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 AUBURN, Ala. (AP) -Tommy Tuberville can pinpoint where Auburn started letting the game with No. 3 LSU slip away, and it came long before the final-second touchdown pass.
It happened in the third quarter when his 23rd-ranked Tigers returned from the locker room barely resembling the impressive-looking team that built a 17-7 halftime lead. They couldn't move the ball and couldn't keep LSU from driving for two field goals to climb back into the game.
``You hear 'ifs,' 'ands' and 'buts' and what have you about that game,'' the Auburn coach said Tuesday. ``The bottom line is we didn't coach very well in that third quarter and we didn't play very well on defense or offense or the kicking game in the third quarter. That's been our problem all year, consistency, playing an entire game.''
The biggest problem has come upon Auburn's return from the locker room after halftime, particularly in the two biggest road games. Auburn (5-3, 3-2 Southeastern Conference) barely held on after building a 14-0 lead at Florida and wound up falling to LSU 30-24 on Matt Flynn's TD pass at the end.
Co. haven't been harping on that play so much as what happened in that third quarter. The offense failed to manage a first down on three of four possessions and the defense appeared to start wearing down with the short rest times.
It's nothing new for a team that hasn't scored in the third in the past two games and has managed just 27 points coming out of the half in eight games, far fewer than any other quarter.
``It seems like somewhere during the game we lose some kind of edge, concentration, in all phases, including myself,'' Tuberville said. ``Then it takes us a while to get back on track. Then when we get back on track, we look like a pretty good team again.
``It's very disappointing.''
It also helps explain why Auburn has lost three games by a combined 14 points, despite allowing a grand total of seven points in the first half of the last four games.
Offensive coordinator Al Borges doesn't necessarily think it's a matter of turning too conservative to try to protect the lead, but that doesn't mean he will exclude playcalling when trying to figure out what's going wrong before Saturday's game with Mississippi.
Four of the Tigers' first five plays after halftime against LSU were passes, one of them ending with a sack.
``You have to look at everything and yourself, too,'' Borges said. ``You have to look at the playcalling. Maybe we need a different approach to the third quarter to help re-energize our offense. It's never one thing, it's a combination of everything.
``It's been a pattern. Third quarters have not been good.''
First quarters have been much better. The Tigers have scored on their opening possession in the last four games.
They have finished well, too. Auburn scored on its final drives against LSU, Arkansas and Florida.
``We'll get off to a good start and then come out in the third quarter and just can't find a way to get anything going,'' quarterback Brandon Cox said. ``We need to do a better job of finishing off games and just putting it away in the third quarter.''

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