"I thought our work ethic was better. Particularly on defense, I thought we ran to the football a lot better than yesterday. Our intensity was up, we finished plays better."
The Bulldogs did have more spring in their practice-steps Wednesday. This was more than partly because Croom allowed the week's third session to be in shorts, shoulder pads and helmets. That was a change from last week, when State hit full-steam on Wednesday as they were getting ready to hit the Tulane Green Wave.
Croom said the change of pace was by plan, but won't necessarily be the case all season. "Each week it's going to be different. It's all according to how we perform and whatever we need to do. I felt we played a physical game last week, we had a pretty hard day today. I thought we could still get done what we needed to in shoulder pads today.
"And," the coach added, "I want them to feel good and ready to go for this ball game."
To get ready for their Western Division rival, the State staff put each squad in various game situations. There was a particular focus on short-yardage and goal-line drills on both sides of the ball, with the Bulldogs practicing the kind of rough-and-tumble stuff that they expect a tussel with the Tigers to feature. Croom is keeping fingers crossed that his team remains healthy the rest of this week, especially the offensive line. Both starting guards, Will Rogers and Johnny Wadley, were moving well Wednesday, and nobody who played in the opening game is questionable.
State also exposed the offensive line to some of Auburn's trademark blitzes, using speedy young linebackers to mimic Tiger attackers. "Our scout team gave us a better look on both sides of the ball," Croom said. "Guys like Titus Brown, he did a heck of a job. We used him to get Richard Burch a lot of work and try to simulate what they're defensive ends will do on Saturday."
And Saturday is coming up fast. The Bulldogs will work out again Thursday and have a short session Friday before the team meal. The work has been satisfactory so far this week, according to Croom. "But we're in a situation where we have to have perfect practices just to have a chance to win."