The Auburn Tigers went from flying high to falling hard against LSU.
Now, the 21st-ranked Tigers are trying to keep the season from taking a similar tumble. Losing a 20-0 lead in Baton Rouge left coach Gus Malzahn answering questions Tuesday about his job security and the offensive play calling and trying to reassure a disgruntled fan base wondering how Auburn let that one slip away.
Auburn (5-2, 3-1 Southeastern Conference) plummeted out of the Top 10 with the loss. Making matters tougher, Malzahn announced Tuesday the dismissal of one of his top wide receivers , Kyle Davis, for breaking team rules.
“Blowing a 20-point lead was tough to take,” Malzahn said. “And I just want to say this: I’ve got good coaches, I’ve got good players, and anytime that happens that’s on the head coach. That’s on me. That can’t happen again. It’s not going to happen again. But I take full responsibility.”
Malzahn insisted he’s not thinking about his job security leading up to Saturday’s visit to Arkansas (2-4, 0-3).
Auburn flopped after winning four straight games and seeming to be on an offensive roll.
The fast start led to some predictable play calling partly under the assumption that a Top 10 defense would be good enough to make the lead stick.
“The reality is, how many points can they really score on your defense?” Malzahn said.
Too many for Auburn, it turns out.
Auburn ran the ball on 17 consecutive first downs, most of them after building the big lead. Quarterback Jarrett Stidham went just 2-of-13 passing for 6 yards in the second half.
The second-half offensive troubles aren’t that unusual for the Tigers under Malzahn. They have scored 12 points collectively after halftime in the past six defeats.
“We get leads in the second half, we can’t let that happen again,” Malzahn said. “I can’t let that happen again. We’ve got to do better. I’ve got to do better in those type scenarios. Just from a head coach’s standpoint the reality is we have a good team. We’ve got to put that loss behind us and we’ve got to improve. We’re going to do that — there’s no doubt in my mind we will.”
They’ll have to do it without Davis, who had seven catches for 210 yards despite missing two games. He didn’t travel with the team to LSU and was suspended for the opener against Georgia Southern.
Center Casey Dunn is also out against Arkansas with a leg injury against LSU. Safety Tray Matthews (right hamstring), guard Mike Horton (ankle) and Tre’ Williams (shoulder) are also trying to return from injuries.
Auburn’s challenge is bouncing back from a disheartening loss. The Tigers are 15 ½-point favorites over the Razorbacks and trying to keep alive their hopes of contending with No. 1 Alabama in the SEC West.
The rest of the SEC schedule is unforgiving: at Texas A&M before closing league games against No. 3 Georgia and the Crimson Tide.
“I really believe in this team and I believe that we’ll bounce back and not only will we bounce back but we’ll have a chance to finish this thing like we wanted to when we first started the season,” Malzahn said.
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