Sept. 22, 2013
Auburn’s Cassanova McKinzy brings down LSU’s Jeremy Hill as Jake Holland (5) and Josh Holsey (15) close in (Todd Van Emst photo)
By Phillip Marshall
AUBURN, Ala. – Auburn defensive coordinator Ellis Johnson said Sunday he was proud of the way his players fought back in Saturday’s 35-21 loss at LSU, but he said they put themselves in a bind that was too much to overcome.
A scheme to use five defensive linemen on running downs didn’t work as planned, Johnson said. Turnovers and big plays proved costly.
“LSU is a very good football team, probably a lot better up front than we anticipated,” Johnson said. “I thought they played extremely well, but we were at times our own worst enemy.”
It was like this:
* On third-and-2 on LSU’s first possession, running back Jeremy Hill broke loose through the middle for a 49-yard touchdown run. LSU got the ball when Auburn’s opening drive was cut short by a fumble at the LSU 43.
* On LSU’s second possession, Hill ran 10 yards for a touchdown on the first play after Auburn punter Steven Clark dropped a snap and was tackled.
* Early in the second quarter, Hill ran 54 yards for a first down at the Auburn 1. One play later, J.C. Copeland scored to give LSU a 21-0 lead.
* After Auburn cut the lead to 21-7, tight end Travis Dixon was left uncovered and caught a 45-yard pass from LSU quarterback Zach Mettenberger for a 45-yard gain to the Auburn 8.
* With Auburn trailing 28-14 and fighting to get within striking distance, Mettenberger hit Jarvis Landry with a 32-yard touchdown pass for a 35-14 lead.
“The long run on the short-yardage play is the one that really hurt,” Johnson said. “We’d had a good series and got them in third-and-2 and then let them break through. I just think our kids deserve a lot of credit for fighting back.
“We were playing five defensive linemen in our short yardage package trying to get bigger people out there. It looked good all week in practice, but frankly their offensive line outexecuted us. We had some issues with it and didn’t feel comfortable, so we got out of it the second half and just went back to some other things we’d been doing in short yardage.”
Johnson was also particularly perturbed by the long pass to Dixon and the touchdown pass to Landry.
“We tried to mix it up and drop eight and bring a little bit of pressure as a mixture,” Johnson said. “We got a good play out of dropping eight in the first half. We tried it again in the fourth quarter and two guys wander out of their coverage in their zone, bust the coverage and it goes for a 32-yard touchdown.”
He said the pass to Dixon came when LSU lined up with three wide receivers and the defense did not adjust and account for the tight end, leaving him with no one covering him.
Johnson has fretted throughout the season about what he calls “trash yardage.” And there was more of it at LSU.
“You make somebody punt six times, get a fourth-down stop and you get two takeaways, you say that’s a pretty good day,” Johnson said. “But they got five touchdowns because of the explosive plays instead of two touchdowns and a field goal or two or something of that nature. We still continue to have these five or six plays that are just ugly. Not to take anything away from the opponent, but it’s more self-inflicted. We just have to clean it up.”
Getting that done, Johnson said, will be a priority as Auburn heads into a bye week. The Tigers will return to the field on Oct. 5 against No. 21 Ole Miss at Jordan-Hare Stadium.
More from Johnson:
On second-half improvement
"I think our players deserve a lot of credit for fighting through all that, but it’s not a good formula for trying to win a football game in Baton Rouge."
On cornerback Chris Davis, who has missed the past two games
“Day to day. A lot of things we are having are ankles and strains and stuff like that. I’m going to be optimistic and say we’ll certainly have him for this next game. Whether he’ll be able to work this week I don’t know.”
On the play of middle linebackers Jake Holland and Kris Frost
“They played steady. Jake didn’t have a lot of tackles, but just one missed tackle. Kris, I had to take him out a couple of plays because we had a missed alignment. He didn’t play as many plays because of that. Kris’ shoulder is bothering him, too. They were OK. A lot of inside fire zones we ran, they weren’t the terminator but they were determinator. In other words they caused the disruption or the play to be stopped and bounced outside or whatever.”
On weakside linebacker Cassanova McKinzy
“McKinzy had a bunch of production. It was one of those when he was good he was very, very good and when he was bad it was something like ‘How could you do that?’ He had a bunch of tackles. I had him for about five tackles for loss. He had some mental errors, things that could really be hurtful to us. I’m not going to say he had a great game, but he had a very productive game.”
On cornerbacks Chris Davis and Jonathon Mincy
“I thought the corners played extremely well. Each one of them had one bad play that really hurt us. I thought they held up in coverage well for the most part, especially in man.”
On missed tackles, missed assignments and no penalties
“We only had 12 (missed tackles). That’s not great, but against a big-time SEC team, that’s not bad. … The other thing we chart is pre-snap penalties and post-snap penalties. We didn’t have any.
“We are really big on missed assignments, and it was 17. That’s not good. It’s not unheard of. You could have a missed alignment up front and it’s no big deal maybe. But 17 missed assignments at the right time can be really big. That was the big thing more than missed tackles or anything else.”
On welcoming a bye week
“We physically are beat up. We’ve been through musical chairs on defense and are still going through it. I’ve got guys playing in games that are practicing 1 ½ days a week, guys that are missing. An open date could have helped us earlier, but I think this is a very good time for it now.”
Phillip Marshall is a Senior Writer for AuburnTigers.com. Follow Marshall on Twitter: