AUBURN - As head coach Gene Chizik looked back Sunday at last Saturday's 31-28 overtime victory over Louisiana-Monroe and ahead to next Saturday's game against No. 2 LSU, he said many of the issues that trouble the Tigers are of their own making.
Mike Blakely was not benched because of fumble/Robin Conn photo
The fourth quarter has not been kind to Auburn's football team this season. In going 1-2, he Tigers have been outscored 31-3 in the final quarter. That's four touchdowns and a field goal to one field goal.
Chizik acknowledged those numbers must change.
"The nature of some of these offenses is we have been on the field defensively more than we want to be," Chizik said. "Some of it is our own doing. We had three possessions yesterday, three added possessions we had for our defense had to be out there. That was two turnovers and a fake punt. It's defensive guys reps being on the field. Near the end, we started doing better on third downs - I think we stopped the last five out of six - but before that we were very sporadic. We have to get off the field. We just haven't been consistent with doing that.
"If you throw all of that together, it paints a picture of why."
More from Chizik's Sunday meeting with reporters:
Being fresh mentally and physically will be crucial against LSU. Chizik said coaches will approach practice with that in mind this week.
"We are really going to go back to look and see what we feel is the best thing. Obviously, us being mentally and physically fresh for a game like this is imperative. We try to practice he same all the time. I think, to a large degree, we are creatures of habit. But we always tweak and always adjust when we need to adjust, no matter what the situation is. We will definitely look at that."
"We thought it was important yesterday that we get him some early success throwing the ball, particularly on third down. We wanted to take some shots with him, too. It doesn't mean we don't want to get vertical passing game going.
"We know we have to run the football. That always helps a young quarterback. We had to get that going. We had to be able to complete some intermediate routes, but we also had to take some shots. We took an early shot to Sammie (Coates). He made a great catch, but we killed ourselves with a penalty. When we say manage the game, what we are saying right now is he can't feel the pressure to win it on his own."
[i]Sophomore safety Erique Florence did not dress for last Saturday's game "for personal reasons." His status going forward remains uncertain.[/o]
"We talked today and he is going through some personal issues. We will know more as the week goes on. We've definitely talked and been in contact. He just has some personal items he's working through. He will be back out there with us this week."
Freshman linebacker Cassanova McKinzy got his first game action against ULM in the goal-line defensive package. His role could grow in the future.
"He struggled. We put him in there for the first time in a game. A young guy like that will struggle. As we move forward with nine games left in the regular season, where and how can he help our defense? It's all going to be a learning process for him, but we are certainly looking at expanding his role and seeing what he can do.
"We are going to look and see where he best fits this week, starting at the Mike linebacker. We will see where he is mentally and see what kind of role he can play potentially this weekend and the weekends after."
Running back Mike Blakely gained 32 yards on three carries against ULM but fumbled at the 1 and did not return. Was it because of the fumble?
"No. I made it very clear to him. Obviously, ball security is of the utmost importance, but he will still carry the football. We're not getting away from giving him the ball because he fumbled. I thought up to the point of the fumble he was really running the ball well."
Auburn players didn't celebrate for long after the win over ULM. Their minds quickly turned to the No. 2 team in the nation.
"I think they are excited a game like this is coming up at home. This is why you come to Auburn, to play in great games like this. They are happy they won. They know there are so many things they could have done better so the game wouldn't get down to the situation it did. You know what? They fought down to the end and I'm proud they fought down to the end and won the game in overtime."