Around the SEC

Defensive coordinator John Lovett said Auburn's defensive focus this week has been stopping the run as the Tigers participated in a two-hour workout on the practice fields Thursday. Auburn continued preparations for Alabama's offense which averages 215 rushing yards per game.

"We had a pretty good day today," Lovett said. "We have had a lot of little things to work on that they do with their running game. We concentrated on working on several of their plays. The kids worked really hard and I think they have a grasp on what we're doing. Now, it is just a matter of honing in on it and getting after it."

In order to successfully defend Alabama, Lovett believes that Auburn must accomplish several goals.

"We have to shut down their running game. That is going to be a tough chore," Lovett said. "They have a lot of different formations. They run the option out of a lot of different formations. They run a lot of different plays.

"We have to spend some time on trying to take them out of that particular part of their game. Hopefully, we would like to get them into more of a passing game because I don't think that's what they really want to do. I think Alabama's general philosophy is that they're a running football team and they're going to run the ball to set up the pass. We're working on that and play action pass really hard this week."

The 17th-ranked Auburn Tigers, 7-2 and 5-1 in the Southeastern Conference, face Alabama, 4-5 and 3-4, Saturday at 2:30 p.m. at Jordan-Hare Stadium in the 66th meeting between the two teams. The game will be televised by CBS.

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ATHENS, Ga. -- The 23rd-ranked Georgia Bulldogs conducted a two-hour practice in shorts and shoulder pads Tuesday in preparation for the upcoming Ole Miss contest.

Georgia coach Mark Richt said he was pleased with the way the team has responded the last couple of days in practice.

"We had another good spirited workout today," said Richt. "The guys have a great attitude and are in a good mood out there. They've been running around at full speed and doing a great job. Their spirits are good."

The Bulldogs worked on all phases of their game and Richt indicated the no-huddle offense will continue to be an option for the offense.

"We are not ready to say we are not going to use it," said Richt. "The bottom line is if you are executing or not. If we are executing, then let's go play ball. If we are not, then we might have to slow the game down and make sure we are not putting too much burden on the defense."

The Bulldogs (5-3, 4-3) face the Rebels (6-2, 3-2 SEC) Saturday in Oxford, Miss. Kickoff will be at 12:30 pm ET and be televised by Jefferson Pilot Sports. All Georgia football games will be broadcast on NewsTalk 750 WSB and the WSB/Georgia Bulldogs Radio Network.

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Junior defensive end Dennis Johnson leads the Southeastern Conference in three categories, according to the latest defensive statistics released by the league office. Johnson paces the SEC in tackles for loss (16.5 for 68 yards), quarterback sacks (10.5 for -48), and fumbles caused (five).

Johnson Awarded Sack, Ties School Single-Season Record: A favorable statistical interpretation by the NCAA has awarded Dennis Johnson a third sack against Vanderbilt. That improves Johnson's sack total to 10.5, tying the single-season school record set by Chris Ward in 1996. In the second quarter of Saturday's game, Johnson tackled Vanderbilt QB Greg Zolman five yards behind the line of scrimmage. Johnson forced a fumble on the play. The ball rolled to the line of scrimmage, where it was recovered by the Wildcats' Patrick Wiggins.

When updating UK's defensive statistics on Sunday, a sack could not be awarded on the play because there was no official loss of yardage, as the ball was recovered at the line of scrimmage. (There must be lost yardage on a play to award a sack.) An appeal was filed with the NCAA Statistics Office, and recognizing the unusual situation, the NCAA Stats Office approved awarding a sack on the play.

Johnson had two other sacks on the day, giving him a total of three for the game.

Demaree, Bowie, Burress, and Tatum Also on the SEC Charts: Senior defensive end Chris Demaree ranks eighth in the SEC in tackles for loss. Demaree has made nine stops behind the line of scrimmage this season for 36 yards in losses. Senior cornerback Jeremy Bowie and sophomore cornerback Leonard Burress have 10 pass breakups this season, tying for fourth in the SEC. Junior cornerback Derrick Tatum is tied for seventh with nine PBU.

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OXFORD, Miss. -- Ole Miss head football coach David Cutcliffe announced Tuesday that he has suspended defensive linemen Josh Cooper and Yahrek Johnson for one game.

"Josh and Yahrek are being suspended for their failure to meet mandatory team obligations," Cutcliffe said.

