Tuberville Likes His Team's Character

Auburn head coach Tommy Tuberville talks about the road through the SEC and his team's ability to win close games.

Auburn, Ala.--Auburn's 5-0 start this season hasn't been pretty, but that doesn't matter to head coach Tommy Tuberville, who's Tigers remained second in the Associated Press Top 25 and third in the USA Today/Coaches Poll.

Two of Auburn's wins this season, 7-3 over LSU and 24-17 at South Carolina, have come down to an Auburn defensive stop to win on the final play of the game.

"It's been fun to watch this group grow," Tuberville says. "They are learning how to win and you have to win games like that. That's a product of the system and how the guys have learned from the other players they've watched play over the years and had some success. They learned how to go win that ball game on the road."

Since 2001, Tuberville's teams are an outstanding 17-6 in games decided by seven points or less. Since 2003 Auburn has won 27 of its 30 games and boasts a 5-1 record in games decided by seven or less.

"We don't worry about how much we win by," he notes.

The Tigers have won 20 of their last 21 SEC contests, which includes the 38-28 victory over Tennessee in the 2004 SEC Championship Game. With upcoming games against Arkansas and Florida in the next two weeks, Tuberville says that it will be difficult to continue the success the Tigers have had in recent conference games.

"We've got a very tough schedule left," Tuberville says. "We play a lot of good teams on the East. We have Florida left after Arkansas and we obviously have Georgia along with Alabama. If we're lucky enough to get to Atlanta we have to turn around and play one of them again. It's almost impossible for an SEC team to go through it undefeated. If it happens it means you've got a good football team that's had a lot of luck."

Aside from Auburn's 40-14 opening night victory over Washington State, a team that fell 28-22 to second/third-ranked Southern California on Saturday, the Tigers haven't won pretty but Tuberville likes how his players have reacted to adversity.

"We've made some progress in some areas," he says. "One thing I like about this team is that they play hard and they play as a team. We might not have played a full ball game on offense and defense at the same time, but I like the attitude, I like the effort and I like the team concept. Everybody is pulling for each other. There has been no complaining on either side when one team is doing any better than the other."

Auburn's next test will be 3-1 Arkansas. The Razorbacks are the only other undefeated team in league play remaining in the West.

"Arkansas is a very good team coming in this week," Tuberville says. "They're much improved and they've gotten better each game. It's always a slugfest between us two. I wouldn't expect it to be any different.

Even though Arkansas head coach Houston Nutt hired Gus Malzahn from Springdale, Ark., High School to run the offense, the Razorbacks most threatening aspect remains their ability to run the football led by Darren McFadden as well as Felix Jones and Peyton Hillis.

McFadden trails only Kenny Irons (109.8) in rushing yards per game this season with 102.2.

"It's a lot of the same of what they've been running the last few years," Tuberville notes. "Houston's philosophy is to run the football and it always has been. It doesn't make any difference who the offensive coordinator is. That's what he believes in and he's good at doing it and he's been successful doing it for the most part.

"When you have a young quarterback (true freshman Mitch Mustain) you've got to take your licks knowing he's going to make some mistakes and hope the other players play well around him to give him some confidence," Tuberville adds. "That's what they've done the last few weeks."

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