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Takeaways From Auburn’s 23-9 Loss To Mississippi State

Takeaways from Auburn's 23-9 loss to Mississippi State

The 2018 Auburn Tigers came into the season with high hopes. Now, with a loss to Mississippi State (their second of the season) those hopes seem to be gone. Everything that could go wrong did for Auburn on Saturday night. With that, we look at the takeaways from Auburn’s 23-9 loss to Mississippi State.


Auburn Offense Struggles Again

This season has put the Tigers in unfamiliar territory. This was the third consecutive game the Tigers did not rush for over 100 yards. The Auburn rushing attack has not been this bad since the first year under Tommy Tuberville. That was 1999, and those rushing struggles led to the recruitment of Rudi Johnson.

The running game issues over the past couple of weeks could be summed up as offensive line issues. Against Arkansas and Southern Mississippi, the backs just did not have anywhere to run the ball. This week, Auburn had a solid 4.3 yards per carry average, but they only attempted to run the ball 21 times for 90 yards. JaTarvious Whitlow led the way with 88 yards on just 8 carries. That’s an 11.0 average per carry. The only other running back with more than two carries was Kam Martin with four. Martin totaled negative two yards on the night.

The passing attack was once again inconsistent as well. Quarterback Jarrett Stidham went 19 of 38 for 214 yards. He constantly overthrew receivers. And, his throws didn’t allow the receivers to make a competitive catch for the offense. The most devastating overthrow happened midway through the third quarter that could have been an automatic six for Auburn.  It was a trick play that involved the wildcat formation that saw the ball get to Stidham, and he missed a wide-open Darius Slayton. Auburn trailed 6-3 at the time with 8:45 left in the second quarter.

Defense Couldn’t Stop the Run

Auburn has one of the best defenses in all of college football. If you look at the box score from this game though you would not think that. The Tigers gave up 349 yards rushing against the Bulldogs. Opponents had averaged just 92.8 on the ground in the previous five games. Leading the way was quarterback Nick Fitzgerald with 195 yards and two touchdowns. Fitzgerald also broke the SEC career quarterback rushing yards record on a 39-yard run in the middle of the third quarter. He also ran for a 21-yard touchdown that put the game away with 2:02 left to put the Bulldogs up 23-9.

Running back Kylin Hill added in with 126 yards and averaged 5.5 yards per carry. The Tigers defense did hold Mississippi State to just 69 yards passing, and Jeremiah Dinson intercepted Fitzgerald early in the first quarter that set up the first of three Anders Carlson field goals.

The Auburn defense looked to be out of gas much of the second half. This was primarily due to the defense having to be on the field too much. The inability for the offense to sustain drives was a big reason. Mississippi State dominated in time of possession holding the ball for 41:53 and Auburn only having it for 18:07.

Missed Opportunities

Just like the Stidham miss to Slayton, there were moments for Auburn to make plays that would have completely changed the outlook of the game. With 1:58 remaining in the third quarter and trailing 16-6, Whitlow broke free for 42 yards and seemed to be heading to the end zone for the score. Before he crossed the goal line, Whitlow lost control of the ball and was recovered by Mississippi State for a touchback. Auburn had two opportunities in the red zone during the second half that would result in field goals and a blocked field goal that resulted into a turnover on downs halfway through the fourth quarter.

What’s Next?

The Tigers will host the Tennessee Volunteers in an early match-up this Saturday. This game will serve as an opportunity to fix the offensive woes that have plagued the team this season. The character of this team will now be tested with a championship opportunity most like being gone with two conference losses on their record.

Check out the latest episode of The Football Report discussing “SEC Football’s Greatest Games”:

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