Tuberville: "We've got to play much better"

Coach Tommy Tuberville talks about Saturday night's win over the Arkansas Razorbacks.

Auburn, Ala.--It wasn't the prettiest of wins, but it was a win none the less for the Auburn Tigers as they used a strong defense and some timely offense to defeat Arkansas 9-7 Saturday night in Fayetteville. After having a chance to digest the victory and the play of his team, Coach Tommy Tuberville says he liked the effort of his team, but knows there has to be a lot of improvement between Saturdays for the Tigers from now on.

"I'm very proud of the team and how we played in terms of being prepared and practicing last week," Tuberville says. "We've just go to know we're getting into a tougher battle as we're going down the stretch. We've got to play much better."

Facing an Arkansas team that put everything into coming away with a victory over the Tigers, Auburn did some good things on the night, but also had some problem areas particularly on offense. Tuberville says several players stood out to him and the coaching staff for their play with Cole Bennett, Craig Stevens and Jerraud Powers earning player of the week honors after the win.

"It was a good win for us last night on the road," Tuberville says. "We played hard. We played consistent on defense. We played a good game on defense. Our offense, we were hit and miss. We played poorly on third down, which really kept them in the game. If we would have made any third down conversions we could have had that ball game in hand pretty early. We were just having problems throwing the football. You have to give them credit. They challenged us and made some plays, but we were just a little bit away from making some big plays offensively.

"We had some good effort on offense. Brandon Cox really played a heads up game. Cole Bennett played very good in run blocking and made a big catch on, I think, our only third down conversion. Our running backs ran solid. I'm disappointed on the fumble down on the sideline. You can't turn the ball over inside the 10. You just can't do that, especially in a game like that. The offensive line graded out good, but not great. We made some mistakes, but again Arkansas was very aggressive and did some different things to give us problems. The running game was good and our passing game was very average. Our consistency of moving the football has got to improve. It will do that.

"Defensively we were all over the field making plays. Craig Stevens and all the linebackers played well. The defensive front controlled the line of scrimmage for the most part. We made plays in the secondary. We continue to get better there."

Perhaps the most troubling aspect of Saturday night's victory was the struggle on special teams for the normally reliable Tigers. True freshman kicker Wes Byrum made the game winner, but made just 3-5 on the night with misses from 36 and 46 yards. The punting game was the sore spot with Ryan Shoemaker and Patrick Tatum averaging just 38.4 yards per punt on five kicks. Tuberville says that will be an area that will continue to be addressed this week.

"I think we made 3 out of 5 field goals," Tuberville says. "We just were not very consistent there. I thought our punt return game was a little better. We're learning how to return punts a little better. We had some breakdowns in that. Both punters didn't do very good. We were very fortunate we got some rolls. We could have had a lot better field position offensively if our punters had shown up, but they didn't get the job done. We've got to do a lot better than that."

On the injury front the Tigers appear to have gotten out of a game without serious injury. True freshman Ryan Pugh left the game with an air cast on his leg, but Tuberville says the freshman got checked out both by x-ray and MRI and it's just a sore ankle. He adds he isn't sure about his status at the moment and will know more on Sunday.

As for the rest of the injured crew it was a fairly productive night as Tray Blackmon returned to action and looked more like his old self with nine tackles and several big hits. Tuberville says this week he's hoping to add even more firepower to an already solid defense.

"We're starting to get a few people back," Tuberville says. "Merrill Johnson (shoulder) only played one play. He should get more plays this week. Savage (Aairon Savage) should come back and get some plays. I don't know a lot about Quentin Groves (dislocated toes)."

Tuberville is looking for as much ammunition as possible to add to the gun this week as the Tigers again take to the road, this time to face an angry LSU team after the Bengal Tigers lost at Kentucky on Saturday. Tuberville says while they'll be fighting made, it won't change the dynamics of this game by one bit.

"If they had won it would have been the same," Tuberville says. "We'll get a great game out of them. They'll be ready to play. The winner of this game normally in the past has gone on to the championship game. We'll treat it like that and I'm sure they will too. We've had some great battles over the last few years. We're going to need to take a better game than what we took to Arkansas. We know that. We've got to do better preparations as coaches and myself. The team has to execute better. It has to be an overall better effort because we understand what we're getting into."

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