Chizik Talks Tigers After MSU Win

Coach Gene Chizik recaps the Mississippi State win and talks about the offense and defense.

Auburn, Ala.--While much of the attention through two weeks has been focused on the running back with backs Ben Tate and Onterio McCalebb both have 100-yard games each of the first two weeks, the story has been the play of the offensive line. Opening up running room and not allowing a sack this season, Coach Gene Chizik said the group has a good night against Mississippi State in a 49-24 victory, but he's looking for more.

"I thought our offensive line played well together as a whole group," Chizik said. "They played really, really well. I think they are getting it. That's kind of what, as a whole, we're noticing.

"I haven't bought stock in them yet," he added. "You can see in the third and fourth quarters that we're trying to be a more physical team and we're trying to wear on people. The great thing about that group of five guys is they've bought in. They work. They come to practice and are working hard. Coach (Jeff) Grimes has done a great job with those guys.

"They work as one. I'm really proud of where they are and I say that I'm not buying stock in them jokingly because they really have come a long way, but I just don't want anybody getting ahead of themselves now because it's not as good as it seems and it's not as bad as it seems."

For the second week in a row at the end of the first half Chizik called timeouts to give his team back the ball and they responded by putting points on the board to seize momentum going into the break. Chizik said that's just something he believes in with this team and offense and it's worked to this point.

"We always talk about time management and how we're going to use our time at the end of halves and the end of games," Chizik said. "If we feel like we can get some momentum swings before the half then by all means we're going to do that. We work situations with our offense all the time and we have names for it. We have names so we can recall on Saturday that this is a certain situation. We've worked it and they have confidence. In two games now it has helped us get some momentum at halftime."

Junior Kodi Burns continues to be an effective player for the Tigers despite not putting up big numbers in the yardage department. For the season Burns has just 55 yards rushing on 17 carries, but has four rushing touchdowns. He also added a touchdown pass of 13 yards to Philip Lutzenkirchen against Mississippi State. All of those touches and scores have come out of the wildcat formation where Burns lines up in the backfield and has the option to run, make a handoff, or throw the ball. Chizik said so far it has worked well because it gives a defense so much to think about.

"Right now it's effective simply because there are new things, we still have new things off of it that we can do," Chizik said. "After four or five weeks you run out of things and you just have to execute better than the other guy. Schematically it gives you problem defensively because it could be action one way and then a second action the same way. It could be action one way and then a different action the other way."

Defensively the numbers don't pop out to you like they do on offense, but Auburn's defense has gotten the job done in clutch situations and that continued against Mississippi State. Getting the ball back to the offense and letting them put the game away was huge in the third quarter, but also a defensive touchdown from Antonio Coleman proved to be a big play in the game. Chizik said there have been some good signs so far, but there are some things to work on to become a complete unit.

"We're about two third down stops away from being real close to where we want to be," Chizik said. "They are playing hard. Early in the year you can see offenses and you really don't know what to expect they can get you on a couple of things early that you don't know and you have to adjust to. The thing I like is that we adjusted to a lot of different things. They are really playing hard. We're not perfect, but they are really playing hard."

One of the disappointing aspects of the first two games and in particular against Mississippi State has been the play of the special teams. Against the Bulldogs the Tigers had a punt blocked, kicked off out of bounds, and struggled in the punt return game. Chizik said right now they're just trying to get people in the right place while also working some different names into the mix.

"We're just not playing well," Chizik said. "It's a situation right now where there are some issues that are personnel related and there are some other issues that are first couple of games and continuity issues with guys getting injured and things of that nature. There are a lot of new names on those teams right now. We're trying to iron out some of those growing pains."

Through two games Auburn has five punt returns for just one yard with the longest going for nine yards with eight lost yards. While Mario Fannin and Demond Washington both struggled again Saturday night to make anything positive happen, Chizik said it's not all on them.

"We've got to give those punt returners time and then they have to do a better job of catching and holding onto the ball," Chizik said. "

On the injury front Chizik said that senior tight end Tommy Trott is day-to-day with an injured knee and he's unsure of his status for this week. The only certainty is the status of defensive end Cameron Henderson. Chizik said that Henderson would not play this season because of issues.

"There is no chance of Cameron Henderson playing this year, none," Chizik said. "There are some issues that make it where he won't play this year."

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