Tuberville And Coaches Focusing On Iron Bowl

Coach Tommy Tuberville talks about the annual Iron Bowl and the rumors of a possible coaching change.

Auburn, Ala.--Saturday's annual Iron Bowl meeting between Auburn and Alabama is a game filled with disappointment and what could have been this season as both the Tigers and Crimson Tide come into the game struggling to put an end to a forgettable season. Auburn Coach Tommy Tuberville said that this season has been a tough one for the players and coaches because they haven't performed to their expectations.

"I can't speak for Alabama, but we're surprised and disappointed," Tuberville said on the 2003 season to this point. "Knowing that we had a tough schedule coming into the year we would have hoped to play better. There were several teams on our schedule that we knew we were going to have to play very well against, especially the two on the road Georgia and LSU, knowing that they were going to have good football teams. We didn't play that well and obviously that's how we've got our losses."

Because of this season many speculate that Tuberville and his staff are skating on thin ice to remain in Auburn after this season. With a 6-5 record heading into the regular season's final game after opening the year in the top-10 of most polls, the Tigers have been one of the biggest underachievers in recent memory. Tuberville said that while they haven't done nearly as well as they hoped he feels like everything remains unchanged at the moment with the staff heading into next season.

"We plan on being here, going recruiting next week, coaching the bowl game, finish up on a good recruiting year and having spring practice," Tuberville said. "That's how you have to look at it."

Much of this season's problems have come on offense where the Tigers are averaging 26 points per game this season. That number drops dramatically though when looking at Auburn's stronger opponents. Taking out games against Vanderbilt, Western Kentucky, Mississippi State and Louisiana-Monroe, Auburn has scored just 75 points in seven games. Those numbers make for a long season and this has been a marathon for the Tigers.

The lack of offense prowess can be attributed to many things. Play calling and the offensive system are obviously two things lacking, but the running game has also been a missing component this season in crunch time. Whether it's because of a lack of use like Saturday night at Georgia or just not getting the job done, the simple fact is that opponents have taken away Auburn's running game this season when they couldn't do the same last year.

Plays like this near miss by wide receiver Jeris McIntyre have been one of the problems in Auburn's offense this season as teams load up in the box to stop the run.

Last season Auburn averaged five yards fewer passing per game than this season, but opponents failed to slow down a Tiger running game they knew was coming. In 2003 teams have kept Carnell Williams, Ronnie Brown and company in check way too often leading to inept offensive days and losses. Tuberville said they've still run the ball successfully, but not making plays in the passing game has haunted them all season.

"You've got to throw it some," Tuberville said. "You've got to get people off of you. We did the same thing last year. We've had to throw it and get that extra safety out of the box. That's just the bottom line. We still have a 1,000 yard rusher. It's not like we haven't run the ball or gained yards rushing."

Auburn will attempt to regroup and close out the season on a high note with a victory over Alabama Saturday in Jordan-Hare Stadium. Unlike any game either team plays all season, Tuberville said this one is one that you have more information and scouting reports on than any other and it comes down to who does a better job of packing into just one week of work.

"It's a bowl game packed into four or five days," Tuberville said. "The intensity, the preparation and the forethought of what you want to do. We do a little bit on this game every week. All the coaches and players know that anytime we talk about situations usually the Iron Bowl comes up. Everybody remembers that moment. There's a lot of thought that goes into this three-hour game coming up."

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