Improvement Needed On Both Sides Of The Ball

Auburn, Ala.--Following a survival game Saturday night in Nashville that saw the Auburn Tigers squeak out a 24-21 win over the Vanderbilt Commodores, the team wasted little time in getting back to work as they practiced for just over an hour Sunday afternoon focusing on correcting the mistakes from the previous night.

Continuing problems on offense with penalties and turnovers are becoming more than a mild concern for the Auburn coaching staff and coordinator Noel Mazzone said they'll be working on those problems all week in preparation for the Mississippi State Bulldogs coming in this weekend.

"After four games we've still got a long ways to go," Mazzone noted after Sunday's light practice. "Not as much assignment mistakes--it's just foolish penalties. At least we did a better job protecting the football this week than we did the week before, but foolish penalties obviously killed us, really hurt us this week. After four games, to be a consistent offense you can't do those things."

While the offense struggled at every turn to sustain drives and move the football consistently, Mazzone did single out a couple of players as having good games. It's not surprising that tight end Robert Johnson would be one of the players mentioned with his big catches and outstanding blocking Saturday night, but an offensive lineman also impressed the coordinator with his play.

"Hart McGarry really played probably one of his better games since he's been here," Mazzone said. "I thought Robert Johnson...obviously his is a little more visual because you can really see it when a kid like that does it, he made some big plays for us. I thought he played well."

Defensively, it was hard to find anything to be excited about following the performance against Vanderbilt. Allowing Commodore runner Lew Thomas to shred the defense almost at will for much of the game, the Tiger defenders said this week would have to see improvement in the tackling or the same things will continue to happen with games against Mississippi State and Florida on the horizon.

"We have to get back to fundamentals," defensive end Reggie Torbor said. "We started off playing six good quarters of football, four against Ball State and two against Ole Miss. We haven't played good since then. We barely won and caught some breaks that helped us, but we didn't tackle well and we aren't swarming to the football. We had a lot of loafs and things like that. Last night we played one of the worst ball games since I've been here and we have to get back to fundamentals. The type of defense we play we're supposed to stop the run and two weeks in a row we've had guys with 150 yards rushing. You can't win like that."

The Tigers take Monday off before going back to work Tuesday to get ready for the Jackie Sherrill coached Bulldogs, fresh off a 52-0 walloping at the hands of the Florida Gators Saturday afternoon in Gainesville. Kickoff for Saturday night's game is scheduled for 6 p.m and can be seen nationally on ESPN2. It is a sellout.

Inside the Auburn Tigers Magazine and Football Newsletter

Inside The AU Tigers Top Stories