Sept. 16, 2008
The No. 10 Auburn football team continued preparations for Saturday's game against No. 6 LSU two-hour workout in full pads Tuesday morning at the practice fields behind the Athletics Complex.
The Tigers opened with special teams work before conducting individual and group drills. Much of the practice was spent working against the scout teams to prepare for LSU.
Head coach Tommy Tuberville addressed the media at his weekly press conference Tuesday afternoon, and said that the Tigers are looking forward to Saturday's contest against LSU.
"We have a hard game this week," said Tuberville. "It is a huge game and we get ready for this game year round. It is a game we have been looking forward to since last year, and we understand that we came up a little short. But it will be a hard-fought game between two teams that understand each other, and two teams that have been some of the better ones in this conference for a while."
Saturday's game will mark the seventh straight year that at least one of the teams in the Auburn-LSU game was ranked in the top 10 entering the game, and it is the second time during that stretch that both teams have been nationally ranked. No. 3 Auburn beat No. 6 LSU in 2006, 7-3.
The home team has won the last eight games in the series since an Auburn win at Baton Rouge in 1999. But each of the last four games have been decided by six points or less.
Auburn enters the game with a 3-0 record, including a 1-0 mark in the Southeastern Conference, while LSU is 2-0 and will be playing in its SEC opener.
Saturday's game will kick off at 6:45 p.m. CT and will be nationally televised by ESPN.
Tommy Tuberville Press Conference Quotes
"We are ready to go, ready for another week to get better, and we definitely need to do that in a lot of areas. In some areas we are looking pretty good and not in others. I thought last week it was pretty ugly in some regards. We are not hitting on all cylinders on offense. I thought one of the main reasons is we didn't handle the crowd noise and the cowbells. We lost our concentration and when you have penalties like we had you are not going to do very well anywhere that you play.
"The thing we are trying to do this week is get our concentration back, get back on our plan and how we do it, and be more consistent. And that's everybody - coaches and players - keep doing what we are doing and be a little more consistent. It is going to come slowly. We talked about that earlier in the year, but I like what we are doing. We just need to do a couple of things different. Each week we will tweak a few things and make a few changes, but the biggest thing is to make sure that we are focused on what we are doing, and when we are on the field to stop shooting ourselves in the foot.
"Defensively we made some plays. I thought our guys played with enthusiasm. They were having fun out there, and it was good to see that because we're going to need that later in the year. Some asked me about winning 3-2 and I said it's better than winning 41-40, because if you are giving up forty points a game you are going to lose quite a few games. But we have to get better and get better in a hurry in all areas.
"Special teams was a disappointment last week. Missing two field goals, which we normally don't do, put the game out of reach in terms of our defense. We didn't piggy back anything. It kind of snowballed in us when things went the other way, but a sign of a good team is when you don't play very well, understanding how you played and how you can get better.
"We had a very good practice today. Our players understand the LSU game has been one of the top games in college football the last few years, and that team that wins this usually has the upper hand in getting to the conference championship. Last year we were one play away from winning this game. Had we not missed that last play we would have been in the conference championship game and they would not have been, and that's how close this has been.
"They have a good football team. They are searching in some areas offensively. At quarterback they are making a few more plays than we are. They have a running back that is very dangerous, a huge offensive line, their receivers are very talented and their defense is the same thing that they always have - speed. Both of us build our defense on speed and being very physical. This is always a very physical game.
"One of the stars on their football team is number eight (Trinidon Holiday), he may be the fastest guy in college football, not just on their football team or this conference, and he is a game breaker. He gives them a special touch in terms of field position and making you do certain things in your kicking game.
"We have a hard game this week. It is a huge game and we get ready for this game year round. It is a game we have been looking forward to since last year, and we understand that we came up a little short. But it will be a hard-fought game between two teams that understand each other, and two teams that have been some of the better ones in this conference for a while."
What did you tell Chris Todd about your 1989 Miami offensive struggles?
"In 1989, we changed some things. Jimmy Johnson went to the Dallas Cowboys and we brought the spread offense in with Dennis Erickson and I was the only coach who stayed on the staff. We struggled on offense with this offense working for the first few games and we beat Arizona 7-6 or 8-7 and we had to get a safety to beat them. We ended up playing pretty good against a Florida State team in the middle of the season, which was the game of the year usually back then. We won the game and ended up going 12-0 and winning a national championship. I made the reference to that in terms of how you can turn things around by believing in what you're doing and continuing to do what you're doing in practices. Hopefully things turn around, but I think the players understand what they're doing. You can't have four or five false starts in one game. I don't care what you're doing on offense - you won't be successful like that. We didn't handle the adversity very well and we've got to be able to bounce back and we did that during that year at Miami. That was a correlation that I saw here while we were going through growing pains. We still have got to come around on offense for us to be competitive during the rest of our games this year."
