AUBURN, Ala. — Auburn football brought Chip Lindsey onto its staff this offseason to improve its vertical passing game. But in his first game as offensive coordinator, the Tigers didn’t complete a single pass of 20 or more yards.
On Wednesday, Lindsey attributed Auburn’s lack of explosive passing plays in its 41-7 over Georgia Southern to how the visiting Eagles were playing and a couple of missed opportunities in what was a simplified game plan.
“You know, Georgia Southern, even last year, they didn’t give up balls over the top of them, hardly,” Lindsey said Wednesday. “So it was one of those deals where the coverage they played kind of dictated where the ball had to go.”
Last season, Georgia Southern ranked 44th nationally in passing plays allowed of 10-plus yards but 95th in passes of 20-plus yards. The Eagles returned almost all of their starters in the secondary for the 2017 season.
Auburn coach Gus Malzahn said Tuesday the Tigers had a plan to attack the Eagles on the ground, especially in the later stages of the game. Auburn rushed for 351 yards — at an average of 6.6 yards per touch — against Georgia Southern in Week 1.
“When we had the turnovers early, we knew it was going to be a matter of time before, you know, we could wear them down and run the football,” Malzahn said. “Each game unfolds a little different.”
Both coaches also pointed to a pair of misses in the passing game that they believe would’ve changed the narrative surrounding the Tigers’ lack of deep balls in Week 1.
On the first drive of the game, sophomore receiver Darius Slayton dropped a potential touchdown pass of 30-plus yards. New starting quarterback Jarrett Stidham also misfired on a deep ball to Slayton in the third quarter.
“If you hit both of those, you’re feeling pretty good at the end of the line, so to speak,” Lindsey said. “I thought overall, he made really good decisions. Obviously, we want to throw the ball down the field some. But sometimes, the opportunities don’t present themselves.”
The Tigers will add its best big-play threat at wide receiver Saturday when sophomore Kyle Davis returns from a one-game suspension. Davis was the only Auburn wideout to average more than 20 yards per catch last season.
“I think he’s one of those guys you can put out there hopefully in a one-on-one situation and have an opportunity to win some,” Lindsey said. “I think also he’s a guy that’s played so for us he’s a veteran guy so to speak, even though he’s a young player. We’re looking forward to getting him back.”
Despite the lack of long-range completions in the first game, Malzahn said Tuesday he was pleased with Lindsey’s debut — and that he will continue to put a priority on improving those explosive passing plays heading into Week 2 against defending national champion Clemson.
“I thought Chip did a very good job,” Malzahn said. “That will still be our emphasis, on throwing the ball vertically down the field. I think we had one that we actually dropped that if we had caught, it would have changed the dynamics of the game early on.”
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