Big Game Means For Intense Week For AU

Auburn Coach Tommy Tuberville talks about Wednesday's practice and preparing for a matchup of the highest ranked teams to play at Jordan-Hare Stadium since...

Auburn, Ala.--It has been 16 years since Jordan-Hare Stadium has played host to a game of the magnitude of Saturday's clash between number three Auburn and sixth-ranked LSU.

The third game of the 1990 season third-ranked Auburn and fifth-ranked Tennessee played to a 26-26 tie. Since that time no game in Auburn has featured two teams ranked as high as this weekend's matchup.

While it is a cause for concern for Auburn Coach Tommy Tuberville because of the team LSU brings in to the contest this weekend, it's also a time to put the program's best foot forward. Tuberville says that the publicity created by the game can only help the future of Auburn football because everyone will be watching, including a large number of unofficial vistors expected in for the game.

"It's the atmosphere," Tuberville says. "Obviously you want to play good, but it's the atmosphere they come to see. It's the Tiger Walk and the fans, what they would be a part of. They get to talk to the coaches and see really what game day is all about. That's the reason we love for them to come to big games and be a part of what they would be if they came here."

Practicing in shells on Wednesday, the Tigers covered all phases of the game plan for Saturday's showdown with LSU. Tuberville says that he likes the focus and intensity his team has shown this week in practice and hopes it translates into a good performance this weekend.

"We had a very good two-hour practice," Tuberville says. "We went through everything and spent a lot of time on the kicking game. Everybody practiced full speed.

"Tomorrow morning we'll get up and have a little bit longer meeting. We won't spend as much time on the practice field so we can try to get everybody physically ready to go now.

"The intensity has been high as you would expect," he notes. "The leaders have done a good job. The coaches have just been putting in the game plan. It's good to have good leadership."

Quarterback Brandon Cox will need a big game facing a tough LSU defense Saturday.

Last season's loss to LSU had a great deal to do with a breakdown in special teams for the Auburn Tigers. In the game kicker John Vaughn missed five field goals and LSU return man Skyler Green returned a punt for a touchdown in the first half that set the tone for the contest.

Because of that it's no surprise that Auburn has spent a great deal of time on special teams this week at practice putting in new things and tweaking the schemes. Wednesday the punt teams got a lot of early work with Kody Bliss booming the ball consistently. Tuberville says that part of the game is always big when two teams like Auburn and LSU get together and it's just one of the things the Tigers are constantly working to improve this week.

"We would have made changes on offense, defense and special teams no matter who we played," Tuberville says. "We're trying to play our game. We're not worried about who we play. We're trying to get our team the best physically and mentally into the game as we possibly can and get them playing on all cylinders and hope the changes that we've made will make us better.

"I think we've been playing pretty good against two pretty good teams," the coach adds. "This will be a better team that we'll play that will challenge us in all areas. We just try to go out and play the best we can and not worry about who you're playing against."

On the injury front linebacker Steve Gandy is the only player who is out for Saturday's game despite his return to practice this week. Offensive lineman Oscar Gonzalez has returned and Tuberville says he looks good, but hasn't had enough practice time to get into the rotation. Gandy will be dressed for the game, but Tuberville says he will be on the inactive roster for the contest because of his missed practice time. Auburn is allowed to dress 80 players to play and another 15 players can dress but not take part in the action.

Kickoff for Saturday's game is scheduled for 2:30 p.m. and can be seen nationally on CBS.

Tiger Ticket Extra: There are some interesting scout team performers this week as Auburn prepares for LSU's attack. Defensively, Kevin Sears is portraying Ali Highsmith for the Auburn offense while Tray Blackmon is acting as Darry Beckwith. Doing double duty is Octavious Balkcom. While working with Auburn's defense at strongside end he's also seeing time as Tyson Jackson on defense. Offensively, Dwayne Bowe is being played by freshman Terrell Zachery while Anthony Campbell is Craig Davis for the week...True freshman QB Neil Caudle, who is expected to redshirt this season, played the role of LSU QB Jermarcus Russell.

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