Auburn, Ala.--Following yet another up and down performance by his team in a 23-17 victory over Ole Miss in Oxford on Saturday, Tommy Tuberville says that his team is drained after their ninth consecutive week of football without a break. This season they have done several things to try to get the players as physically healthy as possible but Tuberville says the toughest thing to do is get the players mentally ready when they are tired.
Because of that the team was given the day off on Sunday after watching the game film and meeting with the coaches. The young players hung around to practice and get some full pad work in but Tuberville says the older guys need some time off to get ready for the stretch run this season.
"I think a lot of it is because we're right in the middle of a grind," Tuberville says. "This is a grind. Today after the meetings we're sending the starters out of here, we're not even going to practice them. We're going to practice this younger guys because we're just kind of mentally spent."
Saturday the mental problems showed several times with Auburn having penalties and turnovers in crucial situations. That's something that the Tigers had avoided up to this point in the season but against Ole Miss it was a problem that could have very easily cost Tuberville's club. He says that he's glad to be through to the last three weeks of the season because now things are much easier to handle because of the schedule.
"To this point it has bothered me," Tuberville says of his team's mental state. "I think this game being at home and then Georgia and Alabama, that's kind of like filling your tank back up. You don't have any problem for those two games. I was concerned about the last four games knowing that we were kind of hit and miss. That game Saturday really concerned me. I was pretty concerned about that game knowing we were going to get a big effort out of them coming off a loss and running off some players and our coaching staff going back over there. I knew what we were getting ready to get into.
"Our guys were like ‘let's go take care of business and go home'. We did but I would like to take about five or six minutes of a game off and not go down to the end of the game every week. But, this team knows how to win. I'll have to give it to them. They know how to win games and they know how to take care of business. I'm just kind of staying out of the way knowing the next three games will take care of themselves too."
For Auburn to take care of the business on the field the first order of business will be to score more touchdowns and kick less field goals. Improving on offense each and every week as players get healthier, Auburn had its best offensive game of the season since the season opener as the line pounded away at the Rebels and helped keep the ball 15 minutes longer than the opposition. Tuberville says that's something he's been waiting to see and now things are beginning to come together.
"We're getting a lot better," Tuberville says of the offense. "We're getting healthier on the offensive line. (Tim) Duckworth was much better than he was the week before. He got two holding calls but he was giving effort. That was Jonathan Palmer's best game since he's been here. I thought for King (Dunlap) it was one of his better games. We dominated the line of scrimmage. We were getting a great push even though they had eight or nine men on the line of scrimmage. We've got to find a way to score more touchdowns in the red zone.
"We're getting a lot of field goals but just not touchdowns," Tuberville adds. "Teams learn how to win. You learn how to win how you play. I never felt uncomfortable about that game yesterday because our players didn't feel uncomfortable. At halftime nobody was panicking. Everybody understood what was going wrong and what they had to do. We're a blue collar team. We're not a team that is going to go out there and score a lot of points, it doesn't make any difference who is over there. We take our opportunities and try to make the most out of them."