The Tigers worked for more than two hours in shorts, shoulder pads and helmets at their new indoor facility that opened over the summer. After practice the coaches decided the players needed a break from football and the entire team headed out for dinner and a night at a local bowling alley before turning their attention back to the Iron Bowl on Wednesday.
A major reason for Alabama's high ranking is a defense that has been dominating, offering a major challenge for Auburn offensive coordinator Gus Malzahn and his players.
"We are going to have to execute every play," Malzahn said. "They are a very, very good defense. There are veteran guys at every position. They are very rarely out of position. That will be a challenge."
With no classes this week, the Tigers have been able to devote their full attention to preparations for Saturday's game. Malzahn said that showed up during Tuesday's drills. "Practice had good energy, good attention." he said. "I?think our guys were really looking forward to practice and that was encouraging."
A point of emphasis for Malzahn is cutting down on mistakes. After no lost fumbles by the offense in the first eight games, there have been two in each of the last three contests. "We knew coming in we were a little young, a little inexperienced," he said. "We are playing some of the top defenses in America. At times we have looked like a good offensive team. At other times, obviously we have struggled.
"Our big challenge is consistency," he added. "The things I can't live with are the turnovers and the silly mistakes...Sometimes you get whipped. Sometimes they are better than you are. My focus has been, all year and especially lately, protect the football, make sure we have a hat on a hat where we are supposed to be and really the bottom line is to execute properly."
Malzahn said that Clint Moseley is still improving as a quarterback and the offensive coordinator said that each game the redshirt sophomore plays the more he is learning about what the QB is best at doing in game situations. "It is kind of a learning process," Malzahn said. "Each game I learn more about him and I?think if you ask him he is learning more about himself, too."
Another Auburn quarterback, true freshman Kiehl Frazier, agreed with Malzahn that the Tigers had a good practice on Tuesday night. "You could tell by the older guys, by their intensity, it is Iron Bowl week," he said. "We are definitely getting ready to play."
Kiehl Frazier is expected to continue to see action as a backup quarterback.
A native of Springdale, Ark., Frazier said he is looking forward to seeing the intensity of a rivalry game he has heard a lot about, but did not follow growing up.
"Our intensity in practice has gone up because we know the magnitude of the game and what it means to the whole state." said Frazier, who noted the coaching staff has shown the players highlights from big moments in Iron Bowl history to give the younger players a feel for the game.
Offensive guard John Sullen will be making his first Iron Bowl start on Saturday when the Tigers and Tide kick off shortly after 2:30 p.m. CST in a game that will be televised nationally by CBS.
Sullen moved to Auburn as a sophomore in high school and became a star offensive tackle at Auburn High. Even before then he said he followed the Tigers-Tide rivalry growing up an Auburn fan and said he understands how big a deal it is. "Just being from the state, you know exactly what it is all about," he said.
Asked if he is excited about getting to play a major role in the game for the first time as a junior starter, he said, "Yes, sir. It's been a long time coming, but it is finally here."
Sullen noted he understands the challenge he and his teammates face going against the No. 1 rated defense in the SEC. "It is a great defense and it is not just the defensive front--it's the 'backers, the secondary," he said. "We just have to take what the coaches teach us, and how they prepare us, and go out and execute," Sullen said when talking about how the Tigers will need to operate against such an effective defense.
Auburn defensive end Corey Lemonier played against Alabama in a backup role last season as a true freshman. This year he will have a major assignment as a starter trying to stop an offensive team that features a Heisman Trophy candidate in tailback Trent Richardson.
Asked what the Tigers are going to need to do on Saturday to contain Richardson, who has rushed for 2,831 yards during his collegiate career with 1,380 coming this season, Lemonier said, "Everybody playing their responsibility and like gang-tackling. You have to do that to win this game."
Previously this season Auburn put the clamps on South Carolina star Marcus Lattimore, holding the tailback to 66 yards on 17 carries in Auburn's 16-13 victory over the Gamecocks in game five. "I felt like we did that containing Marcus Lattimore," Lemonier said. "He was like the biggest threat, and with Alabama Trent Richardson is their biggest threat, and we need to take him out."
To keep Richardson from beating the Tigers, Lemonier said Auburn's defensive players need to study the running back on video and be mentally prepared to play a physical and "fundamentally sound" game on Saturday. "Basically, just do your job," said Lemonier, who leads the Tigers in quarterback sacks with 8 1/2.
"They're big and physical," Lemonier said of the Tide offensive line. "We've got to be physical right back, just get at them."
Studying what Alabama is doing is important, Lemonier said. "We've been watching film and studying the guys we're going to go against," he said. "They give off keys, you know, what plays they're going to run, so we'll try to seize the opportunity."
Lemonier pointed out Auburn's defensive goal is to force Alabama quarterback A.J. McCarron to make plays to keep the Tide offense moving. "We have just got to eliminate the running game," he said. "I don't feel like they put the pressure on him too much and they just run the ball, which they're really good at"
Although he grew up in Miami, Lemonier said he is all in regarding the intensity of the Auburn-Alabama rivalry. The sophomore said he didn't like the Tide during recruiting and after traveling to play in Tuscaloosa last season that feeling has escalated. "Playing against them like hearing all of the trash talk made me just hate them even more," Lemonier said.
In other news and notes:
*Alabama's defenders have been even stingier than LSU's defense in giving up points and yardage. The Tide is allowing just 8.36 points per contest and 195.91 total yards per game. Alabama leads the nation in both of those categories. Chizik noted it is easy to see why Alabama's defensive stats are so good. "They're physical, they get off blocks, they love to play the game and they play really hard," he said.
*Defensive end LaDarius Owens has missed the past five games due to injury, but could be ready for action on Saturday. Coach Gene Chizik said he was pleased with the progress the redshirt freshman had made prior to being injured in the Arkansas game.
*Chizik said that getting Brandon Mosley ready for Saturday's game is a major goal this week after the senior offensive tackle hurt a knee in the second quarter of the Samford game and did not return to action.
"That's a huge part of the puzzle for us," the coach said of Mosley, Auburn's only offensive lineman on this year's team who started in Auburn's 2010 victory over Alabama. "He's a tough kid now, he's a tough guy. If there is any way he can play, he is going to play. He has made some strides, but he is one of those guys that is going to be tough to keep out of this game. We'll play it day by day, but if there's any way he can play, he'll play."
*In addition to Mosley, Saturday's game will be the home finale for several other senior starters. A.J. Greene is expected to start at left tackle. Wide receiver Quindarius Carr has nine starts this season and walk-on wide receiver Jay Wisner has six starts this season including five-in-a-row.
*Freeman has moved up the ranks of Auburn's leading tacklers after making 32 stops in the past four games. For the season the former Benjamin Russell High star from Alex City has 28 solos and 22 assists, which is fourth on the team behind Daren Bates (86 tackles), Thorpe (85 tackles) and Demetruce McNeal (64 tackles).