Auburn Keeping It Interesting

AUBURN, Ala. (AP) -- The Auburn Tigers had better get their act
together quickly.

The 23rd-ranked Tigers looked far from ready for primetime in
the Southeastern Conference in a season-opening survival game
against Utah State, and now No. 20 Mississippi State is paying a
visit.

Having to score two touchdowns in the final 2:07 to beat the
Aggies didn't exactly send a powerful statement to the rest of the
country for the defending national champions. They did survive,
though.

Auburn coach Gene Chizik reserved most of his praise for special
teams, which produced a touchdown and a successful onside kick,
after the less-than-dazzling debut. As for the rest?

"I'm not going to measure the magnitude of how far off we were,
I just know that performance on offense and defense won't win us
many games," Chizik said afterward. "As I told our team, our
biggest improvement has got to be between weeks 1 and 2 and 2 and
3. If we're going to win football games in this league, there's
going to have to be significant improvement by this time next
week."

And more physical play. The Tigers were pushed around on both
lines of scrimmage for much of the game before the fabulous finish.
Utah State's Kerwynn Williams wasn't even touched on a 43-yard
touchdown run on a draw play in the opening minutes.

The Tigers, who started four sophomores on the defensive line,
gave up another first quarter touchdown on a quarterback run on
fourth-and-goal from the 3. They also let Utah State convert a
third-and-20 earlier in the 15-play drive. Chizik said the defense
had alignment issues, tackling deficiencies and didnphysically enough up front -- major issues with the Bulldogs coming
to town.

On the other side, an offensive line starting freshman center
Reese Dismukes and redshirt freshman right tackle Chad Slade
couldn't consistently open up holes for the running backs.

Mike Dyer and Onterio McCalebb managed 101 total rushing yards
on 23 carries, and quarterback Barrett Trotter was sacked twice.

"We're going to have to do a better job up front," Chizik said
Sunday. "We've got to get the running game going. That's the
glaring issue from (Saturday). No question about it. It's going to
start with what we do up front."

Some of the issues weren't surprising from an opener with such a
young team. All told, Auburn put 13 freshmen and eight redshirt
freshmen on the field.

Mississippi State coach Dan Mullen was talking up the Tigers on
Sunday nevertheless.

"They scored 42 points against a really good football team from
Utah State, against an extremely well-coached Utah State football
team," said Mullen, whose Bulldogs routed Memphis on Thursday.
"That is a well-coached unit. You saw that during the game. And
then the defending national champs found a way to win and scored 42
points in doing so. I think we're going to have our hands full
against an excellent Auburn football team."

Besides special teams, the Tigers were at their best with new
quarterback Barrett Trotter running the two-minute drill at the
end. An offense geared toward maintaining a fast tempo went
three-and-out five times and didn't often get into that kind of
rhythm.

"We'd like to think we run a two-minute offense the entire
game, but obviously we didn't get any first downs and got in a lull
and slowed things down," offensive coordinator Gus Malzahn said.
"We've got to be able to run the football. And when we're able to
run the football, that's when we start clicking."
(Copyright 2011 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)


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