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'Protect that football': Auburn reviews the miscues

Sept. 30, 2013

RhettLashlee Auburn's Rhett Lashlee has a chat with Nick Marshall (14) and the quarterbacks (Todd Van Emst photo)

By Charles Goldberg

AUBURN, Ala. – Rhett Lashlee can name names when he's looking for positives in Auburn's offense. 

Good running backs? Check. Good offensive line? Check. Receivers getting better? Check. Quarterbacks with big arms? Check. 

So what's troubling Auburn's offensive coordinator? Inconsistencies, turnovers, a lack of tempo in an offense that demands it. 

Auburn heads out of an off week and back into Southeastern Conference play against Ole Miss on Saturday trying to figure out exactly who and what it is offensively. Auburn and Mississippi are each 3-1 overall and 1-1 in the SEC, where they stand seventh and eighth in total offense, 10th and 11th in passing offense and tied for 11th in scoring offense. 

Auburn is hitting the one stat the offense is built around: The Tigers are third in the SEC in rushing. But Lashlee wants more of that and less of this: Auburn is 12th in first downs. 

The statistical standing goes against what Auburn and Ole Miss believe in. Both teams want to pile up stats with fast drives. 

Chances are, Rhett Lashlee is taking a harder look at all of that than you. 

"We know we want to be a tempo team and play fast, but you've got to get first downs to do that," Lashlee said. "Sometimes if you don't get that first first down it makes it really hard to get your tempo going. 

"At times we've done that in spurts." But, Lashlee added "we've been very inconsistent." 

Like holding on to the ball. Auburn has 12 fumbles, though has lost only four of them. The Tigers also have thrown four interceptions. 

"It sounds like a broken record, and at some point it's got to get fixed if we're going to win football games," Lashlee said. "Ball security has been as bad as we've had in a long time. It's just not to our standard.

"That has been a huge emphasis last week and this week and our guys are really taking it personal, and they should. That's the only way we can get it fixed. 

"Just because a guy doesn't fumble a ball in practice, if you notice that ball is loose, or being a little careless with it, you've got to address it right then. Not just to make a guy go do up-downs or punish him. 

"You're making it every play, every day, it's on his mind: 'I've got to protect that football.'" 

Penalties? Lashlee doesn't like them, either. 

Auburn has had 20 penalties on both sides of the ball. But Lashlee says they've really hurt the offense, like when two touchdowns were called back and when others have stopped drives. 

"It goes back to first downs. We're towards the bottom in first downs, that's not normal for us, we're normally one of the top teams in first downs," Lashlee said. 

Auburn has had success, like the 90 and 88-yard scoring drives against LSU and the clutch 88-yard drive in the final two minutes that beat Mississippi State. 

"And then you'll have two other drives back-to-back where it's three-and-out or four-and-out or whatever, it's just the inconsistency," Lashlee said. "And when you're inconsistent, you never get in a rhythm as an offense, as a team and your number of plays go down. And if your number of plays go down, your tempo goes down. Those numbers aren't where we want them to be, we know that. The bottom line is we've found a way to win three games, and that's a big positive. So we feel like as we keep going forward, if we can continue to develop and become a consistent, disciplined offense, then we can obviously win more football games and those numbers will obviously go up."

Video: Rhett Lashlee looks at his offense:

Charles Goldberg writes for Follow him on Twitter:



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