Sept. 18, 2007
AUBURN, Ala. - The Auburn football team worked out for just under two hours at the practice fields behind the Athletics Complex Tuesday morning as the Tigers continued to prepare for Saturday's non-conference tilt against New Mexico State.
Working in full pads, the Tigers started with special teams work before moving to individual and group drills. The Tigers spent a considerable amount of time working against the scout team units before coming together as a team for the closing periods of practice.
Auburn head coach Tommy Tuberville addressed the media following Tuesday's workout at his weekly press conference, and said that the Tigers are looking to cut down on mistakes during this Saturday's game.
"We need to get a lot better in a lot of areas," Tuberville said. "We can point to a lot of different things as to why we've lost two games. The number one reason is we've been beating ourselves. That's what hurts the most. We could have won those games if we'd gone out and played within ourselves and not made mistakes. That goes for coaching and playing."
Auburn (1-2) will host New Mexico State (2-1) Saturday evening at 6 p.m. CT in a game that will be televised on a pay-per-view basis.
The two teams have met just once previously, with Auburn claiming a 55-14 victory in 1993. But the Tigers will have their hands full against a New Mexico State offense that ranks fifth nationally in passing offense (398.7) and 11th in total offense (523.3).
Individual tickets to home games against New Mexico State, Vanderbilt, Ole Miss and Tennessee Tech are still available. To purchase tickets, log on to www.autigertickets.com or call 1-800-AUB-1957.
Quoting Auburn Head Coach Tommy Tuberville
"We had a good practice today. We needed one. We need to get a lot better in a lot of areas. We can point to a lot of different things as to why we've lost two games. The number one reason is we've been beating ourselves. That's what hurts the most. We could have won those games if we'd gone out and played within ourselves and not made mistakes. That goes for coaching and playing.
"We've turned the ball over. That's the area that where we have to start getting better. There are some other areas. We'll make some changes this week. We're not really satisfied in a lot of areas. We're not where we want to be. This team can be much better, not even counting the turnovers.
"It was a very enthusiastic practice. That's what you look for in a team. `Are they having fun? Are they working hard? Are they looking forward to the next game even though they are going through some tough times?'
"We haven't lost two games in a row in a long time. I like the attitude. If we can keep the same attitude and work ethic, we're going to win some games this year.
"We've got to get better in a hurry. We're playing a good team this week in New Mexico State. They have a very good offense. Our defense has their hands full again.
"They play a different type of offense. Most people in this conference have seen Hal Mumme's offense. It's a little unusual. There's a lot of no huddle. They play at a quick tempo and take advantage of alignments and personnel. They try to make you miss tackles in the open field. They'll run 80-90 plays a game. It's something we've started working on.
"They have a very good quarterback (Chase Holbrook). He's tall and strong. He's very calm and patient in the pocket. He's six yards deep in the shotgun on almost every snap. He throws it down the field and takes advantage of certain defenses. He has the receivers to make plays. That's what this offense is designed to do.
"Plus, they run the ball well. They'll get into a running style offense out of the shotgun. They'll put the quarterback under center. He'll do a lot of things he probably didn't do when he was at Kentucky. It's a good offense. They're very productive at over 500 yards per game. We've got to play our game plan. We feel like we've got a good defense. This is just a different type of offense we'll see. We've seen different offenses each week. We'll have to play a little differently. They are looking forward to the challenge. It will be a long night for our defense. They know no matter what happens, they are going to be on the field a lot. They know they will be under pressure making tackles and trying to get the offense back on the field.
"Defensively, Woody Widenhofer has been around for a long time. He knows what he's doing. He knows how to play different offenses. They've done a good job getting the ball back for their offense. They do blitz and take chances at times. It will be a challenge for our offense.
"They will be as good a team as the ones that have come in and played us the last three weeks. We have to play better and be prepared. Our kicking game has to be much improved. We've got to start being an all-around football team. There's a lot of work to do.
"It's been an awful long two weeks knowing where we are at now and where we would have liked to have been starting the season. We've been our own worst enemy. We're trying to correct that. There will be some changes as we get to Saturday night. We're just trying to look for the right combination of things that will make this team better."
(Is there a sense of urgency with this game coming up to try and find solutions?)
"There's always a sense of urgency no matter what you're doing, whether you're playing well or not. You're always trying to improve in some areas. You can only go at a certain pace, especially when you have some of the inexperience we have. There's no hiding that we have Kodi Burns now playing with Brandon Cox. We haven't decided yet who will be starting. Both will play. They will have to make two games plans. Each week, every team will have to do that. It won't make any difference who starts. It might help us as we go though the season.
"We're not going to have a two-quarterback system where we alternate every play. We're going to look for the right one that's playing and fits best in what we're doing. We're looking for something that's going to work. It's not anything that we're going to have to add to. We had to add a few plays for Kodi in some of the scheme. Kodi will pretty much be running the same scheme. We just added a few things to provide an added dimension when he's in the game.
"When Brandon's in the pocket, he knows all the reads. He knows all the things that can happen downfield. He's been there, done that. He can make plays. He got off to a bad start. He hates it as much as anyone else. He's a good quarterback. I think it will help him to go through this situation. A few weeks down the road, things could change around.
Right now, we feel since Kodi has started playing some, it's time to start playing him as we go on through the season. It could be more. It could be less.
