Originally created 09/14/05

Auburn still searching for complete game

AUBURN, Ala. - Auburn's next two games won't have any direct impact on the Tigers' hopes of winning a second straight Southeastern Conference championship.

But after two games where they hardly looked like league contenders, meetings with Ball State and Western Kentucky could offer opportunities for the heavily favored Tigers (1-1) to fix some shortcomings.

"We've got to improve in every area, because we're not good enough as we speak to play in the top echelon of the SEC," coach Tommy Tuberville said Tuesday. "We've got to improve. We understand that, our players understand that. The potential is there. We've just got to continue to play better."

Two of the more pressing issues are narrowing the tailback rotation from four players and finding more balance on offense. The Tigers are hoping to resolve them before returning to league play against South Carolina on Oct. 1.

Ball State has started the season 0-2 while Western Kentucky (2-0) is a Division I-AA team. The Tigers are hoping to emerge from those games with two wins but also as a better team.

"Your intensity is, you hope, a lot better for SEC games than it is for the nonconference," Tuberville said. "It's hard to keep mentally and physically at the top of your game all year long. The thing that we want to do this week - obviously the No. 1 goal is to win the game, but we have to continue to improve and improve not just physically but mentally."

Auburn has opened with two uneven performances, a loss to Georgia Tech and a not particularly dominant win against Mississippi State that didn't push the Tigers any closer to a return to the Top 25.

The offense leaned heavily on the pass in the first game and relied mostly on the run in the second, with mixed results in both cases. The Tigers used a four-tailback rotation against the Bulldogs, but are hoping a couple will separate themselves from the pack.

"We are looking for the right combination of running backs," Tuberville said.

Auburn's two-week break from league play also comes at a good time to potentially allow some injured players to heal before hosting South Carolina.

Tuberville said an assortment of players are nursing injuries after the Mississippi State game. The list includes defensive end Stanley McClover (ankle), linebacker Travis Williams (turf toe), offensive tackle Marcus McNeill (knee) and tailback Tre Smith (knee).

"They're starting to mount up as we go through the season, which normally happens," Tuberville said.


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