Offense Plays Well In Road Opener At MSU

Coach Al Borges discusses Auburn's play against Mississippi State and getting ready for LSU.

Auburn, Ala.–-After watching Auburn's 43-14 blasting of Mississippi State Saturday afternoon in Starkville on film Coach Al Borges said that his unit played solid for the first road game of the year. With an offense that rushed for nearly 300 yards, Borges said there was little doubt which players stood out for the Tigers.

"We played pretty good," Borges said. "We ran the ball. We had great distribution with the backs, which is what we're trying to get. That was a big step. We wanted to put a little bit more in for Mississippi State. We started our movement game with the shifts, which we didn't use the first game. We're going to keep trying to maintain that kind of surge up front with our offensive line because I thought they handled the line of scrimmage like nobodies business.

"We'll keep adding bits and pieces this week where we see necessary without going crazy. We don't want to confuse our kids. We want to put a little bit more offense in, but not too much offense."

A position that didn't have a good game was the wide receivers corps. Very similar to what Auburn fans saw last season, drop after drop kept the offense from breaking big plays in the passing game. While Borges said that Coach Greg Knox is working the guys to improve their hands, the jury remains out on how complete the unit will be in 2004.

Sophomore Courtney Taylor drops a sure touchdown pass from quarterback Jason Campbell. Borges said those types of plays can't happen if Auburn expects to beat LSU this Saturday.

"We can't do that and that hurt Jason's completion percentage," Borges said. "Coach Knox is grinding them pretty good. He's got them on the JUGS machine every day and we're throwing routes every day. But, when push comes to shove, it comes down to making the play. There are certain things you can't coach any more. When you have your opportunity and the ball comes to you, you have to catch it.

"You know all the fundamentals and all the things you've been taught. You just have to do it now. There are certain things when the lights go on that you either do it or you don't do it. That's one of them. The nice thing about that position is we have four or five kids that can play that position. When we're in two wide receivers we have some options."

One player Borges had little negative to say about was senior quarterback Jason Campbell. While his statistics (8-17, 139 yards, 3 TD) won't make you sit up and take notice, Borges said it's what Campbell did at the line of scrimmage that separates him from Auburn's other quarterbacks and makes him a leader on the field.

"He was in control of that football game from his position," Borges said. "He was totally in control. I'm not saying he's Peyton Manning, but you watch Peyton Manning with all those gymnastics at the line of scrimmage he's constantly performing. We were away and we didn't want to get too much into that, but as it turned out we didn't have a real crowd noise problem. We kept doing it and he made the right decisions. He can't block them and the backs run, but he put us in some good plays and the plays in motion."

Borges and the offense got an early start on LSU with a longer than normal Sunday practice in shorts and helmets. Working on special teams while getting an advance on the game plan for Saturday's showdown with #4 LSU, Auburn practiced for just over an hour and a half Sunday. Borges said from the video he has watched to this point there is little doubt this will be Auburn's biggest test to date.

"They're pretty good, the best we've played so far," Borges said. "One end is going to make a lot of money one day. They are real fast and have great cover corners. They come up and press you. They're going to test us like nobody has tested us and maybe nobody will test us all year. We've got our work cut out for us."

Against Mississippi State the Tigers used more of the offense than they showed in the season opener against Louisiana-Monroe. While you would expect even more this week against a defense the caliber of LSU, Borges said that won't necessarily be the case. He's going to evaluate how things are done during this week's practice before deciding what to use against the Bengal Tigers.

"Being in these kinds of games, again I haven't been in the LSU-Auburn game but games similar to that, what you do is you have to decide what you can do," Borges said. "If you can't do it you don't do it, it's just that simple. You don't throw plays in because you're trying to impress CBS, I don't care about that. You don't throw plays in because you think you need special plays to beat them. You throw plays in because you think it fits your offense. If you're doing any more than that then you're not playing to win the game. We're playing to win the game."

Auburn will take Monday off before returning to practice Tuesday on the practice fields. The Tigers will practice both Wednesday and Thursday before heading out of town Friday. The plans could be changed in the event Hurricane Ivan's path comes towards or near Auburn. That won't be known until later in the week.

Tiger Ticket Notes

* For the first time since 1997 and just the third time overall, ESPN's Gameday will be on the Auburn campus this weekend for Auburn's 2:30 p.m. kickoff against LSU. Auburn's other host was during the 1995 season.
* Saturday's game against No. 5 LSU will continue a strong schedule trend in the last few seasons under Coach Tommy Tuberville. It will be Auburn's 10th game against a top-10 opponent in the last 22 contests. Auburn is 5-4 in those games and 10-2 against the rest of the competition. LSU is Auburn's highest rated opponent since defeating number one Florida in 2001.
* Tuberville will celebrate his 50th birthday Saturday when Auburn hosts LSU. Auburn is 2-0 when Tuberville has his birthday on a gameday. The first win was a 41-7 whitewash of LSU in Baton Rouge in 1999.
* Carnell Williams has 13 100-yard rushing games in his career, tying him with Joe Cribbs for third all-time at Auburn. Bo Jackson had 21 to lead all Auburn runners while James Brooks is second with 15. Rudi Johnson's 10 in 2000 are the most for one season.

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