Monday Morning QB
Clemson 26 Auburn 19
AuburnSports.com's Monday Morning Quarterback will be out each Monday during the season. This week, several former Auburn players give their thoughts and opinions on the Tigers' loss to Mississippi State.
Former Auburn quarterback Ben Leard
On the game
"First things first, I have had to eat a huge crow sandwich. I was pretty confident that Auburn would beat Mississippi State, and I was wrong. I was bad off. You have to give State credit. They played extremely well and did what they had to do to win. They proved me wrong big time.
"During the game, it looked as if Auburn was dedicated to running the ball, but it just didn't work and Auburn continuously found themselves in situations where they were forced to throw the football. And it looked as if Kiehl (Frazier) did have confidence in himself throwing the ball so on third-and-sevens, third-and-eights, third-and-even-longer, they were running draw-plays.
"When you run those plays in those situations, it sends a clear message, and unfortunately at that point in time, there is either some shaky confidence from your quarterback that something is just not clicking for him that day, or from a play-call perspective there is some disconnect between coordinator and quarterback as to what coach (Scot) Loeffler may have felt Kiehl was confident in doing.
"Everybody can make throws. Everybody can make catches. But can you do it in the heat of the moment? Mentally, if you don't feel you can accomplish that, if you don't feel you can make that throw, in most cases in the heat of the battle you are going to fall by the wayside. I couldn't get a grasp of why they may be making those types of playcalls on those down-and-distances."
More on Frazier and the passing game
"Honestly, I was really expecting Kiehl to have a tremendous day. If you go back and look at what Mississippi State has done, even under Jackie Sherrill when Joe Lee Dunn was there, and now under coach (Dan) Mullen, football is football. It's not a difficult game. A lot of the time people over exaggerate, they inflate that it has to be so scientific, but it's an easy game. Auburn's strength at this point is running the football.
"If you're an opposing defensive coordinator, you're going to put eight or nine guys in the box and run man-coverage. They are wanting to stop the run. That should send a message that you are going to have to have success throwing the football in whatever capacity, whether it be screens, whether it be in the quick game, whatever it may be. If you have success throwing the football, that translates into the defense having to change their philosophy, having to change their gameplan and bump guys out of the box.
"I was really expecting Mississippi State to do what they did. They put eight guys in the box and they went man. They were pretty soft on the edges on the outside receivers, but they disguised that a little bit by bumping guys up on the slot receivers, the inside guys. What that did was visually it made that outside throw seem more difficult than it should have been for Kiehl. When they do that, it puts a guy lined up on your inside receiver in your field of vision for a quick throw to your outside guy Kiehl is perfectly capable of making all of the throws in the book in order to get the defense to back themselves off. Unfortunately, he just wasn't there mechanically on Saturday."
On the five turnovers
"If you look at the first two interceptions, the receivers were open. The one he threw to Brandon Fulse, he threw it behind him. Fulse was open. If it were a proper throw to his outside shoulder, if Kiehl would have led him into the sideline he would have made that catch. Mentally, it was the right decision. Mechanically, it was not a great throw. Those are things that although it was a mistake and very damaging, they are correctable mistakes. The same thing on the second interception. Philip Lutzenkirchen is wide open on a third-and-seven play, but Kiehl misread it and forced the ball to the corner route. He didn't make the right decision.
"The fumbles, that is ball security. He has to protect the ball better. He has to maintain grip on the ball. He's an athletic quarterback that can have success tucking the ball and running when nobody is open. He just has to do a better job of protecting it. For me, that was never a concern because I never ran. I didn't have any athleticism coming out of me like Kiehl does. The best I was ever going to do was get back to the line of scrimmage."
More from Leard
On the running game
"I think Mississippi State did some things defensively that put a lot of pressure on Auburn inside the tackles. We weren't able to get the ground game going as successfully as you would expect Auburn to do so. Mississippi State played a tremendous game. Their defensive front and linebackers flat out got after it. They stayed inside the tackles and dominated in the trenches.
"What helped them be able to do that is Auburn not having any success in the passing game. It's a balancing act. If you can't throw the football, it's going to be real tough to run it very well. Why would a defense give any respect to the passing game if you can't complete a pass? They wouldn't. And they didn't.
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