Sunday, September 13, 2009

Sunday night's notes

First, here's a look at my story for tomorrow's paper:

Two games into the season, Auburn coach Gene Chizik finds himself walking the tightrope between confidence and tempering expectations.

The first-year coach, now 2-0 on the Plains, rejects the notion that the Tigers have yet to play a tough game.

“Those were some tough wins for us,” Chizik said. “We’re not playing perfect, and there’s a lot of times that we’re not playing very well at all. We’re a work in progress.

“To beat West Virginia this week, we’re going to have to be better than we were the first two.”


For more, read tomorrow's Anniston Star.

Now on to the regularly scheduled notes:

Chizik said during his Sunday afternoon teleconference that DE Cam Henderson would not play this season.

The Auburn coach didn’t go into details, but said, “there is no chance of Cam Henderson playing this year.”

Chizik did say Henderson is still on the team but did not directly a question about Henderson’s eligibility status.

WR Philip Pierre-Louis, on the other hand, does not have a season-long ban. Instead, Chizik said Pierre-Louis is a week-by-week situation.

Though Chizik wouldn’t give a timeline to the Pierre-Louis situation, he did say it’s his decision when the redshirt freshman returns.

Chizik didn’t go into details on TE Tommy Trott’s injured knee. He declared it a day-to-day situation, but didn’t rule out him missing time.

“Right now I don’t know exactly what’s anything, but that’s why it’s going to be day-by-day – because I just don’t know,” Chizik said.

NO SLOWING DOWN: An obvious problem with an offense that runs as fast as Gus Malzahn’s is that it can tire out Auburn’s defense as well as the opposing group.

With the Tigers’ pace, short possessions become even shorter possessions and make it difficult for the defense to get a breather.

Even if the tempo costs Auburn’s defense better statistics, defensive coordinator Ted Roof is willing to accept it in exchange for wins.

“I don’t care how fast. I just want to win,” Roof said. “As long as we win, that’s a wonderful thing. So we’ve had lots of discussions about it as a staff, but that’s what we do and that’s what we hang our hat on and we’re all in.”

Chizik said he understands Malzahn’s offense “very well.” He also added that he’s “got it figured out.”

That prompted the question about whether Chizik could stop the attack.

“Probably not. It’s a lot of moving parts,” Chizik said. “It’s good stuff. Again, he’s very good at his trade.”

ELTORO PRODUCES IN DEBUT: Roof praised linebacker Eltoro Freeman for his productive game Saturday.

Freeman missed the season opener with injuries, but bounced back with a six-tackle performance in a part-time role.

“I was pleased with his effort. It was his first college football game on this level,” Roof said. “I thought he did some good things but there are some areas that we need to get better at and continue to work on.”

In addition to Freeman, Roof singled out DE Antonio Coleman, S Zac Etheridge and CB Walt McFadden for their productivity.

LB Craig Stevens said Freeman gives the defense a new element.

“He brings another angle to the defense, a little energy once he gets out there and makes a play,” Stevens said. “He gets hyped and all that. Whatever it takes to bring the defense up.”

ZIEMBA THE DECOY: QB Chris Todd said it didn’t surprise him when Malzahn called for OT Lee Ziemba to spread out wide toward the end of the first half on Saturday.

On the play, Ziemba jumped up and down while waving his hands. The distraction allowed WR Darvin Adams to get open for a 20-yard reception to the MSU 1-yard line.

The playcall wasn’t nearly as surprising as the timing – in the final minute of the first half. Still, Todd said the team practices the play enough that it didn’t feel any different.

“We’ve done that several times in practice,” Todd said. “It really just feels like a regular play. Everybody feels comfortable so it’s kind of like going out there and executing a regular play. It’s a little wrinkle we have to try and make a play where we needed one. We rep enough to where everybody feels comfortable doing it.”

While Ziemba worked as a distraction on the play, Chizik said the tackle wouldn’t be any more than that.

“He looked like he was hungry for that thing,” Chizik said. “Just let me assure you that will never happen, no matter how much he yells for it out there.”

GAINING RESPECT: Auburn still isn’t ranked after its 49-24 win over Mississippi State, but it is receiving far more votes.

The Tigers were eighth in the “Also receiving votes” category in the AP poll and sixth in the coaches poll. On Sunday, Auburn has 26 and 30 votes in the polls respectively, after receiving just four and 13 last week.

Auburn will also have a national television audience this week when it hosts West Virginia. The SEC announced Sunday that the game will be broadcast on ESPN2.

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