November A Time Of Excitement For Tigers

Coach Tommy Tuberville talks about the challenges ahead for his team and what they're working on in order to improve.

Auburn, Ala.-–The first day of November brings a different feel for a college football team and that's especially true for the 17th-ranked Auburn Tigers. With games against Georgia and Alabama down the road after a visit to Kentucky this weekend, coach Tommy Tuberville says this is the part of the schedule the team looks forward to each season.

"We prepare for November year-round," Tuberville says. "They're all big games, but when you get down to the month of November you have several games our fans always get involved into. Our players are excited about playing them. We put a lot of work into the games in November every year, our coaches and players.

"It's something that really keeps you going because your football season is a year long with 11 games and a lot of teams don't have rival games at the end. Ours are always at the end of the month and we're going to get the best out of the players. The coaches are going to put their best foot forward. Hopefully you're successful."

Before the Tigers can make the rivalry games mean as much this season, they must first take care of business this weekend against a Wildcat team coming off a 13-7 victory over Mississippi State last weekend. The loss put an end to a five-game losing streak for Kentucky and Tuberville says it shows they're capable of being a thorn in the side for a team like Auburn.

"Coach (Rich) Brooks' team is coming off a win," Tuberville says. "They have had some injuries. I have read their statements up there and they've had some tough times in the last six or seven weeks. Losing their star running back ( early in two-a-days obviously affected them. They've been very competitive and they've played well at times. Their defense really played well last week. Their offense moved the ball well against a very good Mississippi State defense. We'll have to prepare for that going into this week."

Kentucky isn't the only team with injuries this week as Auburn goes into the contest with two running backs out because of injuries. Both Brad Lester (groin) and Carl Stewart (knee) will miss the contest with Lester possibly back for the Georgia game. Stewart will get another evaluation tomorrow from Dr. James Andrews and could miss up to two weeks before returning.

Tim Duckworth has improved his play dramatically from early in the season.

Several other players will be banged-up this week in practice as well. Tailback Kenny Irons has a bruised thigh, but will be ready to go against the Wildcats. Defensive end Christopher Browder is once again close to full speed after a bruised knee kept him out of action last week except for a few plays. Also guard Timmy Duckworth has been bothered by a strained groin and Tuberville says that they'll play it by ear with him this week.

"Duckworth is going to be on and off," Tuberville says. "We're going to hold him out of practice today. He could practice, but we're going to hold him out until the doctor sees him and then we'll make a decision. He's not 100 percent, he's probably close to 85 or 90 percent, but he will practice and will play."

One area that will get a lot of attention this week in practice is special teams where, for the second game in a row, miscues cost the Tigers. Two weeks ago Auburn missed five field goals and allowed a punt return for a score against LSU. Last week two fumbles on punt returns could have been huge against a worthier opponent. Tuberville says that they'll continue working to make sure special teams is solid for his club.

"We'll work on turnovers in the kicking game," Tuberville says. "The kicking game has let us down the last few games. It hasn't been as consistent as we need it to be, but we'll work on it. It's something we can correct.

"Our kicking game has been solid this year," he adds. "It hasn't been great. We've had better games than we've played the last two, but we've had some high points. Our kickoff return teams this year have been better than they've ever been. We're not a team that says right now we're getting the most out of it, we can be much improved."

Defensively the Tigers will continue to tweak with a scheme that has put them on top of the SEC in several catagories, including pass defense. Working to be more consistent and not give up the big play, Tuberville says the defense is doing exactly what it needs to do because of the losses off last year's team and the athletes they see each week from opposing offenses.

"It's personnel," Tuberville says. "We don't have Carlos Rogers back there with all of the experience that he had. We don't have Junior Rosegreen back in the back end. A lot of the teams we've looked at have scored a lot on big plays. We decided to defend other than pressure, make them make the mistake instead of us making the mistake. We've got a pretty good football team and we feel like if somebody can drive the ball and score on us then they've done a pretty good day's work."

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