Auburn, Ala.--Following an impressive 34-0 win over Mississippi State in the first road game and first conference game of the season, Coach Tommy Tuberville says his team improved from week one to week two. While it has been good enough to handle the first two teams easily Tuberville says their play will have to pick up this week against a tough LSU team.
"It was good to get the victory yesterday in our first road game and conference game," Tuberville says. "It was a very physical game. We've got several guys that are beat up a little bit but none that should miss the game coming up next week. It was good to have a physical game. Their defense played hard and we weren't as consistent on offense as we need to be. We'll work on that. Defensively we gave up a few plays but not many. A shutout in this league is pretty tough even though they had some injuries. I thought we kept our composure when our backs were against the wall. We had a lot of good individual performances.
"Our kicking game was solid," he adds. "It was a little bit better than it was last week. We'll make some changes on that still to try to make us better. Overall I was satisfied with the effort. I thought we lost our intensity a couple of times during the game with some of the younger guys. That is something we can correct. We look forward to practicing the next few days."
The candidates for Auburn's players of the week were numerous coming out of the Mississippi State game but the coaches went with wide receiver Courtney Taylor on offense, linebacker Karibi Dede and defensive lineman Pat Sims on defense and kicker John Vaughn on special teams. Also voted on were the scout teams players of the week. Those were Nathan Farrow on offense and Bart Eddins on defense.
Coming into Saturday's game running back Kenny Irons was one of the national leaders in rushing yards after his 183-yard performance against Washington State in the opener. Determined to slow him down and force Auburn to throw the football Mississippi State stacked the line and held Irons to just 69 yards on 21 carries. Although he still leads the league at 126 yards per game, Tuberville says that Irons and the offense saw on Saturday they'll need more than just a running game to win in the SEC.
"They went into the game knowing they had to stop the run to have an opportunity," Tuberville says. "We took advantage of some things they left open when they did stop the run. Kenny is going to get his yards. Saturday he didn't get quite as many, plus we ran a couple of other running backs that did get some yards. That's the problem when you have the target on your back, people are keyed up for you as the rest of the teams will be. We'll have to go to other places to find ways to move the ball which we did yesterday."
True freshman linebacker Craig Stevens played well in his first extensive action for the Tigers.
While the offense took a few moments to get untracked, once again Auburn's defense was impressive as they continue to learn and implement Coach Will Muschamp's defense. Allowing just 161 yards of total offense to the Bulldogs, Auburn is currently second in the SEC in total defense and fourth in scoring defense. Tuberville says he's happy with how the defense has progressed to this point.
"We've played two different teams, a passing team and more of a running team," Tuberville says. "We've adjusted well. We're very quick. We're not as big as some defenses but we give ourselves opportunities to make big plays to get us off the field. I'm pleased with the new things we're doing. We haven't done a whole lot defensively. The first two weeks defensively we've kind of mirrored what we did the first week to try to make us better…I'm proud of what we've done defensively. We've played a lot of players. We look like we're getting a little bit stronger but we're going to need to be going into this week."
Defensively the Tigers will be counting on several young guys on defense to help provide depth as neither Kevin Sears nor Tray Blackmon is expected back for this week's contest. Tuberville says that nothing has changed concerning their suspensions and for the defense that means players such as Craig Stevens and Patrick Trahan will continue to see more and more action as they get comfortable in the system. Tuberville says he saw some nice things out of the young guys on defense Saturday and that has to continue for this team to be successful.
"We're getting better," Tuberville says. "Craig Stevens and a lot of guys are playing a lot of plays. Every week is a different step up for them. This will be a big step. They've held their own. They've played good but not near as good as they will. They're learning. A lot of them are getting good reps on special teams and they're learning very quickly in that area that you have to give effort. Sometimes they don't' understand effort from what they did give back at home and what they have to give here every step. You have to be cognizant of every little thing. Little things are going to win a game like this for you. You can get by with little things those last two games. You can't get by with little mistakes in games like the one coming up."