By Charles Goldberg
AUBURN, Ala. -- The first drive ended with a freaky interception. But Auburn's offensive line had shown something just the play before.
Offensive line coach Herb Hand and the others in the coaches box sent down word the Tigers could run it.
"We came off and turned the ball over and they said, `Hey guys, just so you know, on that second play we got great push,'" remembered offensive coordinator Rhett Lashlee. "You're thinking a 4-yard run or a 5-yard run doesn't tell you a whole lot, and that gave me confidence that we can run the ball on these guys."
By the time Auburn was finished running, and passing for that matter, the Tigers were on their way to a 38-14 win over Mississippi State last Saturday. The Tigers set the tone early, taking a 35-0 halftime lead while holding a 335-91 advantage in total yards.
Lashlee mixed it up in his third game as Auburn's official play-caller.
"We were able to hit plenty of passes on first and second down to keep them off balance," he said.
Auburn is digesting all of that this off week, reviewing everything in a self-scouting mode, like the steady play of quarterback Sean White, an offensive line that pushed the Tigers to No. 2 in the SEC in rushing and an evolving receiving corps that is deep. Two of the top four games in total yardage in Auburn history have come this season.
Lashlee says while Auburn is a running team first, the Tigers are prepared to throw it more than the 18 times it passed against Mississippi State.
"That time is coming," Lashlee said.
"We're executing well in the passing game and staying efficient, which allows us to stay on the field and get some tempo going which allows us to run the ball better. I don't know how much it has to do with the plays being called as much as the continuity is good, our whole staff is involved in a big part of it, our kids are playing better.
"They are gaining confidence and momentum and they are making plays. We just have to keep giving them those chances. I like the way we're going. I like the direction we're going. We just have to keep improving each week."
Banged and bruised: Off week has come at a good time, says Auburn offensive coordinator Rhett Lashlee. Video pic.twitter.com/Q964jo7Z2n
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Auburn practiced in full pads Tuesday, something it didn't do last week, but much of the work was devoted to getting backups quality work.
"It was a fundamental day to focus on Auburn," Lashlee said.
Auburn's offense limped into the open week. Running back Kerryon Johnson got just three carries before hurting his ankle last Saturday, and didn't practice Tuesday. Starting center Xavier Dampeer missed his second straight game with a leg injury.
That's why Lashlee said this week is "first and foremost is to get healthy and rested. We've had a long, hard six weeks. We've played as good a schedule as anybody, probably, and we've got just about as good a backend as anybody. We've got to get healthy first.
"This week is good for our guys to just kind of refresh their minds a little bit. We're still doing ball, still working, but you don't have that impending game coming on Saturday that everybody is grinding towards."
Charles Goldberg is a Senior Writer at AuburnTigers.com. Follow him on Twitter: Follow @AUGoldMine