Jump to content

SEC? BCS? How about Game 1 for Auburn

DKW 86

Recommended Posts


SEC? BCS? How about Game 1 for Auburn

8/22/2006, 7:35 p.m. CT


The Associated Press

AUBURN, Ala. (AP) — Courtney Taylor and the Auburn Tigers aren't letting themselves get carried away by big ambitions.

No pondering a possible place in the Southeastern Conference championship game or the BCS. Taylor isn't even allowing his mind to wander toward Week 3 of the regular season, when Western Division rival LSU comes to The Plains.

"Tattooed on my door is 'Sept. 2, Washington State,'" the receiver said, referring to the Tigers' season opener. "And that's all that matters right now."

Maybe the Tigers have learned their lesson.

Broadway plays debuting as poorly as Auburn has in recent seasons might not last beyond opening night.

The SEC favorites have had early season debacles against Georgia Tech (twice) and Southern California in the past four seasons.

The Tigers haven't just lost, they've looked awful doing it:

_Five turnovers, 50 rushing yards against the Yellow Jackets last season in a 23-14 opening loss.

_A humiliating loss to USC in the 2003 opener, blowing a No. 6 preseason ranking. "We probably thought we were No. 1," Taylor said, "and we got beat 23-0."

_A 17-3 loss at a much less heralded Georgia Tech team when not even Carnell Williams and Ronnie Brown could muster a running game in the second game of '03.

Indeed, Auburn has lost three of its last four openers, beating only Louisiana-Monroe en route to a 13-0 season in '04. (The Tigers also lost a close game at USC in 2002).

It's a remarkable statistic for a team that has managed to win 35 games during that four-year span.

A similarly punchless performance against Washington State would spoil all the enthusiasm and expectations surrounding this team.

"We know we've got a pretty good team," said coach Tommy Tuberville, who even needed a last-minute touchdown to beat Division I-AA Appalachian State in his first opener at Auburn.

"Now we've got to play like it."

The Tigers have plenty working in their favor, led by tailback Kenny Irons and quarterback Brandon Cox. Both seem unlikely to repeat last season's stinker of a debut — Irons had 6 yards rushing and Cox threw half of his eight interceptions against Tech.

Both were far better the rest of the season, leading the SEC's best offense. Irons only started nine games but wound up rushing for 1,293 yards and closing the regular season with six consecutive 100-yard games.

Cox posted the fourth-best single-season passing total in school history (2,324 yards) and was the league's No. 2-rated passer in his first season as starter, guiding a 9-3 team.

Now, the Tigers are expecting even more from him though Taylor is the only proven receiver and both offensive tackles are new starters.

"More pressure comes with higher expectations," offensive coordinator Al Borges said. "There's probably more pressure to perform this year than there was a year ago, because he's already proven that he can take step one. Now, there's an expectation that you're going to be able to take step two."

And step two, the Tigers hope, is a second SEC title in the past three seasons.

Tuberville embraces such high expectations as evidence of a positively perceived, thriving program. The Tigers have learned the hard way how difficult it is to turn preseason perception into reality.

"Any other team in the Southeastern Conference is not going to say, 'Oh, they're going to win it all,'" Taylor said. "Trust me, they're going to work hard to prove they're the best in the conference."

A revamped defense will have to come through for Auburn to stake that claim. With linebackers Tray Blackmon and Kevin Sears suspended for an unspecified number of games — probably including the date with LSU — converted safeties Will Herring and Steve Gandy won't have much grace period to master their new positions.

Gandy also had surgery to remove fluid from his thigh for an injury sustained during preseason practice and his status for the season wasn't immediately clear.

"I think we've got a chance to have a real good defense, but we're going to have to grow into it and we're going to have to do it pretty quick," Tuberville said. "The defense is obviously going to have to grow more than the offense.

"When you've got your quarterback back and a pretty good running back, you've got a pretty good nucleus. A lot of people that are predicting us to do real good are unfortunately just looking at those two positions."

Link to comment
Share on other sites


This topic is now archived and is closed to further replies.

  • Create New...