Chizik Leaning On Veterans For Rivalry Game

Auburn coach Gene Chizik talks about getting his team ready to face rival Georgia this Saturday.

Auburn, Ala.--With the chance to wrap up a berth in the SEC Championship Game in Atlanta, the #2 Auburn Tigers (10-0, 6-0) will try to do something this weekend none of the players on this current team have done and that is beat Georgia. With four-straight losses to the Bulldogs Chizik said he'll lean on a large group of seniors this week to make sure his team is focused on the task at hand.

"Our senior class hasn't beaten Georgia before," Chizik said. "They know that and will read it and hear it. All of that is the past. We've got to go and really play a good football team to win. They are playing as good as anyone. To me they have improved over the last month tremendously as a football team. They are in the top four in about every category defensively in the league. Their return game is brutal. Their coverage games are solid as a rock. They are very talented. They've got athletes all over the field. They are a very talented football team. Don't let the wins and losses fool you. They are a very good team."

With a large group of guys on both sides of the ball that know all about the rivalry against the Bulldogs, Auburn won't have to worry about players being focused on winning a title instead of first winning the game. With guys such as Mario Fannin and Byron Isom, players from Georgia, that want to win this game as part of that senior class is important.

"I think it's really big," Chizik said of having a big senior class. "There's a good portion of those that are Georgia guys, or a few of them I should say. They understand the oldest rivalry in the South. Now having been through three of these, this being the fourth, they understand how great this game is and how awesome this rivalry is. I think it's important for us that they do understand that. We have a large group of guys that have been through it and I think that's big.

"This one game is the only thing that myself, and hopefully these guys, are focused on," Chizik added. "Obviously everybody sees the big picture and it is the back of everybody's mind but it's the next game and it's extremely important. Everybody understands the significance of the game."

A team that won just 13 games the last two seasons and suffered through a miserable 2008 campaign, Auburn has put itself in position for a championship just two years later. With a chance for the first step of that coming this Saturday Chizik said he's just enjoying seeing his players having fun and enjoying the ride themselves.

"I couldn't be more proud of these guys," Chizik said. "Just the way they've kind of evolved together as a team. Just the way they've persevered through a lot of stuff over the last few years. None of our seniors had won more than nine games in a season before this year. I'm just really happy for them because I want this experience at Auburn to be a great one. It becomes great when you win a lot. It has just been good to what them have some fun. They're having a lot of fun and they deserve it."

On the injury front Chizik said that both T'Sharvan Bell and Daren Bates are still in a day-by-day pattern. He said both will continue to be evaluated to see if they'll be ready to help the team soon. Linebacker Jessel Curry was banged up and didn't dress for the UTC game according to Chizik.

Defensive coordinator Ted Roof said that he was pleased with the play of linebacker Eltoro Freeman as he got his most extended playing time of the season against the Mocs. He said he was also pleased at times with some of the young players on defense but he's looking for more consistency down the road from them.

Auburn will take Monday off before hitting the practice fields on Tuesday to get ready for the Bulldogs. Kickoff is scheduled for 2:30 p.m. on Saturday and will be televised by CBS.


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