AU Practice Receives Mixed Reviews

Comments from seniors Byron Isom and Josh Bynes are featured along with offensive coordinator Gus Malzahn as the Auburn football Tigers prepare for 12th-ranked Arkansas.

Auburn, Ala.--Coming off a strong performance in his team's victory at Kentucky, Auburn offensive guard Byron Isom and his teammates moved their preparation for this week's SEC showdown with Arkansas into high gear on Tuesday evening.

Isom and his teammates worked for more than two hours in full pads on the game plan for the 4-1 Razorbacks, a team that handed Auburn its first loss last season.

Auburn comes into this week's game at Jordan-Hare Stadium as the SEC's top rushing team and Isom and fellow guard Mike Berry have played a big role in making that happen. <> "We definitely take pride in our team leading the conference in rushing," Isom tells Inside the Auburn Tigers. "Our names aren't in the paper or whatever, but we can look at those rush stats and take pride at that and feel good."

Byron Isom

Auburn's ability to run the football was tested at the end of its road victory at Kentucky. The Tigers got the football at their own seven-yard line with 7:33 left and the game tied 34-34.

Running behind Isom, Berry, Ryan Pugh, Lee Ziemba and Brandon Mosley, the Tigers had the second longest scoring drive in Auburn history in number of plays as they kept the football for 19 plays including a 24-yard field goal by Wes Byrum to win the game as time expired.

"We feel great about that drive as an offensive line and an offense as a whole," Isom said. "We pride ourselves on rising to the occasion and when we are working in practice Coach Grimes (offensive line coach Jeff Grimes) always tells us that sometimes games are going to come down to one drive in the fourth quarter.

"He tells us that is when our toughness is going to have to show," Isom added. "As an offensive lineman you are supposed to thrive in those situations.

"Coach Chiz (Gene Chizik) really challenged us in practice a few weeks ago to be tougher and we took that to heart," Isom said of the offensive line. "We have been working hard to do everything we can do to become a better offensive line."

The challenge the Tigers face this week is to find a way to knock off the 12th-ranked Razorbacks, a team that spanked Auburn by a 44-23 score last season in Fayetteville.

"We have what happened at Arkansas last year in the back of our minds and we are taking it with us to practice this week to prepare for Saturday's game and that motivates us to work harder," Isom said.

Kickoff for Saturday's game vs. Arkansas is set for 2:30 p.m. CDT at Jordan-Hare Stadium. The game will be nationally televised on CBS.

The contest will match Auburn quarterback Cameron Newton, who leads the SEC in rushing and is No. 1 in passing efficency, against Arkansas star Ryan Mallett, who is the SEC's top passer.

"It is great to play with a quarterback like Cam," Isom pointed out. "You know that if all else fails he can make a play on his own and there is a real comfort level when you go out on the field with a guy like him on your side."

Newton and the Tigers scored touchdowns on four of their first half possessions vs. Arkansas and made a field goal on the other one. In the second half the offense produced just two field goals.

"We executed to a ‘T' in the first half," Isom said. "Now we need to put together two halves just like that."

Offensive coordinator Gus Malzahn said after Tuesday's practice that he likes what he is seeing from Isom and Berry. "They are doing a good job," he said. "We got them out in space some on Saturday night and they are both very athletic and they like pulling. They do a good job driving people off the ball, too. Those two guards are two of our better players."

Malzahn was less impressed with what he saw from the offense in Tuesday's practice. "It was okay," he said. "I would like us to have a little better practice. I really believe our guys will respond tomorrow and come back ready to go."

Wide receiver Emory Blake agreed with the offensive coordinator that Tuesday's practice could have been better. "Sometimes you are going to have days like that," he said, adding that he expects to see a crisper performance from the offense on Wednesday.

Senior linebacker Josh Bynes said the defensive portion of practice was productive working against the scout team featuring senior Neil Caudle and redshirt freshman, who played the role of Arkansas star Ryan Mallett.

"Defensively, we had a good practice today," Bynes said. "We did better at communicating and trying to pick up their routes." Bynes said that he is impressed with what he is seeing from the Arkansas receivers when he studies game video of the Razorbacks.

The senior said the Tigers worked on tackling on Tuesday evening, something he noted they did a "horrible" job of in the Kentucky game. "There were a lot of plays we could have made in the backfield or the line of scrimmage," he said.

Bynes said the defense spent a lot of time working on tackling in Tuesday's practice and showed improvement.

In other news and notes:

*Wide receiver DeAngelo Benton, who was hurt in the Kentucky game, was unable to practice with an ankle injury. He is wearing a boot and using crutches.

*Two of the freshmen who have bolstered Auburn's special teams play, Craig Sanders and Shaun Kitchens, missed the Kentucky game with an injury. Chizik said it will be later in the week before he knows if either will be cleared to play this week. In their absence, the Tigers had their first poor game covering kickoffs vs. Kentucky.

*Auburn leads the SEC in total offense averaging 483 yards per game, which is 10th nationally. The Razorbacks are No. 2 in the conference in total offense with 462.8 yards per game, which ranks 19th nationally.

*The Razorbacks lead the SEC and are ranked No. 3 nationally in passing with 354 yards per game featuring a wide receivers group that Auburn head coach Gene Chizik said is as good as any team in the nation has.

*Auburn leads the SEC in rushing with 276 yards per contest, which is eighth nationally.

*Auburn and Arkansas have just one common opponent so far this season. Auburn defeated Louisiana-Monroe 52-3 and the Razorbacks knocked off that team 31-7.

Inside The AU Tigers Top Stories