Football Tigers Focus On Fundamentals

The Auburn Tigers returned to the football practice field on Tuesday evening as they try to rebound from their first loss of the season.

Auburn, Ala.--The Auburn football Tigers worked out for two hours in full pads on Tuesday evening with the focus on themselves rather than their next opponent, the Ole Miss Rebels, since that game is a week from Saturday.

Wide receiver Sammie Coates said, "This off-week we just have to focus on getting better working on the little things we didn't accomplish in the first half of the LSU game. That is what we are working on. We have that as motivation to see that it never happens again."

Auburn scored all three of its touchdowns vs. LSU after halftime on Saturday night.

Coates said at times this season the Tigers have been their own worst enemy with mistakes--turnovers, missed assignments and penalties. The sophomore pointed out the receivers worked on running precise pass routes in the Tuesday session and noted they did a good job of handling that assignment.

"Coming off the loss the guys know they never want to feel that way again because we had so many chances to win the game," he said of Auburn's 35-21 loss at LSU. "When we were out there at practice today we just focused up and did good things and kept working.

"It was a good practice," added Coates. "It was kind of slow in the middle, but we picked it up."

Coates finished with a career-high 139 receiving yards vs. LSU on four catches.

Senior defensive end Nosa Eguae agreed with Coates that the team was very disappointed it didn't come home from LSU with a victory. "It was a tough loss honestly," he said.

"Anytime you go down there and lose a game you worked so hard to get a victory for it is tough. We have moved on. We watched the film, we corrected mistakes on Sunday and today was a day to get better--to get better at the little things."

Eguae noted that the focus for the defensive linemen was first steps and using their hands on pass rush moves. "Getting back to the stuff we worked on in August," he noted.

Eguae has seen playing time at both end and tackle this season.

The senior end pointed out that the defense needs to get play better production in the first halves of games than they have so far in building a 3-1 record. He said "focus" is the key to making that happen. "Focus in meetings because we have been having really good Tuesday and Wednesday practices--focus in on the stuff we have to do on Mondays, and Thursdays when it is more of a walk-through practice, and on Friday walk-throughs."

Eguae noted he had his highest grade of the season vs. LSU, but isn't satisfied. "I have just got to continue to get better," he said. "I have to continue to focus on the little things and focus on my pass rush if I am playing inside or if I am playing outside."

Improving both defensively and offensively on third downs is another theme for the Tigers. The offense has had major trouble converting third down plays into first downs in the second quarters of games this season. Overall the Tigers are mediocre 24-60 (.400) on third down conversions, but just 1-11 in the second quarter of games. Auburn's best period for conversions is the first (10-18).

Offensive coordinator Rhett Lashlee said the second quarter slump is an issue the coaching staff is trying to get resolved during the off-week before the Tigers return to action on Oct. 5th vs. Ole Miss.

Auburn rushed for 213 yards vs. LSU and passed for 224 in its 35-21 loss to LSU. The Tigers didn't cash in on several scoring opportunities in Baton Rouge. "The difference between us just being okay and being really good is very small," Lashlee said.

"We are playing hard," the coach added. "They have bought into what we have asked them to do. I really believe that, but at some point you can't just play hard. That is not enough. You have got to play smart. You have got to execute. You can't have three penalties inside the five-yard line.

"We have had two or three touchdowns called back-- that's unheard of," Lashlee said. "You can't win doing that."

The Tigers are ranked ninth in SEC total offense this week at 439.5 yards per game. Auburn is fourth in rushing per game at 232.5 yards and 11th in passing yards per contest at 207.2.

The fourth quarter continues to be the best period for the Tigers. Auburn has outscored opponents 27-7 in the period. The Tigers also have an edge in the first (33-30) and third (27-23) quarters and have been outscored 28-27 in the second period.

LSU was the first team to score on the Tigers in the fourth quarter. That came on a 32-yard pass on the first play of the period on Saturday. Defensive coordinator Ellis Johnson said the points came as a result of two blown assignments in zone coverage.

"I thought the reason we probably played better in the fourth quarter or even in the second half was we ended up playing a lot of people," Johnson said. "By necessity or by luxury we have played a lot of guys...I think in some of those ball games it has made a difference in how we have finished. The other night we just dug too deep a hole to make it a difference in the second half."

Johnson said to take a step forward the defense needs to cut down on its mistakes. "We just still continue to have these five or six plays that are just ugly," he said. "Not to take anything from the opponent, but it's more self-inflicted and we have just got to get them cleaned up."

Auburn is ranked 13th in this week's SEC total defense statistics allowing 439.5 yards per game. Only Texas A&M at 475.2 trails the Tigers.

Auburn is 12th in rushing defense at 175.0 yards per outing and 13th in passing defense at 264.5 yards per contest.

In other news and notes:

*Auburn's offense is averaging 6.3 yards per play on first downs, 6.2 on second downs and 6.8 on third downs. The average drops to 1.8 on fourth down plays.

*Auburn has scored nine touchdowns and four field goals on trips inside the opposition's 20-yard line. AU's red zone percentage dropped from 100 to 92.9 by failing to score on its last possession of the LSU game. Auburn and Ole Miss are tied for the SEC lead.

*Game time for the Ole Miss vs. Auburn game a week from Saturday will be 2:30 p.m. CDT if televised by CBS or 6 p.m. if it is picked up by one of the ESPN networks. The game time is expected to be announced on Sunday. The Oct. 12 Homecoming game vs. Western Carolina will kick off at 1 p.m. and will be televised on a pay per view basis.

*With junior wide receiver Jaylon Denson suffering what is expected to be a season-ending knee injury vs. LSU, position coach Dameyune Craig has been working to get freshmen Marcus Davis and Tony Stevens ready for a larger role. Auburn's other scholarship freshman receiver, Dominic Walker, is being redshirted and unless there are more injuries at receiver that is not expected to change.

"Jaylon was a real good blocker, he was a physical player and he ran good routes, he would catch the ball and he is strong," Coates said of his teammate. "It is just something we have got to replace. We have got a lot of guys who can do it. We just have got to have them step up and do it since he is down."

Craig Sanders made his first three career starts to open the 2013 season.

*Eguae said he is encouraged with how fellow senior defensive end Craig Sanders is recovering from an ankle injury that kept him out of the LSU game and noted that Sanders is back at practice. "He is getting better every day," Egaue said.

*Kicker Cody Parkey said it was disappointing that the Tigers' comeback vs. LSU took a blow when his onside kick he recovered was overruled by the replay booth officials who decided the ball did not go the required 10 yards before he touched it.

"Coach called it up and that is a kick I pride myself on because we've gotten it twice before that," the senior said. "He called it up and I saw one guy right on top of me and I knew Jay (Prosch) would get him.

"When I kicked it I saw him coming right at me and I saw the 10 yards. Right when I saw the 10 yards, I grabbed it. I don't know. I thought I had it and it looked good on the replay and all the replays we saw, but apparently the refs thought otherwise."

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