Tuesday Lite On Tuesday Night for the Tigers

A report on Auburn's football practice features comments from coaches and players.

Auburn, Ala.--After taking Monday off the Auburn football Tigers lightened up at their Tuesday practice compared to recent weeks as they prepare for their third non-conference game of the season vs. the Florida Atlantic Owls.

The Tigers, who practiced in shorts instead of full pads like they have been doing in recent Tuesday sessions, worked out for more than two hours with the emphasis on correcting mistakes from the first three games. Offensive coordinator Gus Malzahn said the Tigers needed the heavy contact workouts last week, but this week the situation is different.

Malzahn said the Tigers had "good focus" at practice. "Our guys were locked in and ready to move on to Florida Atlantic," he said. "I feel like we got better tonight."

Explaining the decision to go lighter, Malzahn said, "We have been very physical, but we have got a stretch coming up (four consecutive games vs. Top 15 teams starting the following week)," Malzahn said. "We are just trying to make sure our guys are fresh. At the same time it was good work."

Malzahn said the focus for the offense is on execution. "We have got to get better at the little things," he pointed out. "We have got to get better at protecting. Our quarterback got hit a lot. We have got to do a better job at that. Just overall we are looking at what we did in the last three games, just like last year, trying to figure out our identity and our strengths and our weaknesses."

Malzahn, who doubles as Auburn's quarterback coach, said he has been learning about the strengths and weaknesses of QB Barrett Trotter, who the coach said is making progress with three college starts under his belt.

Malzahn pointed out it took three games last year to get a feel for what Cam Newton could do best as a quarterback and he is getting that same type of information on Trotter. "He has shown a lot of toughness and he has a very good understanding of what we are doing," Malzahn said of Trotter. "I am learning him, too, about what his strengths are and we are trying to build on those things."

One of the oldest players on the team, Jared Cooper, said he believes the team is coming to grips with the end of its 17-game winning streak. He noted it started so long ago at the end of the 2009 season it is difficult to remember the last time the team lost before Saturday's 38-24 setback at Clemson.

Jared Cooper

Cooper said he liked the coaches reasoning for going light in practice. "That was something we needed," he said. "It seems like we have been banging each other forever."

Coming off of an Auburn career-high performance with five catches for 71 yards at Clemson, junior wide receiver Travante Stallworth said his team had a good plan to move the football in game three, but the execution was lacking.

"I think the whole offense needs to improve with pace," Stallworth said. "That is the name of the game for Coach Malzahn so the offense--receivers, OL, just all of us--we need to pace people more and just try to wear them down."

Travante Stallworth's role is increasing this season.

From watching game video of Saturday's contest, Stallworth said a big problem for the offense was not making plays on third downs. For the game Auburn converted just 5-13 opportunities. In contrast, Clemson's offense converted 14 of 18 third down plays.

As a result of Auburn's offensive and defensive shortcomings on third downs, Clemson kept the football for 92 plays vs. Auburn, 29 more plays than the visiting Tigers ran at Memorial Stadium. "I would like to keep them off the field more," Stallworth said of his defensive teammates, who were on the field for 36 minutes and 15 seconds compared to Auburn's offense, which held the football for just 23 minutes and 45 seconds.

Stallworth said it is "real important" that the Auburn offense "chew some clock" to keep the defense fresher during the course of the remainder of the games this season. To make that happen, the offense needs better execution from all 11 guys on the field on every play, Stallworth said.

"Numerous times one or two guys missed a block and that can mess a whole offense up," he said. "Defense, if one guy messes up, somebody else can probably replace him and will probably make the play, but if one guy doesn't do right on offense the whole play is messed up."

Sophomore defensive tackle Jeffrey Whitaker agrees with Stallworth about the importance of performing better on third downs. "That is just devastating when you stay on the field over and over," Whitaker said on the toll it takes on the defense when it allows a series of third down conversions like Clemson made on Saturday.

Whitaker said after watching video of Saturday's game, a significant portion of Clemson's yardage came as the result of missed tackles by the Auburn defense as well as alignment issues.

"The deal was it was our first loss for a lot of us since we have been playing (at Auburn)," Whitaker said. "You just bounce back from it and just keep going, keep throwing your punches."

The defensive tackle added the sign of a true champion is not how a team acts when everything is going well. He said it is defined by how the team handles adversity like dealing with the end of a 17-game winning streak, something that happened on Saturday.

Whitaker said Auburn's front four needs to do a better job of pass rushing after not getting a sack vs. a Clemson team that threw 42 passes. He also said the Tigers need to avoid letting up when they get ahead, something he said happened in the second quarter on Saturday when his Tigers were up by two touchdowns. "When you are up 21-7, you have to close the deal," he said. "We didn't do a good job of that."

In other news and notes:

*Saturday's matchup vs. FAU will the first evening game for the Tigers this season. The kickoff is set for 6 p.m. with television coverage on Fox Sports South.

*The visiting Owls play in the Sun Belt Conference. Auburn is 16-0 all-time vs. teams currently in that conference, but has never played FAU, a program in its 11th season of intercollegiate competition.

*On Tuesday at his press conference, head coach Gene Chizik said that true freshman defensive tackle Angelo Blackson is making progress, something Whitaker said is the case. "He is a tremendous asset to the D-line," Whitaker said of the backup from Red Lion Christian Academy in Delaware.

*For the first time this season the Tigers are not in the Top 25 in one of the major polls. The Tigers had been in the coaches Top 25 in 19 of the last 20 ranking periods and in the AP Top 25 18 times in the last 20 polls.

*Following Saturday's game against 0-2 FAU, the schedule toughens considerably for the Tigers who play games vs. South Carolina, Arkansas, Florida and LSU, all teams currently ranked in the Top 15 in both major polls. LSU, at two and three in the polls, is the highest ranked opponent during the extremely demanding October schedule.

*As poorly as Auburn's defense has played this season with its national ranking of 117th in total yards allowed at 534.3 per game, Florida Atlantic comes to Jordan-Hare Stadium with a lower-rated offense. The Owls are averaging just 92.5 total yards per game after playing at Florida and Michigan State, which puts FAU last (120th) among major college programs this week.

*Freshman running back Tre Mason from Lake Worth, Fla., pointed out he has a pair of high school teammates who play for Florida Atlantic. He said they have told him they have been looking forward to their chance to play against Auburn all summer.

Running backs coach Curtis Luper said the plan is to steadily increase the playing time Mason gets this season. The true freshman has run the football eight times at an average of 3.9 yards per carry. Auburn's team average is 5.3 per carry on 104 rushing plays.

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