Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Tuesday notebook: Auburn offense needs early spark

On the heels of three consecutive losses, Auburn C Ryan Pugh thinks the Tigers need something positive to happen early Saturday against Ole Miss.

The offense has been entirely out of sync during the three losses. Auburn hasn’t consistently strung together long drives, nor has it produced the numerous big plays it did through the first five games.

With so much talk surrounding the wounded offense, Pugh said it’s imperative to get an early spark.

“It’s something where we have to build our confidence back up, and get a big play early in
this game and get something going on offense,” Pugh said. “I think it’s something we have to have early, something that happened often in the first five games.”

In losses to LSU and Arkansas, Auburn has been outscored 44-3. The Tigers scored first during a loss to Kentucky, but their initial touchdown came on Neiko Thorpe’s 69-yard blocked field goal return.

Pugh said the team’s spirits are “down a little bit,” but reminded reporters that Auburn is 5-3 and not 3-5. That said, Auburn was 4-1 when it started its dash to mediocrity in 2008.

“We know we can play. That’s not the problem,” Pugh said. “We’ve just got to cut out the mistakes we’ve been making the past three weeks that we didn’t make the first five. The competition is getting better, so we have to play better.”

GOOD RESPONSE: After watching his team drop a 31-10 road game to LSU, Auburn coach Gene Chizik thought his team needed a day off.

So Sunday, instead of returning to the practice field, Chizik gave his team a physical break and had them work more on the mental aspects.

“I thought that the timing was really good,” Chizik said. “They were excited about really looking at the film. Their response was great, and I think that the timing was just right.”

The way Auburn’s schedule sets up, the Tigers don’t have a bye week until 12 weeks into the season. That is troublesome for a team that lacked depth in late August and certainly lacks healthy players now.

“We’ve been practicing three straight months, and we haven’t had a day off,” Chizik said. “I thought it’d be a great time to take more time on the film and the mental aspect of the game and just trying to go over in more detail just taking our time. Our practice time is short on Sunday’s anyway. So, I just thought it’d be a good time to work on our mentality – why we were good at times, why we were bad at times.”

MENTALLY TOUGH: In his one-plus years at Auburn, QB Chris Todd has walked the spectrum of fan reaction.

The message boards clamored for Kodi Burns, and not Todd, to start last year when Auburn struggled. Disgruntled fans admonished Todd as then-offensive coordinator Tony Franklin’s golden child, arguing that’s why he earned the starting spot.

Todd won the starting job again in the preseason this year and started the season with remarkable statistics. That led to a mea culpa of sorts from the message boards that now sided with Todd.

Three sub-par performances in losses later, the fans have seen enough again. Many message board posters are now clamoring to see backup Neil Caudle or one of the various freshmen alternatives, like Tyrik Rollison.

Chizik said during his Tuesday press conference that Todd is strong enough to withstand the public outcry for his benching.

“Really and truly I just think that a quarterback has to be a tough-minded person,” Chizik said. “It all comes with the territory and they all mentally have to be prepared for it. If you’re
not mentally tough enough to get through those things then more than likely you shouldn’t be a quarterback in this league. That’s just the way it is.

“It’s no different than coaching, right? You get the good and you get the bad and it all comes with the deal.”

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