Auburn, Ala.--Every Sunday the Auburn Tigers have a team meeting to discuss issues and preparation for the next game. This time it was a little different as several seniors stood up and talked to the team about righting the ship and getting back on the winning track against New Mexico State. Coach Tommy Tuberville said it wasn't unusual for that to happen and he's glad to see some guys stepping forward.
"The big thing now is to keep a positive attitude and keep these younger guys playing," Tuberville said. "Most of these guys have never lost two games in a row. Most of them haven't been in that situation. We just have to keep them going. That's what the main tone was. I let them do most of the talking. We've got to have leadership from them."
Auburn's two-quarterback plans on Saturday worked at times but the mistakes were too much to overcome in a loss to Mississippi State. Tuberville said at the moment the coaches aren't sure what will happen at quarterback this week but he feels like both players will see action once again. One thing he said must happen this week is improvement in the passing game, both out of Brandon Cox and especially Kodi Burns.
"You've got to be able to throw the ball more," Tuberville said. "You've got to be able to do some stuff with that. We'll keep running the same offense. We'll run some of the things we do better with him. He'll have to learn more of that. Brandon is going to be playing too. You can't put a kid out there and run the ball 15 or 20 times as a quarterback and expect him to be clear headed all the time knowing that he's got to get the play and check off at the line of scrimmage and do all the things it takes to be perfect. I thought he did good for his first time. He was productive."
As you would expect from any true freshman playing in his first game, Burns made plenty of mistakes said Tuberville but he also noted that he made some huge plays as well. Tuberville said that's something you expect going in but he's looking for some improvements in Burns' passing touch to help out the offense this week.
"He made some mistakes in not getting the play run to the right side of the line of scrimmage," Tuberville said. "I thought he threw the ball well for the first time. He aimed the ball on some of the shorter passes instead of throwing it in there but that's just inexperience. You've got to throw it in this business. You can't have guys reaching down trying to catch them. Whether it's short or long, you've got to turn it loose."
Despite his struggles, Cox came back on to almost guide the Tigers to a victory before coming up short. That was after he was booed loudly by the Auburn crowd following his second interception of the game. Tuberville said he hopes the boos were directed at him and the coaching staff.
"I was bothered," Tuberville said. "I was hoping they were booing me. I don't think they would be booing Brandon and that's the way we took it. If you want to boo, boo the coaches because we get paid to do this. The players don't. They work awfully hard to do what they do. I think most people would agree with that. This is not pro ball."
On the injury front Tuberville said that senior guard Leon Hart is out with a separated shoulder and is expected to miss 6-8 weeks. He noted that a redshirt is a possibility but that is still a long way from being decided upon. Tackle King Dunlap also injured his arm and his status for this week is uncertain. Compounding those problems is an injury to Mike Berry, meaning Antwoin Daniels is likely the right guard as of Sunday. Berry's status will be evaluated throughout the week.
Defensively, Aairon Savage returned to action and got some quality snaps at safety against the Bulldogs. Cornerback Jonathan Wilhite sat out of the contest with a strained hamstring but could return Saturday. Linebacker Tray Blackmon is also still hobbled by an ankle sprain. Tuberville said he wasn't happy with the play of the linebackers on Saturday and is looking to make a few moves when Blackmon gets back on the field.
"In the end Chris is going to have to play for the long haul both in the middle and outside," Tuberville said. "So is Craig Stevens. He's going to have to play the middle and outside until we get Tray back. We'll make a decision who backs up Tray (when he returns). Courtney Harden probably needs to be inside all the time. We need to get him back inside. He had to play outside yesterday."
The lack of production out of the linebackers was just one of the problems defensively Saturday. Up front the Tigers gave up too many rushing yards for Tuberville's liking against a team that had not shown the ability to hurt Auburn throwing the football. He said that was the one thing that stuck out to him defensively.
"We didn't play the run that well," Tuberville said. "We gave up too many first down runs. When a guy runs for 121 yards on you and they're playing their second and third team quarterbacks and you know they're going to run the ball, you ought to be a little bit better than that. That's everybody. We played eight-man fronts. That's safeties and all that too."
With their backs to the wall, the Tigers have a chance to regroup and put a positive showing in the books before a tough visit to Gainesville in two weeks. An impressive victory over New Mexico State would be just the ticket for Auburn but Tuberville said right now he just wants a good showing from his team.
"We've got to start playing," Tuberville said. "We haven't played a game yet and we still had a chance to win all three games. Every game goes down to basically the last series. We won one out of three. It's a shame we didn't get the ball to bounce our way a couple of times but it just didn't."