"There has never been a game played perfectly," Borges said. "I don't want to sell the kids short. Again, Ball State is an inferior opponent, but I don't want to minimize the kids' efforts. They went out and took care of business. After watching the tape I'm convinced even more that was the case. We did a nice job of making the routine plays and by the routine play I mean that when somebody is open you hit them and they catch it. Those games can easily get sloppy and I thought the kids came out and played and did what they needed to do from beginning to end."
Working on improving as a team the Tigers went back to work Sunday afternoon on coach Tommy Tuberville's 51st birthday. Practicing for just under two hours in shorts and shoulder pads, Auburn worked on the mistakes made in Saturday's win. There was a lot of emphasis put on conditioning as well as the Tigers ran sprints in the heat. Playing so many players the last two weeks has the coaches conscious of keeping the players in good shape heading into the bulk of the schedule.
On the injury front linebacker Travis Williams, offensive tackle Marcus McNeill and guard Timmy Duckworth all practiced on Sunday and are expected to be back in the lineup against Western Kentucky this weekend. Noseguards Tommy Jackson (sprained knee) and Josh Thompson (high ankle sprain) both sat out of Sunday's practice with Jackson expected back on the field Tuesday. Defensive end Stanley McClover was running on the side and could be back practicing this week as well.
Freshman linebacker Merrill Johnson was one of the stars for the Tigers on defense Saturday with nine tackles.
Offensively Courtney Taylor missed Sunday's practice and Tuberville said he'll most likely miss the next game, but should return for South Carolina in two weeks. With Taylor out the Tigers will move Devin Aromashodu to Taylor's position as the starter. It also means back-ups Prechae Rodriguez and Rodgeriqus Smith will see more action in the wide receiver rotation. Because of injuries and just from a confidence standpoint, Borges said that playing games like Saturday's win against Ball State can sometimes be very important for an offense looking to get better.
"I think this was a good game for us in that regard," Borges said. "We were fortunate a year ago that the timing of our schedule was very good, and we took advantage of it. The timing of the schedule this year isn't quite as good, although we do have five straight home games. It starts to get worse as you go. Having this game last week and the week before Mississippi State, I think after the Georgia Tech game this is a great time for us to grow and get a little bit better not having to go blow to blow with some juggernaut every week. We're going to get more into that as the season goes along. This is a good time for our team to take the next step.
"I think you learn something regardless of who you play," Borges added. "When you're playing a team everyone thinks you should beat and your team thinks you should beat, the game isn't about the opponent. The game is about yourself, focus on what you have to do to improve your team. Improve your offense, your defense, whatever. If you make the emphasis about you and not about ‘oh God we're going to play Jones Junior High and we're going to kill them' if you think ‘just get this over' then you're not going to get any better."
While there might be some concern that a young football team could become overconfident following the success of a game like Saturday's against Ball State, Borges said that's not a concern with this team. The main reason he lists is because of the memory of just two weeks ago that still lingers with this team and particularly the offense.
"Had we not had a loss I think there's more concern about that," Borges said. "But, I'm not real concerned about that. We've been brought down to earth already. I think if you were going through week in and week out pummeling teams then all of the sudden you start thinking you're half slick and then you have to play somebody, you can get slapped in the face. I think we've already been slapped."
Something the Tigers have harped on since the lackluster performance against Mississippi State after the first quarter is finishing plays, drives and games. That was clearly evident against Ball State as Auburn never lost its focus on either side of the ball despite the lopsided score. Borges said that was very good to see, particularly playing so many players.
"The last two third quarters were so bad," Borges said. "We had talked about wanting to come out in the third quarter and play. What was amazing about that is that we didn't get the ball until 7:06 of the third quarter. Good things were happening so I wasn't complaining, but when we did get it we picked up right where we left off. That was good."
The Tigers will take Monday off before returning to practice on Tuesday afternoon. Saturday's game against Western Kentucky is scheduled for 1:30 p.m. and it is homecoming on the Auburn campus. There is no television for the contest.