Chizik Happy With Win, But Not Performance

Coach Gene Chizik talks about the win over Ball State and getting ready for Tennessee.

Auburn, Ala.--The Auburn Tigers may be 4-0 on the season and one of the biggest surprises to many people around the country, but it doesn't mean everything is roses on the Plains. After last night's 54-30 victory over Ball State, Coach Gene Chizik said his team has plenty to improve on between now and Saturday night when the Tigers take on Tennessee in Knoxville.

"After looking at last night's game we're obviously disappointed in a number of things, but we were just happy to get a win," Chizik said. "Heading into this month of October it's going to be a tough month. We're going to have to play much better on all levels in every phase of our game to be able to win some games this month. We've got to get back to work today and continue to improve in a lot of areas."

Against Ball State, Auburn was at times dominating as the Tigers scored 30 points in just over nine minutes to put the game away early. At other times Auburn made mistake after mistake including an Anthony Gulley fumbled punt in the first quarter and a load of penalties throughout the game. Chizik said all in all it was a game he was glad to win, but not satisfied with how his team played.

"I just felt like it was a sloppy game," Chizik said. "I felt like we were sleep walking at the beginning somewhat. Our defense plays great with a three and out. We set the tone and then we turn around and give the ball right back. Then we score 28 or 30 points and are back to kind of sloppy football. I didn't like the flow of the game.

"I'm never displeased with a win," he added. "I just with we could have played with more focus. You can't be happy with a game in which you've got nine penalties, no matter how they occurred. I think that's just a symptom of the whole uneasiness I have about the way we played."

Auburn dominated the first half against an outmatched Ball State team, but two situations stand out to Chizik as things the Tigers need to take care of as they prepare to face a brutal October schedule featuring road games at Tennessee, Arkansas and LSU.

In the first quarter Auburn had the ball at its own 47-yard line on fourth and one. Deciding to go for it, the Tigers were stopped for a one-yard loss to give the football back to Ball State with the Cardinals already leading 7-0. They were leading because the fumbled punt at the 18-yard line resulted in a four-play drive for a touchdown. Chizik said they both are situations that should not have occurred.

"Fourth and one at Auburn, you've got to make a first down," Chizik said. "That's what you have to do. If we turn the ball over in the red zone then we've got to stop them. That's just what you have to do. Those are the things that stick out when you look at the things you need to improve on. I go back and say I'm very glad to be 4-0. Am I satisfied with the way we played last night? No."

Part of the struggles early on came because of a change on the offensive line. With junior guard Byron Isom suspended because of a violation of team rules it meant that true freshman John Sullen would fill in as the starter. Chizik said he was proud of Sullen for the way he performed and handled things, but they're going to continue to look at the best possible solutions in case Isom won't play this week. That could include junior Bart Eddins.

"We'll continuously work the plan on a rotation with some guys," Chizik said. "Bart is certainly a guy that has been around a long time and knows a lot of football. He's definitely part of the equation. Jared Cooper is part of the equation. We'll just go day by day on that and see how it goes."

On the injury front Chizik said Onterio McCalebb and Kodi Burns were day to day after leaving Saturday night's game early. The same is true of defensive lineman Zach Clayton. He said they would have a better feel for the injury situation on Tuesday and throughout the week.


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