(How do you think your young offensive line is adapting to new schemes involving both Brandon Cox and Kodi Burns?)
"Most of the blocking is the same. Last week, we put in the option and a couple of plays where the quarterback runs the ball. The blocking is the same. With Kodi running the ball, it's like a tailback running it. So it's really no different. We didn't want to make drastic changes with the young offensive line.
(On Pat Sims)
"You know he played one-handed last week and had five tackles for a loss. You know he's had a hand problem. What they wanted to do last week was just make sure he kept it from getting stretched. If you noticed everything was covered. He had no fingers to grab. That's pretty difficult when you're a defensive player, but he's playing hard.
"He's a leader. He's grown up, and he'll tell you that. His attitude is a lot different towards doing things in a leadership role. I'm proud of Pat. You're proud of all your players, but when you see one of your guys who is a very good athlete as a freshman hit rock bottom... in terms of whether he wants to play or not or go to school and then change his attitude. His grades are great.
"Then, he becomes a leader, and he's playing real good for you not just as a defensive player but a guy that has given tremendous effort. The players recognize that. That's what it's all about.
"It's about growing up and having an opportunity to face life in the face. That's what he did. He made the decision not to be on this team then recognized that it wasn't there and what he was missing. He took the opportunity the players and I gave him to come back and he's made the most of it."
(On Robert Dunn and his improvement)
"He's been a highlight for us. We just worked to death going into the season about protecting the football and somebody who would run north and south. That's what he's learned most is about taking the ball and find the seam instead of going sideline to sideline.
"Last year, he was a little bit apprehensive about what we were doing and how we were doing it. He's much improved. I think it's carried over to the offensive side. There are some plays that I know he would love to have back, but it's made him a better offensive player.
"He's gaining confidence. Again, he didn't play a lot last year in terms of offense. We didn't play a lot of three wide receivers during the season. We were more of a two-back team. His experience wasn't as much as you would think. Much of his experience was trying to catch a ball coming from the punter. He's growing up, too. He's maturing and becoming a leader."
(On Brandon Cox's Confidence)
"He's a fifth-year coming back, and the expectations were high and we were making mistakes. A lot of them were not his. He was forced into certain situations. Again, this is a team sport. He would love to have two or three of the passes back, obviously.
"He's a great guy. He was very supportive on the sideline last week. You find out a lot about people when things get tougher and tougher. It couldn't be any tougher for him being a fifth-year senior watching from the sideline on the third game of the season.
"I'll tell you this, we have not given up on Brandon Cox. He is going to be a great quarterback. It could be at full tilt this week and next week, because he knows what we are doing and how to do it. He just needs some help around him. Kodi Burns doesn't need much help because of his athleticism to get out of the pocket. I think Kodi is going to help Brandon and vice-versa. There's not a guy that I think more of than Brandon Cox. I watched him this week. He practiced hard. He pushed himself hard, and he's being a leader. That's just his demeanor. He is a great guy."
(Will playing two quarterbacks split the team?)
"Our guys work so hard. They just want to win games. They want to play well. These guys have had a tough two weeks. You just look at them in their faces. They are just looking for answers as we all are. They know about as much of the situation within our family, the football team, as the coaches.
"It's been tough on them. There is not a division. There is nobody that has sides. The defense will tell you that he is going to win a lot more games here than he is a part of losses. Kodi is just now getting started. No one really knows a lot about Kodi, other than he can run a little. We have a few different plays for him. Other than that, everybody wants to win games and whoever plays the biggest part, they are for them."
(On turnovers and injuries)
"We have had injuries. When you play and practice, you are expected to play well and get the job done. As much as we have turned the ball over, we haven't caused many either. That's just as much of a problem. Our players know it. We've talked about it on the field with our defense about causing turnovers and giving our offense more opportunities. This is a team sport. We talk every Sunday whether we win or lose. We talk about why we won or why we lost. Those have been brought up the last two weeks. We know it. Our players know it. We just have to be a little bit more consistent.
"We have to coach better. We have to find ways to create more turnovers maybe in terms of being more aggressive in our calls. It's not just players, it's all of us. We all win together and you lose together. This is going to be a great football team, whether it's this week or four weeks from now. We have a lot of talent on the team. We have guys that want to make it better, who want to be good and who want to be team players. It seems, right now, that every time we do something good, we take a step backwards in some areas as a group and not individually. This is not an individual sport. Everybody has to play a role from me on down."
(On overcoming obstacles)
"As coaches, you look back on situations and how you have handled them. We have been together for nine years. We haven't had that many. I think it's good, too, that many of our coaches have been together for so long, that you can understand why. It's a quicker fix so to speak. Right now, we feel like we are just one step away. We are just one bounce of the ball away here or there from turning things around. It could happen this week. It might not happen this week. The only way you can do that is from our coaching staff's experience and what we talked about Sunday and Monday.
"What we have talked about to the players is keep playing hard and having fun, and that everything will fall into place. Sooner or later, a break is going to go your way but you have to make that break happen. They are just not going to happen. That's the best experience I've found out over the years. Crying over spilt milk is not going to solve any problems. We won one and lost two. That's finished. We've talked about it today about how this is the start of the fourth game. We can't control anything behind us, but we can control what is in front of us and we'll keep working hard. Again, as I said earlier, this is going to be a good football team."