Tigers Finish Preparations for Homecoming

A report on the Auburn football team is featured as the Tigers get ready to play New Mexico State.

Auburn, Ala.--Auburn has not lost a Homecoming football game since 1991 and the struggling 2012 Tigers will try to keep that streak alive on Saturday.

Coach Gene Chizik's team wrapped up its on-the-field preparations for this year's Homecoming opponent, the New Mexico State Aggies, who are struggling as much as the Tigers.

Chizik and his staff put his players through a light workout on Thursday evening for one hour and 20 minutes as Auburn rehearsed the offensive and defensive game plans for Saturday's contest.

Kickoff is set for 11:30 a.m. at Jordan-Hare Stadium as teams with 1-7 records meet in the SEC vs. Western Athletic Conference matchup.

Chizik pointed out on Thursday evening the Tigers had a good week of practice and noted the players are excited about finding a way to break into the victory column on Saturday. "We will continue to go in there and fight every day with a positive attitude," he said.

The last time the Tigers lost a Homecoming contest was on Oct. 26th, 1991 when they fell 24-17 to Mississippi State. Since then the team has won 20 straight, including a 35-16 decision last season vs. Samford.

Overall the Tigers are 72-8-5 in Homecoming football games. The current winning streak is the longest in AU?history, two more than the streak that ran from 1953-1969 during Shug Jordan's 25-year tenure as head coach.

New Mexico State, which is 0-2 all-time vs. Auburn, has not won a football game since August 30th when the Aggies defeated Sacramento State 49-19. Last week New Mexico State played one of its better games of the season before falling 28-14 to No. 24 ranked Louisiana Tech, the only Top 25 opponent the Aggies have faced this season.

Auburn is looking for its first win since surviving a comeback vs. ULM to win 31-28 in overtime on Sept. 15th.

Jonathan Wallace, who will be making his first college start, had a busy night running the football vs. Texas A&M. The quarterback ran the football 13 times for 71 yards, more carries than any player on the team in that contest. Running back Onterio McCalebb got just one carry for eight yards.

Running backs coach Curtis Luper said that McCalebb's lack of carries was based on what the Texas A&M defense was doing. "We run a lot of read stuff and it is either Jonathan or Onterio carrying the ball," Luper noted. "Last week Texas A&M decided to make Jonathan carry the football. Some other teams may mix it up or they may want Onterio to have the football.

Curtis Luper

"That will play itself out and Onterio will get a few more touches (this week) because we know what he can do with it," Luper added.

Tre Mason carried the football 12 times for 80 yards vs. Texas A&M. "We are going for 20 carries for Tre this week because he has been averaging five to six yards per carry the last three or four games," Luper said. "I really think he is one of the best running backs in the SEC. The numbers may not support that, but I believe he is running it as well as any back in the conference."

For the season Mason has 105 carries for 554 yards with five touchdowns. He is averaging 5.3 yards per carry.

Luper noted he is looking forward to seeing what Wallace can do on Saturday with an expanded role in the offense. "He is a competitor," said the coach who doubles as Auburn's recruiting coordinator. Luper watched Wallace as a player at Central High School in Phenix City, where the QB impressed the Auburn staff with his leadership skills and competitiveness.

"He is more of a competitor than we thought he was," Luper points out. "You never really know until you get them on campus. He is conscientious, he works hard and he wants to do well and that leads to success. I am happy for him. I?am happy that he is getting his chance, and I am happy that he had the success he had last week."

Wallace, who had only thrown one pass prior to last week's game, completed 6-9 for 122 yards with a touchdown pass of 27 yards to C.J. Uzomah and one of the same distance to Emory Blake last week.

After Thursday's practice Chizik noted that the freshman quarterback is looking forward about his opportunity on Saturday. "For a young guy he is very even keeled, but you can tell he is excited. He is really into opportunities. That is great.

"The response from being has really been overwhelming in terms of their excitement of looking at him," the coach added. "We'll see what happens."

Chizik said it will be important for the offense to run the ball to make the play-action passing game effective vs. the Aggies.

Auburn's Defense: After being torched for 63 points by Texas A&M, Chizik said the AU defense is eager to get back on the field and show improvement this week. "Our defensive guys are ready to go and try to eliminate that memory of last week," the coach said.

"Defensively, we are going to have to get some turnovers. We have had one interception. We have got to be able to get some turnovers, not just fumbles. They will throw the ball 30 to 40 times on Saturday and we have to get some interceptions, and we have got to be good on third downs."

Injury Update: Chizik said starting cornerback Chris Davis and starting defensive tackle Jeff Whitaker are out of action this week. The coach was hoping that Davis, who has been dealing with a concussion, might be able to play this week.

Tailgating Weather: The weather forecast for Saturday has been changed to a high of 81 degrees with a 20 percent chance of rain. At kickoff the temperature should be in the mid 70s.

Kickoffs/Coverage: The Tigers are allowing 17.0 yards per kickoff return this season, which ranks seventh nationally. They are ranked 22nd in kickoff returns with an average of 24.85 yards per attempt.

Steven Clark

Punts/Punt Coverage: Only four of Steven Clark's 48 punts have been returned this year for a total of just four yards. Auburn has returned 12 of 34 punts from opponents with an average of 5.8 yards per return.

Field Goals: Cody Parkey is 11-13 on field goals this year while opponents have made 9-18 attempts vs. the Tigers. The Tigers have blocked three field goals this year. Angelo Blackson has two and Corey Lemonier has the other block.

Tigers Vs. the Aggies, Part 1: New Mexico State is 0-14 all-time vs. SEC teams. The closest the Aggies have come to winning vs. an SEC opponent was a 34-24 to South Carolina win in 2002. Auburn outscored the Aggies 55-20 in 2007 and 55-14 during the Tigers' unbeaten 1993 season.

Tigers vs. the Aggies, Part 2: Auburn and New Mexico State have no common opponents this year. Auburn is 15-0-1 all-time vs. teams from the Western Athletic Conference. The last game vs. a WAC team was last year's opening day victory over Utah State.

Tigers Vs. Alabama A&M: Kickoff time for Auburn's final home game on Nov. 17th is 1 p.m. The only TV coverage will be pay per view.

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