So now we know how Auburn will fare against the Southeastern Conference’s best teams. What did we discover in Auburn’s 35-21 loss to LSU?
Marshall finished strong after a slow start/Todd Van Emst photo
To begin with, we saw that Auburn was the stronger team at the end of the game against LSU. It appeared that LSU was exhausted and Auburn was trying to rally furiously.
Was that really a procedure penalty on the goal line on Auburn’s final drive? Did Cody Parkey make a legitimate recovery of own onsides kick?
Either way, regardless of the outcome of those calls, Auburn lost the game with a lackluster performance in the first half. It could have been worse than 21-0 at the half, but Auburn played with considerable effort, the kind that should lead to better days.
If Auburn isn’t satisfied with playing LSU close - if Auburn retains the hunger it displayed in the second half - Gus Malzahn’s first season will, in fact, be successful.
Given the way the season has started, it’s reasonable to think Auburn can now win eight regular-season games. But Auburn has to beat Ole Miss next Saturday at Jordan-Hare Stadium.
I’m not convinced that’s going to happen, but it’s possible. For almost any season to be successful, it’s essential to win every home game you’re supposed to win. This is one of them.
Here’s what we’re looking for at the Hurry-Up, No-Huddle: a team that’s just as determined as it was during the second half of the LSU game and a team that’s not content with a strong effort against one of the top teams in the country.
Get those things and the chances of beating Ole Miss are enhanced considerably.
With an off week, this week’s version of the Hurry-Up, No-Huddle is a review of the LSU game and a look ahead to the Ole Miss game, along with the rest of the season.
WHAT WE LIKE
1. The running of Tre Mason - Off hand, I think the LSU game was the best he’s played in his three years at Auburn.
2. The deep threat of Sammie Coates - It’s not Sullivan to Beasley yet, but Marshall to Coates could be a great combination before the season is over.
3. The physical condition of the entire team - Again, Auburn won the second half. Auburn gave up its first fourth-quarter touchdown of the season against LSU, but seemed to have control of both sides of the scrimmage in the fourth quarter.
WHAT TO LOOK FOR
1. Still waiting on the pace - The obvious answers here seems to be the result of a new system led by quarterback who has only about seven weeks of experience in the program.
2. More consistency on offense - For all of the nice rushing statistics and the last-minute drive against Mississippi State, there have been offensive lulls in each game. The answer? See above.
3. Someone besides Coates stepping up at wide receiver - With Jaylon Denson out for the season, Auburn needs it.
THINGS WE’RE GOING TO HAVE TO LIVE WITH
1. A lack of respect - I don’t read a lot of rubbish that’s out these days, but I sense that Auburn’s performance against LSU didn’t change a lot of opinions. I heard one national commentator say Auburn was “much better than last year.’’ That’s not saying a lot, considering it was easily the worst season in recent school history. Auburn is going to have to beat the likes of Ole Miss and others to get widespread national respect.
2. Growing pains at quarterback - Malzahn said Tuesday that “there will be a time in the season when it’s just clicking, and (Nick Marshall) will just play football.’’ That will be the time when Marshall arrives at quarterback. Until then, there will be inconsistencies.
3. Still trying to overcome 3-9 - Auburn is perhaps closer to competing with the top tier of the SEC than a lot of people anticipated, including me. That seemed evident at times last Saturday night in Baton Rouge. But Auburn did some things against LSU - faulty execution in the first half, poor tackling - that indicated it wasn’t quite ready for a prime-time national TV game in a big-name venue. Maybe it will be after another conference game or two.
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