Sunday, September 20, 2009

Sunday notes

Here's a look at tomorrow's story:

A day after his team survived an offensive shootout, Auburn coach Gene Chizik said he likes his team’s effort.

It’s the execution that has him worried.

Still, Chizik has found a resiliency in his team over the last two weeks.

“They just keep playing,” Chizik said. “They just don’t let circumstances dictate how they play. They just keep coming when things aren’t good.”

On the top of Chizik’s to-do list is finding a way to sure up a defense that allowed 509 yards of total offense to West Virginia during Auburn’s 41-30 Saturday night win.

The defense certainly found its share of difficulties, but the Tigers forced six turnovers including four in the decisive fourth quarter.

Those turnovers helped Auburn’s defense erase what was otherwise a forgettable night.
“We’ve got a lot of work to do on defense,” Chizik said. “A lot of the yardage last night was just simply missed tackles. We’d come off the edge and take poor angles. Just tackling issues were a little bit of a problem.

“We’re still having a bit of a problem right now of getting off the field on third down. We’ve got to revisit a lot of that and go back and look at some of that.”

For more, read tomorrow's Anniston Star.

On to the notebook...

Chizik wasn’t thrilled with Auburn’s special teams performance on Saturday.

At the same time, he realized it marked a significant improvement over the previous week.

“It comes back to a continuity issue with our special teams,” Chizik said. “There were some more young guys on there last night and then as the game goes on, guys get nicked up and bruised and you have to throw some other guys in there. I like where we’re going in special teams in terms of what we’re doing.

“I thought last night we didn’t do anything that was catastrophic.”

Chizik knows there is still plenty of room for improvement, but said it is more of a situation where the team just needs to continue to gain experience.

One area where the team clearly made strides from the Mississippi State game was the punt return unit.

Auburn muffed punts twice during the first two games. The Tigers recovered both, but Chizik and special teams coach Jay Boulware acknowledged it was a tremendous area of concern.

Anthony Gulley provided a spark in the return game Saturday against West Virginia. The true freshman returned both punts – one for 17 yards and another for seven.

“We really spent a lot of time on it this last week and we’re really getting some things ironed out,” Chizik said. “I thought that the team as a unit gave him a little more time than we had the previous two.

“He’s a baseball player and when you’re a baseball player, being able to judge punts and being able to move like a center fielder in baseball I guess would be the best analogy. He’s got that and because he’s got that hand-eye coordination and he can be good at it. He’s getting more comfortable back there as time goes on; at least it appears to me.”

KICKING INTO HIGH GEAR: Wes Byrum’s bounceback from a disastrous sophomore slump continued Saturday.

The junior kicker connected on a pair of field goals – one from 46 yards and another from 42. Those types of kicks, specifically, proved troublesome for Byrum last season when he managed just to make just 6 of 13 attempts between 30 and 49 yards.

So far this season, Byrum has yet to miss on a field goal or on an extra point.

“That’s very impressive. I’m really proud of him,” Chizik said. “I think he’s gaining confidence as the games go on and he just needs to stay in the groove. He needs to keep trying to get better every day but certainly up to this point he’s really done well and he’s had some huge contributions to our wins.”

UNRANKED: Auburn’s 41-30 win over West Virginia apparently wasn’t enough to sway voters to push the Tigers into the top 25.

Both polls, released Sunday, had Auburn among the top teams receiving votes, but still not in the top 25. The Tigers enter Saturday’s game with Ball State the No. 28 team in the Associated Press Poll and the No. 29 team in the Coaches Poll.

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