AU Preparing For Noisy Night In Baton Rouge

News, notes and quotes from Auburn's Wednesday evening football practice are featured.

Auburn, Ala.--Gus Malzahn put his football team through what he called a "solid night" full pads workout that lasted more than two hours on Wednesday evening as his Tigers prepare for their first road trip of the year.

The Auburn coach said the focus was on third downs and production in the red zone as his team will head to Baton Rouge hoping for an upset of LSU, a Top 10 opponent.

"We have put noise in practice quite a bit," said Malzahn as his team prepares for one of the loudest venues in football.

"Our guys should be used to it," he added, noting the Tigers practiced with crowd noise in preseason as well as at the Tuesday and Wednesday workouts this week.

The Tigers will have a light workout on Thursday rehearsing the game plan in Auburn and then on Friday will fly to Baton Rouge where they will have a walk-through at Tiger Stadium. "We like to get familiar with things when it is possible," he said. "Sometimes it is, sometimes it is not."

Offensively, Malzahn said he wants his team to be more consistent with the passing attack, especially with wide receivers having some issues catching balls within their reach. "We have to get a lot more consistent in that area," he said. "We did have some drops the other night.

"Some of them were key drops," he added. "If we are going to be a solid offense we have to eliminate those things. I know Coach (Dameyune) Craig has worked extremely hard and Coach (Rhett) Lashlee has, too. We just need to grow up and be more consistent at that area."

The early forecast for Saturday night in Baton Rouge calls for a good chance of rain. Malzahn said the Tigers have done wet ball practices during the preseason, but none so far this week.

"We have practiced out in the rain a time or two,"?he said. "I think the big thing there is keeping footballs dry and doing a good with that. We will definitely be ready for that if it presents itself."

Malzahn said with LSU's talent and speed on defense it is important to challenge its secondary. "We can't be one-dimensional against them, there is no doubt. We are going to have to have balance to be successful."

Starting left offensive tackle Greg Robinson said he is eager to see if his team can extend its winning streak on Saturday night vs. LSU.

"I am looking forward to going back to my home state," said Robinson, who was a heavily recruited prospect at Thibodaux High School where he played with another Auburn Tiger, junior wide receiver Trovon Reed.

Greg Robinson

"We are doing our best in preparing and getting ready to go to Baton Rouge," said Robinson, a redshirt sophomore who is considered an NFL?prospect.

Robinson pointed out that winning a game on a do-or-die drive like his team did last Saturday night vs. Mississippi State is a confidence builder for the Auburn offense, which drove 88 yards on 12 plays to pull out a 24-20 victory.

"The energy was real high and we were anxious to see if we could score a touchdown or at least tie and go to overtime," he said. "Once we got near the end zone, we realized we could get a touchdown."

"There were a lot of negative things and letting the game be so close was certainly a negative," he said about a game during which the Tigers had trouble consistently running the football. "Our hearts were really pumping. We had to make something happen at the end. I really didn't want to leave the field with a loss."

Senior defensive end Dee Ford said the exciting come from behind victory over Mississippi State in the SEC opener was just as big a positive on the other side of the line of scrimmage as the Tigers kept Mississippi State off the scoreboard in the fourth quarter giving Auburn an opportunity to win the game with one more touchdown.

"That was what we needed," said Ford, who made his season debut vs. Mississippi State after missing the first two games with a knee injury. "It was definitely good for our defense."

Dee Ford is shown on Saturday night during his return to action after suffering a preseason injury.

Malzahn said he saw Ford get better as the game progressed last week. "This week I think he will be more comfortable than he was last week," the coach said.

One of the players who noted that he is excited about heading to Tiger Stadium on Saturday night is junior defensive end LaDarius Owens. "It will be my first time playing down there,"?he said. "Two years ago when we played there I was hurt and didn't make the trip."

Owens noted that he can tell his team is excited with its start. "I believe we have momentum and knowing that we can win at the end of a tight game builds a bond on the team. It feels great to be 3-0, something we haven't been in a while (since 2010). Getting that first SEC win was big."

