Tigers More Focused In Wednesday Practice

Auburn, Ala.--Thankful for interruptions from two rain showers, the second lasting more than 10 minutes, the Auburn Tigers continued their preparations for the LSU Tigers with a two-hour practice Wednesday in shorts and shoulder pads.

Now a day removed from the terrible tragedies in New York City, Washington, D.C. and suburban Pennsylvania, coach Tommy Tuberville said his team looked a little more focused in the workout as compared to Tuesday.

Also helping the mental framework of the team was the news of a final decision on Saturday's game. After much deliberation by the conference office and by presidents and athletic directors from all 12 member institutions, it was decided that the games should continue for this weekend despite cancellations by the PAC 10 and ACC Conferences with others still in limbo.

"We had a better practice today than we did yesterday," said Tuberville. "Obviously there weren't a lot of minds on playing football (Tuesday), but I think the guys worked through it yesterday and today we were much more focused on what we will do. I think now it's settled that we're going to play the game. That was part of the reason because everybody was wondering ‘what are we practicing for?' The game is on and this will be a gigantic game for both teams."

The healthiest Auburn team of the season is expected to line up on Saturday night as all but Philip Pate and Nate French were on the practice field Wednesday. Wide receivers Marcel Willis and Deandre Green both looked closer to full speed during offensive drills and defensively Rashaud Walker was running without any noticeable limp for the first time since his injury. This is good news for Auburn as all will be counted on heavily not only this Saturday but in weeks to come as the Tigers play the first of three straight road games.

Heading into a hostile environment this weekend when they travel to Baton Rouge, it's going to be important for the Auburn offense to get off to a good start that will keep the loud, rowdy "Death Valley" crowd out of the game. Following two solid performances against Ball State and Ole Miss, tight end Lorenzo Diamond said the offense must now finish what they have started in each game.

Lorenzo Diamond at Wednesday's practice

"I've been fairly pleased," Diamond said of the offensive performance thus far. "We haven't played up to our potential yet, we've made a lot of mental mistakes and a lot of errors in the offense. We played three quarters last Saturday and we're going to have to play the whole game, all four quarters, in order to win this game. Everybody knows that so practice this week is going to have to be intense, everybody is going to have to be focused and ready to go on Saturday."

As one of the few Tiger players that has played a game at LSU, Diamond knows his job as a leader takes on extra importance as Auburn prepares for what will likely be its biggest road test of the season. With young skill players making up the majority of the offense, Diamond said there are a few jobs for him this week in practice and off the field as well.

"Just letting them know it's going to be hostile out there," he said of his job. "Let them know that they are going to have to stay focused and stay calm. Things may not always go our way sometimes but we can't get out of our game plan. We have to stay within our means on offense and defensively just go get them. For the youngsters they're going to have to stay focused. It's going to be loud, be hostile and people are going to be screaming at you so you're going to have to take that in stride."

While a decision has been made to play the game, there are several factors that are still to be decided. First and foremost is the question of how Auburn gets to Baton Rouge. With air travel still restricted and the threat of further delays, school officials have already made arrangements to bus the team over Friday if necessary. If they get word that flights will be allowed before they leave Friday, they will bus to Montgomery for a charter flight bound for Louisiana.

Also, there is a question of game times. With the ACC suspending play for this weekend, ESPN is now without a prime time game because of its original plans to carry the Georgia Tech-Florida State game. There is the possibility that AU could move into the earlier time slot. If the game remains on ESPN2, kickoff is set for 8 p.m. an can be seen nationwide.

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