Q&A With Mike Pucillo

Fayetteville, Ark.--Auburn senior offensive guard Mike Pucillo and editor Mark Murphy discuss the game as Auburn prepares for an SEC showdown at Reynolds Stadium on the University of Arkansas campus.

Editor's Note: This week's question and answer session features senior offensive guard Mike Pucillo, one of the most experienced players on the Auburn football team. Big Mike is having a strong senior season.

Mark Murphy: Talk about playing on the road and what you need to do to be successful?

Mike Pucillo: "Well, we haven't really played great on the road this season. We're really aiming towards just going out there and having a good game and being mentally ready--just treating it like a home game. We have put in a lot of time, practicing and polishing, so we can put together a good game on the road."

Mark Murphy: Was the last time you played at Arkansas probably one of the worst games your team has had offensively?

Mike Pucillo: "Definitely. It would be up there. It was just one of those games. The offensive line was beat up, our backs were injured, the quarterback got hurt, a little bit of everything was messed up. The defense was...I don't know.They just gave up a lot of runs, I know that. It was just one of those games you don't want to ever repeat again."

Mark Murphy: What is your opinion of the Arkansas defense this year?

Mike Pucillo: "Their defense is really good. They've got a lot of really good players. They're a big, physical defense that will get out there and get after you--just a standard SEC defense. They're really athletic. It has been keeping them in pretty much most of the games."

Mark Murphy: Talk about your offensive line, please. How are you guys playing at this stage of the season?

Mike Pucillo: "You know, we're feeling real good. We're feeling confident. I mean, we have our letdowns just like anybody else. But we feel that as a whole we've been playing pretty consistently and really trying to help our team. You know, we are trying to give 'the quarterbacks protection from sacks,and give the backs some running room. We've been staying healthy so far and that's the key to playing consistently."

Mark Murphy: South Carolina, a team playing very well offensively, was upset and scored just seven points vs. Arkansas. Is that an eye-opener for your team?

Mike Pucillo: It is and their defense is good and tough to run on. They're just a physical defense, and we look forward to that. I like physical defenses because we're going to be physical, too. Let the best person win."

Mark Murphy: Do you see the offense continuing to improve down the stretch?

Mike Pucillo: "Oh yeah, without a doubt. I mean, almost every game. Even the Syracuse game, which we lost, we got on little rolls where we moved the ball really well and everything was working. And we also go through periods where nothing's working. That's from inexperience. We feel like we're really coming along. And we've got a lot of potential to get a lot better."

Mark Murphy: How about the importance of the game this Saturday?

Mike Pucillo: "As a matter of fact, I'd say this game is very important to our team. You know that if we beat them and go to 5-0 ikn the SECwe are going to be feeling pretty good. You're just going to be in the driver's seat. with a win vs. Arkansas. You know that if we win we this one, we're going to be able to go into the last part of the season with a little breathing room, even though we know we're going to try to win them all. But, every SEC game is a huge game, and especially this one, with us being undefeated in the league."

Mark Murphy: Do you and the other seniors have a sense of urgency about this being your last chance to go to Atlanta to win the league title?

Mike Pucillo: "Yeah, there's no doubt. I mean that was my major goal in coming to Auburn. And as you know, I was a true freshman at the SEC Championship Game we lost by a point (to Tennessee in 1997). I wasn't playing in that game, but it hurt. I was playing when we went back last year and had a poor performance against Florida. This is my last chance and it is the same with all the seniors. We really feel like this could be our year. We're in the driver's seat, and we need to stay there and finish business."

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