Nov. 6, 2007
The No. 18 Auburn football team practiced for close to two hours Tuesday morning at the practice fields behind the Athletics Complex as the Tigers continue to get ready for Saturday's Southeastern Conference game at No. 10 Georgia.
The Tigers opened with special teams work, before moving to individual and group drills. The team spent a large chunk of practice working against the scout teams before the offense and defense came together to work against each other to conclude practice.
During his weekly press conference following the practice, head coach Tommy Tuberville noted that there is a noticeable difference in the intensity displayed by the Tigers this week as they prepare for their first of two rivalry games.
"Our players had a very good practice today," said Tuberville. "It was high spirited. There were four or five fights and some guys pushing each other around. You could tell we are playing a pretty intense game on Saturday. I look forward to seeing if we practice tomorrow like we did today."
Auburn (7-3, 4-2 SEC) will visit Georgia (7-2, 4-2 SEC) Saturday at 2:30 p.m. CT in a game that will be nationally televised by CBS. The Tigers have had a great deal of success in Athens, winning six of their last seven games in Sanford Stadium, and 10 of their last 12.
Auburn, which leads the SEC and ranks fifth nationally in scoring defense allowing 14.5 points per game, will be tested by a Georgia offense that averages 31.4 points and has scored more than 40 points in each of its last two games, including a 42-30 victory over then-No. 9 Florida Oct. 27.
The Tigers will return to the practice fields Wednesday at 5 p.m.
Auburn Head Coach Tommy Tuberville Press Conference Quotes
"It's a fun time of the year for the fans and our football team. You work all year long to get to this point and no matter how you've played or what your records are, it's a challenge for both sides. These two games coming up are always fun. I've got a lot of memorable moments playing against Georgia here and some other places. These are always interesting games.
"It's a challenge in terms of an SEC game with two teams who have had setbacks and are playing about as well as they have played. Coach Richt and his coaching staff do a very good job. They are always well prepared.
"We were fortunate the last time we went to Athens. We played well, but so did they. Somehow, someway, we were able to pull it out in the end.
"Last year we had a great season going and thought were pretty good until they got on the field and begged to differ. They started at the beginning and kicked us all the way to the end. You never know what's going to happen in this game.
"Our players had a very good practice today. It was high spirited. There were four or five fights and some guys pushing each other around. You could tell we are playing a pretty intense game on Saturday. I look forward to seeing if we practice tomorrow like we did today.
"Our focus was there. Our kicking game was there. We know we are going to have to play one of our better games. Georgia's playing well right now and is in the hunt to win the East. They're coming off a couple of wins and are playing at home. They are playing better. They have a running back that has really lit the league up and energized the team. They have a lot of young players like we do.
"It will be a challenge for both sides, having a lot of players who have never been in this game before. I'm sure both teams are looking forward to it and it should be a good one.
"Injury-wise, Craig Stevens did not practice today. Ryan Pugh did practice. Wes Byrum did practice. He's back kicking well. There's not a lot to say about this game other than we know what it's going to be like and we are looking for a really good Saturday coming up."
Any chance of Tristan Davis playing in this game or the Alabama game?
"There's a chance for the Alabama game. He's running, not sprinting. He still has some soreness around the area where he had the pin put in. He's not ready but he's getting close. I think that the off week will put him in pretty good position."
Can you remember the last time Georgia was so balanced?
"This is one of the better offenses they have had in terms of balance. I think in the middle of the year they were searching, as we were, for guys to make plays. Knowshon Moreno has come out of nowhere and he's over 1,000 yards. He runs hard inside and outside. He's one of those guys that shows up and starts making plays and you can't get him off the field.
"It's an offense that came into our stadium last year and put it to us pretty good, and now he has a running back. They are going to be very difficult.
"It's going to be a good challenge for our defense. It's probably the biggest one all year in terms of having a quarterback who can throw it down the field and a running back who can make plays. We're going to have to be well prepared going into this game on defense."
With so many players from the state of Georgia, how hard to you have to work to get your team motivated for this game?
"These two games are fun for coaches. You just go out there with your game plan, you try to tone it down as much as you can. I didn't do a good job of that today. You try to tell these guys you can't play the game during the week."
"It's fun for coaches because you see a different look in the players' eyes for games like this. I always tell the player's that these next two games are one that they will remember for a long time. I always tell the players that they may not remember that we went 7-3, but they will remember how they played, practiced and all the things that happen leading up to these games for the rest of their lives. You get their full attention, because they know how difficult it is going to be going into Athens and playing a team that's been playing as well as anyone else in the league"
Has it been a challenge this week to keep rumors about other jobs from distracting the team?
