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Coaching Lesson: Field Position with Auburn and LSU

When coaches preach about the importance of special teams and field position, this is why.

Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images

Coachspeak isn't always meaningless drivel, and sometimes individual games provide object lessons as to what exactly they're talking about.

Most coaches will talk about the importance of special teams and field position, and their emphasis on it is probably a main contributor to why they will often punt when they really should go for it. In 2010, LSU and Auburn provided the perfect clinic as to why field position is so important.

In that game Auburn ran over and through LSU's defense to the tune of 440 yards, a new school record. Cameron Newton rushed 28 times for 217 yards, Michael Dyer had 15 carries for an even 100 yards, and Onterio McCalebb had a 70-yard touchdown run in the fourth quarter that sealed the game. Auburn outgained LSU 526 to 243 in total and 7.73 to 3.63 per play. Turnovers were even at one apiece. AU punted three times to LSU's six.

By all standard measures, this should have been a blowout. Instead, the Plainsmen only won the game 24-17. The reason it wasn't a blowout was that LSU dominated field position.

Auburn had ten drives that didn't close out the halves. Five of them started at the Tigers' own 10 yard line or worse, and two of their three punts came as a result of those bad starting positions. Auburn had a 54-yard touchdown drive and a 43-yard field goal drive early. The other three potential scoring drives were a 77-yard missed field goal drive, a 91-yard touchdown drive, and a 90-yard touchdown drive.

LSU, meanwhile, only had one long scoring drive: a 78-yard campaign that ended in a touchdown. It also had a 40-yard field goal drive and a 50-yard touchdown drive. Of the Bayou Bengals' 11 drives, two were for negative yards, three more were for single digits, and two more were in the teens. Only four of them went for longer than 18 yards. But, LSU's defense and special teams set up the offense with five drives beginning between their own 40 and midfield. Whether it was the punt team downing them next to the goal line or Patrick Peterson making plays in the return game, Auburn was behind the eight ball all second half.

LSU ultimately couldn't win the game because its offense was that dysfunctional, Auburn's offense was spectacular, and Auburn's defense did enough to prevent a tying score late. LSU went for it on 4th-and-7 with 3:27 left from its own 30 and ended up with Jarrett Lee carrying the ball. Alas, you still do need all three phases of the game to win most contests.

That said, LSU's offense wouldn't have even had a chance to bungle away a game winning opportunity had it not been for the massive field position advantage it had in the game. There is a reason why coaches preach about field position being important, and this game shows plainly why that is.