AUBURN — Crack out a thesaurus because it was an ABCs of terrible play by Auburn’s offense Saturday. Awful, bad, crummy, deplorable and many more less flattering words only begin describe the Tigers’ play on offense.
Five turnovers, eight sacks for a loss of 80 yards, 40 rushing yards on 32 carries, a starting quarterback who appears lost and a backup who threw two interceptions in the end zone were all part of a downright offensive performance by the Auburn offense in a 24-7 loss to lowly SEC West foe Arkansas on Saturday afternoon at Jordan-Hare stadium.
“Offensively, one of the most poor performances I have seen in a long time, just point blank,” Auburn coach Gene Chizik said. “It was a completely unacceptable offensive performance all the way around. Again, I can’t put it any more clearly than that.”
It was a performance so bad the speculation and rumors about Chizik’s job security and those of his coaches will only intensify. The Tigers (1-4, 0-3 SEC) are in last place in the SEC West and off to their worst start since 1998 when then-coach Terry Bowden was fired after a 1-5 start.
“I’m never concerned about my job security,” Chizik said. “I’m very comfortable with myself. I’m working really hard and I plan on being at Auburn next year.”
One job clearly up for grabs at this point is the starting quarterback position after Auburn pulled the plug on Kiehl Frazier at halftime and went to backup Clint Moseley. While Moseley was more effective than Frazier, both were sacked four times and Chizik said the coaches will evaluate the position going forward.
“We just felt like we needed a spark,” Chizik said. “We needed something a little different, and that doesn’t mean that’s the way it is going to stay. ... That doesn’t mean the change is permanent.
Frazier was 9-for-14 for 118 yards with an interception but was sacked four times and took the Tigers out of field goal range on several occasions.
On the opening drive Frazier was sacked on third-and-seven from the Arkansas 33-yard-line and forced the Tigers to punt. Early in the second quarter, Frazier took a sack on first down to push the Tigers back into their own territory. Later in the second, a sack for a loss of nine yards led to a 49-yard missed field goal attempt for Cody Parkey, his first miss of the season.
“We had zero points at halftime,” said Frazier, whose interception at the Arkansas 20 in the closing minutes of the second quarter ensured a 10-0 Razorbacks lead at the break. “So that’s something (Chizik) looked at and thought would be the best decision.”
While Moseley, who went 13 for 21 for 163 yards with a touchdown and two interceptions, was more effective than Frazier, he also looked bad at times and took costly sacks for a total loss of 43 yards
“There were times where we needed to throw the ball away,” Moseley said. “It’s things like throwing it near a receiver that we have got to work on. It’s not all (offensive) line. It’s something that we need to take responsibility for as quarterbacks, me and Kiehl.”
Both of Moseley’s interceptions were in the end zone and came with the Tigers trailing 24-7 but the results speak for themselves.
The dire play of the quarterbacks was only part of the offense’s struggles as the running backs also had issues. After not playing against LSU, Mike Blakely had seven carries for 38 yards but had a costly fumble which led to an Arkansas touchdown just as he did against Louisiana-MOnroe.
Tre Mason had six carries for 32 yards and Onterio McCalebb had seven carries for 24 yards. Ten players had receptions for the Tigers with Emory Blake leading the way with 10 catches for 118 yards and a touchdown but he too fumbled.
Blake’s 21-yard touchdown reception with 33 seconds left in the third quarter made it 10-7 and snapped a span of 134:27 without a passing touchdown for Auburn.
“I certainly didn’t expect to play like we played today, but the reality of it is, today we did all of the things you can’t do and win,” Chizik said. “You have five turnovers, and you have eight sacks, the offense has regressed.”
The offense’s issues overshadowed what was a strong defensive performance for the first three quarters, including three straight three-and-outs to open the second half.
Arkansas quarterback Tyler Wilson was 20 for 27 for 216 yards but the Auburn pass rush never pressured him. The Tigers held Razorbacks wide receiver Cobi Hamilton to five receptions for 72 yards.
Another adjective for the game — unwatchable — applied as well, with many of the 85,813 fans headed for the exits even with the game was still in reach at 17-7.
“I didn’t see fans leave,” Chizik said. “But I don’t blame them.
“The Auburn fans and the Auburn Family, they did not deserve this today, and I apologize to anybody who came to the game to watch it.”