Chizik And Tigers Move On To Georgia

Auburn Coach Gene Chizik talks about the win over Furman and the rivalry with Georgia.

Auburn, Ala.--It didn't take long for the Auburn Tigers and Coach Gene Chizik to move on to the Georgia Bulldogs following a cruise to victory over Furman on homecoming Saturday. The Deep South's Oldest Rivalry, Auburn versus Georgia is something Chizik has experienced as an Auburn assistant and he said preparing for his first time as a head coach is exciting.

"One thing that stands out is that we've got a lot of people on our roster from the State of Georgia," Chizik said. "Just within your team there are built in rivalries already because at times half of our roster is from the state. It has always been one of those games that is usually separated by a very few points.

"It's kind of a different series. It seems like the team playing away from home wins a good bit of the time for whatever reason…it's a great rivalry. I think the fans love it."

If Auburn is to win Saturday at Georgia then the offense must play a big role and likely one of the key ingredients will be the running of senior Ben Tate. Currently third in the SEC in rushing at 114.2 yards per game and is second with eight touchdowns on the ground, Tate has flourished as a senior and Chizik said he's improved as the year has progressed.

"I think he's got a comfort level in the offense," Chizik said. "At this point and time he's rushed for over 1,100 yards. He's really found a niche in there. He's a very good ball carrier. He's run for tough yards. He's run for some yardage out on the perimeter where he's made some guys miss. I think he's made yards running the football about every way you can make them."

Against Furman, Tate was used sparingly as the Tigers ran out to a big lead against the Paladins. That meant a lot of work for the back ups on both offense and defense. Chizik said while it wasn't perfect, he was glad to see guys get some valuable experience heading into the final two weeks of the regular season.

"DeAngelo Benton, it was nice to see him catch some footballs," Chizik said. "I thought Neil Caudle threw the ball well. Eric Smith ran the ball at tailback well. Jonathan Evans on defense. Offensive line-wise, I thought as a whole the offensive line with Jared Cooper and Bart Eddins, I thought they all did some nice things."

On the injury front the Tigers were without several players in Saturday's game. Linebacker Adam Herring did not dress and his availability is questionable for the remainder of the season because of foot and ankle problems. Wide receiver Travante Stallworth was injured early in the game with what looked to be a knee injury. Chizik said they're unsure of the severity of his injury at this point and more will be known this week.

The good news is that running back Onterio McCalebb could be back against the Bulldogs this week after being out the last two weeks because of an ankle problem. Chizik said the freshman was close to being ready against Furman, but they didn't want to push him back.

Without Herring available to play at linebacker and Harris Gaston still not back after suffering a concussion early in the season, that meant freshman Jonathan Evans was the only other scholarship linebacker for the Tigers on Saturday. The Mobile native got extensive playing time in the second half and Chizik said it was good to see him respond.

"I think Jonathan is coming along as a young guy," Chizik said. "There are a lot of moving parts for him. All year he has kind of been in the mix with special teams and getting used to the speed of the college game. He played a lot yesterday. That was good to see him run around and get used to the speed of the game as a linebacker and not just as a special teams player."

One of the biggest question marks that still remains for the Tigers is at punt returner after Philip Pierre-Louis had a rough day against Furman with a fumble inside his own 10-yard line, a delay of game penalty, and several missed chances to catch the ball. Chizik said they're definitely going to continue to try to find the answer at the position this week.

"It's just really disappointing," Chizik said. "We've invested a lot of time in it. We've got to get somebody back there that we can count on to be able to do that. Obviously we don't have anybody up to this point. If it has to be somebody new then that's what we'll do this week."

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