Auburn, Ala.--Coming off a four overtime loss at Arkansas last Saturday the Auburn Tigers will need to continue to progress offensively under the guidance of quarterback Sean White this weekend with a powerful Ole Miss team coming to Jordan-Hare Stadium.
Without a turnover in three games and improved play in the red zone, Coach Rhett Lashlee said at the moment there is plenty to build on for his team.
“We have gotten better, we are protecting the football better,” Lashlee said. “That’s three straight games we haven’t had a turnover. I don’t think we’ve had a lot of sloppy penalties for the most part. We had about one in each game that we don’t need to have, so that’s still one too many, but it hasn’t been a penalty fest.
“The discipline and those things have been good. Our guys have been playing really hard so from that standpoint, I think we are getting guys with some continuity of where they need to be, and some chemistry. It just comes down to making the plays, and not. Against Kentucky we made the plays down the stretch, last week we were one play short.
“I think we are getting better, it’s just there’s a fine, fine line. When you play in a tight game like that, and you don’t win, you don’t feel good at all. The challenge for us as a team, as a offense, as coaches and players you have to keep fighting. We have to find a way to break through and make the next step to make those plays to win those games.”
Making plays for this Auburn team may begin in the passing game with White completing 63.9 percent of his throws for 805 yards in his four starts, but the redshirt freshman has still yet to throw a touchdown. That’s something that isn’t a huge concern, Lashlee said, noting the Tigers have been successful scoring on the ground the last three weeks, but sooner or later they’re going to need to hit some big scoring plays through the air.
When they do it’s likely two players will be at the center of the attack, senior Ricardo Louis and sophomore Jason Smith. Even though Louis still had a solid day numbers-wise against Arkansas in the loss he had several big drops that cost the offense dearly. It was something that took its toll on Louis following the game, but Lashlee said he’s come back this week and showed why he’s one of the leaders on this team.
“He’s been great,” Lashlee said. “He’s a competitor. He made a lot of big catches, but I think there is some that he wishes he could have back.
“It says a lot about someone who it means that much to him. It’s really important to him and he wants to be that guy that can step up and make some of those plays. We’re going to keep giving him chances.”
Although Smith has just seven catches for 84 yards this season there is no question he’s a guy the Tigers need to become a bigger part of things down the stretch. Carrying the ball for the first time this season and getting in the end zone from nine yards out, Smith has the ability to go the distance at any time and Lashlee said that’s what they need on offense at the moment.
“I think Jason did some really good things,” Lashlee said. “You can really see the confidence level increasing after a game like that. Jason is definitely a guy we are counting on during the stretch.”
A player who has been used in a number of different ways this season is Stanton Truitt, but the speedy receiver was injured again on Saturday. Sitting out the entire second half with a shoulder injury, Truitt is a player the Tigers could be without once again this weekend said Lashlee.
“He’s okay," Lashlee said. "It’s kind of day-to-day right now. We’re just kind of taking it day to day and we’ll see. He showed great toughness trying to hang in there, though.”
Tiger Ticket Notes: Lashlee said the team has responded well in practice this week after a tough loss on the road Saturday. Playing what amounts to almost an extra half of football against Arkansas the team was given Sunday night off from on-the-field activities and focused on correcting mistakes. Lashlee said since that time it has been all business.
“Anytime you lose a game, obviously when you lose it that way, it takes a while,” Lashlee said. “I think Sunday and Monday they had time to get over it and I was really pleased Tuesday with their energy. They just got to keep fighting. We’re getting better but we just have to make plays. We’ve had two days getting ready for Ole Miss and we’re ready to roll.”
Kickoff for Saturday’s game against the Rebels is scheduled for 11 a.m. ESPN.