Cooper, who has started four games this season, will serve his one game suspension this Saturday when the Rebels host No. 23 Georgia. Johnson, who has started one game this year, is currently unable to play due to an injury. He will be held out of one game once he is physically able to return to competition.

Cutcliffe said he would have no further comment on the matter.

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An update on USC's football injuries: LB Kalimba Edwards is out with a knee sprain; QB Phil Petty is questionable with a shoulder bruise; RB Derek Watson is probable with a hip pointer; LB Jeremiah Garrison is doubtful with a pulled hamstring. Petty dressed out for Tuesday's practice but did not participate. He did some limited throwing on the sidelines during pre-practice but was not effective. He watched the remainder of practice. Watson was limited in his participation. Garrison spent most of practice conditioning.

USC head coach Lou Holtz said that the Gamecocks were not very sharp on Tuesday. "Physically we may have been fresh, but mentally we were down and not very sharp. It wasn't the kind of Tuesday practice you would like to have."

With the injuries to Edwards and Garrison, USC's starting linebackers are expected to be senior Kenny Harney, junior Jermaine Lemon, and junior Rod Thomas. The backups will be Lenny Williams, Brian Brownlee and Orus Lambert, a true freshman.

Coach Holtz said USC's scout team completed way too many passes against the defense on Tuesday. "We didn't do a very good job of defending the pass," said Holtz. Carlos Spikes, Rod Wilson and Dondrial Pinkins took turns trying to simulate Clemson quarterback Woodrow Dantzler.

Coach Holtz said it was critical that the Gamecock linebackers play well Saturday against the Tigers. "The linebackers are going to have to be the ones that try to slow down Woody Dantzler," said Holtz. "I don't know if they'll be able to catch him. They'll have to call the right formations and get in the right alignments. Clemson's offense is very talented and it starts with Dantzler. I haven't seen a quarterback who can run and throw it effectively as he does since Roger Staubach."

When asked about what USC quarterback Phil Petty was able to do on the practice field Tuesday, Holtz said: "He really couldn't do anything except breath in and breath out."

USC linebackers coach Chris Cosh is one of 18 finalists in Division 1-A for the 2001 American Football Coaches Association Assistant Coach of the Year. The winner will be announced Nov. 28. USC secondary coach John Gutekunst was a national winner last season.

USC and Clemson kick off this Saturday at 12:37 p.m. at a soldout Williams-Brice Stadium. Jefferson Pilot Sports will televise the game throughout the state of South Carolina, as well as in Charlotte and Augusta.

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While Tennessee relies on Travis Stephens to "pound the rock" nearly 30 times per game, Vols quarterback Casey Clausen has balanced the UT offense through his own airborne connection -- one that hails from familiar territory.

California native Clausen, who calls Northridge in the Los Angeles area home, has found wide receiver Donte' Stallworth very much to his liking since the junior returned from a three-game injury hiatus. Stallworth, a Sacramento native, has caught 17 passes during the current four-game Tennessee winning streak for 330 yards and five touchdowns. Though having played only five games this season, Stallworth leads the Vols with six receiving touchdowns and a 19.2 yards per catch average.

"(His return) gave us an immediate, incredible, emotional lift," head coach Phillip Fulmer said. "Just his presence, his ability to make plays, his excitement that he brought to practice -- I think it lifted Casey. To be able to put Kelley (Washington), Bobby Graham, Eric Parker and Donte' out there at the same time is quite a group of receivers. And now you've got Montrell Jones emerging as well, so it's very encouraging."

There were plenty of encouraging offensive signs during Saturday's 49-28 victory over Memphis, including a season-high 520 yards of total offense. And Fulmer thinks Stallworth's three-touchdown performance is a peek toward the future.

"I think before Donte' is finished, he'll be noted as one of the better ones we've had here -- maybe even the best," Fulmer said. "Donte' has the ability to take a short pass and turn it into a big play. He's great at the intermediate routes and, obviously, is outstanding on the long ball. Donte's showing an awful lot of leadership for us right now, a lot of maturity, and I truly think he's one of the best in the Southeastern Conference."

The Vols visit Kentucky Saturday for a 12:30 p.m. Eastern time kickoff. Jefferson-Pilot Sports is carrying the telecast.

Injury Update: Questionable -- DB Andre Lott (left hamstring).


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