When you say "growing pains," did you expect a situation like this?
"I knew that we would make a lot of mistakes. I thought that by this time, we would overcome the false starts and the fumbles. After fumbling eight times in the last couple of games, we haven't lost a game yet. We've got to improve on fumbles, penalties, missing field goals and a lot of other things, not just on offense. We knew that we would struggle. We would like to be more consistent by this time, but that's why we practice. We had a very good practice today and we did some different things to keep their attention. I thought the coaches did a good job, but it's got to be a team effort to understand that we are pretty good in some areas but that we've got a long ways to go in other areas."
Do you thing that Tony Franklin is trying too hard after this great start in last year's bowl game?
"We go back and look every week at what we're doing and sometimes you might have too much. You might be asking more from some of the younger guys because we have so many young guys playing for the first time, like offensive linemen, quarterbacks and wide receivers who aren't used to this type of offense. There are growing pains, but it's going to get better. Obviously, it can't get much worse than getting shut out in a game. Tony calling `instinct' is just him going back to being a little more basic in what we're doing. We have a pretty thick game plan going into each week because there are a lot of different scenarios in this offense that are available and you have to make sure that you have enough practice time to go over each of those scenarios. That's what he is talking about for the last three days and making sure that we're all on the same page in terms of what each coach's players can handle. It's a little bit easier this week being at home and not having to worry too much about the crowd noise like we did last week. That was one thing that I was disappointed in because we didn't handle that too well for the first time in this offense on the road. You know the linemen are anxious and you've got four or five false starts that you can't overcome. What we've got to do is eliminate those."
Would you like to see the quarterback run the ball more?
"There are times when he could've run the ball. Maybe a couple of times in this past game, but in the game before, he could've run the ball more. What Mississippi State was doing was playing their defensive ends inside and putting their linebackers on the backside. When it's just one-on-one with a linebacker, they're not going to miss too many tackles on a quarterback. You've got to take what they give you and that's in any offense and they weren't going to give us a quarterback run. They were going to take away the quarterback and force all the runs wide. They did a good job, they got penetration, they played with their hands well and it's a scenario where you've got to give them credit, too. This offense is geared for the quarterback to run the ball a few more times than what they have ran, but it goes back to how they're playing. You can't run the ball if it's not there, especially for a quarterback."
Have you been surprised by the way this offense has struggled to run inside?
"At times, we've looked good. The team that gave us more problems was Southern Miss by creating different running lanes that we weren't used to seeing. But that's going to happen with learning this offense. The running backs are going to have to be more elusive in terms of looking for holes that won't be there all the times. When Ben Tate ran the other night, the play was supposed to go wider, but he saw the hole, he made the cut, and made the play with a 30-40 yard run. Any play can be stopped if they play it perfectly and that's why you have to take your options with the quarterback runs and when the running back presses the hole and finds a small crack. We'd like to be able to run the ball better inside."
In a case like Kodi Burns, how do you handle parents?
"In this level, you don't have much parental interaction. Sometimes after a home game, they might stop by and talk about how they're doing in the classroom and in practice. They just want an update on how things are going. Of course, quarterbacks are different. I sat down with Kodi's parents after the Southern Miss game and they understood that this offense is the type of offense that Kodi can excel in once he gets going. Every once in a while you'll have that conversation. They're good people, but I very seldom talk with anyone about playing time. That's been one of my rules for a long time and most coaches won't because it's a scenario where you don't want to get into that type of talk. You want them to understand that you are going to do the most for their son as I would hope for my kids, that they're looked after and that they're playing hard."
What is holding Kodi back in this offense?
"We are only three games into the season and we played him some in the first game and some in the second game, but we didn't want to get into a situation where we were alternating every time. Chris (Todd) played pretty good and made some plays in the Southern Miss game, and that's not saying that if Kodi would've been in the game, that he wouldn't have done the same thing. But you've got to go with your gut feeling on who is going to play and who is going to be the starter. It could change and it could be soon, but we've got to score more points and it starts with the entire offense, but the quarterback is a big part of it. They get a lot of publicity and they have to pull the strings and lead the offense. I have total confidence in Chris and I've seen what he can do in practice and I've seen what Kodi can do too. I've said it before, that it's good to have two guys who are so close because you feel like you have options."
Is Kodi prepared more for short yardage situations?
