Auburn, Ala.--The start to the 2006 season hasn't been quite the juggernaut beginning that many though for the Auburn offense. With six starters back and several key returnees the sky was the limit for Coach Al Borges' unit. Unfortunately the beginning of the year has yielded little in terms of excitement out of the veteran group.
That is particularly true in the passing game where the Tigers are taking things slow to start the season with second-year man Brandon Cox at the helm. Last season Cox got off to a hot start throwing the football and finished the year with the fourth-best single season passing total in Auburn history.
But when the Auburn offense was at its best was when the Tigers ran the football early and Cox could utilize the play-action passing game to deliver on third downs. The perfect Borges offense would be similar to what Auburn did at Georgia last season. Throwing the entire playbook at the Bulldogs, Auburn ran and threw with precision from the opening kickoff to the final whistle. That's something Borges is looking to develop quickly with the season now a third of the way gone.
"One thing I think we have to improve is our passing game," Borges says. "We have to get better at throwing the ball. Since I have been here we've been fortunate enough to be a pretty proficient passing team and we're behind in that area. As we get into the SEC more and the defenses get tougher and tougher our passing game is going to be tested more and more. We're never going to be a team that wants to turn it into a 40-pass deal but by the same token when we throw it we have to throw it with efficiency down the field and on short balls as well.
"I think what we're going to do is make an attempt to be more balanced," he adds. "By the same token we're going to play to the game. There may be games where you want to be more balanced until the situation dictates you can't. That's my goal and I have been saying that since I stepped on campus here and I believe that's how you win in this conference. You have to be able to run the football but you've got to be able to throw it too and efficiently. Not necessarily for a million yards but efficiently. When you call a pass play there better be a 60 to 70 percent chance that pass is going to be complete."
Rodgeriqus Smith is Auburn's big-play guy this season, averaging 27.2 yards per catch on six receptions this season.
Borges and the Tigers were looking to begin work on the passing game against Buffalo on Saturday. After holding the offense down the first three weeks to avoid mistakes, things were planned to be more wide open against the Bulls. That plan had to be shelved with the injury to Cox in the LSU game though. Borges was left to once again play things close the vest and says except for a couple of early mistakes things went pretty well.
"I think we played horrible in the second quarter," Borges says. "We had a holding penalty and we had an interception. Other than that I was pleasantly surprised. We had one possession in the first quarter and we scored. We had it three possessions in the third quarter and scored on all three of them. We put in our twos and didn't score but scored the next time. Were we a picture of beauty, no, but once we got past all the stumbling over ourselves and just started executing we were pretty good. We just took too long to do it.
"We got on track with our running game a little more," Borges says. "The theme of the game was to try to keep them from hitting Brandon. That's probably why we few so few passes. You'll see as we go that's going to change a little bit as he becomes more healthy. He got sacked once but the mission was accomplished at the end of the day. I would have liked to have played better, a more complete game. For the most part we got done what we wanted to get done."