"No, there's no challenge in that. Every year, for some reason, my name gets thrown in for a lot of them, and that's just part of it. After we started 1-2 I thought I was going to have to take a job at the end of the year one way or the other. As I told our players, that's the least of our worries. They work very hard. The players, the coaches and the fans look forward to these two games, and we're not going to ruin it by discussing any of that kind of stuff, because anything that I say is going to be looked at, turned around and flipped around, and it doesn't make any difference. We'll sit down as I do every year with the President and Jay (Jacobs) at the end of the year, and we'll go from there."
How do you think Quentin Groves did for his first start back from injury?
"He did well. He was a little bit new to playing every down. Most of the time he is focused on rushing the passer. This week he will rush the passer drop back and play zone and man coverage, he will be involved in the blitz packages also. He is a great player. It helps our defense when we put him at a different position on the field, because you can move him around the linebacker spot. Antonio Coleman and Sen'Derrick Marks are playing great at the defensive end position, which make us that much better. Quentin is almost at 100 percent, but won't be till probably mid-spring. As I have said before it's very hard to come back from jammed toes and fingers, but he is working real hard to try to get back to full speed as soon as possible."
Do you see any similarities between Moreno and Carnell Williams?
"Yes, in terms that he is a smaller guy that runs it inside and outside. Also they are both freshmen and have caught a lot of people's eye early in their careers. He is real good. When you can find a running back that has the quickness and speed that he has, that is willing to run inside and outside, you have a pretty special player."
After the 1-2 start, how did you get everyone back on track?
"We knew that we had a good football team, but we also knew the difficulty of our schedule. We didn't have any room for error, but when you have a lot of young guys playing, mistakes will happen. After the USF game in the team meeting I put up in the screen a few of the good plays we made. Then I put up a few of the bad plays we made to show that we weren't playing as a team. They just have to understand that they could play much better than they did. That was the approach the coaching staff and I used. We knew that a lot of yelling and screaming wasn't going to do them any good, especially jumping into a couple of conference games.
"What made me feel bad for the players was that we beat ourselves. We didn't lose the game in terms of a team coming out there and just beating us, we turned it over and weren't very consistent. We looked at the offense turn the ball over a lot, but we also looked at the defense giving up a lot of third-down plays that they could have stopped. We did this to show them that is was a team effort. The kicking game also had alot of holes in it. They understood that you can't stand around pointing fingers. Then they started to play better and it all came together. If you look at this coaching staff over the years, they usually get better as the year goes on. They don't let up at all in terms of intensity. We went back to more physical practices around the fifth game. That change of tempo has really made us play better. In the end, the coaches can only show them what to do. It's up to them to get it done. They are the ones who made the turn around."
On the Georgia game two years ago...
"I think the tight end caught a record number of passes. They were doing things and getting him on certain position players and we couldn't stop him. They were up and down the field. We ended up getting the ball petty close to the twenty yard line on the last drive. We knew we had to open it up a little bit and also run it. That is where your players, your seniors, take over and as coaches you become spectators. There is not a lot of play-calling because the play is called at the line of scrimmage in a no-huddle offense, players make their checks and calls.
"For us, the biggest thing was that we lost our center two series before that and we were playing a backup center and coach (Hugh) Nall did a great job of communicating to him what he had to do, and the things that Joe Cope had seen that this center had to perform and direct the offensive line to. Our center makes most of the calls in the blocking schemes so there is a lot of coaching going on in that area, but when it comes down to it your playmakers have to step up and we are just spectators like everybody else.
"Fortunately Brandon (Cox) was able to find a receiver that was open in the middle of the field and also that Courtney Taylor was 100 percent hustling on that last play because if he doesn't run down the field, then the game is over and we don't even get a shot at that last field goal. It was one of the classics. I've seen classics before I got here between Georgia and Auburn and I've seen a few since I've been here. That one will go down as one of the classics because of the way it finished. We had one a couple of years before that here that they made a fourth and 19 and went on to win the SEC that was also a classic game."
Have you talked to coach (Hugh) Nall about the Georgia rivalry?
"I don't talk to Hugh the week of this game. He is so intense with the other games and then this one goes off the charts. I thought I saw him out there fighting one time, but actually he was breaking up a fight. He fell on a guy out there just trying to get them apart so that they can get practice going again. He is intense. He is a graduate and won a national championship at Georgia, played center for coach Dooley, and he really has a lot of fond memories of that. I've talked with him over the course of our 13 years together and he has told me about the individual players on the team and a lot of big plays that happened and a lot of off the field activities that they had. You will have to ask him about those sometime. He is one of those guys that really gets focused on coaching his players. He knows he has his hands full this week. We all just stay away from him.
"Will (Muschamp) is a lot like that too. Will played there and we have several guys that have ties to Georgia. (Steve) Ensminger coached quarterbacks there for a while so there is a lot of carryover not just with the players, but also with the coaches."