Auburn head coach Tommy Tuberville says that he is very pleased with the way his squad's defense performed in a 28-0 shutdown vs. Mississippi State in the SEC opener. He says that this week's opponent will bring an offense that features a good passing quarterback and a quality tailback.
In week one, with 13 players suspended for their trip to Iowa, the Cardinals were road kill as they fell 56-0 to the Hawkeyes. "They had some problems with the NCAA and had some suspensions in the first game and fewer in the second," Tuberville notes. "There are fewer suspensions in this game so we expect more guys to play against us."
Ball State rebounded in week two, but fell 40-31 to Bowling Green last Saturday night although the Cardinals led the game in the fourth quarter.
"Offensively, they have a quarterback who is mobile and is a coach's son," Tuberville says. "He throws the ball very well and had four or five touchdown (actually four) passes last week. He is very accurate and he will be a guy that will be very concerning. They have a running back that is very good. They have built their offense around their quarterback and running back. Those are the areas where we will concentrate this week with our defense."
BSU's quarterback, junior Joey Lynch, completed 22-31 passes for 272 yards vs. Bowling Green. Charles Wynn, a 5-10, 225 senior, led the Cardinals in rushing last week with 111 yards in 23 carries after not playing in the opener.
Auburn cornerback David Irons says the secondary should get a good workout on Saturday. "I heard they have a good quarterback and they like to throw the football a lot," Irons notes.
Defensively, Ball State looks to have some issues.
"Their defense is very similar to ours, a multiple defense," Tuberville says. "They try to put as much speed out on the field as they possibly can. They have given up a lot of points, but you can tell last week watching that they did make some position changes with their defense after the first game. They also made some changes in what they were doing philosophy-wise to try and make themselves better."
The Tigers, who got their first shutout since opening day of the 2004 season vs. Louisiana-Monroe, bring a 1-1 record into Saturday's 1:30 p.m. kickoff.
Tuberville says after studying video of the 28-0 victory over Mississippi State last Saturday he is pleased with the defense, but the offense needs a lot more work.
"Offensively, we are still looking for the backfield rotation," he says. "We are looking for the right combination of running backs. Obviously, we have a lot of work to do on offense. There are a lot of different things that we need to look at as we go through the season to make us better.
"Defensively, I thought that we played our best game. There is a lot of room for improvement. The thing that I have been pleased with defensively is the effort we have been putting forth."
With Tre Smith questionable for Saturday's game because of a knee injury, the Tigers may play three tailbacks instead of the four-player rotation they used vs. Mississippi State in which Smith, Carl Stewart, Kenny Irons and Brad Lester all played early in the game. In fact, all four were in the lineup during Auburn's opening offensive series.
Redshirt freshman Brad Lester is looking for more playing time at tailback. He scored his first college touchdown last Saturday.
Tuberville says the Tigers may eventually go to a two-player rotation at tailback. "Eddie Gran (running backs coach) even brought up after the game that we have got to get to the scenario where we have confidence in two guys who can go out and play no matter who is in the game that they can get the job done and maybe even get better as we go through the season," Tuberville says.
"I saw some good things out of all four running backs last week," Tuberville adds. "As we all know, in every position, not just running back, you have got to start settling in as you go through the season. We knew going into the first few games that it was going to be a trial and error experiment, not just with running backs, but with several different areas. This is an area, because of inconsistencies, that can continue to mount up if we don't start narrowing it down. There is going to be some competition in practice and we are going to look at that. We are just looking for guys that can do the best of everything that we do and not have to sub as much as we have been in the past."
Quarterback Brandon Cox notes that consistency at tailback and quarterback will be keys to improvement on offense. "I thought we improved from week one to week two in that area and I expect we will do it again this week," he says.