Chizik Happy With Win, But Looking For More

Coach Gene Chizik talks about the win over West Virginia and where his team needs to improve heading into the Ball State game.

Auburn, Ala.--While there was plenty to be happy about in Auburn's 41-30 victory over West Virginia Saturday night at Jordan-Hare Stadium including the passing game and an opportunistic defense, Coach Gene Chizik said on Sunday that there is plenty left to work on this week as the Tigers get ready to face Ball State looking to go 4-0 on the season.

Much of that work would appear to be needed on defense as the Tigers struggled against the Mountaineers at times, especially early, giving up 208 yards in the first quarter alone. While West Virginia made plays, Chizik said a lot of problems came from mistakes from the defense.

"We've got a lot of work to do on defense," Chizik said. "A lot of the yardage last night was just simply missed tackles. We would blitz a guy off the edge and they were very athletic. I'm certainly not making excuses I'm just stating what happened. We would come off the edge and take poor angles. Tackling issues was a little bit of a problem.

"We're still having a problem right now getting off the field on third down. I think that was evident. We've got to re-visit a lot of that and go back and look at some of that, but at the end of the day one of the things I'm proud of our defense for is staying in there and playing hard and making good things happen. We had some guys to come up with some great plays last night."

The same thing was true on offense as the Tigers ran for only 100 yards on the night on 41 carries, but threw for 300 with Chris Todd completing 16-31 for 284 yards and four touchdowns with one interception. Chizik said being able to hurt a team through the air is huge for the offense because that was what was available on Saturday and they took advantage of it.

"Every week we're not going to be able to run the ball," Chizik said. "Offensively we're going to do what the defense allows us to do. A high percentage of the time last night they were putting an eighth guy down in there. Depending on what formation you're in, a lot of times that eighth guy is unblockable. So do you want to keep doing that or do you want to throw the and move it.

"You don't know what the other team is going to do until you get in the game. We go in each week knowing we have to run the football, but if they're going to do everything they can just numbers-wise to not let you then we have to go in another direction. One week you may run for 300 and the next week you may throw for 300."

One of the players that had an outstanding game for the Tigers on Saturday was sophomore running back Eric Smith. Catching three passes for 67 yards and also blocking in the backfield, Smith showed his versatility to the offense against the Mountaineers and Chizik said that's what you get with him.

"He's a football player, he just is," Chizik said. "If he goes down to cover a kickoff he's going to make the tackle. You tell him to catch a low ball on a critical third down to keep a drive alive and he's going to do that. We threw four verts (vertical routes) last night and the ball was catchable because he caught it, but it was not an easy catch. He blocks as a fullback, he can run the ball as a tailback, he covers kickoffs, he's on the kickoff return team as a blocker. He's just a good football player."

As Auburn now prepares to face a winless Ball State team, it would seem like the perfect opportunity to rest some starters and get ready for a brutal upcoming schedule with road games at Tennessee and Arkansas following by a game at home against Kentucky, another road trip to LSU and home against Ole Miss in a five-week stretch. Chizik said that would be nice, but there's too much to be done for this team to rest on its accomplishments this week.

"We need to see a great deal of improvement between game three and game four right now the way we're playing in my opinion overall," Chizik said. "Right now we've won three games, but I can't say there is any phase of our game that any coach including me is happy about. I'm happy that they've played hard and I'm happy that we've won and I'm happy that they've overcome a lot of adversity, but we haven't put a full game together yet."

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