"Hurt Feelings" Had to Happen, Ziemba Says

The Tigers got physical again at Tuesday night's practice. Comments from Lee Ziemba and offensive coordinator are featured along with news and notes on Auburn football.

Auburn, Ala.--Auburn returned to the football practice field on Tuesday night spending 2 1/2 hours in full pads with the emphasis on being physical, cleaning up mistakes from the South Carolina game and installing the game plan for this week's game vs. the University of Louisiana-Monroe.

The Tigers heard from their coaches not to slack off in practice this week because the opponent is out of the Sun Belt Conference instead of the SEC and ACC as has been the case for the past three games.

Auburn players like senior offensive tackle Lee Ziemba said the Tigers are trying to repeat last week's physical style and intensity in practice.

"You could say there is even more pressure on us to not become a one hit wonder because that is sometimes the case with people in different situations," Ziemba said. "The way we got called out last week is something you don't forget over just one week."

At his weekly press conference prior to the South Carolina game, Auburn head coach Gene Chizik said the offensive line wasn't playing with enough toughness, a theme repeated by offensive coordinator Gus Malzahn and offensive line coach Jeff Grimes.

"It started with us getting our feelings hurt a little bit, but that had to happen," Ziemba said.

"It started with us getting back to back and we decided that Coach Chizik wouldn't get up in front of the team and lie," Ziemba said.

"We just had to look in the mirror to see what we could do to fix what happened on that last Saturday," added Ziemba, a preseason All-SEC pick. "We had to bring a new mindset out to practice and just get a kick in the butt and be reminded what our job is and how we are supposed to do it."

Ziemba said Tuesday night's practice was the "same deal" as the previous week before the South Carolina game.

"Our job as an offensive lineman is to be physical and when you are told you are not physical it hurts," Ziemba said.

After Tuesday night's practice Malzahn said the last thing the Tigers need to do is slack up this week in terms of being physical or preparing for game five.

Asked if this week's game could be an opportunity to play quarterback Barrett Trotter and other backups with the Tigers being a heavy favorite to beat the Warhawks, the coach said, "It would be good for everybody, but to be honest we aren't even thinking that way. We have got a team coming in here that we need to play our best against. We need to get better."

Malzahn, who said he saw progress in the offense's play in Auburn's 35-27 victory over the Gamecocks on Saturday night, said the Tigers are preparing for a different look on defense this week from the Warhawks.

"They fly around and they have a lot of speed,"?he said. "They do a lot of unconventional things. We have got to do a good job with our assignments and execution because they can give you fits.

"You look at the way they played Arkansas the first half, they gave them fits so we have got to really be on our ‘A' game and we have to be ready to play because they are a solid defense," Malzahn added.

Malzahn and Ziemba both noted that Auburn's fast tempo against South Carolina was effective.

Ziemba said, "Once you get it going you start seeing the defensive guys arguing with each other and not even getting in a stance and they are looking over to see what the defensive call is while you are calling the snap count out--you know you have got them. There is not a better feeling.

"You forget about how tired you are," Ziemba added. "You want to go faster. You can't go fast enough. That is the goal. That is what Coach Malzahn is talking about."

Gus Malzahn

Auburn's defensive players agreed with Ziemba that Tuesday's practice was physical. One of Auburn's defensive starters, sophomore Daren Bates, said he is pleased that his team has moved up to No. 10 nationally in this week's poll, but he isn't overly impressed. "It is always good to be looked at like that, but we are interested in keeping on working to become great. That is where we want to be."

Auburn owes its high ranking to clutch play in the fourth quarter of victories over Mississippi State, Clemson and South Carolina. "It is exciting after the game in the locker room after we win games like that, but we want to be able to put away teams earlier in games instead of having them go down to the end," Bates said.

"We can get a whole lot better on defense as long as we keep working on getting better at the little things that can take us from good to great," the sophomore said. "We have to work on coming out and playing with an edge every game."

After converting from safety to outside linebacker, how does Bates say he is doing at the new position? "I think I am playing okay, but the important thing is to play well together as a team and that is what we are working on doing."

In other news:

*Malzahn said that the Tigers need Mario Fannin to be a key part of the offense even though he had a costly fumble against South Carolina and he didn't get to touch the ball the rest of the game. "Mario has got to do a better job of holding the ball," the coach said. "We know that, he knows that. He is going to get better. The fact is we need Mario to be on the time field at times and do what he can do...You got to understand with Mario, too, there is a shoulder issue, too."

*On the subject of running backs, Malzahn said he believes that freshman tailback Michael Dyer "is getting better" every week. Dyer rushed for 100 yards vs. South Carolina.

*Saturday's game will kick off at 11 a.m. CDT and will be the eighth time the Tigers have played the ULM Warhawks, who were formerly known as the Northeast Louisiana Indians.

The Tigers have won the seven matchups by an average score of 43-10 even with a close call in 1996 when the Tigers won 28-24. The Warhawks haven't scored in their last two games vs. Auburn, falling 31-0 in 2004 and 34-0 in 2008. Auburn's 73-7 win over ULM in 2003 matches the largest margin of victory for the Tigers in a game at Jordan-Hare Stadium.

*Quarterback Cameron Newton said on Tuesday night that the Tigers had a good, physical practice. The SEC Offensive Player of the Week carried the football 25 times vs. South Carolina, a number that will likely go down in the coming weeks.

Malzahn said he is coaching the big, physical quarterback who likes to run over defensive players to pick his spots carefully when he does that. Newton made his coaches nervous when he took a head first dive from the six-yard line into the end zone on the opening series last Saturday. "He is a big strong guy, but when you jump that high you worry bout him coming down wrong," Malzahn said.

*This Saturday's game will be televised on ESPNU, the fourth straight for the Tigers on one of the ESPN?networks.

*Auburn has allowed opponents to convert just one third down opportunity in the final quarter this year. That is a major reason that the Tigers have given up just 10 points in the fourth quarter.

*Junior defensive tackle Nick Fairley didn't have a sack last game vs. South Carolina, but he continues to lead the SEC in quarterback sacks with four and is also first in tackles for lost yardage with 8 1/2.

*Louisiana-Monroe plays in the Sun Belt Conference. Auburn has not lost to any of the teams in that league. In addition to Louisiana-Monroe, the Tigers are 4-0 vs. Louisiana-Lafayette, 2-0 vs. Arkansas State, 2-0 against Western Kentucky and 1-0 vs. North Texas.

*Not counting the overtime, Auburn has scored on 20 possessions this year. The average scoring possession has lasted two minutes and 21 seconds. The average distance covered before scoring is 58.2 yards.

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