September 2, 2012

THE WRITER'S EYE: Highs and lows from Saturday night

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AUBURN -- A season-opening loss to Clemson Saturday night wasn't what Auburn had in mind, but what happened inside the Georgia Dome was far from a disaster.

The No. 13 Clemson Tigers were far better at quarterback and offensive coordinator Chad Morris, who once made a pilgrimage to learn up-tempo football from Gus Malzahn, used pace to tax Auburn's defense beyond its limits. Brian VanGorder's unit conceded 528 yards - including 231 rushing yards to tailback Andre Ellington - and generally struggled to make stops at the most critical junctures.

Ellington and quarterback Tajh Boyd made the difference for Clemson by making plays in those critical junctures. That's why coach Dabo Swinney's Tigers are ranked and coach Gene Chizik's Tigers are not.

With that in mind, let's take a look back at the strengths and weaknesses of this Auburn team as it begins preparations for Mississippi State.


  • Tackling was a mess. We saw that plenty under former defensive coordinator Ted Roof's watch, but things were supposed to change with VanGorder now in charge.

    From a statistical standpoint based on one game, things looked the same.

    Boyd was cornered several times last night by a strong pass rush from the perimeter, but he was able to slip away because of odd angles and weak tackling. Linebacker Daren Bates grabbed Boyd with both hands during a third down and lost his grip.

    Linebacker Jake Holland and safety Jermaine Whitehead had their hands on Ellington during a second-quarter run and lost their grip. Ellington parlayed the mistake into a 68-yard gain that prefaced a touchdown.

    There's no excuses there. Poor technique, poor execution.

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