AUBURN — Auburn defensive coordinator Brian VanGorder was understandably frustrated after the Tigers were blown out 38-0 by Georgia on Saturday.
The Tigers continue to hang at the bottom of the SEC in most defensive categories and have seemed to regress in the past two weeks, allowing 101 points.
VanGorder was asked about Auburn’s future after the loss to his former team and, without getting too specific, said change is necessary.
“If you’re into football, you know football, you can look at it, and you can pretty much know the route it has to go and where we’ve got to improve greatly,” VanGorder said. “If you’re intellectually into the game, it’s fairly obvious.”
The Tigers were pummeled by the Bulldogs, allowing Georgia to score touchdowns on its first four drives. The Bulldogs racked up 90 yards on the ground in the first quarter, and Auburn let two tailbacks reach triple digits in rushing yardage for the first time since falling to Georgia 45-7 last year.
The Tigers have allowed SEC opponents to reach 200 yards on the ground in each of the past five games.
Auburn is 104th in the country in rush defense (208.2 ypg.) and ranks No. 119 in 20-plus yard runs allowed with 23. The Tigers allowed 152 rush yards in the second half Saturday, when it was clear that was all Georgia was going to do.
VanGorder hinted as to why the Tigers get pushed around.
“The defense is not built with size, strength and power right now,” VanGorder said, “and I think it becomes obvious against teams like Georgia. It shows up.”
Auburn’s rush defense is allowing 218 yards a game to conference foes. Its best performance came against Arkansas when it held the Razorbacks’ 104th ranked rush offense to 130 yards.
Coach Gene Chizik was asked Sunday about VanGorder’s assessment.
“I don’t really know how I interpret that,” Chizik said. “I think that there’s obviously some positions that we feel like we need to upgrade in terms of productivity, but other than that, I really don’t have a lot as far as an interpretation of that. I’m not really sure exactly what all that means, but we can always be bigger. We can always be stronger. But again, I think we’ve got guys at certain positions that we can certainly, and need to, upgrade. There’s no question.”
What continues to stump Tiger fans is that Chizik maintains that his team has strong, productive practices throughout the week. He says the young players are continuing to learn and improve, but the practice verdicts never seem to match with the on-field production.
Chizik clarified that when he says his team practiced well, he doesn’t necessarily mean they practiced well.
“I think that there’s been times when we’re out at practice and the passion and the energy and them being into it and being focused is one thing,” Chizik said. “The execution of what we do is different. That’s something different. There’s been times at practice where the execution has not been up to the level we would like it.
“When I say we’ve had good practices, I’m looking for everybody to come out there and focus and be into it and practice with energy. But there’s times in practice when we don’t execute well, there’s no question. That’s why we practice.”
The Tigers continue to set new lows. They have tied their 1952 record of 2-8 and 0-7 in the SEC. The 38-point deficit was their worst loss to Georgia in Jordan-Hare and was their most lopsided loss in the Deep South’s oldest rivalry since losing 42-0 in 1976.
Along with not being able to stop the run, the Tigers are the only team in the FBS with only one interception.
Auburn’s lone interception came when Daren Bates picked off Tajh Boyd on the first play of the fourth quarter against Clemson in the season opener. A span of 554 minutes and 53 seconds.
With the laundry list of problems growing, VanGorder said it’s hard for his players to keep their heads up.
“I think that’s kind of natural when you’re having the kind of season that we’re having,” VanGorder said, “but not to a degree where it’s concerning to me. Bottom line is you work hard, you hope some good things happen, and you hope that players will make a play here or there. We’ve just not been able to do that this year.”