Auburn, Ala.--The Auburn Tigers are preparing for a different type of game this Saturday as they get ready to take on run-oriented Vanderbilt a week after facing an Ole Miss team that threw the football 59 times vs. the Tigers.
Following a two-hour workout in shoulder pads, helmets and shorts on a warm fall evening on Wednesday, Defensive Coordinator
Kevin Steele said he liked what he saw in practice from his guys after a less than stellar performance in a 40-29 win last week in Oxford, Miss.
Steele noted that his defensive players seem focused in practice this week to fix the issues that showed up vs. the Rebels, including some inconsistent tackling, and noted that he likes that the “leadership” group among the players that is leading the charge for improvement.
“Obviously, they were happy to win, and there were some really good things, and we accomplished a lot of positives, but there were things that we could do better,” Steele said.
“We won the game and as Al Davis would put it, ‘just win baby,’ so that was big. It was not to our standard. I don’t think any of our players would tell you it was.
“We did some good things,” the coordinator pointed out. “We did some really, really good things. It was a very talented young man (quarterback Chad Kelly) who was taking the snap and he was very accurate. The receivers did a good job. We had to retool some things.
“As it got going it got hard to get things retooled on the sidelines, but we got everything retooled at halftime,” Steele said.
““I thought the guys responded hard. There were some key fourth-down stops and some forced field goals. You would like to not to have to be in a position to force field goals, but field goals are much better than touchdowns. Obviously in that game, it proved out to be so.
“What it did was give us an opportunity to get their attention,” Steele noted. “It gave us an opportunity to re-center ourselves and to do back to what got us where we are and that’s been a very big positive for this week. Not starting over, because you can’t do that, but that doesn’t exist in this world. We have re-centered what our priorities are.
“As far as this week goes we have to shift gears here because the team we’re playing is very well coached. They have got real solid players and good players at key positions. They do what they do and that is run the ball effectively, schematically as well as you can do it. They get a lot of hats in the gap. We’re going to have to fit the run well and tackle well.”
Leading the way for the Vandy offense is Ralph Webb, a 5-10, 202 junior who rushed for 1,152 yards last season and has 855 this year on 164 carries.
“He's a very good player,” Steele said. “He is relentless in what he does, just relentless. He has done it for a long time. It is not like he's all of a sudden started doing it. He is strong, he is quick, he has got good vision. He is a complete player, there's no doubt.”
Kickoff time for Saturday’s game at Jordan-Hare Stadium is 11 a.m. Auburn will be trying to win a sixth straight game. The Tigers are 6-2 overall and 4-1 in the SEC.
Vandy, winner of its last two games, is 4-4 overall and 1-3 in the SEC.
Against the Commodores the Tigers are going to be counting on the defensive front to be physical against an opponent likely to run the ball around 60 percent of the time.
A player who has been consistently good vs. the run is redshirt sophomore defensive tackle Dontavius Russell. “He knows the defense and understands how to play with technique and pad leverage and use his hands,” Steele said. “He is relentless and he is not selfish.
“The key about him, a lot of people want to see how many tackles they had, how many sacks they had, but this guy goes out and creates tackles for other people, creates sacks for other people,” Steele added. “He just keeps doing it.
“There’s not a selfish bone in his body,” the coach added. “He just plays the game and enjoys playing it at a high level. He epitomizes the guy we talk about of ‘hey, just play the next play.’”
Going into Saturday’s game Daniel Carlson is 17-18 on his field goal tries this year to lead the SEC in the category. The junior has 58 career field goals, which is two off the school record held by Wes Byrum.
“I have learned a lot of things along the way,” Carlson said when asked to explain his success at Auburn.
“Having a holder (Tyler Stovall) and snapper (Ike Powell) that do their job consistently at a high level, too, helps me to continue to push myself,”?he pointed out.
“I have really focused hard on executing every kick I am able to do,” added Carlson, the SEC Special Teams Player of the Week. “I have really focused in on trying to be as perfect as I can be.”
Carlson has made all of his 130 extra point attempts at Auburn and his 7-9 for his collegiate career on field goals of 50 yards or longer. The junior has an 89.9 percentage on touchbacks, which ranks No. 1 nationally.
In other news and notes:
*The Auburn Sports Network’s radio coverage can be heard on Sirius Channel 113 or XM 191 with Rod Bramblett handling play-by-play with Stan White the analyst, Ronnie Brown the sideline reporter, Andy Burcham the locker room reporter and Paul Ellen the studio host.
*ESPN’s television coverage will be handled by Mike Patrick, Ed Cunningham and Dr. Jerry Punch.
*Vandy has won the previous two games in the series with the last meeting a 17-13 game in 2012 at Nashville. The Tigers are 8-0 all-time vs. the Commodores in games played in Auburn. Overall, the Tigers are 21-7 in home games with Gus Malzahn as head coach.
*The Commodores are running the football on 58.4 percent of their offensive plays and Auburn’s percentage is 70.4. The Tigers have rushed for an SEC-leading 24 touchdowns. Vandy has 15 rushing touchdowns.
*Auburn’s defense has allowed just four rushing touchdowns, which is one behind SEC leader Alabama Overall, in four of Auburn’s games the opponents have failed to score more than one touchdown.
*The AU defense is ranked third nationally in red zone touchdowns allowed percentage, giving up TDs just 37.04 percent of the time when opponents move inside the Auburn 20-yard line.