Auburn Focused On Task At Hand

Coach Tommy Tuberville talks about Wednesday's practice and what Auburn has to do well Saturday night against LSU.

Auburn, Ala.-–Preparing to face the nation's seventh-ranked team on the road Saturday night, number 15 Auburn practiced for two hours in shorts and shoulder pads Wednesday. Coach Tommy Tuberville said the team worked on all phases of the game as they get ready for the SEC West showdown.

"It was a good day," Tuberville said. "We've had two good practices. Our guys are really focused. We're working on little things this week. We're trying to improve on what we're doing. Obviously we're working on LSU, but we've got to be more concerned about ourselves. We're still not hitting on all cylinders, as we would expect. This time of year we're just trying to improve ourselves and make ourselves better.

"We spent a lot of time on special teams today," he added. "It's a big day for special teams. Tomorrow we'll hit all three phases and go from there."

Brad Lester is out for Saturday's game with a strained groin. Defensive end Christopher Browder didn't practice on Wednesday, but is expected to be ready to go on Saturday night. If he's not then true freshman Andrew McCain could see some action at defensive end. Wide receiver Courtney Taylor is continuing to improve as is center Steven Ross. Both should play against the Bengal Tigers.

Another player ready to go this weekend is starting cornerback Patrick Lee. Held out of the Arkansas game because of a knee problem, he's back practicing and will play against LSU Saturday night.

"He's fine," Tuberville said. "We held him out last week because he didn't practice much because of inflammation in his calf or knee. He just didn't know the gameplan well enough. It wasn't that he wasn't physically ready, he wasn't mentally ready to go. This week he's ready to go."

Andrew McCain could be needed this week if Chris Browder isn't ready to go.

This weekend's game matches up one of the best defensive fronts in the league against a rapidly improving running game. LSU leads the league in rushing defense and is third in the country, allowing just 69.8 yards per game on the ground. Countering that is Auburn's rushing offense that is currently averaging 187.2 yards per game, good enough for third in the SEC and 29th in the nation. Tuberville says that being able to run the ball this weekend is a big key for his team.

"You've got to be able to run the ball any game you play, especially when you're on the road," Tuberville said. "You've got to make a concerted effort to do it. That's our philosophy anyway. We want to run it 60 percent of the time and throw it 40 percent. The other night on the road, I'm not going to say it saved us, but it got us back to the point to where we built our confidence back to a point where we felt like we had control of the game.

"Any big game you've got to have the opportunity to know that if you need a yard or two yards you feel good about maybe getting it or feel good about controlling the clock at a certain time you might need to change the momentum."

Controlling the ball with the running game will be important this weekend because Auburn is expecting to see pressure early and often from a very physical LSU front seven. The pressure is designed to throw off sophomore quarterback Brandon Cox and it has worked, first in a loss to Georgia Tech and again in a struggling first half against Arkansas. Cox came back to play a very solid second half against the Razorbacks and Tuberville said he expects his quarterback to handle things well against LSU.

"He's much better, I think he's got a lot more confidence," Tuberville said. "On the other hand I think the players have more confidence in him too. That's as big as a quarterback having confidence in himself. The quarterback needs to be a leader on the offense. The defense needs to believe the quarterback can drive the length of the field or make a big play.

"The quarterback has to earn their respect and he's earned their respect with his physical toughness," he added. "He's taken a lot of licks and he's gotten up and made plays the next play. It's a growing process and he's a lot better now physically and mentally than he was six or seven weeks ago."

The Tigers will practice Thursday and have a short walk-through Friday in Auburn before leaving for Montgomery. They will stay overnight in Montgomery before departing for Baton Rouge Saturday for the game. Following the 6:45 p.m. start on ESPN the team will return home. This is necessary because of a lack of hotel rooms in the area due to Hurricane Katrina.


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