In other news and notes:

*Senior cornerback Chris Davis is expected to miss the game with an ankle injury suffered in week two that kept him sidelined vs. Mississippi State even though the head coach lists Davis as "day to day." Fellow senior Ryan White is expected to take his place again in the starting lineup and Malzahn said that freshmen Kamryn Melton and Johnathan Ford are available if needed.

Ryan White

"I thought he was very solid," Malzahn said of White, who made his first start since the opening game of the 2012 season vs. Clemson. "He showed a lot of toughness, a lot of grit. He really came through when we needed him."

Commenting on Melton and Ford, Malzahn said, "Both of them are talented. They are just lacking in experience. I know if coaches put them in the game they will feel confident in them."

*Quan Bray took over the punt return duties last week with Davis out. Malzahn said receivers Trovon Reed and Marcus Davis are also available for that assignment if needed this week. "Those guys have gotten a lot of reps," he said.

*Defensive coordinator Ellis Johnson said he has been concerned about his group allowing opponents too many yards even though the Tigers are giving up just 17.7 points per contest, which ranks fourth in the SEC. Auburn is 12th in SEC total defense with opponents averaging 440.3 yards per game.

Auburn is ninth in rushing defense with opponents averaging 157.3 yards per game and last of the SEC's 14 teams in passing yards surrendered at 276.3 per contest.

*On the plus side defensively, the Tigers have improved in the second halves of their three victories and have yet to allow any points in the fourth quarter.

Against Mississippi State the Tigers defended 13 plays in the first quarter and gave up 132 yards and six points. In the second quarter AU defended 23 plays and allowed 110 yards and seven points.

In the third quarter the Tigers defended 14 plays for 104 yards and gave up seven points, the only second half touchdown Auburn has allowed this year. In the fourth quarter the Bulldogs kept the football for 18 plays and managed just 69 yards.

*Auburn is off to a 3-0 start for the 48th time in school history. Those Auburn teams combined to finish their seasons with a record of 349-102-12, which is a .767 winning percentage.

*LSU is ranked sixth and seventh in the major polls this week. Auburn has a record of 97-141-6 all-time against ranked opponents and is 5-15 vs. ranked LSU teams.

*Since the SEC expanded in 1992 and switched to a divisional play format, Auburn has a 47-36 (.556 winning percentage) record in league road games. That ranks fifth behind Florida (69-25, .734), Alabama (56-30, .651), Georgia (58-36-1, .616) and Tennessee (51-34, .600).

*In last year's game vs. LSU the Bayou Bengals took a 12-10 victory at Jordan-Hare Stadium, which started a five-game losing streak for Auburn, which never recovered from that on the way to finishing 3-9. LSU went on to post a 10-3 record.

In that game linebacker Jake Holland had one of his best performances as he was in on 13 tackles, second that day behind 16 stops for Chris Davis. "The season could have turned around last year if we won that game, but that's in the past and for sure we're looking forward to being 4-0," Holland said.

*With Tiger Stadium traditionally being a loud venue, especially for night games, quarterback Nick Marshall and Auburn offense will face the first communication challenge of the season.

Junior tight end C.J. Uzomah noted that the Tigers do most of their pre-snap adjustments with hand signals.

C.J. Uzomah caught the game-winning pass last week vs. Mississippi State with 10 seconds left.

"Especially this week, we are going to have use a lot more hand signals than we have been and Nick is going to have to go up to the line," Uzomah said. "He gives us the hand signals and we look to the sideline for hand signals, but as far as the line is concerned he is going to have to go up to probably each individual player just to tell them the protection if we check the play."

*Ten different Tigers have caught passes so far this season. Against Mississippi State each of those players, with exception of fullback Jay Prosch, caught a pass as Nick Marshall threw for 339 yards, the most by an Auburn quarterback since Brandon Cox finished with 343 vs. Georgia Tech in 2005.

*Kickoff for Saturday's game is 6:45 p.m. CDT with TV coverage on ESPN. Brad Nessler will do the play by play with Todd Blackledge the analyst and Holly Rowe the sideline reporter. Blackledge attended Auburn's Wednesday practice.

*Radio coverage on The Auburn Network can be found on Sirius Channel 94 and XM 201.


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