As Saturday night unfolded, it gradually became painfully clear that without dynamic performances by dynamic players, this team will struggle immensely to even find an identity, much less win any individual battles, pick up yards, or make stops when needed most. Where were our playmakers?
The defense got punched in the teeth early, but unlike past performances was unable to adjust properly. Auburn was running at will.
0. Forced turnovers. We have only won the SEC games in which we've won the turnover battle, and with the offense spotting the Tigers two very early picks, the defense couldn't even chip away at the deficit.
0. Sacks. Auburn was 13-17 passing. We managed one QB hurry.
3. Tackles by Myles Garrett. You probably don't remember hearing his name being called much.
5. Tackles for loss. The team was averaging over nine per game heading into Saturday.
13. Tackles by Armani Watts. Again: it's nice that the safeties are able to make tackles but against a power run team is less than ideal.
311. Rushing yards. The Tigers averaged 6.0 yards per carry.
Overall: BAD. But not the worst. They did hold Auburn to four field goals in the second half after giving up touchdowns on the first two possessions. They were doing just enough to give the offense a long shot at getting back in the game.
What is going on? Something is rotten straight down to the core, and all of these tweaks and changeups have not been able to mask what is ultimately an inconsistent and often ineffective machine. Leave aside the fact that our expectations were enormously skewed by Johnny Manziel's two years, we should still expect in 2015 to gain as many yards as Kentucky did against that Auburn defense. We didn't even come close.
303. Total offense. Kentucky had 497 against Auburn. Jacksonville State had 438. San Jose State had 406. We made Brent Musberger utter the phrase "Will Muschamp is delighted" which was the perfectly grotesque audio accompaniment to that offensive performance.
0-2 Fourth downs. We can't get tough short yardage when it's needed the most.
3. Interceptions. Two of them inside the five yard-line and end zone. On the second and third drives of the game. Crushing.
3. Catches by Josh Reynolds. Long reception of nine yards. He did break a school record for touchdowns last year, in case anyone forgot.
4. Receivers with a catch. Not exactly spreading the ball around.
5. Carries by James White. For 11 yards. It's good that he's able to spell Tra occasionally, but that kind of drop-off in production hurts.
So what will happen? We'll come out against Western Carolina with a different gameplan and make ourselves feel better. Someone will have a huge game and hope will start building up again. But we'll find out a lot more about our offense against Vanderbilt, who has a very good defense. Unless this team can somehow find an identity in the next three weeks and stun LSU in Death Valley, this season is somehow going to feel like another disappointment after the quick start.