Tigers Begin Preparations For Homecoming

The Auburn football Tigers returned to the practice field as they prepare to play New Mexico State in this report that features comments from AU players.

Auburn, Ala.--The Auburn football Tigers began on-the-field preparations for their Homecoming game with a two-hour workout on Tuesday evening that featured true freshman Jonathan Wallace as the No. 1 quarterback.

Coach Gene Chizik said that based on his good play last week and an injury to Clint Moseley, Wallace will get the opportunity to direct the Tigers when they take the field on Saturday at Jordan-Hare Stadium.

Moseley, who suffered an ankle injury on the opening series vs. Texas A&M, did not practice on Tuesday and is doubtful to be ready to play this week, Chizik said.

The Tigers will take on New Mexico State at 11:30 a.m. Saturday. When they do the Tigers will be trying to extend a school-record winning streak in Homecoming games. The mark currently stands at 20, but to do that Coach Gene Chizik's Tigers will need to break their current five-game losing streak as they take on the Aggies.

New Mexico State, which is 1-7 like Auburn, hasn't tasted victory since its season-opening win over Sacramento State. Auburn's only victory was an overtime win vs. ULM in game three. After suffering a Saturday night loss to Texas A&M, the Tigers did not practice on Sunday. Instead, they watched game video of the setback and then on Monday the players took their mandated day off.

Wallace had only thrown one pass prior to last week's game and completed it for 11 yards to fellow freshman Ricardo Louis, who could be the No. 3 option at quarterback this week with Moseley being injured. Louis, who played quarterback in high school, lined up as the wildcat for two plays vs. Texas A&M and ran the ball for a total of two net yards.

Chizik noted that Kiehl Frazier, who opened the season as the No. 1 quarterback, will be available if needed although the sophomore is not 100 percent physically as he continues to recover from a shoulder problem. Frazier, Moseley and Wallace are the only three scholarship QBs on the team with 2012 signee Zeke Pike being dismissed from the squad during the summer.

Wallace completed 6-9 passes for 122 yards with touchdown passes to Emory Blake and C.J. Uzomah vs. Texas A&M. He ran the ball 13 times for 71 yards.

Uzomah, who was a quarterback in high school, said he likes what he is seeing from freshman QB Wallace. "He's a competitor, day in and day out," the tight end points out. "I feel like the team feels that way. He just brought a competitive spark to the table later in the (Texas A&M) game. We thought he fought the end and did really well."

Uzomah caught three passes for 90 yards last week, including his first collegiate touchdown reception. He noted that he likes Wallace as a dual-threat QB.

"He is a really hard runner--runs downhill," the tight end said. "We just rallied around him. He came into the game, he wasn't nervous, he wasn't timid with anything he did, he was very confident in himself and we're confident in him. We rallied around him and tried to make plays and that's what he did, he tried to make plays. The line, backs, running backs, receivers, we tried to make plays with him and for him."

Wallace's work ethic has won praise from the coaches as well as other players. Uzomah is no exception. "He's first one here, last one to leave, watching film constantly trying to evaluate himself," Uzomah notes. "He is trying to fix the little things that he does incorrectly and do them correctly. I feel I speak for the entire team when I say we're really confident in him."

A player whose role has expanded with the season-ending injury to tight end Philip Lutzenkirchen is Blake Burgess, who notes that he is spending 50 percent of his time at tight end and the rest working as an H-back/fullback. Previously, Burgess has played center and guard for the Tigers.

Burgess agrees with Uzomah that Wallace's teammates have a high level of respect for the quarterback, even though he is just a freshman. "He is a hard worker and that is something that sometimes it takes guys a lot of time to figure that out--that you have to work hard every day to get to where you want to be," said Burgess.

"He understood that day one," Burgess added. "As soon as I met the guy you kind of got that feeling about him. He has figured that out. He's going to be a great, great player down the line."

Burgess, who played on the unbeaten national championship team in 2010, said that being on a team that has won just once this season has been a learning experience in how to deal with adversity.

"The good thing about playing college football, and the highs and lows that I've had, is, it has been a teaching experience for me," said Burgess, who had a key block on Tre Mason's touchdown run vs. Texas A&M. "I have really been able to learn constantly.

"I have really been able to learn how to be humble when we were 14-0, and I have learned how to persevere and look for that bowl win when we were 8-5, and now you know we're looking how to stay the course. We're 1-7 and I think Coach Chizik has done a great job making sure that we continue to learn from our circumstances and we don't let them define us as we persevere."

The junior said as the Tigers try to earn their second win it will be important that they focus on executing the details of their assignments. "All we can do is play the next play, play the next game so you really just stick your head to the grind and you keep working, you keep busting your butt and doing everything that you can to get that W."

Burgess, who walked on to the team and redshirted in 2009, arrived at the same time with senior teammate Ashton Richardson, who is one of a dozen finalists for the Rhodes Scholarship for a chance to study at Oxford University in England. He will be interviewing for the scholarship next month.

Burgess said that Richardson, who has a 3.94 grade point average in pre-vet medicine, is a "great man" and a "fantastic friend" who is respected by his teammates. "He deserves all the accolades he can accomplish for himself," Burgess stated. "I'm really proud of him."

Blake Burgess is a theater major at Auburn.

Burgess noted that he, Richardson and fellow walk-on Ikeem Means have a special bond because they all received scholarships together as walk-ons. "It's something special and that is something that we will be able to tell the rest of our families for years."

More On Ashton Richardson: The son of former LSU All-American linebacker Al Richardson, the Auburn senior was limited by an injury last year, but has seen action at middle linebacker and on special teams this year. He has four tackles, one sack and has recovered a fumble.

Ashton Richardson

Richardson said he has thoroughly enjoyed his time at Auburn. "The Auburn Family has been tremendous in helping me pursue my dreams," he said. "From the day I walked on to campus there have been numerous people who have embraced me and have gone above and beyond to help me handle the challenges of being a student.

"My experience in athletics has taught me hard work and perseverance, and applying yourself every day," he added. "If I can go to the interviews and adequately represent what I have learned and experienced at Auburn, it will be an incredible experience."

Junior Corner: Chris Davis has been in and out of the lineup due to complications from a concussion. Chizik said on Tuesday the cornerback is being closely monitored and that the Tigers hope to have him available to play soon.

Tigers vs. the Aggies, Part 1: Auburn is 2-0 all-time vs. New Mexico State. The last meeting was a 55-20 decision in 2007. Auburn won 50-14 in 1993.

Tigers vs. the Aggies, Part 2: New Mexico State, which plays in the Western Athletic Conference, has an 0-14 record in games vs. SEC teams. Auburn is 15-0-1 all-time vs. current members of the WAC. The tie came against Louisiana Tech, a team the Tigers have beaten 11 times. Auburn is 1-0 vs. Utah State and 1-0 vs. Idaho.

Homecoming: The Tigers have an all-time record of 72-8-5 in Homecoming games. The current streak of 20 straight wins is two longer than the previous longest streak that ran from 1953-69. At halftime the Homecoming Queen will be announced. The field of five finalists includes senior Blanche Alverson, who is expected to start for a fourth consecutive year on the women's basketball team.

TV/Radio Coverage: Saturday's game will be televised on CSS with Matt Stewart handling the play by play along with Chris Doering as the analyst and Angela Mallen as the sideline reporter. In addition to the Auburn Radio Network coverage across the state the broadcast featuring Rod Bramblett, Stan White, Quentin Riggins, Andy Burcham and Paul Ellen can be heard on Sirius 106 and XM 199.

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