Sunday, October 25, 2009

Sunday notebook: Chizik sticking with Todd

Here's a peek at tomorrow's story for The Anniston Star:

AUBURN – Five games into the season, Auburn’s offense averaged 41.4 points per game. That same offense has scored 47 total points during the three-game losing streak.

Auburn coach Gene Chizik said Sunday that he plans to look at every aspect of his team’s struggling offense this week.

One change he won’t make, he said, is the starting quarterback.

Chizik said the blame shouldn’t be directed entirely toward QB Chris Todd.

“We're not going to make a change this week,” Chizik said a day after his team’s 31-10 loss at LSU. “After going back and looking at it, obviously we would have loved for the offensive production as a whole to be better than it was.

“We still think Chris gives us the best chance to win. It's not that our offense has not done it, but we are obviously again against competition in this league that's at a higher level.”

Todd started the season red hot and was a big reason for the Tigers’ 5-0 start. Over the last three games, he has completed just 33 of 66 passes for a total of 260 yards. During those games, he has been intercepted twice and lost a pair of fumbles while failing to throw for a touchdown.

Todd said he understands the quarterback takes most of the heat after losses – especially when the offense struggles as it has recently.

“You kind of have to have that sense when you go out and practice, that you're always competing for your job,” Todd said. “You're going out there and battling every day, because that makes you better. But any time things happen, you have to be, as a quarterback, you have to take that on your shoulders and take some blame when things are going bad. When things are good you get some credit for some stuff, and when things are bad, you take that too.”

For more, pick up a Monday copy of The Star.

On to the notes...

Chizik gave his team a physical rest Sunday, a day after Auburn’s 31-10 loss to LSU.

For the first time since Labor Day weekend, the Tigers didn’t practice on Sunday. That week they practiced on Monday, something they won’t do this week.

Auburn instead opted for additional meeting time and film time.

DE Antonio Coleman said the day off from practice came as a pleasant reward for a team that has played eight consecutive weeks.

“We're beat up. We're banged up defensively,” Coleman said. “We don't have that much depth. Today helped us and tomorrow is going to help us.

“It was a good thing in the sense that we watched film, sat down and saw all the mistakes we made and how the correct those. We had a lot of time and need to watch film.”

The break came a day after Auburn’s losing streak extended to three games.

Defensive coordinator Ted Roof said the break from the Tigers’ weekly routine was helpful.

“I think the change of pace is always good and coach Chiz knows what he's doing and made a good decision and I think we got a lot of good work done today,” Roof said.

QUARTERBACK CLARITY: Backup QB Neil Caudle said he is “absolutely” prepared to start if called upon, but stands behind Todd despite the senior’s recent struggles.

“We’re handling it the right way. We believe in Chris. We believe he’s a good player. He’s showed that numerous times,” Caudle said. “Things aren’t clicking on offense right now but we’re going to get it fixed and we know Chris is going to do a good job for us.”

Todd threw for a season-low 47 yards Saturday against LSU.

Caudle entered the game on the final drive and led Auburn to its lone touchdown, passing for 34 yards on the way.

Even with the offense’s recent struggles, Caudle isn’t thinking about a change at the top of the depth chart.

“I don’t think about that kind of stuff,” he said. “I’m just going to go into this week like I have every other week – learn all the new stuff we’re doing and prepare mentally and physically for the game.”

Todd said Sunday night that he’s confident the offense will bounce back.

“We have a really good football team now,” he said. “The thing is when we play well, we play really well. We have to get to that.

“We've had a few weeks here where we haven't executed as well as we can and I think people see that. I think they see that we're so close on some things, but we're putting ourselves in bad situations and it's just hit-or-miss on a lot of things. I think if we get back into that and still continue to prepare like we were and get ready for each week, I think as teams are adjusting to us, we still need to adjust to that.”

TOUGH CALLS: Chizik took the high road Sunday when asked about a couple questionable calls during Saturday’s 31-10 loss to LSU.

One of those penalties, a 15-yard unsportsmanlike penalty against S Zac Etheridge, came after an incomplete pass on a third-and-long. The penalty gave LSU a first down and the Tigers scored on the next play.

Another questionable call came when Auburn was flagged for a defensive delay of game. Chizik didn’t explain the penalty, but said it was the first time one of his teams had been called for it.

Instead of complaining about the penalties, Chizik praised the league officials, which have drawn ire for questionable – and sometimes incorrect – calls in recent weeks.

“They're doing the best they can do,” Chizik said. “Officials do a good job and they do the best they can do.”

BATTERED: The LSU-Auburn series is known for big hits and close games.

The close game part didn’t come to fruition on Saturday, but there were certainly some big hits.
Wildcat triggerman Kodi Burns’ mouth is proof.

The junior took a big shot in the first quarter that momentarily knocked him out of the game. Chizik said Sunday that the hit knocked a couple teeth out of Burns’ mouth. He also needed stitches in his lip.

“(He) went right back in there and played the whole game – just one of those tough guys,” Chizik said. “I've got to give him a lot of credit. He went out there and continued to play for the whole three quarters.”

TURNING AROUND: Though Auburn has fallen on hard times lately, Chizik’s former team, Iowa State, is off to its best start since 2005.

That year also marked the last time the Cyclones played in a bowl game.

Former Auburn defensive coordinator Paul Rhoads led Iowa State to a 9-7 upset win at Nebraska on Saturday.

Chizik has noted his former team’s success.

“I'm really happy for them,” Chizik said. “They had a huge win yesterday and that's great. Those are great kids and they deserve some good things to happen to them for sure.”

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