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Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Late night practice notes: Coaches sticking with RB Mario Fannin despite fumbling problems

Mario Fannin jogged off the field against LSU shortly after his third quarter fumble and made a bee-line toward Auburn offensive coordinator Gus Malzahn.

The running back’s message? “Give me another chance. Don’t give up on me.”

“That’s always good to hear,” Malzahn said.

Auburn is trying to stick with the senior, who has lost three fumbles this year and was fortunate not to lose another on a goal line run against Arkansas that was ruled a touchdown.

Past fumbles could be partially blamed on a shoulder injury that’s now better. Not the one Saturday.

Fannin’s latest came at a crucial juncture against LSU, near midfield after Auburn had worked itself out of bad field position.

“Our offense’s goal each week is to not turn the ball over,” Malzahn said. “He’s got to find a way to hold on to the ball and to help us win.”

Despite the fumble, the Tigers went back to Fannin for a third-down carry late in the game.
Fannin ranks fourth on the team in rushing yards (253), third in receptions (13) and fourth in receiving yards (142).

“We need Mario to win,” head coach Gene Chizik said. “There’s no question about that.”

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Then read these other notes from (the few) late interviews that we had tonight:
  • Auburn practiced in shorts and shoulder pads Tuesday, which is usually the most physical day of work it has during the week. “We hadn’t had an off week,” Malzahn said. “We still got after it a little bit. Last week was a very physical game, and we’re going to have another physical game. We just tried to take a little bit of the beating off of them.”
  • "It was a long grind, especially the last two weeks with two big games," TE Philip Lutzenkirchen said. "I think coach Chizik realized that and we needed a little bit of a break. It didn’t harm our intensity or our focus."
  • More praise for RB Eric Smith from Malzahn, who agreed with Chizik's assessment that the junior hadn't played up to his potential until just recently. "Eric is a real smart, savvy player," Malzahn said. "He understands the game, he can make adjustments real well. He does a lot of the dirty work for us. Doesn't get the ball, but does a lot of things the casual observer, you know, it kind of goes unnoticed. But he really is very valuable to us."
  • A lot of talk out there about how some opponent is going to spring some new, exotic defense on Auburn that it hasn't seen, but Malzahn said the Tigers have seen pretty much everything. "We've seen blitz, we've seen man, we've seen zone, a lot of different things," he said. "What's good at this point is we've seen things so we can adjust if that happens. Some teams have done just a little bit of everything. We have veteran guys and that's been a really big positive this year. Our guys understand more of what their responsibilities are and what the defense is giving us. They're able to come back and give us some good information and be able to adjust a lot of times on their own out there."
  • Malzahn's assessment of Ole Miss' defense: "They can run. They really run to the ball well, they gang tackle. Their interior defensive linemen are extremely talented, physical and fast. They do a good job. They do a good job with their scheme."
  • RB Mike Dyer has made strides in the non-running parts of his game. Malzahn said he's understanding protections and checkdowns more now. "Obviously, he's very talented with the ball in his hands, but he's becoming a complete back," Malzahn said. "That comes with time. He's had enough reps. He's not a freshman anymore. I feel like he's getting in a comfort zone as far as the other things he has to do without the ball."
  • Malzahn likes his offenses to be split about evenly running and throwing the ball. But Auburn has skewed much more to the running side this year. The Tigers have a 72/28 split in favor of rushing plays, with 62 percent of their yards coming on the ground. "We could throw it a lot more," Malzahn said. "Our receivers, we have a lot of confidence in those guys. We have a lot of confidence in Cam in throwing the football. It's just a matter of when you're running it effectively we'd like to keep running it as long as we're successful doing it. There will be a game where we'll need to rely on the pass. We work on the pass all the time."
  • The lean toward running the ball means a lot more blocking for receivers. "I wouldn’t say boring," wide receiver Emory Blake said. "Every wide receiver wants to catch the ball. That’s what wide receivers do. But right now, running the ball is helping us win games and that’s the most important thing, and we’re going to block our butt off on the perimeter no matter what, so blocking on the perimeter is a big part and that helped us win last week."
  • Blake took a lot of pride in seeing Onterio McCalebb (who he called, O-Dog) break the game-winning touchdowns. "I remember turning to T-Zach and we celebrated together because we knew we were a big part of that play and we made that play spring like it did," he said. "It feels good, and we take a lot of pride in blocking on the perimeter."
  • Blake on the team's No. 1 BCS rankings:"It feels kind of weird right now, because you’re there, but you’re not really there for good. We know we’ve got to keep playing.”
  • Lutzenkirchen on a No. 1 team losing the last three weeks: "It’s just one of those things we realize the No. 1 team has gone down and it’s on our mind just for the fact we’re not going to let it happen to us."


AUsome04 said...

Wow Andy! There were actually some comments on your newspaper article about Fairley. Looks like others are finding out about your great work.

Ryan said...

Looks like Mario's helmet is a couple of sizes too big. I blame it for the fumbling problem.

Anonymous said...

I cannot find anything on our terrible punt returns or should I say no punt return/ fair catch / terrible field position on the last game??? Why Q. Carr just let the ball go....I understand in the beginning of the game if there were sun issues... but it got worse and worse as game proceeded. That alone with Mario's fumble could have and should have cost us the game.

Jared said...

As much as I like Mario and have been cheering for him for a while now, I now see no reason he should be touching the ball at all. Since Day 1, he has had chronic fumble problems and just when we think he has grown out of it, it strikes 3 times in one season (should be 4). Between OMac's speed and Dyer's talent as a physical runner, I see absolutely nothing that Mario brings to the table. The coaches should keep giving him touched just because he has a hungry attitude nor because he can hang onto the rock during fumble drills in practice when he has proven time and time agianst that he can't or won't in actual game situations. The cost of the risk is just too great.