Advantage Offense in A-Day Matchup

A report on Auburn's spring football game is featured.

Auburn, Ala.--The defense won the previous three scrimmages featuring the best against the best, however, on A-Day the offense was the big winner as the first team offense spent the day making big plays against backup defensive players.

In Coach Gene Chizik's scoring system that rewards the defense and offense for big plays, the offense won the scrimmage 57-31 that drew a crowd announced as 45,381 fans on a sunny spring day at Jordan-Hare Stadium.

Commenting on why he didn't match the first team offense vs. the first team defense, Chizik said, "It has been a very physical spring. That is all that we have done all spring, which has been very unusual.

"To be honest with you, I don't think most people subscribe to that theory, and that's all that we have done for the 13 previous days. We did a little bit of ones on twos in the last practice that we had, but again today the objective was to make sure everybody played, to make sure everybody has fun and there was some of that going on today."

With Barrett Trotter out of action with an ACL injury, Kodi Burns and Neil Candle split the reps as the first team quarterback. Both said they thought they played well and and Chizik said neither one will finish spring as the first-stringer.

"I think both of them did some nice things," Chizik said of the quarterbacks. "Again, both guys right now have made some strides since the beginning of spring practice. We are looking for guys to be able to lead the football team, not turn the ball over and just be great managers of our offense. I thought for the most part that happened today, but again, we have a long way to go so there is not going to be any decisions made on who is the guy and who is not the guy or anything of that nature.

"We know this thing is probably going to play out a good bit," Chizik added. "It was good to see both of them have a little bit of success today."

Caudle, who was shaken up with a blow to the head in Thursday's scrimmage, said he was 100 percent on Saturday as he 11-16 passes for 161 yards and two touchdowns. "I felt really good," he said.

"I thought we had a good day on offense," he added. "It felt good to see us move the football and have a lot of success."

Burns completed 3-8 passes for 48 yards and like Caudle he did not have a turnover. The only turnover was on a handoff when walk-on QB Brent Poole was in the game.

"I thought our execution was good today and that is something we are striving for," offensive coordinator Gus Malzahn said.

Commenting on his first spring game as head coach of the Tigers, Chizik said, "Today was a fairly productive day. I think what we were trying to get out of this day was to make sure everybody had fun, to make sure that we got everybody in the game and to made sure everybody had fun playing the game today. I think the bottom line is that the players did that.

"I think there were some good things that happened out there on both sides of the ball and on special teams. I think everybody got a little flavor today. Again, the idea today was to go out and play a lot of base defense and base offense and kind of let the chips fall where they may. I think the kids had fun and the fans got a decent look at where we are going to be offensively and defensively next year."

Despite the offense making the big plays on Saturday, Chizik said the defense has had an impressive spring. "In the last week, we have made some tremendous strides defensively. Today, we mixed and matched people. We played a lot of people. I am really proud in the last week of how far our defense has come.

"Today wasn't necessarily indicative of defensively of where we are at simply because we had so much mix and match going on with players. They are flying around and it is a contact sport and they are certainly doing that defensively. We really feel good about the strides our defense has made in the last week or so."

Ben Tate rushed for 72 yards on just four carries with the first offense. He had terrific blocking and scored on touchdown runs of 46 yards and nine yards.

Darvin Adams catches a touchdown pass as Matthew Samples defends.

Darvin Adams caught four passes for 103 yards including a 34-yard touchdown pass from Candle.

Mario Fannin caught four passes for 71 yards and Onterrio McCalebb rushed two times for 75 yards with most of the yardage coming on a well-blocked 70-yard run on which he was untouched.

Onterio McCalebb breaks look for his long TD run.

Indicative of who spent most of the time on the field defensively, the top five tacklers were walk-ons led by safety Matthew Sample with six solo stops. Craig Stevens and Michael Goggans, who two tackles apiece, were the leaders among the scholarship players.

Perhaps the most impressive play was a 70-yard reverse by Terrell Zachery, who noted the offense had nearly broken the play for a score in several earlier in scrimmages. However, on Saturday it was perfectly executed with key blocks by Tate and offensive tackle Lee Ziemba.

"That was a lot of fun seeing that play work," said Zachery, who has won praise this spring for his improved play from wide receiver coach Trooper Taylor.

The Tigers have one more day of spring practice and will wrap up on Sunday with what Chizik said will be a teaching day. He added, "We are really going to hunker down and try to correct some of the things that we saw on film today that weren't good. We made some progress I think, but there are a lot of things that we will see on film that we don't like so we are going to get all of those things cleaned up and tomorrow is going to be a big-time technique day for every position. We are just going to zero in on techniques and what we are going to try to do and from every position whether it is back pedal or pass sets or quarterback throwing motions.

"We are just going to go back in and touch up and brush up because this is going to be the last thing they hear from us until they practice again in the fall so we are going to brush up on the technique issues that we feel like we have to get done."

Chizik said he was excited about the crowd that attended the A-Day Game. "Unbelievable. I mean it just shows you right now to me how my hat's off to all the Auburn faithful. I mean it is really awesome. Let me tell you why I am so excited about it because our kids noticed it today. You can hear them talking about it.

"When you beat each other up for 13 days now, you have to have something to look forward to, and they did. They looked forward to today and let me tell you, the fans delivered. It was a great crowd, but it is the Auburn way, and it was nice to see that today."

Fans line up to get autographs after the A-Day Game.

News and Notes: The scoring system for the offense awarded six points for a touchdown, three for a field goal, two points for a play of 15 yards or longer, two points for three consecutive first downs and one point for a successful PAT kick...The defensive scoring system included seven points for a touchdown, five points for a turnover, four points for a sack, three points for a blocked field goal, two points for a three-and-out or a tackle behind the line of scrimmage and one point for a blocked PAT...Tristan Davis won the Shug Jordan Award as the outstanding senior on the 2008 team...Tyronne Green won the Ken Rice Award as the outstanding blocker...Mario Fannin won the Pat Sullivan Award as the top 2008 offensive player...Jerraud Powers won the Zeke Smith Award for the second straight year as the top defensive player...Zac Etheridge won the Mike Kolen Award that goes to the leading tackler.


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