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Montgomery

6 takeaways from Auburn’s loss at LSU

No. 9 Auburn went on the road to Baton Rouge and lost 23-20 to No. 2 LSU on Saturday.

Here are six takeaways from yesterday’s game:

1. Auburn is a better team now than it was after its week one victory over Oregon. It’s never easy going to Baton Rouge. Auburn came within a field goal of taking the No. 2 team in the country to overtime at their place while holding LSU 27 points below its season average. The numbers for Auburn’s offense do not jump off the page but they made plays when they had to and true freshman quarterback Bo Nix gave a gutsy performance.

2. Don’t blame Gus Malzahn for taking a chance at the end of the first half. Auburn had three points in its pocket with one timeout left and 11 seconds left on the clock at the end of the first half. Malzahn opted not to kick the field goal right away and instead took a shot down the sideline which got picked off by LSU defensive back Derek Stingley, Jr. Malzahn undoubtedly was expecting his receiver to make a better play on the ball to at least prevent the interception. It was also a similar play and circumstance which won Auburn the game against Oregon. Like Malzahn said at the half, they came to win. Not to mention it worked before and no one complained then.

3. Coaching in the SEC is harder than it looks. We heard all week about the brilliance of LSU offensive coach Joe Brady. Brady came over from the New Orleans Saints where he had not even been an on-the-field coach. He certainly has added some creativity to an offense which had been stuck in the 1980’s for much of head coach Ed Orgeron’s tenure. However, he also found out on Saturday that other teams in the SEC have good coaches, too. Kevin Steele’s defensive unit had Heisman frontrunner Joe Burrow shaken for much of the first half and ended up holding LSU nearly four touchdowns below its season average.

4. The SEC officiating crisis is real. Commissioner Greg Sankey is from Auburn, so one naturally would think those Tigers might get a fair shake from the refs. The problem is, though, Sankey is from Auburn, New York, and up north they must have a completely different view of what constitutes offensive holding. As Auburn found out on Saturday, it’s difficult to play on the defensive line when the other team is holding virtually every play – and it’s not called. Sankey put out a confusing manifesto last week in response to officiating struggles in some other games. He might want to dust it off again for distribution this week.

5. First down passing calls were not friendly to the Auburn offense. The running game should be Nix’s best friend. Malzahn needs to rely on it more on first down – and in the first half when he is trying to let his freshman quarterback settle into the game. There were a few first down play calls which put the offense in second and third long situations. There was one in particular only down 7-3 in the second quarter. Malzahn asked Nix to throw on first down, and he got called for intentional grounding. They got well behind the chains and ended up punting two plays later.

6. Nitpick – CBS broadcast. Gary Danielson had a tough day. Javaris Davis got a hard, clean hit on Burrow near the sideline in the second quarter. Danielson immediately advocated for a targeting penalty on Davis even though it was not to the head and neck area and Burrow was well downfield as a runner. Danielson had credited LSU offensive coordinator Steve Ensminger with a successful play call in the first quarter. We feel confident in saying Ensminger had nothing to do with that play call – or any others this season (see above). Finally, following a CBS replay showing Derrick Brown getting tackled by two LSU offensive linemen without a holding call, Danielson wanted everyone to rest assured that there was not holding on the play.