Auburn Football Notes and Quotes

Notes and news on Auburn football as the Tigers prepare to face LSU.

Auburn, Ala.--Saturday night's win over Arkansas was Auburn's eighth consecutive road victory in SEC play and second this season after defeating the Florida Gators two weeks ago. Coach Tommy Tuberville says that his team just has a knack for playing on the road at the moment and feels comfortable in hostile environments.

"Our guys, they look forward to going and playing anywhere," Tuberville says. "We've actually played better on the road this year than we've played at home most of the time if you look at consistency. I'm talking about as individuals.

"Team-wise, we keep our focus. I don't know. It's just one of those things. We've learned how to win around here. Unfortunately we've lost more home games than we have away games. Maybe we need to play away every week."

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Auburn's running game took center stage Saturday night in a battle against a talented duo from Arkansas. In the game Auburn's Benjamin Tate and Brad Lester outrushed Darren McFadden and Felix Jones 180-85. Both Tate and Lester had more yards individually than their counterparts did total. Tuberville says much of the credit has to do to the offensive line, but also to an improving running back corps.

"We got stronger on the offensive line," Tuberville says. "I thought we started to wear them down. We were holding our blocks a little longer. We had a little bit more of a passing game going at some point, which forced them to do some different things. Ben is becoming a stronger runner. He's running hard and getting a lot of confidence. I'm proud of how he is maturing. Everybody kind of counted him out as the odd-man out when Lester came back and he's still the guy that is making the tough yards and making the big plays. I'm proud of his efforts."

One player who didn't see as much action was redshirt freshman back Mario Fannin. Carrying the ball just three times for nine yards, Fannin wasn't as big a part of the offense as he has been early in the season, but Tuberville says that could change this week.

"He didn't play many plays," Tuberville says. "He only played seven or eight plays. You can't play them all (running backs). We're going to play the ones that are getting it done in practice in the game. Mario could be one of those guys this week. We'll just have to wait and see."

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Part of the reason for Fannin's disappearance Saturday night was a rhythm in the running game with Tate and Lester sharing duties. That rhythm and also made the Tigers quite predictable at times with just seven passes on first down with two becoming runs by Cox, one for seven yards and one for an eight-yard loss. On those plays Cox completed just 2-5 for 12 yards.

Compare that with 25 first down running plays in the game and it makes for a long night for an offense that isn't clicking on all cylinders. Tuberville says the struggles offensively were partly to blame on the Auburn defense, which played so well that it made the Tigers hesitant to make a mistake on offense.

"We don't go in necessarily conservative," Tuberville says. "We have several game plans. We kind of use the one depending on how our defense plays. Once we saw that we could play defense against them and they were going to struggle, you shift gears and do some different things. If they were moving it up and down the field we were going to have to spread it out and throw a little more. Every thing we do kind of circles around our kicking game and defense. That said, we've got to get a lot better on offense. You can't put their back to the wall like we did all night."

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Kicker Wes Byrum studies the uprights before making a kick against Arkansas.

Something that went largely unnoticed Saturday night was the play made by senior holder Matthew Motley on the game winning kick by Wes Byrum. Grabbing a snap that was just a little off line, Motley got the ball down in time for Byrum to boot it through. Tuberville says that's just something he has come to expect from the Opelika native that has become a key member of Auburn's special teams.

"It was a little high, but he's sure-handed," Tuberville says. "He runs that show. He's the man behind the scenes on that field goal team. He takes control. He gets them on the sidelines, all of the linemen. There are a few linemen on the field, but most are on the sideline. He talks to them. He studies the blocking each week and how they're trying to block and where they're going to come from. He works good with a true freshman kicker too. He settles him down. He's kind of an unsung hero on this team behind the scenes."

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Auburn takes on LSU this week in perhaps the toughest atmosphere in all of college football. With a kickoff time expected around 8:15, the fans will have had a chance to get rowdy all day waiting for kickoff. Senior safety Eric Brock says it's a different experience at LSU than anywhere else he's ever been.

"It was hectic," Brock says of Auburn's last trip to Baton Rouge. "I remember the bus shaking. They were bringing up our loss to Georgia Tech that year. Their fans are intense. They are in your face. They are yelling. They are talking about your coaches. They are talking about you.

"You've just got to block that all out and just really focus on the game. In the end it's going to come down to who is going to make plays in the critical situations of the game."


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