August 22, 2009

Scrimmage focuses on final two minutes

Auburn's third scrimmage of the fall had its share of explosive runs and long passes. But what it really boiled down to was execution, or lack thereof, in the final minutes of a game or half.

Head coach Gene Chizik certainly sees a lot of room for improvement with two weeks to go until the season-opener against Louisiana Tech.

"We did more situations today than anything," Chizik said. "...Wasn't a real, real physical day, more of a mental day, a procedural day, coaches were in the press box, coaches down, on the headphones, who's doing what procedurally. I think we got accomplished what we wanted to get accomplished.

"We really got a great feel of what we weren't doing well, which it was very apparent out there that there was a lot that we weren't doing well. But create teaching tools and I think we got out of today what we wanted."

One of the main situations the scrimmage focused on was the last two minutes of the game.

"We put ourselves in a position with one timeout left and we're 60 yards away, 1:30 left on the clock, those types of situations that we have to be very efficient at on offense and defense," Chizik said. "Defensively, protecting the boundary and understanding the importance of keeping the ball in bounds. Conversely, getting the ball out of bounds.

"Being efficient and being in hurry-up mode without panicking, offensive line not jumping and things of that nature."

They even faked an injury to make sure the substitution was handled properly.

As far as big plays, cornerback Walt McFadden said running back Onterio McCalebb continued his strong play with a couple of big runs but it was freshman wide receiver Anthony Gulley who apparently made the most spectacular play of the day.

"He made a great a play -- a one-handed catch. It was so pretty," McFadden said. "It was like a post-corner ball. Todd put it out there thinking Gulley was 6-foot-7. He reached out with those long arms and made a great play. It looked like two fingers."

The scrimmage ended with a two-minute drill with the defense getting a stop and the offense punching one it. Chizik said the focus on the final two minutes is crucial for this year's team.

"Our thing right now, when we win games at Auburn, it's going to come down to the last two minutes and that's the way we've got to feel," he said. "We've got to be very efficient at those parts of the game and we've got a long way to go in that direction.

"We've got two weeks to work on and we've got a lot of good things to teach from.

Look 'em in the eye

Auburn used just two full-time assistants in the press box Saturday, running backs coach Curtis Luper and cornerbacks coach Phillip Lolley. It appears they will do the same for the Louisiana Tech game two weeks from today.

Both offensive coordinator Gus Malzahn and Ted Roof were on the field.

"I've always been on the field," Malzahn said. "And I can at least see the field fairly good because that's what I'm used to. I like being there with that quarterback and looking him in the eye.

"A lot of times you can really read your quarterback and, for that matter, read your whole offense when you're down there. And as long as our coaches do our job, we can be very efficient with that."


***QB Chris Todd on the importance of Saturday's scrimmage and executing during the final two minutes of a game.

"It's huge, especially when you're in front of 90,000 people and everybody is going crazy and everything is so fast. You've got to be able to keep your head and make sure you know what you're doing."

***Freshman Tyrik Rollison said that Todd got most of the reps at QB in the scrimmage.

"I got one series out there at beginning, but mostly it was more a mental day for me," Rollison said.

***Malzahn said a decision on the backup quarterback between Rollison and Neil Caudle could come next week.

"Me and coach Chizik, next week we'll get together and start talking about things and start trying to at least get a plan for an order. It's hard to say what that timetable will be," Malzahn said.

***Chizik on the decision to play or redshirt Rollison or any of AU's true freshmen:

"That's a really delicate situation," he said. "The final thought analysis -- is he ready to help us win games right now? That's what's going to be. Not just him, that's any redshirt. Where can he contribute right now to help us win games? If we feel there's two guys or three guys in front of him, obviously he's not ready to help us win games right now."

***Chizik said he "thinks" the team made it through the scrimmage without any injuries.

***Chizik, Malzahn and Roof all said that a depth chart was about 90 percent done.

***Saturday's scrimmage was not full-contact, unlike the previous two.

"It was physical, but it was more of a thud tempo," McFadden said. "We weren't taking anybody down to the ground. You just hit and wrap up."

***Auburn will return to practice Sunday at 4:20 p.m.

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