"I saw a team that is very resilient," Chizik said. "They fight and they just keep pressing on. They find a way to win. I also so many glaring things that don't allow us to be a great team right now. That's everywhere. I thought I saw a more physical game on the defensive and offensive lines of scrimmage though. I thought that was an improvement from last week without question. It was two definitively different games in my opinion. There are a lot of things we've got to clean up to be a great team. We're not there yet at all. We just have to continue to practice and try to get some things ironed out."
Much of the positive came out of the play of junior quarterback Cameron Newton. With 176 yards rushing and three touchdowns and 158 passing yards and two more scores, Newton is putting himself into some lofty talk through four games in his Auburn career. With the Heisman being mentioned with his name in the mix already Chizik said while he doesn't have any input he thinks Newton has done some very good things so far.
"I'm not going to act like an expert on that but I think that his numbers certainly grab people's attention," Chizik said. "I that regard I don't know where they'll go with that but I think he's played really well and he's done everything we asked him to do. The people that will make that decision won't be me, but he's played really well."
Leading the SEC in rushing with 485 yards and five touchdowns in four games, Newton's ability to run the football and make plays is something that has the Auburn coaches concerned about not his impact on the offense but about his health down the road. While it's a concern, Chizik said they're not going to limit what he does best and what makes the offense go.
"He is such a competitor that he wants to do and we want to do whatever it takes for us to win," Chizik said. "We would prefer that he doesn't take a lot of big shots in the games. There are times when he runs the football and those shots are out there. He's getting better at trying to eliminate those big shots. He's a threat and we've got to use him as a threat. We're learning more each week what we can and can't do with him. It's obvious that he's a threat in the backfield and people are going to have to respect that."
Part of Newton's improved play has been in the passing game. Completing 16-21 Saturday night with two balls that could have easily been caught, Newton spread the ball around to several different receivers and Chizik said that has to continue to be a priority on offense.
"It's kind of what I say each week," Chizik said. "We're going to do what the defense allows us to do. Obviously our focal point this week was to spread the ball around more. I thought we did a good job of doing that."
One of the questions heading into last week was at right tackle with junior A.J. Greene out for the season after breaking his ankle against Clemson. Junior college transfer Brandon Mosley got the call in relief for the Tigers and while there were some mistakes Chizik said he thought he did a very good job.
"I was really proud of Brandon," Chizik said. "He didn't do everything perfect but he helped win that football game. I thought he tried to play physical up front as one of the five starters. I'm really proud of him. He's been thrown in the fire a few times now and he just comes through for our team. I'm really proud of him."
Another new starter for the Tigers on defense as redshirt freshman Nosa Eguae. In place of senior Michael Goggans, Chizik said Eguae did some good things but also made some mistakes as you would expect from a young player in such a big game.
"I was really proud of Nosa," Chizik said. "I thought he was productive. I thought he played really hard. He made some young guy mistakes but he's played enough ball up to this point where we felt like he's earned it."
Eguae was part of a defense that continues to struggle in the first half of games. Allowing just 10 points in the fourth quarter and overtime this season, Auburn has been able to make some adjustments but Chizik said it has to come sooner as well as getting tougher when put in bad situations.
"We haven't been very good at responding to sudden change turnovers," Chizik said. "We haven't been good at playing on a short field. I think some of that happened in the first half. We had a little bit of a third-down issue there in the first half but I think we got some things figured out. Our coaches did a really good job at halftime of adjusting to the things we were seeing for the day.
"We just have to play better all the way around right now with the big plays, the explosive plays. Those are what got us Saturday night. It was the whole defense. Guys being out of position or their eyes weren't in the right spot. The quarterback scrambles without contain and has another two and a half seconds to throw the ball. There were just glaring things all over the defense. I was really proud of them in the second half when I thought they played physical and got four turnovers."
Auburn will face off against Louisiana-Monroe Saturday at 11 a.m. at Jordan-Hare Stadium. The game can be seen on ESPNU.