War Eagle Extra has moved!

You should be automatically redirected in 4 seconds. If not, visit
and update your bookmarks.

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Pre-practice notes: Battle-tested Tigers gaining confidence from so many close games

Auburn's players think this year's team is a close-knit group.

Playing in four close games this year that have come down to the wire have helped forge that bond.

"You can't go to Walmart and buy team chemistry," quarterback Cam Newton said. "Just being in the tough games and being in tight situations, that can build a team or it can separate a team. Right now, some guys have really been stepping up as leaders and that's going to be something we're going to need."

The Tigers beat Mississippi State, Clemson and Kentucky by three points. They needed a furious fourth quarter rally to come back against South Carolina for a win.

"It's definitely given us great confidence," wide receiver Kodi Burns said. "Because the thing about being in a close game is that you can think that you're going to win it and then really don't believe it and you can look in people's eyes and know that, 'Hey, we can do this.'"

Auburn hasn't won three games by three or fewer points in the same season since 2007.

"We all want to know who we are when everything's going good," Burns said. "It's about what kind of character you've got when things go bad, and we've had several things go bad these last few games, but we stuck together and weathered the storm.

"Now, the key is to try to find a way to stay out of those situations."

Follow the blog on Twitter and Facebook.

Here are some more notes and quotes from today's early round of interviews:
  • Newton didn't sound happy that Auburn keeps putting itself in position to play so many close games. "We've been on the verge of being very lucky, in my opinion," he said.
  • Something seems to go wrong for the Tigers at some point during the game that allows other teams to stick close. "The biggest thing is putting a whole game together," Burns said. "We can't just come out flat in the first half and finish in the second or vice versa. We've got to put a whole game together, and that's when we'll go from good to great."
  • Linebacker Craig Stevens said it comes down to focus. "We just have to be more mentally focused every play, not just take plays off and just be honed into the game from snap 1 to the last play of the game," he said. "I think if we do that, we should be able to come out with the win."
  • Asked why that's the case for a defense with so many veteran guys, Stevens said some players are still adjusting to new spots. "Like (Daren) Bates moving down to linebacker, he's still getting used to the position," he said. "Me moving to Will, I'm still getting adjusted to playing in the box. It's little things like that. I wouldn't say it's overall a breakdown on the play. It's just about feeling comfortable with where you are on the field."
  • Expectations are growing for the No. 7 Tigers, who are one of two unbeaten SEC teams remaining (LSU is the other). "Coach (Gene) Chizik always stresses that each week the target gets bigger on our back, or the expectations are raised," Newton said. "As far as how we attack our opponent or how we go into each week mentally, it's very simple: We do what we're coached to do and everything else will take care of itself."
  • Chizik, as you can imagine, agreed. "For me personally, there's no more pressure than there is every week, because our team expects to win, our coaches expect to win, our fans expect us to win. That hasn't changed. As a football team, do they feel the pressure? I hope not. I hope that it's business as usual in their mind. We don't talk about rankings. We don't talk about records. We don't talk about it. We just try to proceed."
  • Saturday's game will mark the first matchup between the teams while they are both ranked. Arkansas is No. 12 in the latest AP poll. "Growing up in Arkansas, I've seen them have some pretty good teams that were ranked really high as well as Auburn," Burns said. "I'm really surprised this is the first time we've both been ranked going into a big game like this."
  • Although Arkansas can pass the ball as well as anyone in the country, Chizik still thinks everything starts with stopping the run. It's something the Tigers didn't do last year in Fayetteville, when the Razorbacks ran for 221 yards in a 44-23 win. "That's what you start every game with," Chizik said. "They've got big, physical tailbacks. The numbers that you look at might be a little bit misleading. They can run the football, and I know coach (Bobby) Petrino wants to run the football. That's something that's a huge part of their offense. That's still got to be the first thing that we aim to do. It doesn't mean we're going to neglect the potency of their passing game. We'll start every week with everybody we play focusing on what we've got to do to stop the run."
  • Revenge is not on Auburn's mind. At least that's why the Tigers are saying publicly. "We don't operate off the word revenge," Chizik said. "2009 is 2009 and 2010 is a different year. This is a very important game to us obviously. Every one of our players would tell you that."
  • Burns on Newton's off-balance pass to him while falling out of bounds: "I'm speechless."
  • Stevens knew Newton would be this good. "Oh yeah," he said. "I knew it from the time he stepped on campus. You can just tell from the scrimmages and things like that that he'll break runs here and there. You could just tell he would transfer it to a game."
  • As for Newton's runs into the secondary, Stevens thinks it's a mismatch. "It's not too hard for him, knowing once he gets into that secondary he's the biggest guy by far back there," he said. "He doesn't hesitate to drive his shoulder back there."
  • LT Lee Ziemba stepped up to make a speech in the huddle prior to Auburn's 19-play, 7-minute game-winning drive against Kentucky. "I just said what everybody was thinking," he said. "Usually, I don't have speeches like that. Speeches like that, I don't like to say because we all know what the speech is going to say. I'm like: Don't just say it, do it. This time, nobody was saying anything. I felt like I needed to say something. It wasn't nothing that anybody else was already thinking. It wasn't a big deal."
  • Ziemba, like Burns, is from Arkansas. He said it's not a big deal to being playing the Razorbacks, though. "I know just as many people who play for Georgia or LSU than at Arkansas," he said. "My folks live in Tennessee now. I rarely even get to go back up there (to Arkansas). Coaches have changed up there. It's not like it was."
  • More chemistry talk, courtesy of Ziemba: "That's something you can't put a price on. We've put ourselves in these positions, different types of positions. Down 17, driving the length of the field to score, get a turnover like we did against South Carolina. It becomes second nature. You're expecting the game to go down to the wire and when it does get there, you know how to win 'em. It's not a shock. It's definitely valuable because this next stretch of games coming on, there's going to be some close ones."
  • Auburn hasn't had a holding call against it since the Clemson game (when it had a season's worth of holding calls). Told of this fact, Ziemba knocked on the arm rests of the wooden chair he was sitting in. It's not a conscious thing. "We don't think about it like that," Ziemba said. "What you do is you know how to block somebody, you've been doing it every day of your life since you showed up on campus, and you just try to put yourself in position. If you're in good position and you take the right step and you put your hands where they're supposed to be like you're taught so you can get leverage and movement, you're not going to get called for holding. That's the way things are. When you take a bad step and a guy beats you, or you get your hands outside and the guy gets his hands in your chest, that's when you get called for holding. We're trying to not get beat; we're not trying to not get called for holding. That's not the way it happens."

1 comment:

easyedwin said...

Good stuff, AB. This weks coaching edge has got to go to Auburn.