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Saturday, August 30, 2008

La.-Monroe knows all about Franklin

Most teams facing Auburn this year will have to adjust to first-year offensive coordinator Tony Franklin's spread offense.

Louisiana-Monroe isn't one of those teams.

The Warhawks have played against Franklin's offense the last two years while Franklin was Troy's offensive coordinator.

Despite losing both games, Louisiana-Monroe's defense played respectably, surrendering 24 points in each game.

Last year the Warhawks shut out Troy's offense through the first half. The Trojans' lone score came on an interception return late in the second quarter. The Warhawks held Troy 10 points below its season average last season.

"The key is not giving up the big play and being patient -- keeping the play in front of you," Louisiana-Monroe head coach Charlie Weatherbie said during his Monday morning teleconference.

In other words, Weatherbie's defense will likely try to play soft coverage. Louisiana-Monroe will attempt to make Auburn sustain long drives and won't worry about a few first downs.

Remember how Auburn used to play against the Steve Spurrier-led Florida teams under Tuberville? Expect Louisiana-Monroe to follow that blueprint.

Weatherbie knows what to expect. He just wants to defend against the game-changing plays.

"(Franklin) loves to throw the ball," Weatherbie said. "Of course, they're a team that's going to throw ball 70 percent of time or more. They love the quick game and bubble passes and they throw the ball down field as much as they can. They pick times to do that. He does a great job with it."

Louisiana-Monroe's defense had more success against Troy than the three SEC teams the Trojans played.

Against SEC foes Arkansas, Florida and Georgia, Franklin's offense at Troy scored 26, 31 and 34 points.

Louisiana-Monroe's defense also held Alabama's offense down during its 21-14 upset win last year at Bryant-Denny Stadium.

Franklin knows how hard it can be to find big plays against the Louisiana-Monroe defense. The Warhawks changed defensive coordinators, but Franklin expects their scheme to be similar to the past two years.

"They're very sound," Franklin said. "They play hard. They run hard to the ball. They're tough, and they were very well coached. Both years, it's been a struggle. We struggled with them both years at Troy."

Auburn head coach Tommy Tuberville is hoping Franklin can solve his Louisiana-Monroe problems now that he has SEC players.

"This is a pretty high-powered offense now," Tuberville said. "You can score. That's the reason that we went to this, to try and have more big plays. You can have big plays against good defenses."

The offensive players are confident as the season-opener approaches.

Running back Ben Tate predicted that Auburn would "put up a nice amount of points."

Receiver Rod Smith said Louisiana-Monroe's success against Troy shows the defense has some talent, but it doesn't mean anything this weekend.

"They may play us differently with us being an SEC team and probably having better athletes, not to take anything away from those guys," Smith said. "They'll probably play us a little different.

"We saw a lot of great things that we can run against those guys."

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