Petrino's Offense Has Busy Week

Taking a look at the video following Auburn's 31-6 victory over the Vanderbilt Commodores, offensive coordinator Bobby Petrino saw good and bad as the Tigers start a hectic week of preparations for a Thursday night game.

Auburn, Ala.--Watching quarterback Daniel Cobb have a solid day with 13 completions in 18 attempts for 143 yards in guiding the unit to 378 yards of total offense, offensive coordinator Bobby Petrino said he was impressed with his quarterback's toughness standing in the pocket.

"I was happy with Cobb," Petrino said. "I thought he was real efficient. I've been trying to tell him there is a difference between a good quarterback and a championship quarterback in you are able to step into a throw, complete it and get hit in the chin. He actually did that four times in the game and kept his focus downfield and made the play. I was real happy about that."

Daniel Cobb

One thing that the coach wasn't pleased about was the lack of production in the red zone for the Tigers. Just 33 percent on the day with one score in three opportunities, including a blocked field goal on the first drive and a Ronnie Brown fumble on the four-yard line in the second quarter, Petrino said that must improve this week against Mississippi State.

"I'm still upset about the fact that we didn't get the ball in the end zone a couple more times," he noted. "That's something we have to get better at. When you get opportunities you have to get it in. One of them was a bad call and the other one we didn't take care of the football."

An area that continues to be a pleasant surprise for Auburn's offense is up front where Coach Hugh Nall's group has developed more quickly than expected. Led by center Ben Nowland, the offensive line plowed the way for tailback Carnell Williams to rush for 170 yards and two touchdowns on 20 carries Saturday. Perhaps the biggest surprise has been the play of true freshman tackle Marcus McNeill. Entering in the second quarter for injured Taylor Bourgeois, McNeill had a very good day and threw several key blocks, including one that sent Williams on his way for a 65-yard touchdown late in the third quarter.

"I thought Marcus McNeill did a nice job," Petrino said. "He came in when Taylor went down and he graded out very well and played very well. He's going to have a lot better competition to go up against this week. He's going to have to understand that the dial on the speed of the defensive front will be much higher this week. He's going to have to improve from now until Thursday."

To do that, McNeill will have to take in a great deal of information in the next three days as will the entire offensive unit. With a short practice week before Thursday night's ESPN contest, Petrino noted that this will be a big challenge for this team.

"It's difficult," Petrino said. "We had to do a lot of work over the summer getting ready for it. We did a lot of work on Friday getting ready for it. We've got a lot of the plan done, it's not completely done yet. That means we'll be up here late tonight and on into tomorrow to get finished, but we've been planning for it all summer long. The difficulty now is teaching it to the players in a limited amount of time. We couldn't introduce anything to them until (Sunday). We're going to see how mature we are and how well we can recover as an offense. We have to study the different looks and be sharp. We'll probably reduce the package because of the short week."

Waiting on the other end of a short week is a Mississippi State defense led by Joe Lee Dunn that will bring as many players as necessary to ensure the Auburn Tigers have problems running the ball. Because of that this week will be important in all facets of the offense. Particularly tough is the job of the offensive line where a multitude of fronts and blitzes await this week from a quick front seven for the Bulldogs.

"They're fast," Petrino said of the Bulldog defense. "They give you a lot of different looks. They try to outnumber you in the blitz. We're going to have to do a good job of recognizing what they are trying to do. They'll try to scheme your protection. He does a real good job of that. We're just going to have to be real sharp as far as what the front is and who is on and who's blitzing.

"We just have to make sure we get to the right protection to be able to run the ball against the blitz effectively. We're going to try to work some matchups. We're going to get some receivers that get matched-up in man coverage. We have to make sure we get protected and win on the matchups. They're not going to stop doing what they do, they're just going to keep bringing it. Their idea of stopping the run is to blitz one more guy."

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