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October 11, 2011Don't blame it all on the quarterback, Auburn coach Gene Chizik said Tuesday in his weekly press conference. The Tigers' struggles in the passing game don't fall solely on the shoulders, or throwing arm, of Barrett Trotter.
And Chizik wanted to make sure everyone listening knew.
"I'm going to be very clear on this: It's hard for any quarterback to be as productive as you want them to be if everybody else around them is, at times, not productive as well," said Chizik. "It has to be a complete team effort."
In the 38-14 loss to Arkansas Saturday, Trotter was 6-of-19 passing for 81 yards and an interception. Of the 81 passing yards, 44 came on a fea-flicker play to Travante Stallworth. The performance came a week after Trotter completed 12-of-23 passes for 112 yards, a touchdown and an interception against South Carolina.
Trotter's statistics, however, could be better, Chizik said. They would have been better against Arkansas had he received more help from the players around him.
"Our offensive line's protection wasn't great. Our receivers, tight ends and running backs all dropped balls," said Chizik. "We rushed the ball for plus-300 yards. Well, when it was time to throw the ball and we had our issues, I just told you why we had them.
"For any quarterback in any league to play well, to even have a chance to play well, all of those things around him have to happen. And I'm not saying that they're not happening, I'm just saying they are not happening often enough, and certainly that was the case Saturday."
Dropped passes were an issue against Arkansas. Auburn's two leading receivers, junior Emory Blake and freshman Trovon Reed, were out with injuries, and Chizik said before the game that the Tigers needed someone to step in and fill their roles, but that didn't happen.
Back-up receiver DeAngelo Benton dropped a second-down pass on Auburn's final drive of the first half that would have set the Tigers up for a field goal, Chizik said. Early in the fourth quarter, Benton had a Trotter pass go through his hands and into the arms of an Arkansas defender.
Running back Onterio McCalebb had a team-high three receptions, but he also dropped a pass on Auburn's last drive of the first half. Tight end Philip Lutzenkirchen also had a dropped pass.
But the dropped passes start with the wide receivers, Chizik said.
"(Receivers) Coach (Trooper) Taylor is going to work extremely hard with them this week to make sure they don't make the same mistakes this week as they did last week," said Chizik. "Because they were glaring.
"I don't want to turn this into a wide receiver-bashing party. For the most part Saturday, it might have been one of their better games blocking that we've seen. But where we were disappointed is the critical times when we felt like we needed catches, and we dropped balls."
The receivers will have to improve. So will the quarterback, running backs, tight ends and offensive line for the Tigers to have a chance to win against Florida Saturday night, Chizik said.
"We have to put it all together to beat this really good Florida team, and that's going to be a tough challenge," said Chizik. "They have a really, really athletic and fast defense. We are going to have to play our best game of the year to win."
And Auburn will try to do it with Trotter as its quarterback.
"He's our quarterback today and he will be our quarterback Saturday," said Chizik.
*** Blake, Auburn's leading receiver, did not play against Arkansas and may not be able to play against Florida.
"It's really going to be a game time decision," said Chizik. "We are going to continue to rehab and get him treatment, but I just don't know where we're at right now."
*** Senior right guard Jared Cooper injured his foot early in the game against Arkansas and did not return. He is unlikely to play Saturday against Florida. Redshirt freshman Chad Slade replaced Cooper against Arkansas.
"I'm not going to say (Cooper) is 100-percent out, but I will say the prospect doesn't look good," said Chizik.