Tigers Fighting Flu As They Wrap Up Practice

A report on Auburn's final pregame practice is featured.

Dallas, Tex.--The Auburn Tigers had their final football practice of the 2006 season at SMU's stadium with the emphasis on polishing the game plan offensively and defensively for Monday's Cotton Bowl contest vs. Nebraska.

The Tigers worked out for an hour and 20 minutes in shorts, shoulder pads and helmets and Coach Tommy Tuberville says he believes his Tigers are ready to play, but notes that a flu bug that has hit his team in recent weeks is making the preparations more challenging.

Senior cornerback David Irons, a second team All-SEC pick, stayed behind at the team hotel while his teammates practiced. Another starter, noseguard Josh Thompson, has been bothered by the bug, too, Tuberville noted. Backup defensive end, Alonzo Horton, stayed at the hotel and didn't practice due to the illness.

The Auburn coach was planning to use part of Saturday's practice for a scrimmage for redshirts and seldom-used players, but decided to cancel that. One of the reasons is that several redshirts like linemen Bart Eddins and Andrew McCain are ill, too. "It's been a mess," Tuberville said.

Redshirt freshman Gabe McKenize is shown in Saturday's workout as he prepares for his first postseason action as a college football player.

AU's head coach continued his praise for the seniors, the winningest class in school history. "We thanked our seniors at the end for all they have given to Auburn," Tuberville said. "They went out on a good note. It was a good practice. It was enthusiastic. We worked a lot on the two-minute drill, the no huddle, a lot of little things you don't think about much until you get closer to game time."

Tuberville added, "This has been a great group. I am proud of them for what they have done."

In other news:

*All-American senior guard Ben Grubbs got practice time at center on Saturday in case he is needed at that position. Jason Bosley, who backs up senior starter Joe Cope who has a sprained ankle, is not expected to play on Monday.

*Football is on the menu for the Tigers on Sunday even though the team won't be practicing. Most of the players are expected to take advantage of the Cotton Bowl's hospitality and be that organization's guests to watch the Detroit Lions take on the Dallas Cowboys at Texas Stadium, just a short ride up the freeway from Auburn's team hotel. The Tigers will also have team meetings to make their final preparations for Monday's Cotton Bowl game which will kick off at 10:40 a.m. with TV coverage on FOX.

*On the subject of the Cotton Bowl, players, coaches and the families of players have made it a point of emphasis how well organized the entire week has been.

*Offensive coordinator Al Borges says that he continues to like the serious approach the players have taken for the game. He says the Tigers had good practices last year before playing poorly in Orlando in the Capital One Bowl last season. He says the offense has practiced better in Dallas and he believes the players will take a more serious attitude into the contest. Borges notes it will be the first time he has coached on a team that has played against Nebraska.

Offensive coordinator Al Borges talks with Tommy Tuberville at Saturday's practice.

*Matt Clark hasn't gotten a chance to kick a field goal this year, but the senior kickoff specialist will continue to be a threat to kick an extra long one if called on Monday. At Saturday's practice he made a field goal from 55 yards out that would have been good from more than 65 yards. John Vaughn hit several 55-yarders, too.

*Nebraska coach Bill Callahan had praise for Auburn running back Kenny Irons, who will be making his final collegiate appearance on Monday. "Kenny Irons is a physical back who is quick and is as hard-nosed as you are going to find in the country. He presents a big challenge for our football team...Irons is just a heck of a player. I love his physicality. I love the way enters the hole and I love the way he gets his pads down, his leans and the ability to make people miss."

Callahan says because Auburn's version of the West Coast Offense is similar to what Nebraska runs that should help the Cornhuskers on Monday. He also notes that Auburn's defense will have the same advantage preparing for the Nebraska running game. "That is what makes this game so intriguing," he said.

*Commenting on Auburn's defense, Callahan said what impresses him is the speed at every position on the field. "We we can see from Auburn is consistency in their ability to chase plays from behind," he noted. The coach said that an offense can have the played blocked as diagrammed but not be successful with a running back or a quarterback being chased down from the backside. "They do an excellent job with their pursuit," he said. "That tells me there is a lot of great coaching going on. There is an emphasis that is being made to take advantage of their athleticism."

*The Auburn University band will participate in the New Year's Eve Cotton Bowl Parade that will start at 3 p.m. on Sunday in downtown Dallas.


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