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WEDNESDAY, DECEMBER 27, 2006
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AU adjusting to morning practices

By Bradley Handwerger
bhandwerger@decaturdaily.com 340-2462

Few college students like the morning hours.

Catch them before 10 a.m., and, well, you're likely to wake them.

This season, Auburn's football team took it a step further — four morning games, three poor efforts and the season's two losses in games that began before noon.

That's peculiar considering Auburn took the practice field by 9 a.m. Tuesday and Thursday during the fall.

"It's nothing you can pinpoint," junior defensive end Quentin Groves said.

On Tuesday, Auburn's 10th-ranked Tigers (10-2) arrived in Dallas for their Cotton Bowl game against No. 22 Nebraska (9-4). And guess what? The Jan. 1 game will begin even earlier than the SEC's traditional Lincoln-Financial 11:30 a.m. game. Kickoff is set for 10:40 a.m.

So Auburn head coach Tommy Tuberville has changed tactics. Beginning with Auburn's first bowl practice Dec. 14, he had the team begin practices at the same time the game will start.

Groves said because of that, there are no more excuses.

"If we continue to label the fact that we struggle in morning games, we're going to always struggle," he said.

"But once we get it in our head that we're going to go out there and take care of business, we'll be all right."

Auburn's two losses were easily the Tigers' worst performances of the year, and both came at lunchtime.

Arkansas jumped to a 10-0 lead en route to a 27-10 throttling of Auburn in Jordan-Hare Stadium. The Razorbacks, then unranked, eased to 366 total yards, including 279 on the ground.Georgia, which already had lost to perennial cellar-dwellers Vanderbilt and Kentucky, made Auburn look worse than Arkansas did.

The Bulldogs trounced the Tigers, who at the time still
had hopes of an SEC and national championship game berth. Auburn was down 30-7 at halftime and never looked alive after true freshman quarterback Matthew Stafford picked apart the Tigers' secondary.

Yet, Tuberville said that playing in the morning had little to do with his team's two losses.

But don't think he won't make a point by using those two games. "We'll address that the two games we lost were early in the morning this year," Tuberville said. "We'll address being able to handle the early morning and be able to wake themselves up."

Still, it's already in the players' heads that the team has had problems in the morning.

"We've got to get ready and get going, get our minds right early," junior nose guard Josh Thompson said.

"We've struggled a little bit with the early games, but we'll be excited about this one, get it going and hopefully we'll be ready."

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