What we learned from Auburn’s 45-21 loss to LSU
Auburn (2-1, 0-1 SEC) lost its first game of the season on Saturday.
LSU dominated Auburn in the 45-21 victory. LSU owns Auburn in Tiger Stadium, as Saturday marked the eighth straight time LSU has defeated Auburn in Baton Rouge.
Auburn has a lot to work on before another difficult SEC matchup with Mississippi State next week at Jordan-Hare Stadium.
Here is what we learned about Auburn on Saturday:
Jeremy Johnson may not get any better:
Auburn’s first two games were far from perfect, but when the team wins it is easier to accept mistakes and try to fix them for next week.
When you get blown out like Auburn did on Saturday those mistakes get magnified.
Gus Malzahn chose to take the optimistic approach when Johnson threw five interceptions over the first two games. He expressed confidence in Johnson, but that tone changed after Johnson had another subpar performance today.
“We’ll evaluate all positions,” Malzahn told reporters at his postgame press conference when asked directly if Johnson would still be the starter.
When Auburn went into halftime down 24-0, Malzahn called his team’s passing game “god awful.” Johnson threw another pick into double coverage in the second quarter and fumbled twice in the game.
Johnson bounced balls at the feet of his receivers and never found a rhythm. He even tried to use a glove for one drive, but that did not work either.
Johnson had tremendous hype entering the season, but it may be time to accept that he won’t be much better than he is right now.
Auburn’s defense gets exposed (again):
LSU running back Leonard Fournette had a monster game. Fournette played less than three quarters of the game, but he made Auburn look silly at times. Fournette was going was around, over and through the helpless Auburn defense.
The Heisman hopeful finished with 228 yards (a career high) on 19 carries and three touchdowns. Fournette’s 12 yards per carry was the most in LSU history with a minimum of 15 attempts.
Auburn spoke confidently going into the game, but the defense was getting knocked around from the first snap of the contest.
Through three games, Auburn’s opponents are averaging 442 yards of total offense.
Is it a talent issue?
Auburn paid Will Muschamp $1.6 million in annual salary to be the new defensive coordinator, but so far it has not made much of a difference.
Muschamp is without his best defensive end in Carl Lawson, but the team has not tackled well as a unit. On Saturday, the talent disparity between the Auburn and LSU defense was obvious.
The offense had the same problem.
Johnson lacks the speed that former successful quarterbacks in Malzahn’s system have had. Cam Newton and Nick Marshall, both of whom had tremendous success under Malzahn, were able to run the ball effectively.
So far Johnson has not been able to run, read defenses, or execute passes consistently. The running back corps is not as talented or experienced as in previous seasons.
Malzahn has shouldered the blame for the offense, but his personnel has not performed well enough to compete with good teams in the conference.
Mississippi State lost a close game to LSU in Week 2, 21-19, but gained 647 yards of offense on Saturday in a blowout win over Northwestern State. Mississippi State quarterback Dak Prescott is probably salivating after seeing what LSU did to Auburn on Saturday.
It does not sound like a good matchup for Auburn, especially if the team’s play resembles what transpired in Baton Rouge. But there is only so much you can fix in a week.
Auburn has a lot to do in a short time, but if the team hopes to remain relevant in the SEC West this is a must win game.