Auburn's offense has sputtered against Clemson, imploded at Mississippi State and stalled versus Louisiana-Monroe. Now, quarterback Kiehl Frazier and the Tigers must swiftly get things together to have a hope against No. 2 LSU and one of the nation's stingiest defenses Saturday night.
AUBURN, Ala. — Auburn's offense has sputtered against Clemson, imploded at Mississippi State and stalled versus Louisiana-Monroe.
Now, quarterback Kiehl Frazier and the Tigers must swiftly get things together to have a hope against No. 2 LSU and one of the nation's stingiest defenses Saturday night.
It's a tall order for an offense that hasn't produced a touchdown against a Southeastern Conference opponent since the first quarter of last season's Georgia game, a span of 171 minutes, 13 seconds of game action.
"We've got to be able to move the football," Auburn coach Gene Chizik said Tuesday. "They're giving up less than 50 yards a game running the football. We've got to find somewhere to run. We rushed for 255 yards last week, but this is a different defense."
The offense showed some signs of life in the first half of last weekend's 31-28 overtime win over Louisiana-Monroe but scored only one touchdown in the second half to blow a 14-point lead.
That was a hearty improvement from Frazier's five-turnover game in Starkville and a step up from the opener, when the Tigers (1-2, 0-1 SEC) settled for four field goals against Clemson.
Taking the pressure off Frazier will be a big goal for Auburn Saturday night against LSU (3-0, 0-0). Tailbacks Onterio McCalebb, Mike Blakely and Tre Mason have both had 100-yard games and Mike Blakely has had some highlights, too.
McCalebb ran for 128 yards and Mason 90 against Louisiana-Monroe. But LSU is allowing just 47 yards a game on the ground, fourth-best nationally.
"Running the football is obviously imperative when it comes to trying to protect the quarterback," Chizik said. "What helps that is running the ball. We know the challenges of that. We know people have attempted to do the last three games — Washington and everybody else — it hasn't happened. We've got to figure out how to run the ball and take the pressure off our quarterback some and be able to throw the ball as well."
No offense in the SEC is producing fewer points (20.0), total yards (336) or passing yards (160.07) per game than Auburn.
"He's coming along," McCalebb said. "He had a little rough time in the first two games. This past Saturday, I think he did a great job. I think he's coming along good. We can't just put everything on Kiehl. It's about our whole offense. It's a team effort. When we step on the field, it's not just up to Kiehl to make things happen. Everybody has to make things happen."
The mobile Frazier did put his play-making abilities on display with a scramble and Hail Mary touchdown pass to Sammie Coates on the final play of the first half against the Warhawks. Plus he caught a 33-yard touchdown pass from receiver Quan Bray.
Six other players caught passes in the game, a positive sign for a team with only two receivers (Bray and Emory Blake) who have more than two catches.
Frazier has been intercepted five times, more than any other SEC quarterback, in his first three games as a starter. He had a miserable game against the Bulldogs but bounced back with a one-interception performance.
Resiliency could be an important quality against LSU.
"I think it's certainly challenging for a young guy who's never really had to overcome those things," Chizik said. "The quarterback role in this league is very mental. That's both when good things happen and when challenging things happen. It really depends on the individual. But if you're going to play quarterback in this league, that's what you have to be able to do.
"There's really no option if you're going to be effective in the next game. He's been good with overcoming the adversity of two weeks ago to playing better this past weekend. Every week is going to be a learning experience for him."