AUBURN - For the second straight day, Auburn head coach Gene Chizik refused Sunday to address his future as Auburn's football coach.
Auburn coach Gene Chizik says Tigers are working to improve
Criticism of Chizik has grown through a five-game losing streak and reached a crescendo in the wake of the Tigers historically inept performance last Saturday in a 63-21 beating by Texas A&M at Jordan-Hare Stadium.
"I'm going to say it like I said last night," Chizik told reporters. "I respect you guys and the questions you have to ask. I have one focus, and that is for our young guys to go out there and win. That's it. I'm not going down that path. I addressed that last night."
As they have in previous seasons as the stretch run neared, Auburn coaches gave players Sunday off from practice. Players instead spent most of the afternoon watching film.
"It's tough," Chizik said. "You go back and evaluate things where, as coaches, we could have put them in position to make plays; as players, when you are in position to make those plays, as players making those plays or not making those plays. Just going back and really doing a very thorough self-evaluation of a very tough game. It's hard. That's why we spent more time in there today and more time on the game film, really going over in greater detail so we can get some of these things fixed."
The Tigers (1-7, 0-6) will return to the practice field Tuesday to begin preparations for next Saturday's homecoming game against New Mexico State (1-7) at Jordan-Hare Stadium. Kickoff is set for 11:30 a.m.
After giving up touchdowns on nine of 11 possessions against Texas A&M, Auburn is assured of its first losing season since 2008. But Chizik said players continue to strive to improve.
"I feel like there is an urgency," Chizik said. "I'm proud of the players. This is very, very difficult and this is very uncharted waters for our players and for our coaches as well. Day in and day out when we come over here to come to work and put ourselves in the middle of it, there is certainly an urgency.
"We understand where we are. There is never is a sense of 'wow, woe is me.' It's just not like that. Maybe it is because you are buried so deep in the middle of it. Even when things are growing great, you don't necessarily feel that either when you come to work every day to try to get better."
Chizik has dealt with long losing streaks before. He lost his last 10 games at Iowa State in 2008, but he said Sunday this one is different.
"It's hard to ever prepare yourself for something this difficult," Chizik said. "But when you do this long enough, you may at some point come to these valleys. We are in it and we are going to keep working and trying to get out of it. ... You can pick out areas that have been very disappointing, but none are more disappointing than the fact we are 1-7."
Chizik said he felt good about the progress Auburn's defense had made in recent weeks, but Texas A&M's assault changed all that.
"Defensively, I feel like we've made strides the last several weeks," Chizik said. "Last night was obviously a step back."
With Texas A&M leading 42-7, Auburn fans began streaming out of Jordan-Hare Stadium at halftime. The stadium appeared less than half full as the third quarter began and was all but empty by game's end.
Chizik said he felt the fans' pain, but asked them to stand strong.
"I feel a very high sense of responsibility to our fans," Chizik said. "I think we have great fans, but they also want to see us win. I think that's fair. As we went back and looked at the film today, we could see a lot of them left. Based on the production of what they saw, I understand why they did.
"I do want to encourage them that there will be a better day. I do want to encourage them that being part of Auburn is coming to support their team. Our guys are still young guys learning how to win. This game coming up is going to be an early game, but I want to encourage everybody to come out and support our players."