Advantage Offense In A-Day 2004

A detailed report on Auburn's spring football game is featured.

Auburn, Ala.--It's usually true that both the offensive and defensive coaches can't come away from a spring intrasquad football game happy about what transpired on the field.

That was the case on Saturday as a sun-drenched crowd of 30,700 fans watched the first team offense win the majority of the battles on A-Day 2004.

With Jason Campbell running the first team offense vs. the first team defense in the opening half, it didn't take long to put a touchdown on the scoreboard. On the third play of the afternoon at Jordan-Hare Stadium, Carnell Williams burst through a hole in the right side of the line and raced 58 yards for a score.

The second offense also scored on its first possession, driving 70 yards on eight plays with Brandon Cox calling the signals. The touchdown came on a five-yard bootleg pass play to tight end Cole Bennett. However, walk-on kicker Matt Clark missed the PAT.

The defense recovered and played better in the second half, but for a second straight Saturday the theme of the scrimmage was that the offense was ahead of the defense.

"My ears were ringing at halftime after listening to all of the defensive coaches scream and holler so I guess they got their attention a little bit," noted head coach Tommy Tuberville. "We just weren't getting off blocks. I think what happens is when you scrimmage the way we have been scrimmaging the last couple of times and running your stunts and slants you depend on that too much.

"You have got to be able to play base defense," Tuberville added. "People are going to be able to block those stunts and blitzes and you are going to have to be able to line up and say, ‘Listen, we are going to have to beat somebody in base defense.' Right now we are not good enough to do that, but today is a starting point. I think we got a little bit better in the second half after the coaches got their attention."

Jason Campbell competed eight of his 10 passes.

The defense finally forced a punt on the second possession by the first offense after six plays. The second defense got its first stop on the next possession to set up a safety when a snap to punter Kody Bliss was over his head and rolled out of the end zone.

Campbell and the first team offense quickly added another TD with a 70-yard drive to make the score 16-6. The big play on the march was a 39-yard deep sideline pass route to wide receiver Devin Aromashodu, who literally knocked himself out diving to make the play. He left the game for the rest of the day with a concussion, but is expected back at Tuesday's practice.

The touchdown came on a third and goal call from the two as Campbell hit Ronnie Brown on a play-action pass for a two-yard score. For the day, the offense scored on all of five of its trips into the red zone.

The second team offense, not to be outdone, matched that score by driving 70 yards for a score with the game's Most Valuable Offensive Player Brandon Cox and newcomer tailback Kenny Irons leading the way. Irons, who caught a 15-yard screen pass to set up the score, ran into the end zone from five yards out to continue his impressive play this spring.

"We wanted to really put pressure on our quarterbacks, especially our young guys and see what they could do," Tuberville said. "I thought Brandon, looking with a naked eye, did a pretty good job of throwing the ball down the field, making plays and staying in the pocket. Kelcy Luke is going to be just the opposite. He is a guy who is going to get outside the pocket and make plays on the run."

Cox hit 12-13 passes for 206 yards and two touchdowns. The only downside was his continued struggles with ball-handling, something that offensive coordinator and QB coach Al Borges was fussing about after the scrimmage.

"I thought he performed pretty well for the most part," Borges said. "He still has a few things he needs to iron out." Auburn's new offensive coordinator added, "We are not a finished product. We make some mistakes that in the fall are going to hurt us. Thank goodness it is spring."

Tuberville said he would have been disappointed if the offense didn't have a good day because the defense stayed in its base formations most of the day. AU converted five of nine third downs in the first half and 7-17 for the game.

"Our offensive line--this was the day we really challenged them to move the ball on the line of scrimmage and throw the ball down the field because we didn't allow the defense to do a lot," Tuberville noted.

"If we couldn't move the ball today offensively then it means we need to go back to the drawing board," the head coach added. "We moved it fairly well consistently and made a lot of plays and our receivers caught the ball well. I thought Jason did a good job of running the offense--about the 15 percent of it we ran because we didn't run a whole lot.

"We will come back next week and add a little bit to our offense on Tuesday and have a much more wide open scrimmage with blitzes and different things defensively and run more of our offense at the last scrimmage next Wednesday here in the stadium."

