Tigers Focus On Corrections From the Opener

The Auburn football team returned to practice as they prepare for game two vs. Arkansas State. This report features news, notes and quotes from the Tigers.

Auburn, Ala.--The Auburn football Tigers made corrections from opening night and began focusing on their game two opponent during a 90-minute workout in shorts on Labor Day evening.

The Tigers, who took Sunday off after a 31-24 victory over Washington State, received mixed reviews from their offensive and defensive coordinators.

"We are not where we want to be yet," offensive coordinator Rhett Lashlee said. "There is no doubt about that. We are making strides. We won the game. That is the most important thing.

"As a team we won the game," he said. "I was proud of our guys for that. Yes, we want to have 80-plus plays per game. Some games are dictated differently. If you have a one-play, 80-yard drive, that's usually a good thing.

"In the second quarter we didn't get the snaps," the coach said. "At the same time, offensively we've got to stay on the field and convert third downs more. If you don't convert third downs, you're not going to stay on the field and get more plays."

The Tigers converted just 4-13 opportunities on third down vs. Washington State.

"If you don't get those third downs converted, you are not going to get your tempo going," Lashlee noted. "All those factors contributed. I look back at last year, our first game we didn't have many plays. The second game, we really spiked. Hopefully, we can get that same kind of improvement."

Lashlee said the offense played "jittery" football to start the game, but improved as the evening progressed. He said that was certainly true of quarterback Nick Marshall, who was making his Auburn debut.

"For the most part he didn't have a lot of mental busts," said Lashlee, who is also the position coach for the quarterbacks. "I felt like he called the right plays and protections and things we needed him to do. He didn't have a turnover.

"At the end of the day I tell him the quarterback's job is simple and it's to win the game. A lot of that has to do with protecting the football. Who cares how many yards you throw and how flashy it is, did you win the game or not? He did.

"I thought he was very conservative with the football, which is good," Lashlee added. "As you can see he opened up a little more in the second half and that's where we've got to go as an offense with him and everybody. We have to open it up and make some plays now."

Looking at the defense as a whole coordinator Ellis Johnson said he liked the performance of the secondary, said the linebacker play was average and that as a group the Tigers need to do a better job defending the run.

Auburn intercepted three passes in the game, one more than the entire 2012 team's total, and Johnson said his defenders could have easily finished with several more picks.

"We played a high-percentage of man coverage," Johnson said. "We just felt like like you almost have to against that style of offense. When we did mix zone coverage we got a pick on one of them, but we should have had one on another one that we dropped.

"You cannot play a high percentage of zone because they are extremely good at finding the space in zone coverage," Johnson said of Washington State's offense. "That was tough duty for our secondary. It's a thin group. Our depth has been decimated by different issues.

Robenson Therezie made two interceptions on Saturday night.

"It's harder to play man coverage than zone most of the time from the standpoint of conditioning because you have to finish every play and chase somebody. It's just a little bit more difficult, but I just thought they were outstanding. We didn't have an interference penalty. I thought the referees did a good job on both sides of that on both teams--didn't have an interference penalty, didn't have a holding penalty, had three interceptions and probably dropped two others.

"We really felt like we had a fourth one," he added. (Jonathon) Mincy felt like he caught that ball, but there just wasn't time in the game to challenge with the situation of our timeouts and everything. I just thought they did an outstanding job.

"During the course of the game we felt frustrated about the amount of pressure we were getting on the quarterback, but as we looked at the film he was throwing the ball very quickly at times," Johnson said. "We were a step or two away. A couple of other times, as we were peeling our defensive ends on the backs releasing out of the backfield, it took away some of our pressure. So toward the end, we started leaving the linebackers on the backs and we started getting some pressure with four guys. That wasn't as bad as we thought."

"The only thing that was really disappointing was we didn't really stop the run well when we were playing with two high safeties and that was as much my fault with the plan," Johnson added. "We should have adjusted it a little more quickly, changed it up a little bit with what we were doing. They kind of found an itchy spot and started scratching it. Although that's not their deal, it was effective for him.

Sophomore Josh Holsey, who made his first collegiate interception vs. Washington State, noted the Tigers had other opportunities to force turnovers in addition to the three interceptions, but said that overall he thought the defense had a solid opening night performance.

Holsey and his teammates in the secondary were busy from the start to the finish of their victory with Washington State quarterback Connor Halliday throwing 65 passes.

"You know you are going to get a lot of opportunities to get your hands on the ball when they are throwing it 50 or 60-plus times a game," Holsey said. "I love playing teams that like to chunk it deep and like to try to put their best men out there and see who wins."

The Tigers gave up 21 points in the first half, but just three more in the third quarter and shut out the Cougars in the final period. "Everybody really bought in--the whole defensive line, the linebackers, the whole secondary--that we weren't going to let them score any more," the sophomore safety said. In other news and notes:

*Saturday's game vs. Arkansas State will kick off at 6:30 p.m. CDT at Jordan-Hare Stadium. The game will be televised on Fox Sports Net. The Tigers have a 2-0 record all-time vs. the Red Wolves with the last meeting a 52-26 Auburn victory in 2010.

*Arkansas State returned 13 starters from a 10-3 team that lost to Oregon, Nebraska and Western Kentucky last season. The Red Wolves opened the 2013 season with a 62-11 smashing of Arkansas Pine-Bluff in a game that was total mismatch. Arkansas State racked up 509 rushing yards with four players gaining at least 100 on the ground by senior David Oku's 124 yards on 16 carries.

Alex Kozan

*Lashlee praised redshirt freshman left guard Alex Kozan for performing well in his first college start. Greg Robinson had the highest OL grade with a 90 and Kozan was next with an 88, according to Robinson, a returning starter at left tackle.

*Robenson Therezie's first Auburn start was a memorable one. The junior "star" rover made a career-high seven solos tackles with one assist while intercepting two passes on his way to being named SEC Defensive Player of the Week.

Fellow defender Holsey had praise for his teammate's performance vs. Washington State. "Therezie's going to be one heck of a defender," the safety said. "We needed him to step up when JG (Justin Garrett) went down and that is what he did."

"We are glad to have him out there," Holsey said of Therezie, moved from cornerback to the "star" role in spring training. "He is a good, smart player and he works hard."

Garrett injured his foot in Auburn's second scrimmage. Although Garrett warmed up with the team in pre-game the coaches decided that he wasn't full speed yet and decided to hold him out of action on opening night. Johnson said the Tigers are hoping Garrett will be ready to play vs. Arkansas State.

*Therezie was one of three defenders who made their first collegiate start vs. Washington State along with ends Craig Sanders and LaDarius Owens. Offensively, quarterback Nick?Marshall and guard Alex Kozan were the first-time starters.

*Six true freshmen played in the opener. Tackle Montravius Adams, "star" Mackenro Alexander plus ends Elijah Daniel and Carl Lawson contributed on defense while receiver Marcus Davis helped on offense and running back turned cornerback Johnathan Ford got into the game as a special teams player.

More News, Notes & Discussion:

Auburn Notes, Part 8

Auburn Notes, Part 7

Auburn Notes, Part 6

Auburn Notes, Part 5

Auburn Notes, Part 4

Auburn Notes, Part 3

Auburn Notes, Part 2

Auburn Notes, Part 1

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