Auburn needs pick-me-up against Florida Atlantic
What Auburn’s battered defense needs is a pick-me-up game
against an offense that is really struggling.
Florida Atlantic got here just in time.
The Tigers (2-1) get to take on an offense Saturday night that
might make their problems look insignificant – if they didn’t have
six straight Southeastern Conference games looming.
Trouble tackling? Florida Atlantic (0-2) ranks last in the
country in rushing offense.
Giving up way too many points? The Owls have been outscored 85-3
in their first two games.
Bedeviled by third down troubles? Florida Atlantic managed just
one first down against Michigan State.
It certainly seems like a chance for Auburn’s young defense to
work on some deficiencies and rebuild confidence.
”I think the game plan is to beat them, beat them bad, let them
know,” freshman defensive tackle Angelo Blackson said. ”That’s
really the emphasis. We’re all mad about the loss (to Clemson).
Coach said, `You’ve got to put it on somebody else.’ We’re going to
put it on them.”
If ever there was a week for defensive tough talk, this is it.
The Tigers need a big boost after getting torched for 624 yards
against Clemson in a defeat that ended a 17-game winning
Howard Schnellenberger’s Owls continue their murderer’s road
trips. First Florida, then Michigan State and after an open date
now they travel to the defending national champions.
Schnellenberger isn’t sugarcoating the situation facing his
”They know that they’re going into this game with a very small
chance of winning,” said Schnellenberger, an Alabama assistant
under Bear Bryant from 1961-65. ”But they know they go into these
games playing against teams that could give us a great lesson in
how to play this game of top-of-the-line football.
”This is not a portion of our schedule that we tell our players
that they’re competitive and have an equal opportunity to
Score a touchdown? Maybe.
The Tigers rank last in the SEC in the four major defensive
statistical categories: scoring, total yards allowed and defending
both the run and pass.
Coach Gene Chizik said poor tackling was just the most obvious
of the problems. The offense has still been potent, just not
dominant. Chizik thinks the Tigers’ issues are fixable. This week
would be a good time to start with four straight games with ranked
SEC teams awaiting – three on the road.
”It’s not really about Florida Atlantic, really and truly,”
Chizik said. ”This is a game where we’ve got to improve some
things in practice, and go out on game day and execute the things
that we feel like we need to improve on. So, it really wouldn’t
matter who we’re playing. It’s very obvious that we need to play
better all the way around as a football team. Florida Atlantic just
happens to be the next opponent.”
And the Owls have problems of their own after their opening
Platooning quarterbacks Graham Wilbert and David Kooi combined
for 26 passing yards against Michigan State, which held Florida
Atlantic to 48 yards.
Running back Alfred Morris, who gained 2,320 yards the past two
seasons, has managed 37 on 24 carries.
As SEC defenses go, this might not be such a bad one to face.
But Blackson and the Tigers know opposing offenses might have that
mind-set these days, and don’t especially like it.
”It’s going to be so big,” Blackson said. ”Teams are looking
to put up tons of yards on us. We’ve really got to take a stand. I
think the emphasis for this game is we’re not going to let up
because of the team they are. We’re going to play them. They’re
coming into our home. We’re going to try to get it over with