Chizik Likes Effort, But Plenty Of Work Ahead

Coach Gene Chizik recaps Saturday's victory over Louisiana Tech.

Auburn, Ala.--It was a very good start to the Gene Chizik era Saturday night in Auburn as the Tigers throttled Louisiana Tech 37-13 with the offense pounding out 556 yards while the defense allowed just 245. With production from several newcomers mixed in with a group of veterans, Auburn did some very good things, but Chizik said there's still plenty to work on between now and Saturday night when the Tigers open SEC play against Mississippi State.

"I was really proud of the way our guys played," Chizik said. "I thought they played really, really hard. I thought they played through some times that were times of adversity. We turned the ball over a couple of times and got past that. We had some penalties that kept drives alive and we rallied past that. I think that as a football team we overcame some adverse situations. I was really proud of that.

"That being said, we've got a lot of work to do on all sides of the ball including special teams. We've got a lot of corrections to make. It was typical first-game stuff and all correctable, but we've got a long way to go to compete in this league. We've got a lot of work to do this week to play against a good Mississippi State team."

Perhaps the biggest positive from Saturday night's victory was the play of Auburn at the line of scrimmage on both sides of the ball. Facing a Louisiana Tech team that returned all five starters on offense and all four starters on defense, the Tigers dominated at the point of attack much to the delight of Chizik.

"I was really proud the way both of our lines played," Chizik said. "It's always a concern when you open a game up facing an offense or defense where their lines are intact and they are good players…I was really proud of the way we played. We went in there saying we had to play with low pads and play physical on both sides of the ball.

"We had some names over there on defense at times that you're not used to seeing, neither are we quite frankly. We held our own and I think as the game went on and we settled down on both sides of the ball we began to play more of our game."

One of the names that fans weren't familiar with until the last few weeks was starting safety Daren Bates. Arriving late to practice after getting cleared two days into preseason camp, Bates quickly took over the starting role opposite Zac Etheridge with Mike McNeil still out because of a broken foot suffered in spring practice. With an interception in his first game and solid play in the secondary, Bates made a good first impression Saturday night.

"He came from a really good high school program, but came in here late," Chizik said. "He did a really nice job. Did he play perfect? Absolutely not. He's going to do all the freshman things. He had a great interception and had a chance to get two. I'm very proud of him."

Offensively one of the stories was the play of quarterback Chris Todd and in particular two throws he made. On touchdown passes to Terrell Zachery and Darvin Adams, Todd delivered the ball well for the scores. Chizik said on both plays the Tigers used a double move to get the receiver open for the score, something that was used after the coaches spotted some things in the LA Tech secondary.

It's those little things that drive a coach like Chizik. A stickler for details, he said that every coach has a specific position and thing to watch during the game to help look for weaknesses in the opponent that can be used during the contest.

"Everybody has a job on game day," Chizik said. "What we don't do is watch the game. We're not game watchers. Everybody has a job to watch this or that. You've got to do your job. You can watch the game on TV the next day. We're working and specifically looking at things that we need to pay attention to.

"We do a great job of scouting people as the game goes along," Chizik added. "We know when the defensive line gets tired. We know when the corners are biting too hard. Those are the things that matter that we're trying to look at. I think Gus does a good job of taking advantage of those things based on what we see."

Those adjustments also came into play on defense as well when Auburn switched from playing zone defense early in the game to playing more man-to-man in the secondary. Chizik said that's something the Tigers will have to do throughout the season to become a complete defense.

"We really believe defensively we've got to be able to do whatever it takes," Chizik said. "There are two different concepts. When you play zone coverage everybody's eyes are on the ball and everybody is breaking on the ball. You get your bigger hits then. It's just different. When you go to man coverage there's good and bad. You can have them covered all over the field, but a quarterback scramble can cost you 20 yards and a first down.

"Those are the two coverages and we have to be good at both," he added. "We feel like when we need to press and eliminate guys we've got to be able to do that. We weren't perfect at it last night, but Ted (Roof) and I have talked numerous times about it and you've got to be good at both of them."

Now the biggest question mark remaining for the Tigers is when will some of the names get on the field on defense. With Eltoro Freeman's hamstring close to 100 percent and Zach Clayton banged up, Chizik said they decided to hold them out to make sure they're 100 percent when they get back to work. Freshman Nosa Eguae may be a little bit longer though as he suffered a foot injury during the week and was wearing a walking boot on Saturday.

"It's going to be a day-by-day deal," Chizik said. "That was kind of an 11th hour thing that popped up on us. It's nothing really serious, but it's going to be a day-to-day, week-to-week deal. I don't know how long it's going to be. We expect him back, when I don't know.

"We felt like he (Eltoro) was really close," he added. "We've got to get these guys back full speed. You have to use some good judgment and get some clarity of mind with these guys because you don't want to put them back in there and lose them for three more games. It's just a fine line. He's close to being ready, but we didn't feel like he was 100 percent."

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