Auburn's Lutzenkirchen provides comfort zone for Moseley
by Charles Bennett
cbennett@annistonstar.com
Oct 03, 2011 | 925 views |  0 comments | 5 5 recommendations | email to a friend | print
AUBURN — When Auburn quarterback Clint Moseley was thrust into the game in the second half last week against Florida, he was searching for a comfort zone in the passing game.

He found it in the presence of tight end Philip Lutzenkirchen.

Moseley only completed four passes in seven attempts against the Gators, but two were to Lutzenkirchen. One went for a 15-yard gain, the other for a gain of 23 yards on a second-and-21 play that kept alive a touchdown drive that all but put the game away in Auburn’s 16-7 victory.

“Everybody’s like, ‘You threw everything to Lutz.’ It just so happened to work out that way,” Moseley said. “It wasn’t just that I was zeroing in on him. Me and Lutz, we’ve been friends since I’ve been here. We’re pretty close. We’re just on the same page. I trust him, he trusts me.”

Moseley had no need to apologize. On a team that has struggled to find an offensive identity, Lutzenkirchen is the Tigers’ comfort zone.

If the Tigers expect to knock off No. 1 LSU Saturday, expect Lutzenkirchen to play a big role.

A 6-foot-5, 250-pound junior, Lutzenkirchen has made a habit of clutch plays ever since his freshman year.

He’s played in six games this season for the Tigers (5-2, 3-1 SEC) and has 11 receptions for 108 yards and three touchdowns.

In 32 games over three seasons, Lutzenkirchen has 31 catches for 359 yards and 10 touchdowns.

Of his career catches, 74 percent have gone for first downs or touchdowns.

The 10 touchdowns tie him with Robert Johnson for most in a career by a tight end at Auburn.

But it took Johnson 57 games to catch 10 touchdown passes. No one has charted how Lutzenkirchen’s “catch to touchdown ratio” compares over time, but it has to be near the top.

The biggest of his career thus far came last year when he had the game-winning touchdown catch in the Tigers’ 28-27 Iron Bowl victory over Alabama.

“He’s been that way since he was a freshman,” Auburn coach Gene Chizik said of Lutzenkirchen’s big-play ability. “One thing we know, we know that in those clutch times when you have to have a play, we know if we get the ball anywhere near him, he’s probably going to catch it.”

Lutzenkirchen takes the big plays matter of factly.

“I just told the quarterbacks and the coaches that any time they throw it to me I’m going to give my best to come down with it whether it’s across the middle or for a touchdown,” he said. “I’ve just been blessed to make those plays in big situations.”

This from a player whom the Tigers consider first and foremost a blocker.

“I’m being used as a lead blocker up the middle and on the sweeps to (tailbacks) Onterio McCalebb and Tre Mason,” Lutzenkirchen said. “That’s just kind of where the offense needs me right now, being a young offense. I’m completely comfortable with that. It’s changed a lot since when I was in high school where I was just a pass catcher. Now, I consider myself as more of a blocker. It rounded me out more as a football player.”

Arguably Lutzenkirchen’s best game of the year thus far came at 10th-ranked South Carolina.

Not only did he come up with the game-winning touchdown catch with 1:48 to play in Auburn’s 16-13 victory, he almost certainly kept the Gamecocks off the scoreboard with another big play.

In the third quarter, a pass from Auburn’s Barrett Trotter was intercepted by C.C. Whitlock, who returned it to the Auburn 45 before Lutzenkirchen came in for the tackle and stripped the ball loose.

Lutzenkirchen recovered at the Auburn 48 to negate a change of possession and a huge momentum shift.

“We throw an interception and he makes the tackle, strips the ball and gets the ball,” Chizik said. “That’s a great case in point of how at the right time at the right place in the game, he’s always there to make a play.”

The burning question then becomes, with all Lutzenkirchen’s success in the clutch, why don’t the Tigers pass it to him more often?

Chizik’s response is that Lutzenkirchen isn’t always open. But when he is, expect him to make a play.

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