Auburn, Ala.--The Auburn football Tigers returned to the practice field on Monday evening for a session in shorts and helmets focused on correcting mistakes made on offense and defense in game one.
Both offensive coordinator Rhett Lashlee and defensive coordinator Ellis Johnson said there are plenty of adjustments to be made despite their team’s 24-point margin of victory on Saturday vs. Arkansas.
“Overall, it was a solid effort,” Lashlee said. “The first half I thought we played well. The negatives in the first half, we had two penalties--a holding a personal foul facemask, and the second one called a touchdown back.
“Fortunately, in both cases we were able to convert the third down and still score a touchdown, but usually that doesn’t happen. The statistics will tell you most times if you have a touchdown called back it is not going to end well so we have to clean that up.”
Rhett Lashlee’s group finished the game with 595 yards of total offense.
The offense scored three touchdowns in the first half with two in the second half plus a field goal.
“The most disappointing part of the first half was probably the third and shorts,” Lashlee said. “We were 0-2 on two third and shorts. That is something we were really good at last year so we have really got to be better in that area moving forward.”
The second year Auburn coordinator added that he liked the maturity the offense showed in the second half in “finishing the game off” as the Tigers outscored the Razorbacks 24-0 in the final two quarters with the help of a defensive touchdown by Jermaine Whitehead. However, he said the two fumbles, one which was lost by Cameron Artis-Payne, is “unacceptable” for the Tigers. “We have got to get better there,” the coach said.
“Probably the best thing is we didn’t have any false starts or pre-snap penalties attributed to the players so that was a positive. Overall, a solid effort, but a lot of areas we can get better, especially a lot of detailed areas.”
Johnson, a veteran coordinator, said, “In a lot of ways it was a typical first game. It had some mistakes and things. Some younger guys getting their first chance to play in an environment like that made some mistakes and that is to be expected.
“I thought we were a little soft early--not really in the physical form I think we could play in,” he said. “Most of the issues were mis-alignments by some young kids, but for the most part we played pretty well. There were about five or six plays in the first half you can’t explain, but were some others where Arkansas lined up and out-executed us and did a heck of a job. You have to give them credit.
“The second half, we got a couple of things adjusted in the locker room and we really just challenged our players who weren’t playing up to level they can play--physicality and that type of thing. I thought we finished real well.”
Johnson said he hopes to use more players in game two when the Tigers take on San Jose State. “We didn’t get a lot of young guys in the backup roles enough work,” he said. “We were hoping they would get to play a lot more. We played a lot of people up in the front, but not young guys as much so we are hoping to get a lot more experience in that way and we have to continue to try to force that and get more guys some game action.”
The defensive coordinator said he wants to see more pressure on passing plays from his linemen, noting that against Arkansas most of the pressure on QB Brandon Allen came from blitzes.
Johnathan Ford said he had “a lot of fun” in his first college start. The sophomore played boundary safety after making a position move in spring training. Last season he played both running back and cornerback.
“I just love to be out there playing the game,” Ford said. “I was nervous but confident at the same time. I really wanted to focus in and do my job.”
Ford missed part of the game with what he said was a muscle cramp on the hot and humid day. “The doctors got right on that and fixed everything, “ said the defensive back, who was able to return to the game after being taken to the locker room for treatment.
The lightning delay helped the sophomore become re-hydrated. “I came back out 100 percent ready to go,” he said.
After struggling to stop Arkansas in the second half, the Tigers outscored the visitors 24-0 in the final two quarters.
Ford said the coaches and players weren’t happy with the first half results and talked about it in the locker room at halftime. “We play as one unit and any kind of mistakes we make we like to correct them together so that is what we tried to do. The second was like our half--it felt great. We just went out there and played ball.”
Commenting on Ford and his backup, Derrick Moncrief, Johnson said, “It was his first game starting and he made a few mistakes, but once we got them on the sideline a couple of times and ironed some things out and had some good halftime adjustments and got them settled down on that, most of it was very good. They were trying to play physical--just making mistakes.”
Ford was one of five Tigers who made their first starts. The group included sophomore Montravius Adams at end, sophomore Shon Coleman at left offensive tackle, junior D’haquille Williams at slot receiver while Daniel Carlson, who was named SEC Freshman of the Week, handled the kicking and punting duties.
In other news and notes:
*Carlson kicked off eight times vs. Arkansas and seven resulted in touchbacks. The only return was a 15-yarder on the opening kickoff. Despite struggling with his punts in pre-game warmups Carlson averaged 53.3 yards on his three punts with the longest a 62-yarder.
*Saturday’s home game matching the Tigers and San Jose State will kick off at 6 p.m. CDT at Jordan-Hare Stadium with TV coverage on ESPN2. While the opener was a sellout, tickets are available for game two. It will be the first football contest matching the Tigers and the Spartans, who play in the Mountain West Conference.
*Dave Pasch will do the play-by-play for ESPN2 with Brian Griese the analyst the analyst for the game vs. the Spartans, who opened with a 42-10 victory on Thursday vs. North Dakota.
*Auburn is looking to extend its 23-game home winning streak vs. non-conference opponents on Saturday. The last team to beat the Tigers at Jordan-Hare Stadium was South Florida in a 26-23 overtime contest in 2007.