Physical Play Remains Focus For Tigers

Auburn's defense focused on improving against the run on Sunday while Rhett Lashlee and the offense remain on a roll following the blowout of Tennessee.

Auburn, Ala.--Making a jump to No. 7 in the BCS standings following an impressive 55-23 win over Tennessee, the Auburn Tigers got back to work with a light practice on Sunday night that focused on correcting mistakes. While coach Ellis Johnson's defense once again stood tall in the red zone the inconsistency continues to be a problem and it showed up mostly at the linebacker position.

"I don't think we played extremely well," Johnson said. "Jake (Holland) had two missed tackles. I think Kris (Frost) had three missed tackles. Kris (Frost) hurt his shoulder and and he was obviously favoring it a couple of times. He had more what I would call a broken tackle than a missed tackle. Anthony (Swain) only played 10 plays. He had one missed tackle.

"I thought it was all very up and down and inconsistent," he added. "When you totaled up the production, we made a lot of tackles but I thought we left a lot of plays on the field that we could have made."

That even included leading tackler Cassanova McKinzy. Leading the team with 10 tackles in the win, the sophomore made several big plays but Johnson said his game continues to be up and down.

"Had a couple of different formations that confused him a little bit," Johnson said. "I thought he was a little bit inconsistent on his base run fits but he really made a lot of plays, a lot of tackles."

The good news for the linebackers is that Frost should be ready to go this week after suffering a stinger against Tennessee. Saying it's something he recognized right away, the sophomore was back at practice on Sunday and said the focus for the group continues to be run fits.

"Well, basically, it's just run-stopping, filling gaps and knowing when the safeties are coming down and knowing where your help is coming from," Frost said. "That's what we're really going to be working on this week, knowing that Georgia has a good running game. We're going to have to be prepared going into this game, preparing for that."

While the defense is continuing to shore up some soft spots in the running game, the Auburn offense doesn't have that problem. Pounding opponents into submission with Nick Marshall running the show, the Tigers had one of the better games ever against an SEC opponent on Saturday. Led by Marshall's 214 yards on the ground, the most by any SEC player this season, Auburn ran the ball 53 times for 444 yards. That total was the most in school history against a league opponent, besting the school record of 440 against LSU in 2010.

The key has been Marshall. With 63 carries for 586 yards and seven touchdowns in his last five games, Auburn offensive coordinator Rhett Lashlee said the key to Marshall's play has been because of a multitude of things starting with his feel for the game.

"He got a few more opportunities to keep the ball," Lashlee said. "I don't know if it's because of the way Tre (Mason) has played the last few weeks or not. For whatever reason, he had a good feel on some of them. They were overplaying Tre a little bit and he was keeping the ball. What he did really well was … when it was there, he showed a good burst on a couple of those runs. A lot of times there was a free hitter, a free safety or an outside back, and he made them miss or outran then. We feel like if you can get Nick one-on-one with someone out in space, we're going to win more of those battles than we lose."

Throwing just 16 total passes in the last two games as a team, Auburn's offense knows that sooner or later the passing game will have to take center stage. It could be this week against an improving Georgia defense that is fourth in the SEC allowing just 126 yards per game. Lashlee said when the time comes they'll be ready to throw the ball, but until that is needed they'll be happy to keep running it.

"Balance is taking what the defense give you; plain and simple," Lashlee said. "Just about every time we called a run we were getting 8 to 12 yards a play. Like I said, it goes back to me, there's a couple of times you find yourself saying ‘OK let's throw it this down' and you bring up a good point – hey let's throw them off or something.

"You throw someone off when they're on to you or they're stopping what you're doing or you achieve balance when they are stopping what you're doing in the run games, now I've got to throw it to stay balanced so now they can back up and we can run it more. The way we were running the ball, there was no need to do anything other than run the ball. That's just that plain and simple."

BCS Standings

1. Alabama (9-0) .9958
2. Florida State (9-0) .9619
3. Ohio State (9-0) .8926
4. Stanford (8-1) .8689
5. Baylor (8-0) .8618
6. Oregon (8-1) .7665
7. Auburn (9-1) .7206
8. Clemson (8-1) .7200
9. Missouri (9-1) .7118
10. South Carolina (7-2) .5584
11. Texas A&M (8-2) .5473
12. Oklahoma State (8-1) .4671
13. UCLA (7-2) .4548
14. Fresno State (9-0) .4317
15. Northern Illinois (9-0) .3505
16. Michigan State (8-1) .3417
17. Central Florida (7-1) .3411
18. Oklahoma (7-2) .2926
19. Arizona State (7-2) .2833
20. Louisville (8-1) .2806
21. LSU (7-3) .2757
22. Wisconsin (7-2) .2612
23. Miami, Fla. (7-2) .1471
24. Texas (7-2) .1092
25. Georgia (6-3) .0857

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