Film Room: Robby, the Running Game and Regression vs. LSU
Auburn's offense had some newer positives and some all-too-familiar negatives in its 21-17 loss to LSU. Let's take a look at three key areas, starting with the QB.
QB Robby Ashford (Todd Van Emst/Auburn Athletics)
Although the final result of Auburn’s home game against LSU on Saturday night felt familiar — a blown double-digit lead and a lack of scoring in the second half — the way the Tigers’ offense got there was a departure from its first two games against Power 5 competition.
Auburn averaged 6.3 yards per play and 8.6 yards per pass attempt against LSU. Those were both the team’s best performances against a quality opponent since last season’s loss to Mississippi State, which was the last game that featured former quarterback Bo Nix.
In spite of several injuries and some tweaks to the starting lineup, Auburn’s offense showed some real signs of life after falling flat in a 17-14 win over Missouri a week earlier.
A lot of that flowed through quarterback Robby Ashford, who completed seven passes of 20-plus yards in his second career start. Eight different receivers caught at least one pass from Ashford, and the sophomore quarterback also managed a few successful rushing plays with his legs.
Auburn also improved some on the ground, averaging 3.8 sack-adjusted yards per carry — almost a full yard more than it posted against Missouri. The Tigers had two rushes of 20-plus yards, which was double the amount they posted in the Penn State and Missouri games combined.
But two major and all-too-familiar trends for Auburn’s offense continued in a big way Saturday night. After leading 17-0, Auburn didn’t score a single point in the entire second half. The Tigers also turned the ball over four times, bringing their turnover count for the season to an even 12. That’s tied for seventh-most in the FBS.
As one might expect, the film from Auburn’s offensive performance against LSU is a mixed bag. There are big plays and positives to build on, for sure. But a lot of that is overshadowed by what went wrong for the Tigers’ offense for yet another consecutive game against an SEC opponent.
After rewatching and charting all 69 of Auburn’s non-kneel offensive plays against LSU, let’s take a closer look at the play of Ashford, the rushing performance and what went really wrong after halftime.
The highs and lows of Robby Ashford’s second start
Ashford’s performance against LSU had sort of an all-or-nothing feel to it. He completed just 50% of his 38 passing attempts, but those 19 completions went for 337 yards and two touchdowns.
To Auburn’s credit, the LSU game felt like much more of a game plan that was designed for Ashford instead of a more pro-style quarterback such as T.J. Finley. Auburn ran 54 plays out of the shotgun compared to just nine in the pistol, five under-center and one Wildcat call.
The shotgun plays averaged 6.89 yards per snap, while the under-center ones were at 2.2. However, those numbers come with an asterisk — those five plays were three successful quarterback sneaks, a 2-yard handoff that moved the chains and a deep shot. So, while they didn’t average much, they were mostly successful.
Auburn only went under center with Ashford in very specific situations, for the most part. It also let him operate more in 11 personnel and spread-out formations. Auburn ran 44 plays in 11 personnel compared to just 24 in 12 personnel. (It had one play in 21 personnel — two running backs and one tight end — that we’ll get to shortly.)