AUBURN, Ala. — The 11 sacks Auburn’s offensive line allowed in Week 2 has been one of the most reiterated stats in the days following a frustrating 14-6 loss at Clemson.
Yet despite being overpowered and outmatched for most of the night in Death Valley, the confidence of Auburn’s offensive line hasn’t been shaken.
“We just have to go out there and make a statement,” senior center Austin Golson said. “We know we’re a talented offensive line. We know we can be really good. I think we are really good. We played the defending national champions and they have a really good defense, but that’s not an excuse. We do have to get a lot better if we want to achieve our goals.”
Golson and others realize they struggled, but also comprehend the entire offense was at fault. More importantly, players realize they have a Week 3 game against Mercer to start figuring things out with the SEC schedule remaining.
Really, the season is just beginning.
“It’s never as bad as it seems and it’s never as good as it seems,” Golson said. “We just have to put that behind us and move on. Our goals are still intact, we just have to find a way to get better offensively.”
And while the performance was poor, it wasn’t all bad. From kickoff, Memorial Stadium felt like an SEC atmosphere. It was hostile. It was loud.
Auburn finished the night, however, with one delay of game penalty. Communication largely wasn’t a problem. Quarterback Jarrett Stidham never turned the ball over nor did his teammates.
“I thought that was a positive,” offensive coordinator Chip Lindsey said. “I thought our guys competed and played hard, at times we played pretty well, at times we didn’t play real well. That’s at every position, but I was excited about that we didn’t turn the ball over.”
If there’s one main positive Golson, senior guard Braden Smith and other linemen can look to it’s they “didn’t really have any missed assignments.”
“Either one of our guys got beat or they brought an extra hat or somebody wasn’t open, it was just different situations,” Golson said. “We’ve got to do better as an offense to execute and get better.”
Gus Malzahn said Auburn likely “won’t” change its starting offensive line against Mercer. That means the linemen will get a shot at redemption. That’s going to be important for sophomores Prince Tega Wanogho (left tackle) and Mike Horton (left guard), who have less experience than Golson, senior Darius James (right tackle) or Smith (right guard).
The players with less experience are also getting the most heartfelt encouragement.
“I just tell them to keep pushing because it’s going to eventually unfold and it’s eventually going to bust out and we’re going to have to some really good offensive execution,” Golson said. “Prince and Mike, they’re both young but they’re both two of the talented guys we have on our team. They care about football a lot. I think they’re going to get with us older guys and get ready to roll and try to get better at practice this week.”
There’s more good news — Auburn shares a spot at the bottom of college football when it comes to sacks allowed. That’s added motivation for a line hoping to make big improvement in the coming weeks.
“Obviously it’s not good,” Golson said. “That’s just going to give us an extra chip on our shoulder to go out there and execute at a higher level.”