Film Room: What can Auburn learn from its 'awful' offensive performance at Cal?
With only 230 yards and 12 first downs, the Tigers' offense is quite fortunate to be correcting its many mistakes with a 2-0 record.
QB Payton Thorne (Austin Perryman/Auburn Tigers)
Hugh Freeze says he won’t overreact to anything from Auburn’s offensive performance in the 14-10 win at Cal last Saturday night.
But he didn’t hold back in his view of it.
“Offense was awful,” Freeze said Monday. “We got the ball in the third quarter — I don't know how many minutes were left — but on our first possession in the third quarter, we had only had 25 offensive plays.”
The offensive numbers speak for themselves.
Auburn had just 230 yards of offense, which was its lowest amount in a win away from home since a Cotton Bowl victory at the end of the 2006 season. The Tigers averaged 4.2 yards per play and only got 12 first downs. They had four turnovers, their most in a road win since a trip to South Carolina in 2011.
Of Auburn’s 13 drives against Cal, only two of them were true scoring opportunities. The Tigers maximized those by scoring two touchdowns — enough to win the game, thanks to a heroic defensive performance — but one of them needed a tough catch on third-and-long conversion. The other was set up by a turnover, and Auburn still needed to convert a third down in order to score.
Freeze expressed his disappointment in the obviously rough offensive performance, but he also made a point to show his belief in offensive coordinator Philip Montgomery.
“I have great trust in him, and we're going to work together this week on the game plan,” Freeze said. “He doesn't have an ego. He doesn't care if I step in and call it. I need to probably be in more meetings.”
Auburn’s first-year head coach admitted giving up play-calling in order to be more of a recruiter and program-builder has been “hard,” and he only called three of the Tigers’ 55 plays against Cal.
Yet, after reviewing the game film and having some “tough conversations” with the offensive side of the ball Sunday and Monday, Freeze says he doesn’t believe that Auburn’s problems in Berkeley were a product of poor play-calling.
“I didn't see many awful playcalls, truthfully,” Freeze said. “They all had a chance to work. Nothing schematically was off about it. I think we need a little more balance and we've got to figure out what that looks like exactly, that our quarterbacks and receivers can handle. And our RPO world, we didn't utilize near enough.
“We've got to work on that. So we'll challenge ourselves to be better this week as coaches and players.”
So what really went wrong for Auburn at Cal? The answer isn’t as simple and straightforward as blaming the play-calling or focusing on poor quarterback play. Here’s what we found in the Film Room after talking to Freeze on Monday.