, eventually aiding in the Auburn demise.
LSU fired Les Miles for losing to Gus Malzahn in 2016. What's the penalty for losing to Ed Orgeron in 2017?— Lonely Tailgater (@LonelyTailgater) October 14, 2017
2) Kerryon Johnson or nothing
Throughout the season we have seen Gus Malzahn key on one running back, which is a surprise considering the depth Auburn has at the running back position.
In this game, Malzahn highlighted Johnson, giving Kamryn Pettway few carries to balance the run attack. Pettway finished the game touching the ball only 4 times, which made him almost a non-threat in the game.
Kerryon Johnson is gonna die soon, they don't even let him rest lol.— Chris (8) (@ChiKidChris17) October 14, 2017
Johnson was able to do his usual thing in the first half, carrying the ball 21 times for 123 yards and a touchdown.
But the second half was another story for Johnson, carrying the ball 10 times for 33 yards. It was clear that whoever was calling the plays for Auburn decided to give him the ball or not run the ball at all.
"They don't pay me enough to talk about play calling," said Johnson when asked about the second half play calling.
This strategy proved noneffective and made it easier for the LSU defense to take momentum away from the Auburn offense.
3) The roller coaster of Jarrett Stidham
Stidham has had a roller coaster of a season, starting off slow and then slowly improving. But his game at LSU was the epitome of his season in a single game.
Stidham started the game fast, showing the quarterback Tiger fans have seen the past 3 games. He threw for 158 yards and a touchdown in the first half alone. A good stat line for a half of football.
Stidham established his deep passing game against Mizzou and has utilized the deep threat ever since. Against LSU, his lone touchdown pass was a 49-yard bomb to Will Hastings.
But like I said, this game was a roller coaster that perfectly summarized Stidham's season.
Orgeron says #LSU's defense looked at film of how Clemson contained Jarrett Stidham and the Auburn offense.— InsideTheTigers.com (@InsideLSU) October 12, 2017
In the second half, Tiger fans saw the Jarrett Stidham of the beginning of the season. Stidham threw for just 3 yards total in the second half and no touchdowns.
He was only able to complete 2 passes on 10 attempts, a 20% completion rate.
Just going to leave this here, Danny Etling has a better completion mark than Jarrett Stidham— Stephen M. Smith (@Smsmith_TDALMag) October 14, 2017
For Auburn to have won the game, Stidham would have had to be more effective on his short passing game in the second half.
At the end of the game, tight end Sal Canella was visibly angry about the play calling and lack of the short passing game.
Canella, being a short pass option, was not utilized on the last two drives of the game. He would have been a good target for Stidham to pick up a first down instead of throwing the deep ball.
4) Injuries killed
In the loss to LSU, Auburn lost key defensemen that would have been able to stop the LSU offense.
In the first quarter Tray Matthews suffered a hamstring injury that kept him from returning to the game. He was out of uniform for the second half as he watched from the sidelines.
Matthews is a key player in the Auburn defense, having 26 total tackles this season and one interception.
Auburn has then forced to play Nick Ruffin and Daniel Thomas, two defenders that are not of equal skill as Matthews.
These two, although not terrible players, were exploited by the LSU offense, leaving the Auburn defense unable to stop the LSU Tigers.
The loss of Matthews in the game proved to be determinantal to the Auburn secondary. If Matthews cannot go against Arkansas, the once powerful Auburn defense may be weakened and unable to stop the Razorbacks.
5) No defensive adjustments were made
In the first half, the Auburn defense dominated until LSU figured out the one play they could not stop, the jet sweep.
LSU's first touchdown of the game was on a sweep to Stephen Sullivan, and once that play was successful the LSU Tigers utilized it the rest of the game.
For Auburn to stop the LSU offense, one would think they would have made adjustments to stop the sweep play that was beating them every series.
However, Auburn made no such adjustments in the game to stop the sweep, giving LSU an easy play to gain yards quickly.
For Auburn to win the game, they would have needed to stop the sweep in the second half and make adjustments to do so.
LSU also found another way to beat the Auburn defense, passing to DJ Chark every chance they got.
Chark finished the game with 150 yards receiving on 5 receptions. He was the sole receiver to be a constant deep threat for LSU. So the question becomes, why didn't the Auburn defense put their best secondary defender on Chark?
Chark was able to pick up chunks of yards in the second half, helping LSU get into field goal range that would eventually help them win the game.