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Auburn's perspective on the KSU game

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Muschamp on the defense

Posted by Phillip Marshall, The Huntsville Times September 02, 2007 1:28 PM

It wasn't perfect or even close to perfect, but second-year defensive coordinator Will Muschamp was pleased with most of what he saw of Auburn's defense in Saturday night's victory over Kansas State.

"I thought our kids competed and played really hard," Muschamp said. "We had our opportunity at the end to win the game and we were able to get it done."

Despite middle linebacker Tray Blackmon (ankle), safety Aairon Savage (ankle) and cornerback Jonathan Wilhite (hamstring) missing the entire second half, the Tigers held Kansas State to just 27 net yards rushing. The Wildcats had 289 yards passing, but they had to throw 58 times to do it. Muschamp's men had two interceptions and scored the game's final touchdown when Quentin Groves blasted Freeman from behind, forcing a fumble that Antonio Coleman scooped up and returned 34 yards.

Though Freeman went down just twice, Muschamp credited his defenders with 26 pressures.

The negatives were Kansas State's 13-play, 61-yard drive to a field goal on its first possession, too many missed tackles and too many yards after contact.

"I was disappointed in the first drive, obviously," Muschamp said. "It was things we were prepared for. We just didn't cover very well. The quarterback is a very accurate passer. They ran a lot of man-beater routes early in the game. We were able to affect him with a four-man rush, so we played a little bit more zone as the game went on.

"We forced three turnovers. We played well, other than the first drive, on third down. We played the screens well, played well in the red area, did a good job with five three-and-outs. There were a lot of positives and a lot of things we can work and correct - that's leveraging the ball and tackling. We had 15 missed tackles and 124 yards after contact, which we obviously can't have, and too many big plays."

The things that went wrong, Muschamp said, will be corrected in practice.

"We have a lot of things we can clean up," Muschamp said. "The first game is normally when you make some of those mistakes, and we need to rebound from that."

Among those who played particularly well, Muschamp said, were Groves, cornerbacks Pat Lee and Zach Gilbert, tackle Pat Sims and middle linebacker Chris Evans.

Heralded freshman safety Michael McNeil, he said, played just one snap.

"I should have gotten him in more," Muschamp said. "He's going to play a lot as we go along."

The status of Blackmon, Savage and Wilhite for next Saturday's game against South Florida is uncertain. Evans, Eric Brock and Lee would start in their places if they are unable to play.

Borges on the offense

Posted by Phillip Marshall, The Huntsville Times September 02, 2007 2:04 PM

It wasn't the kind of performance Auburn offensive coordinator Al Borges wanted in the season-opener. But there were, he said, signs of hope for the future.

Auburn's offense struggled throughout most of the game against Kansas State on Saturday, but senior quarterback Brandon Cox finally engineered a 57-yard touchdown drive, throwing the a 3-yard pass to tight end Gabe McKenzie for the game-winner with 2:01 left.

"We had a lot of plays that had potential for success," Borges said Sunday. "We just weren't well-oiled enough to execute them. Some of our youth showed up, some of our inexperience. There were some good things after watching it. We just need to be more consistent. We faced a pretty good defensive team, too.

"Gabe McKenzie made a couple of really good plays. I think (center) Jason Bosley played well, (Tailback) Ben Tate played well for the most part. When he had some room to run, he ran pretty good. For the most part, our wide receivers were pretty good. We dropped one ball, but they weren't bad. In the clutch, they were pretty good. Our senior quarterback helped us in the clutch. We could have easily lost that football game. He hung in there. We all hung in there, really. There was a time it wasn't looking real good."

With 35 wins in their last 40 games, the Tigers have made a habit of finding ways to win. Borges said he'd like to see some come a little easier.

"We've learned around here to win those games," Borges said. "I was hoping that was last year. I think with some maturity, the more these guys get in there, the better we'll get. We do have some talent."

Grading the offensive line

Posted by Phillip Marshall, The Huntsville Times September 02, 2007 1:16 PM

Watching the tape of Auburn's 23-13 victory over Kansas State, offensive line coach Hugh Nall saw some encouraging signs and saw them things he didn't want to see.

True freshman Lee Ziemba started his first college game at right tackle. Redshirt freshman Mike Berry started at right guard. Junior Tyronne Green was a first-time starter at left guard. Only senior left tackle King Dunlap, a fulltime starter last season, and junior center Jason Bosley, who started four games last season, could claim veteran status.

"I thought some of the young guys played really hard and did some good things," Nall said. "They made some mistakes we knew they would make. I was disappointed with some of the older guys. We've just got to keep getting better. The intensity level has to pick up. The grades have to pick up. The assignment grades were pretty good. The technique grades and the finish grades have to pick up."

Nall says he considers grades in the high 80s and above playing winning football. Only Bosley achieved that against the Wildcats.

Here are the grades:

Bosley 93

Green 84

Berry 81

Ziemba 73

Dunlap 71

Clearly, it was disappointing and surprising that Dunlap, a fifth-year senior and a preseason All-SEC pick, had the lowest grade.

Nall was neither surprised nor discouraged by Ziemba's overall grade.

"He played hard," Nall said. "He didn't always hit the right guy, but he got after somebody on every play. I can live with that. He's going to get better."

Assignment grades, Nall said, were acceptable. On assignments, Bosley graded 99, Greene 99, Berry 96, Dunlap 94 and Ziemba 82.

"That's pretty good," Nall said. "We obviously have to get better on technique and finish."

Nall said he plans no lineup changes for next Saturday's game against South Florida.

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