Chizik Hopes to Keep Winning Bowl Formula

The Auburn football team returned to practice on Monday night and Gene Chizik said he liked what he has seen.

Auburn, Ala.--Gene Chizik has never lost a bowl game as a head coach or defensive coordinator.

On New Year's Eve the Auburn football coach will have a chance to add to that streak as he handles both roles.

Chizik is 2-0 in bowls as head coach of the Tigers and 3-0 in bowls as Auburn's defensive coordinator from 2002-2004. Adding his assignment as defensive coordinator of the Texas Longhorns in the BCS Championship Game, the coach is 6-0 in those contests.

"I think you have to be really smart in how you precede in terms of how you are practicing--how much you are practicing, how little you are practicing," Chizik said of his bowl strategy.

"Some guys can take it and go to the other extreme and by the time your team plays they are tired and beat down," Chizik said. "What we are trying to do is get them to a place where we are physically and mentally ready, but we are not overcooked so to speak.

"I think we have done a good job over the years trying to manage the time we have with them," Chizik added.

The head coach said he liked Monday's workout after his team took the day off on Sunday. "We had a really good practice tonight. It thought it was up-tempo. We went back to teaching tonight."

The coach noted that the Tigers are putting in their game plan for Virginia "piece by piece" and are making progress in that area with six practices left before the game with two in Auburn and four in Atlanta. "We will have enough time to get in what we need," he said.

Chizik said the Tigers will put the full pads on for Tuesday's practice session. "We are going to get back after some fundamentals and continue to try to grow in that area," he said.

Auburn opponents have been able to return just 10 punts this year against All-SEC sophomore Steven Clark. Special teams coordinator Jay Boulware said that Clark has improved considerably throughout the season, but can get better, something that Clark agrees is the case.

Despite being one of three finalists for the Ray Guy Award, which goes to the national punter of the year, Clark said he needs to become more consistent as evidenced by a bad punt in his last game vs. Alabama, something that irritated the Auburn player.

"I am always upset when stuff like that happens," he said. "I expect more out of myself than probably almost anyone else ever could.

"I will hit decent punts and I will still be upset," he added. "I try not to think too much about it (bad punts) at the time and I try to come back and make it just that much better the next time.

"I have never really been faced with that too much," he said. "I think I shanked one in the Arkansas game, too, and I was able to find a way to kind of come back and finish the game well. I ended up with a 40-yard average, which is kind of saying something after a 10-yard punt."

The Tigers are averaging 40.5 yards per punt this season with a net average of 39.0

Clark said the trip to Orlando for the nationally televised awards show was a good experience getting to meet people he has seen on TV along with players from around the country like Stanford quarterback Andrew Luck, the Heisman Trophy runnerup, who Clark hung out with after the ceremony. Clark said he also got to know other players. "It was definitely a really good time," he said.

The Auburn punter also got to spend time with Ray Guy in Orlando. "We had breakfast with him the morning of the ceremony and he is a pretty light-hearted guy. He was joking around a lot. He swears I am six-foot-seven. Sadly, I am not, but I do have a couple of inches on him. He kind of chatted with us and told us to focus on the small things."

In other news and notes:

*Junior cornerback T'Sharvan Bell said he is making good progress on rehab from a knee injury suffered vs. Georgia. He tore both his ACL and MCL and had other damage to his knee. Chizik said he has been pleased with Bell's positive attitude and approach to getting well. Bell noted he isn't sure when he will be ready to play football again.

*With a victory over Virginia, Auburn would extend its bowl winning streak to a school-record five straight. The Tigers started their current streak with a 17-14 win over Nebraska in the Cotton Bowl following the 2006 season. The next year the Tigers defeated Clemson 23-20 in the Chick-fil-A Bowl. To close the 2009 season the Tigers outlasted Northwestern, 38-35, in the Outback and closed last season with a 22-19 victory over Oregon in the BCS Championship Game.

*The Tigers have played in down-to-the wire finishes in their last three bowl victories. Wes Byrum kicked the winning field goal to defeat Oregon as time expired. Neiko Thorpe's tackle in overtime vs. Northwestern kept the Wildcats out of the end zone on fourth down, giving Auburn a victory. Quarterback Kodi Burns scored on a keeper in overtime to defeat Clemson.

Saturday's game will be the finale for Neiko Thorpe, who is second on the team in tackles with 94, two behind Daren Bates.

*Wide receivers coach Trooper Taylor said that injured freshman Sammie Coates is making a good comeback and has done good things splitting reps with the regular receivers and scout team. Taylor said that Coates has the athletic ability and skills the coaches expected to see when they signed him.

*Running backs Coach Curtis Luper said he expects freshman Tre Mason to be ready to play well vs. Georgia. He said Mason has improved since he arrived this summer and added 10 pounds and gotten valuable experience.

*In addition to the television coverage of the Chick-fil-A Bowl on ESPN at 6:30 p.m. Central Time on New Year's Eve, fans will be able to listen to the Auburn Network on Sirius XM Channel 84. It will also be available on ESPN Radio with Dave Neal, David Diaz-Infante and Cara Capuano calling the action.

*The Tigers will practice again on Tuesday and Wednesday before breaking for Christmas. Practice will resume December 26th in Atlanta.

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