AU Offense Getting In Rhythm

The Auburn offense is starting to hit its stride halfway through the 2007 regular season.

Auburn, Ala.--The feeling after the loss to Mississippi State was indescribable. It wasn't anything Auburn fans had experienced in a long time and it wasn't an experience the coaches and players had been through the offensive side of the ball since the arrival of offensive coordinator Al Borges in 2004.

Auburn had arguably the best offense in the SEC in 2004 and 2005, but began to spiral downwards in 2006 because of injuries and a conservative approach that still won the Tigers 11 ballgames. However, the Tigers hit rock bottom offensively the first three games of the 2007 season and had a 1-2 record to show for it.

Borges and the offensive coaches made personnel changes at several positions, and to his credit, Borges stuck with his quarterback--a decision that has paid off the last three weeks as they've done a 180 on the offensive side of the ball.

When exactly did the turn-around start?

"As soon as we stopped turning the ball over," Borges says emphatically. "That's the bottom line. I can't say there was a play or anything like that. As soon as we stopped turning the ball over we started getting more turns, plus we weren't putting our defense in so many predicaments. Instead of running and fumbling or throwing an interception we're now getting more turns. When you get more turns you get more rhythm. And that's what has happened. We are now much more rhythmic. Our throw and catch has improved and everything tends to go a little better when you're holding onto the ball."

The Tigers turned the ball over 12 times in the first three games, but just three times in the current three-game winning streak over New Mexico State, Florida and Vanderbilt.

"One thing I've learned in coaching is you get what you emphasize," Borges notes. "It's not that we didn't always emphasize it, but it raised it's ugly head and it became even more of a point of emphasis. The kids are increasingly aware of how it can get you beat. When you turn it over 10 times in two games, if that isn't a testament of what it can do to you, I don't know what is. Then you turn it over three times in three games. There is a formula for winning games. It hasn't changed in years. Hold onto the football, have a good, aggressive running game and be efficient regardless of what you do--whether you run every down, pass every down or do a little bit of both."

And since the execution has been better, Borges says he's been able to open up his playbook more.

"When you're not executing, you're not afforded the luxury of being real creative sometimes," he explains. "You'd better get fundamentals, blocking, making good exchanges in the run game, good tracks and then when once you feel you can achieve that--and I felt like we improved fundamentally somewhat in the New Mexico State game--then you can start.

"I'll give you a great example," Borges continues. "In '04, the first three games of the season we were very vanilla. It was very, very basic. We were shifting and doing all that stuff, but that's window dressing. Then after that when we really started to do the stuff was after the LSU game. When you talk about getting into some creative schemes that happened more as the season went along. It really did. As the team gained more confidence we were able to do more stuff. That's the way I feel right now. As we gain more confidence we'll do more things. You go out there and want to run all these fancy schemes and you can't block guys it's not going to work. If I've learned anything, I've learned that."

Tommy Trott catches a well-executed screen pass in the opening drive of Auburn's 35-7 victory over Vanderbilt.

Games 1-3: 1-2
Games 4-6: 3-0

First Downs
Games 1-3: 16.7 per game
Games 4-6: 20.3 per game

Rushing Average
Games 1-3: 134.3 yards
Games 4-6: 189 yards

Passing Average
Games 1-3: 167 yards
Games 4-6: 195 yards

Total Yards Average
Games 1-3: 301.3 yards
Games 4-6: 384 yards

Turnover Average
Games 1-3: 4 per game
Games 4-6: 1 per game

Third-Down Conversions
Games 1-3: 31.8 percent
Games 4-6: 44.7 percent

First Quarter Point Average
Games 1-3: 1 per game
Games 4-6: 11.7 per game

Total Points
Games 1-3: 20 per game
Games 4-6: 36.7 per game

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