Dallas, Tex.--On a day when the rains came in waves in the Dallas area the 10th-ranked Auburn Tigers (10-2) continued preparations for the Cotton Bowl with a two-hour practice in shorts and shoulder pads at Southern Methodist University. Offensive coordinator Al Borges says that the week has been a good one for the team as the Tigers gets ready to face a tough Nebraska team.
"Having the gameplan in was nice because we got here and hit the ground running," Borges says. "The kids, based on our performance a year ago in the bowl game, are taking this game very seriously. I can sense that by the intensity in practice. They have a tremendous amount of respect for this opponent and that goes a long way in preparation."
The man behind an Auburn offense that has set the bar in the Southeastern Conference the last two seasons, Borges has been put in a bad situation in 2006 because of injuries to key players such as quarterback Brandon Cox, tailback Kenny Irons and wide receiver Courtney Taylor. With all three back healthy and looking good Borges says he's anxious to see how the offense responds at full strength.
"It's so nice now," Borges says. "We're not waiting until Thursday to find out who is going to play. That's what is cool about this game. This past season there were certain players that we didn't know until Thursday whether or not they would play. Now we have a pretty good idea who is going to be in there because they've had a chance to heal up."
Borges tries to keep his play sheet dry while Brandon Cox gives a ball to back up quarterback Blake Field.
Something else that is working in Auburn's favor this week is the lingering memory of last season's loss to Wisconsin in the bowl game. A full year removed from that loss Borges says the game still sticks with everyone involved and has been a driving force during the practices for the Cotton Bowl.
"Win or lose, I don't know what's going to happen, but it won't be because these kids aren't mentally and physically prepared," Borges says. "I find that in these bowl games the key to winning and losing or one of the most important things is how you handle the lay off. With all things being equal if you handle the lay off well you'll play well. If you don't handle the lay off well you won't play well. You may try like hell but you won't play well. So much of the timing in the passing game and the exchanges, if we pick up where we left off we should be better because we got some kids back.
"We were embarrassed last year," he adds. "We didn't play bad we were embarrassed. It was beyond playing bad. We made it clear to them that if you don't learn from history you are destined to repeat it. Then again I don't want to grind it so much that it becomes a self fulfilling prophecy. They are aware of it but that's last year. Now it's time to get on to this game."
Courtney Taylor greets the media on Friday.
One of the players that is back full speed is Taylor. Forced to miss the Alabama game because of a strained hamstring and then battling back from a sprained ankle early in bowl practices, Taylor says that he's been through five bowls and this is by far the toughest week of work he's had preparing for the game.
"I haven't been a part of a bowl practice this mentally and physically tough," Taylor says. "At the same time I love it because I feel like we're ready to play football. To me there is more intensity. There is more emotion involved. There is everything. We've still got what happened to us last year on our minds. We've got a lot of stuff that plays into this year's preparation."
Auburn will visit the Children's Hospital Friday afternoon and will have its final practice Saturday afternoon at 2:30. They will have a short walk-through Sunday morning before attending the Dallas Cowboys' game against the Detroit Lions. The kickoff for Monday's game is set for 10:40 a.m. and can be seen on Fox.