Consistent offense on Auburn's wish list
3rd quarter has been unkind to Tigers
By Ross Dellenger
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AUBURN — Coordinator Al Borges isn't quite sure why his offense is so good at the beginning and end of games and so mediocre in between.
Auburn quarterback Brandon Cox doesn't have an answer for it, and neither does center Jason Bosley.
"It's baffling to me," Bosley said. "We've got to find a way to mix it up and get back to what we're doing at the beginning of the game right out of the gate at halftime."
Third quarters have been the worst for Auburn's offense. Borges' squad has put up a total of 10 points in the third quarter during the past four games, but the Tigers seem to score with ease on opening drives and late in the game.
Auburn has scored on its last four opening possessions, and five times this season
Cox and the Tigers have driven down field late in the game.
The same thing happened Saturday night in a 30-24 loss to LSU. The offense opened with an 11-play, 63-yard drive that resulted in a touchdown. The Tigers picked up one fist down on their next four possessions, before a 90-yard drive ended in a Wes Byrum field goal.
The Tigers amassed 35 yards and two first downs in the third quarter, before having another last-minute touchdown drive.
"It's just not being able to execute," Cox said. "Coach Borges told our offense in the meeting that they're going to go back and look at the play calling, look at the execution, and see if there's anything we can do different."
Borges plans on analyzing his third-quarter play calling "play by play" this week
before No. 23 Auburn (5-3,
3-2 SEC) hosts Ole Miss (2-6, 0-5). In his fourth year at Auburn, Borges said the intensity after halftime is not the problem. Instead, the execution is holding back his offense.
"Maybe we need a different approach to the third quarter to help re-energize our offense," Borges said.
Auburn head coach Tommy Tuberville is known for playing conservative on offense when his team has a lead, especially if he thinks his defense can win the game. But Tuberville and Borges both said that was not the case against LSU.
"We weren't running the ball every first and second down in the third quarter," Borges said. "We just weren't completing the passes."
On Auburn's two successful drives of the game — the first and last —Cox threw the ball four times on first down, completing three. Cox dropped back to pass five times on first downs the rest of the game, completing two passes.
Cox's one pass on first down in the third quarter fell incomplete.
"We went down and scored when we had to score, but unfortunately we couldn't hold the lead," Cox said. "We need to do a better job of finishing off games and just putting it away in the third quarter."
Cox drove Auburn 83 yards late in the game, completing a 3-yard pass to Rod Smith for the go-ahead touchdown against LSU.
That's not the first time.
In the season opener, Auburn drove late for the game-winning touchdown against Kansas State. The Tigers nearly did it again against Mississippi State but came up 9 yards shy.
The same happened against Florida and Arkansas, resulting in Byrum's game-winning field goals.
Tuberville attributed the last-minute success to defenses "loosening up a little bit."
On those last-minute drives, Cox has completed 14 of his 22 passes, but besides the opening and closing of games, Auburn has struggled to find consistency on offense.
Borges plans on changing that this week.
"This week and the coming weeks, we're really going to look at that," he said. "It's been a pattern."
Ole Miss at Auburn
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