Tigers Reflect After Victory Over Syracuse

Following a 37-34 victory over Syracuse on Saturday night, the Auburn Tigers took a well-deserved break from practicing Sunday as the coaching staff used the day to watch the film and critique the performance.

Auburn, Ala.--Auburn defensive coordinator Gene Chizik says the way Auburn won its fourth straight game with an overtime victory over Syracuse can be big for the Tigers heading into an off week before playing Arkansas.

"This lets your football team understand and believe that when things aren't looking good they can still come back and win period," Chizik says. "That is a confidence builder in itself. When we were down 17-3 at the half and we came in here that's exactly what we said to them. We're here at home. We're down 17-3. We wouldn't have it any other way. You're here, you've got your people with you and we're going to get it done. If you're on the road it's not the same thing. It was a great comeback win. The kids fought and they never gave up."

The Tigers did a solid job against an offense that was potent entering Saturday night's game. Giving up just 321 total yards to Syracuse, 72 yards below the season average for the Orangemen, Auburn fought through some early problems by its offensive unit and held the Orangemen within striking distance until Carnell Williams and his offensive teammates could get untracked.

Dontarrious Thomas

"That's one that you're going to put behind in your memories," linebacker Dontarrious Thomas says of the triple overtime victory. "You'll never forget this type of game. We were down by 17 points at one time. We just came out and had to keep that intensity up and know that we could still win this game. Our offense was going to be able to produce. We just had to go out on defense and make plays.

"We gave up one big play and that hurt us, but we were able to go out and keep fighting. We took it to overtime and we were well prepared for that. We have to give that credit to our strength and conditioning coach, Coach (Kevin) Yoxall."

While he was still playing, along with banged-up middle linebacker Mark Brown, Thomas was just a shadown of his usual self by the end of the game Saturday night. Fighting through a knee injury that happened in the season opener against USC and coming off a tough battle against Mississippi State, the junior toughed it out and did the job for the defense. However, it wasn't without help from backups at the position, including Derrick Graves, who had an interception off a deflected pass. Chizik and coach Tommy Tuberville note that the depth this team has built the last few weeks really paid off Saturday night.

"Mark Brown played with a stinger most of the game," Tuberville says. "Dontarrious is just beat up all over. That was a tough game for him against Mississippi State. He made a lot of plays and was still pretty sore after that game. The linebackers in a game like that are going to have to make a lot of plays. That was a running game. They came in to run the football. They weren't going to throw it a whole lot.

"The three starting linebackers are going to get a lot of plays and a lot of action. I thought they held up pretty good. We played a lot of players. Derrick Graves came in and made a big play for us. Lemarcus Rowell played well. Mayo Sowell played linebacker and defensive end. We held up pretty good. I thought defensively, especially, we made enough plays for us to win the ball game."

Marcel Willis

Offensively, the Tigers had a much better second half after a dreadful beginning that saw them score just three points in the first half and turn the ball over twice. Even with the mistakes, Auburn fans watched an offense that moved the ball. With 244 yards of total offense in the first 30 minutes, offensive coordinator Bobby Petrino's unit got what it was looking for in the second half with 34 points, including the overtime periods.

Wide receiver Marcel Willis says that winning with backup QB Jason Campbell on the field was a big confidence booster for the team. "To still score 37 points with all those turnovers, we could have had 60 or 70 points. It really gave us confidence that if we can cut down our mistakes we can be a great offense."

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