"Control the clock, keep your defense off the field and you're going to win a lot of games that way if you don't turn the ball over," explains offensive coordinator Al Borges. "We've proven that we are capable of doing that. Would I like to score more points? You bet I would. But in terms of improvement in our offense--save the Arkansas game... I don't think we got a lot better in the Arkansas game--every other game since the third game of the season we have improved in some phase of our offense.
"Last night we improved on our third-down conversions," he continues. "We were much better. We had been bad on third down, it was a point of emphasis, and we got better at it. We were one for 13 against Arkansas. We got better the week after that. As a coordinator you're always looking at, ‘Are the kids taking to what you're saying? And is it showing up in your productivity?' Our third downs got better."
Auburn had 420 yards offense in the win over Ole Miss, but only put 17 points on the scoreboard. Borges has been the coordinator of many prolific offenses over the years at UCLA and Auburn, and he says that his 2007 unit is close to getting there as long as they can continue to improve.
Against the Rebels it was always something different that ended long drives without points on the scoreboard, whether it was a fumble, a penalty, not converting a third and one or missing a field goal.
"If it's just one thing you just take the guy out that's making the mistakes," Borges says. "That's easy. But when it's a bunch of things it's not near as easy. You've got to continue to focus on things you're making the mistakes with and not make any personnel changes. Hopefully we'll get it.
"We have not shown a big-play dimension," he adds. "That's the thing that is different. That's the thing that's been different from what I've been fortunate to have in the past.
"It's personnel and some of the things teams are doing defensively to prevent us from doing that," Borges continues. "It's always a combination of things. We have some kids I still think can make some big plays. Don't get me wrong. I think we do. For whatever reason we have not had enough of them."
Some teams hit their peak mid-season and some teams don't get there until November. Some never get there. If Auburn is to get to a level satisfactory to Borges then it'll have to be late in the season. Even though the Tigers are 6-3 overall, 4-2 in the SEC with slim hopes of getting to Atlanta, rivalry games against Georgia and Alabama make it important for the team to keep working to get better.
"You don't want to lose rhythm," Borges notes. "You've got to put him in there and keep him going.
"Look at what's happening with the NFL playoff games when teams don't play their starters at the end of the season and get beat in the first round. You've got to understand that this game is about repetition and confidence. Now we don't want to overdo it. If we have an opportunity to take him out there then we'll do it. You can't go into the game saying, ‘He's not going to play because we don't think we need him.' Then all of a sudden the next game he's a game behind. That's happened too much. People should see that and realize it."