Auburn report card: Defense shines, offense sputters in loss to UGA
If you like offense, Saturday’s game between Auburn (5-5, 2-5 SEC) and UGA (7-3, 5-3) was not for you.
Both teams struggled offensively, but the Bulldogs came up with pivotal plays on defense and special teams to come away with a 20-13 win. Here is the Auburn report card:
It didn’t matter which quarterback Auburn put in the game.
Jeremy Johnson and Sean White combined for 62 passing yards, zero touchdowns, a fumble and an interception against the Bulldogs. Auburn turned the ball over only twice in the previous six games, but the Bulldogs forced three turnovers.
The Tigers finished with their second-worst offensive output (275 total yards) of the season. The lowest (260) came in a 45-21 loss to LSU in Week 3.
The lone bright spots on offense were running backs Peyton Barber and Jovon Robinson. The two backs combined for 165 yards on 25 carries, but neither found the end zone.
After Saturday’s loss, only 19 teams in the country have worse per-game passing yardage than Auburn. Only six teams have thrown fewer than the Tigers’ eight passing touchdowns.
It was a day to forget for the offensive unit.
The offense regressed, but the defense continues to improve.
The Tigers followed up an impressive showing against Texas A&M last week by limiting UGA to just 243 yards.
Auburn held an opposing offense to single-digit points for the second consecutive week, but a special teams touchdown by UGA punt returner Isaiah McKenzie broke a fourth-quarter tie. White also fumbled deep in Auburn territory, which led to another three points for the Bulldogs in the fourth quarter despite gaining minus-4 yards on the drive.
A streak of six consecutive games with a turnover came to an end, but the majority of the blame for this loss comes on the offensive side of the ball.
SPECIAL TEAMS: B-
The punt return touchdown by McKenzie was probably the biggest play in the game. It was a huge momentum swing after both offenses were dormant for most of the half.
It was a rare blunder for the unit, but sophomore kicker Daniel Carlson set a school record by making his 14th consecutive field goal.
It’s Carlson’s second significant milestone in 2015. Against Ole Miss, he set the school record for 50-yard field goals (4) in a season.
Auburn coach Gus Malzahn said the decision to play both Johnson and White was made before the game, but it was a questionable choice.
White appeared to be favoring his left knee when he entered the game in the third quarter. White was 1-for-5 passing for 1 yard in three drives. He also had a critical fumble that gifted UGA three points.
Johnson eventually re-entered the game, but who knows how much the midgame benching affected his rhythm. Johnson led the Tigers on a late drive that would have cut the deficit to three with a touchdown, but it ended inside the Bulldogs’ 5-yard line on a Ricardo Louis fumble.
It was the second consecutive season that Malzahn and offensive coordinator Rhett Lashlee have been stymied by Georgia defensive coordinator Jeremy Pruitt’s defense. Auburn only scored seven points last season in Athens.
The defense was a positive, but the offense and special teams units faltered in this game.
The decision to use White and Johnson backfired, and the offense failed to supplement a solid defensive performance.
Now, Auburn must beat Idaho or Alabama in the final two weeks of the regular season to become bowl eligible.