"We could put Kodi in on short yardage situations, but I don't want Kodi to learn only one part of the offense. I want him to throw the ball and to run it. In the Southern Miss game, when we put him in and ran it in on the goal line, that's good, but I think that Chris could've done the same thing on a 1-2 yard run. I want Kodi to make sure that he understands the entire offense. We've just started this stuff and he's going to get better and better in it, but if you go out there and say `Ok, Kodi, we are going to make this small package for you and let you run it,' he'll never get any better and you'll never find out what kind of quarterback he is. I don't want to, in other words, say that we are going to give up on Kodi and use him only in a certain role. I think he can be one heck of a quarterback, but right now, you can only use one at a time."
Which of the Auburn-LSU games is your favorite?
"2004. That was a classic. Of course, it propelled us to being a pretty good football team. We got pushed around for most of the game and we couldn't score any points. How many times have you seen it? The last drive of a game, a team comes around and something happens and they starting making plays. I remember it like it was yesterday. We faced a fourth-and-11 and we had to go for it with a couple of minutes left in the game. Jason (Campbell) had to throw a perfect strike or the game would be over and we went on and scored the winning touchdown. That was a character-builder for a team that was good on defense and average on offense at the time, with a lot of good football players. We came into our own and that's what you would hope with this team, that something good would happen in one of these upcoming games. We've got a lot of hard games left and we're going to have to make a lot of improvement to have a chance to win, and hopefully this week we pick up our tempo and gain some momentum and a little bit more confidence with what we're doing."
What about a game like last year?
"Those are hard to get out of your mind for how it happened and for what reasons it happened. Knowing how significant it was, we were a good team on the road and going in there, we were an underdog. I think that we led most of the game, if I'm not mistaken, but we went back and forth and we led at halftime, but to let that game get away from us and see how hard your players fought was tough. But you've got to give them credit too. In 2004, their team couldn't believe that they lost the game that year and so it was like reverse roles last year. It's a great football game every year between two teams with a lot of respect, and knowing that it's usually a great game all the way down to the finish."
Do you think that the last-second pass last year was covered well?
"I've said many times that if we did it ten times, we wouldn't change the defense or how we covered it. I've heard their receiver say that he didn't even see it coming and the ball just stuck in his hands. It was very unusual, but the difference in that game was that throw when the quarterback threw the ball right on the money. It was a gutsy and they went on to win a national championship and I'd say that was a big turning point for them."
Is this year's defense something special?
"I don't think that this defense is any different than the other ones. I think it's the mentality of how they play. We've got good leadership, good depth in our front seven, which helps, but this isn't always a defensive battle, it's a war. Every year you see guys give it all that they've got and somehow they get back up and go another play after two or three quarters and that's what college football is all about."
Are you going with the same quarterback plan for this week?
"The plan will always change in terms of what you think you can do with a team and what they're going to give you. Once you get in, they don't know what we're going to run on defense. You have a plan and you get in and all of a sudden you have to change it. We're going to go in with Chris (Todd) being our starter. If Kodi gets in the game, it will be for reasons of game plan and what they're doing to us on defense. The one thing about Kodi is that he's stayed prepared, worked hard in practice and he's into the game plan. We're not going to go out there and let him run one or two plays, I want him to go out there and throw the ball deep, throw screens, run the ball, run the entire offense and if he goes in, it will be for that. He won't go in just for a 1-yard run on the goal line because Chris can do that. He's pretty athletic."
Are you concerned with the fans' approval after a game like last week?
"No. It wouldn't make much difference because I'm here to win games. We are 3-0, right? I've always noticed that the backup quarterback is the most popular guy when you're not playing good offense. That's part of it and I'm glad that our people care. Obviously, a lot of other people care too, which is nice because I like to have other people keep an eye on us. Things will get better, and things might get worse before they get better. I'm telling you that this is a good offense, our players like it and they have fun doing it, but we've got to be more consistent and patient at times. We can't go shooting ourselves in the foot. That's the bottom line, it can't happen. If you look at all the mistakes we made: two missed field goals, blocked punt, fourteen penalties, three penalties last game. We're lucky, but we're lucky because we found a way to win. This team knows how to win and I think that's a major key of playing in this conference and I go to battle with them every week."
What do you see with Charles Scott?
"He's physical, and they haven't had a lot of playing time. They played a game, were off a week, and then played. They've had a lot of bad luck in terms of hurricanes and practice and they do have an indoor facility. That's tough when you've had that much negative things happen to your community with so many people having to move in and move out. Les has done a good job. The thing that you notice about their team is that they enjoy playing when they play. Les has been a good motivator to them in their tough times, but when you play them, they get more physical every year and I would hope that people say that about us. But I can say that about them because I watch them on film and they enjoy playing. They run the ball well and they still run the ball on offense and they play hard-nosed defense. It's been a hard time for them and I'm sure that they're glad that things are clearing up a little bit. Charles Scott is a hard runner and a guy that can make some plays behind his big offensive line."