Tuberville Sees Positives And Negatives In Opener

Auburn coach Tommy Tuberville said that the team needs work in several areas before opening SEC play against Mississippi State this coming Saturday.

Auburn, Ala.–-The day after there are a lot of questions following Auburn's 23-14 loss to Georgia Tech Saturday night at Jordan-Hare Stadium. Despite concerns over turnovers and penalties, coach Tommy Tuberville said there were some positives in the performance, but they were far outweighed by the negatives.

"I thought the effort was outstanding," Tuberville said. "We played hard. We played all the way through four quarters. We played from behind most of the game. There were a lot of good things and a lot of things to work on, but disappointed that we didn't take advantage of some opportunities we had in the third and fourth quarter, especially on offense.

"Defensively we got stronger as the game went on," Tuberville added. "We got into a little bit of a groove. It was obvious that they went after our three first-time starters in the secondary and took advantage of that early. They settled down and we started playing more players. Overall what we did defensively that's about normally how we play. We would like to play the run a little bit better in some areas, but giving up the first drive of the game was not what we were hoping for, putting us behind and putting a young quarterback to where he was 10-0 behind after the first seven or eight minutes."

Perhaps the biggest concern from Saturday night is the fact that Auburn ran the ball just 19 times with the running backs. With a first-time starter in Brandon Cox at quarterback the Tigers never got into a rhythm running the ball. Tuberville said that Georgia Tech's plan was to make Cox beat them throwing the ball and unfortunately for Auburn that didn't happen.

"What they were doing to us last night we would probably do the same thing," Tuberville said. "As much as you would like to sometimes and run it every down you have to be smart and not run it into a wall and give yourself a chance. Our players understand this offense. If they're doing something we're going to do something to take advantage of what they are doing. We started getting them off us pretty good and then we started running the ball and making plays.

"How many times have you seen a team throw for that many yards and lose a ballgame," he asked? "More than not. You know me, I would rather run the ball and play defense and so would Al Borges. They came in and they were going to put the ball in number 12's hands. That was their gameplan. If he would have had a perfect night they would have been in trouble, but he didn't have a perfect night."

Auburn threw the ball well Saturday night, but it didn't equate to a victory.

While the offense was solid, one area they didn't do well was finish off drives. Twice in the second half the Tigers had drives of over 50 yards that ended in no points. Tuberville said that's something they have to do a better job of down the road if they hope to improve as a team.

"We drove the ball last night," Tuberville said. "I was really encouraged about the length of the drives. Some of them were long drives, but we didn't get any points. They were 60 or 70 yards, which was encouraging for a young quarterback. It's about finishing. That's what we'll talk about this week is finishing off a drive. Last year we were pretty good at it. We had several games where we had 12 and 15 play drives. That's how you win games. Last night we didn't."

Defensively the Tigers took a while to get going Saturday night and the result was 127 yards and 10 quick points by the Yellow Jackets thanks to the throwing of Reggie Ball. Using a quick passing game early to keep the pass rush at bay, Georgia Tech put Auburn on its heels and kept them there until early in the second quarter. Coach David Gibbs made some adjustments and the defense settled in, but Tuberville said it was too little too late for a defense learning how to play together.

"They schemed us pretty good," Tuberville said. "They weren't going to allow us to rush the quarterback. They threw short passes and quick passes and were able to connect. A lot of times you let them throw those and they drop them. They were very good on about the first 10 plays and after that we started playing better, plus their execution wasn't quite as good. Our execution on defense was pretty much average throughout the game. We can be much better.

"One thing I was disappointed in is that we didn't tackle very well, but again we haven't tackled in two weeks since the last scrimmage other than in technique stuff. All of those things will get better. This group just has to play together. We started I don't know how many guys for the first time last night, probably half of the defense. This group has a lot of potential, they just have to keep seeing plays and play together and listen and learn."

One positive out of the opener on defense was the play of the secondary. After giving up several plays early, including a 35-yard touchdown pass to Calvin Johnson, Auburn held ball to just 9-21 passing for 73 yards the last three quarters of the game. Tuberville said much of that was due to the play in the back four of the defense.

"I thought Patrick Lee for his first start played pretty good," Tuberville said. "He made some good plays and made some mistakes. He played aggressive and that's the way I like corners to play is aggressive. David Irons in his first start made a mistake on the long touchdown pass. He bit up on a shorter route and they got the ball over the top of him. He learned from that and they won't do it again. It's a learning experience."

Following Saturday night's game Tuberville told the team that you need leadership not only when you win, but when you lose as well. His message came through loudly to a group of seniors led by Travis Williams and Tommy Jackson, who both spoke to the team following the game. Tuberville said that was a good sign for a team that hadn't lost a game in over a year and could have been down following the defeat.

"I was proud to see a lot of the seniors talk some after we first came in, about what had happened," Tuberville said. "We had a lot of opportunities and didn't take advantage. I think that's a good sign knowing that the players recognized that as soon as the game was over with. They didn't have to look at the film. The offensive players knew it and the defensive players knew it. We had the game going our way in the second half if we would have taken advantage of opportunities, but we just didn't do it. When you don't take advantage of them you can recognize it as a player. That was something we all looked at, but didn't harp on. It has been a while since we lost a game and it was good to see the seniors stand up and say a few words after the game was over with other than having their heads down."

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