Despite the defensive struggles, especially in the first half, Tuberville said A-Day 2004 was a positive experience for the fans and more than 200 prospects who checked out the Tigers. "It was a good day for everybody," he said. "It was a tremendous crowd, a good atmosphere, beautiful weather and we got something accomplished. We need to go on with it and finish up spring ball."

Junior wide receiver Ben Obomanu said he enjoyed the afternoon and said he is encouraged with the progress he and his teammates are making learning Borges' version of the West Coast Offense. "He hasn't made it too complicated and the pace that we have been learning it is real comfortable and everybody is having a good time," Obomanu said. "Some of the things we are doing are pretty impressive and we are looking forward to the season."

Ben Obomanu is fighting to regain his first string status.

Campbell had a solid day running the first offense. He hit 8-10 passes for 96 yards. His only bad play was a wobbly deep ball that was intercepted by safety Andrew Letts. The fifth-year senior watched from the sidelines the entire second half as Cox took over the first team and Kelcy Luke ran the second offense. Luke completed 2-6 passes, but was unlucky when walk-on wideout Jamoga Ramsey missed a very well thrown pass from the redshirt freshman QB.

Running with the first offense, Cox hit his second TD pass on a 58-yard pass play to Silas Daniels to cap a three-play, 70-yard drive in the third quarter.

The final score came in the third quarter when John Vaughn kicked a 28-yard field goal when the first defense stopped Tre Smith twice on second and two and third and one to set up the short kick, the only field goal attempted in the game. Smith led all rushers with 99 yards on 13 carries. The Cadillac was in racing form, averaging 17.5 yards on his four carries.

The fourth quarter, which featured second, third stringers and others, was a brief one with just 17 snaps before the final whistle blew.

"The receivers and everybody are staying on their toes because they know they are going to have an opportunity to make plays in this offense," said Campbell, who added that he is excited about the possibilities on offense for the 2004 Tigers. "We have an opportunity to be explosive," he said.

Defensive coordinator Gene Chizik, for a second straight Saturday, was not pleased with the defensive performance and let the Tigers know it at halftime and after the game. "To put it simple, we were terrible," Chizik said. "There was absolutely no continuity and about the only bright spot was Antarrious hit somebody twice."

Williams had five solo tackles and fellow linebacker Derrick Graves led all tacklers with four solos and three assists. Redshirt freshman defensive end Stanley McClover, who had three solo tackles, two assists and a sack, was voted the defensive MVP.

"We challenged our defense to play hard," Tuberville said. "We didn't play any short yardage defenses. We did bring a linebacker about five or six times and run a zone blitz. I think Coach Chizik got a little unnerved about how much they were moving the ball, but again it was good, crisp blocks.

"We were holding at the line of scrimmage on longer snap counts. We are starting to change our snap count more. We are starting to check off at the line of scrimmage and communicate better. The big thing about offense is to be able to control the defensive line with your offensive line. We have got some problems on defense. We lost five of our front seven. We have got some guys who can get the job done, but we are not near where we were last year at this time on defense.

"Sometimes you get a false sense of judgement of where you are when you have a scrimmage like this," Tuberville added. "Overall, it was good offensively. Defensively, we have got a lot of work to do to catch up and get to where we need to be to win this conference."

Wide receiver Maurice Anderson battles cornerback Montae Pitts (19).

Passing: Brandon Cox 12-13-0, 2 TDs, 206; Jason Campbell 8-10-1, 96, 1 TD; Kelcy Luke 2-6-0, 33 yards.

Rushing Statistics: Tre Smith 13-99; Carnell Williams 4-70, 1 TD; Kenny Irons 15-61, 1 TD; Carl Stewart 8-26; Alex Howell 3-11; Ronnie Brown 5-8.

Receiving: Silas Daniels 3-84, 1 TD; Ben Obomanu 4-67; Devin Aromashodu 1-39; Carl Stewart 3-31; Brad Smith 1-19; Lee Guess 1-16; Tre Smith 1-13; Maurice Anderson 1-12; Evander Holyfield Jr. 1-11; Kenny Irons 1-15; Slaughter 1-9; Cole Bennett 1-5, 1 TD; Brown 2-4, 1 TD.

Leading Tacklers (solos/assists): Derrrick Graves 4-3; Montavian Collier 3-4; Will Herring 1-5; Antarrious Williams 5-0; Kevin Hobbs 4-1; Stanley McClover 3-2; Marquis Gunn 3-2.

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