Auburn, Ala.--Senior defensive tackle Josh Thompson had plenty to say on Sunday when he got up and spoke at a players only meeting before the Auburn Tigers started working on the Georgia Bulldogs. Calling for intensity and effort out of his teammates the next three weeks, Thompson says the team responded on Tuesday with a good day on the practice field.
"These last two games are a big deal," Thompson says. "I talked to them Sunday about it in the team meeting room. Today's practice was great. We had high intensity and everybody was getting after it. That's what we talked about in that meeting, about everybody getting after it from scout team all the way up to the starters. We got after it today. It was a good mental practice as well as physical practice. It was a good start."
Looking for a strong finish from his team, Coach Tommy Tuberville agrees with Thompson and says he thought the team had a real good day and was very focused on the task at hand despite some fisticuffs in practice.
"Our players today had a very excellent practice," Tuberville says. "It was high spirited. We had four or five fights. Guys were pushing each other around. You can tell in terms of the practice that it's a pretty intense game you're going to play on Saturday. Today was a very good practice. I look forward to see how we practice tomorrow night. Our focus was there and it's going to need to be on both sides and our kicking game. We're going to need to play one of our better games."
On the injury front the Tigers are a pretty healthy team as Tuberville says Ryan Pugh and Wes Byrum both practiced with Byrum kicking well and both should be good to go this Saturday for the Tigers. The news isn't so good for linebacker Craig Stevens as Tuberville says he did not practice and is questionable for Saturday. Tight end Gabe McKenzie says he didn't practice on Tuesday because of a sore ankle, but will be ready to go against the Bulldogs.
A player that will definitely miss Saturday's game is tailback Tristan Davis. Injured for the second time this season when he broke a bone in his foot against Florida, Tuberville says Davis will miss this week, but has a chance to be back for the season finale against Alabama.
"He's running, but he's not sprinting," Tuberville says. "He still has some soreness around the area where he had the pin put in. He's not ready, but he's getting pretty close. The off week next week and the ability to have 14 days after this Saturday will probably put him in the position to play."
With the Georgia game always one the team is focused on each season, it's usually a time when the intensity picks up on the practice field and that can result in a scuffle here or there. That was the case on Tuesday as several skirmishes broke out with one between freshman linebacker Josh Bynes and sophomore offensive lineman Lee Tilley. Senior tight end Cole Bennett says that's just a part of it when you get to this time of year.
"Definitely the intensity picked up today," Bennett says. "The twos weren't getting as many reps. We're kind of practicing the way we were before Tennessee Tech. This is a big game for us. These two weeks, in a lot of ways, make or break a season. They determine whether you have a good season or a great season or a bad season. We've got to take this game seriously because if we don't win this one it changes what we're doing."
One point of emphasis for Tuberville on Tuesday was to point out that he's got to do a better job of making sure the team doesn't play the game during the week. Linebacker Tray Blackmon may be a guy he has to watch closely.
"It's always intense like that for Georgia, LSU and big games like that," Blackmon adds. "For the defense it's always like that no matter what day it is or what game it is. That's the type of guy Coach (Will) Muschamp is. It was intense. We were having fun out there. I know I was."
After losing 37-15 last season to Georgia in Jordan-Hare Stadium, the Tigers have plenty of incentive to play well against the Bulldogs. Defensive end Antonio Coleman says the team is focused this week and it showed in Tuesday's practice.
"We just came out and were flying around trying to have a little fun," Coleman says. "It's a big game this week for us. Florida week and LSU week we had that same tempo. We came out and played two big games. Unfortunately the LSU game we lost, but we've got it in our heads. Last year they came in our house and really embarrassed us. This year we're trying to go out and do what we have to do to win the game."
The kickoff for Saturday's game against Georgia is scheduled for 2:30 p.m. and can be seen nationally on CBS.