Facing beasts Stanley McClover and Quentin Groves without a full arsenal of weapons is a tough chore and that's what Auburn's offense had to do. The first-team offense led by Brandon Cox had a solid day. The left-hander threw for 226 yards on 13-22 passing, but couldn't get the offense into the endzone. That's something running back Kenny Irons said the unit must improve on.
"It's very tough because the coaches are only going to run certain plays," Irons said. "They don't want to show too much out there. We just have to work on finishing drives. We drove the ball real well and Brandon Cox came out real well throwing the ball, but we have to finish drives. It was like against Virginia Tech where we drove the ball well, but had to settle for field goals. Coach Borges was telling us that we have to finish drives. When we get inside the 20 or the 10 we've got to put it in the endzone."
Kenny Irons breaks into the open field in the A-Day game.
The leader of the offense, Cox looked comfortable all day despite constant pressure from the defensive front, particularly McClover. Checking into better plays and reading the defense, Cox showed an improved knowledge of the offense and the game in general. Sophomore running back Carl Stewart said that's comforting for the rest of the offense.
"Brandon has really stepped up his playing calling and his audibles," Stewart said. "I think everybody is starting to gain faith in him. As we get more faith in him we get more and more self esteem. He's really doing a good job."
While Cox was sharp, the running backs once again got the job done despite limited opportunities to run the ball. Irons rushed for a combined 73 yards on 18 carries as he ran for both the blue and white teams. Stewart did the same, rushing for a total of 41 yards on 13 carries. Tre Smith added 33 yards on just six carries. Stewart said the running backs all had good days and he's pleased with the progression at the position with three players all trying to get playing time.
"We came out today and I think we all performed pretty well," Stewart said. "I think we all made our fair share of mistakes, but we came out and used really good technique. We got the job done.
"I think they've done really well rotating us," Stewart added. "We all come out there for different parts of the game and we get a different feel. We also get spread around enough to get a feel for each position."
While it is apparent the destruction that McClover and company can do against the passing game, they have also improved against the run. In addition their presence on the defense makes an offense better, something that Stewart said happens when McClover and Groves are on the field.
"I think you can look around the nation and they've got speed unmatched by anybody," Stewart said. "Going out there and getting to go against them every day is really going to help us out, especially when the fall comes.
The Tigers now have two practices remaining in the spring and that means two more chances for the offense to get better in the red zone. Offensive tackle Marcus McNeill said that other than not capitalizing on several chances the offense had a good day and gained some confidence.
"We didn't do too bad," McNeill said. "We just didn't finish drives like we should. We have to find that little extra level to put us in the endzone. We got down there several times, but fumbled once and had two field goals. That's not what people come to see. We play offense to score the touchdown and that's what we failed to do today. All in all, it wasn't that bad of a day. We still had some good drives and a lot of young kids got some valuable experience. This day is really for the fans."