AUBURN, Ala. — On both sides of the ball, turnovers have been a regular discussion this season. That didn’t change with the bye week.
In fact, if anything, the urgency to stop committing turnovers and forcing them instead grew as the Tigers prepare for the back half of the season that includes pivotal matchups with Arkansas, Ole Miss, Georgia and Alabama.
“The turnover margin has got to improve, and that starts with us on offense protecting the football,” offensive coordinator Rhett Lashlee said, “and we haven’t had a clean game yet there.”
Auburn is tied with the third-worst turnover margin in the conference at minus-1 with Ole Miss. Only Tennessee (minus-2) and Kentucky (minus-8) have worse margins. The 10 other teams in the SEC were able to, at a minimum, break even in the category.
While Lashlee placed the blame on his offensive unit, it’s something that needs to improve on offense and defense. Offensively, Auburn actually ranks tied for fourth in the SEC with Florida and South Carolina in turnovers lost (9).
The bigger area of concern there is Auburn’s turnover consistency. The Tigers have yet to post a turnover-free outing. It’s been everything from Sean White forced throws to dropped passes to lazy ball carrying.
Lashlee said that can’t continue if Auburn hopes to maintain the positive momentum it has garnered during the three-game win streak.
“For us to play well in the second half with the schedule we have, we’ve got to cut down on the turnovers,” Lashlee said. “That’s one area we haven’t been as good as we need to be. We’re getting at least one game, and in some instances, like last game, two. And sometimes even the situations we’re putting our defense in, we just can’t do that.”
But to get a positive turnover margin, Auburn must do more on the defensive side. Defensive coordinator Kevin Steele harped on forcing turnovers earlier in the season after the Tigers went on a multi-game drought following the Clemson loss.
It corrected slightly, but Auburn still is playing from behind in the conference. The Tigers only have forced 8 turnovers this season, which puts them in a tie for last in the conference with LSU and Kentucky.
On the whole, Auburn’s defense has been one of the best in the conference this season. But, when it comes to turnovers, there’s plenty of room to grow.
Auburn’s defensive players hint that turnovers are contagious, and the Tigers need to jump on that early down the final stretch of the season.
“Once a defensive guy gets a feel for the ball, then it’s over with. It becomes an itching feeling like, ‘I gotta get it. I gotta get it,'” linebacker Tre’ Williams said. “Run, pass, anything, you’re going after the ball. Our second man there is going after the ball.”