SEC FOOTBALL NOTEBOOK
AUBURN — Offensive coordinator Al Borges was impressed with the play of the right side of the offensive line during Auburn’s 23-13 win Saturday night.
Quarterback Brandon Cox was sacked five times and hurried plenty others, but Borges said true freshman tackle Lee Ziemba and redshirt freshman guard Mike Berry are not to blame.
“I thought they did a heck of a job,” Borges said. “They were going to have some mistakes, but what I was fired up about was when we did some things wrong, we did them full speed.”
Berry and Ziemba were question marks heading into the game, but it was not them who caused trouble. The only returning lineman from last season — King Dunlap — graded out the worst of the five linemen.
Dunlap, a senior left tackle, called his play “average.”
“I didn’t play my best game. You always have the first-game jitters out there and I just ... my mind wasn’t in it,” Dunlap said.
The 6-foot-8, 312-pounder echoed what Borges and offensive line coach Hugh Nall said was the offense’s biggest problems: fundamentals and techniques. Dunlap said he had poor footwork and didn’t have his helmet in the right places when he came off the ball.
“Offensive line ... people don’t realize it’s not just being big and strong and burly like that,” Dunlap said.
“It’s technique and footwork, and that’s the biggest thing that we
had problems with Saturday, and we’ll get all that corrected this week.”
Nall said center Jason Bosley graded out the best and left guard Tyronne Green played “OK.” No other linemen played in the game. Nall said he plans to keep the same starting five for this Saturday’s game against South Florida.
“We’re going to evaluate it day by day,” he said.
Kansas State’s defense mimicked Nebraska’s game plan from January’s Cotton Bowl by putting eight and nine defenders in “the box” against Auburn.
The box is an imaginary area that stretches about 8 yards out from the offensive line. Its border is about where linebackers normally align and it spreads out width-wise to the defensive end.
Nebraska loaded the box with defenders in a 17-14 loss to the Tigers, slowing Auburn’s rushing game and blitzing into the backfield. K-State did the same. That’s why Cox was under fire so much and why there were so many deflected passes at the line.
But Borges said passing the ball reduces players in the box.
“We’ve got to be able to throw the ball,” he said. “We can’t let safeties play at the line of scrimmage.”
Auburn’s running game was hurt by K-State’s defensive game plan, too. Having so many players stacked in the box stumped the run. Auburn running backs were tackled behind the line of scrimmage five times and gained 62 net yards.
Ben Tate, replacing suspended starter Brad Lester, led the team with 82 yards on 23 carries. Fullback Carl Stewart had just 7 yards on five attempts.
The Tigers moved inside the K-State 20-yard line three times in the first three quarters, and three times had to settle for field goals. Sacks and tackles for losses were a large part of that.
“I always want us to hold up our end of the deal and, for the most part since I’ve been here, we’ve done a pretty decent job,” Borges said. “But I don’t think we held up our end of the deal very well, so that hurt a little bit.”
Auburn coach Tommy Tuberville told reporters after Wednesday’s practice that starting linebacker Tray Blackmon (ankle) and starting safety Aairon Savage (ankle) went through “about three-quarters of practice.”
The coach said cornerback Jonathan Wilhite (hamstring) “has been going the last two days” and is “fine.”
Place-kicker Wes Byrum (ankle) remains questionable. He said Tuesday he would be ready to kick field goals at least, but Tuberville told reporters Wednesday that “if we kicked today, Zach (Kutch) would probably kick.”
“We’ve got three days left,” Tuberville said. “If (Byrum) continues to improve, he might be able to kick certain distances.”
Daily sports writer
Heading into Alabama’s game at Vanderbilt on Saturday, Athens High grad Alfred McCullough is listed as second on the depth chart at nose tackle behind Lorenzo Washington.
Last week, Crimson Tide head coach Nick Saban praised McCullough for having a “good motor.” However, McCullough’s has risen on the depth chart partly because of starter Brian Motley’s fractured ankle and Saban’s unwillingness to move more experienced players to that spot.
McCullough had a tackle and a fumble recovery against Western Carolina on Saturday.
“We’re not disappointed in anyone in terms of how they played,” Saban said. “It was a good opportunity for some of the young guys up front to get a chance to play in the game some.”
Saban said that he moved freshman defensive end Luther Davis to nose tackle for a few snaps, just to see how he performed.
Saban said he will not alter his team’s preparation for the 11:45 a.m. kickoff in Nashville on Saturday, except for the time of the pregame meal.
Saban said he does not want his players distracted by thinking about the starting time of the game.
“If we make a lot of changes in what we do, everybody is walking around saying, ‘Wow, what’s going on now?’ ” Saban said.
The he jokingly added, “We can have everybody miss class. We can call the president, say, ‘Can we have all the classes canceled?’ and we’ll practice at 11:45 every day this week.”
Former Alabama linebacker Zach Schreiber, a Shreveport, La., native who was granted his release Tuesday, is going to Louisiana Tech, according to Schreiber’s former high school coach.
“I think he wanted to be closer to home,” said John Bachman, head coach at Evangel Christian High in Shreveport. “It caught me off guard. Maybe it was one of those things where he went through camp and was struggling with some stuff.”
According to Bachman, Schreiber contacted him Monday to tell him he wanted to leave Alabama. Bachman said Schreiber and Saban talked about the decision and it was a positive conversation.
Daily Sports Writer
Speedster Percy Harvin lined up at quarterback, running back and receiver for Florida last year.
He might have a new position Saturday night when the fourth-ranked Gators (1-0) host Troy (0-1) — kick returner.
Coach Urban Meyer said there’s a good chance Harvin will make his debut as a kickoff returner against the Trojans. Meyer said he started considering the move after watching Cal receiver DeSean Jackson and Arkansas tailback Felix Jones make huge special teams plays Saturday.
Jeff Owens got to spend a lot of time on the sideline in Georgia’s season opener. He didn’t mind a bit.
The No. 11 Bulldogs (1-0) used a bevy of defensive linemen in their 31-14 win over Oklahoma State last weekend.
Owens, a junior tackle, was in for 32 snaps — the most of any linemen but not even half of Oklahoma State’s 65 offensive plays. The Bulldogs used at least five interior linemen and about the same number of ends in their regular rotation.
The Bulldogs host South Carolina (1-0) on Saturday.
Coach Steve Spurrier wants a crisper performance out of his team than he watched in last week’s win over Louisiana-Lafayette.
The head ball coach knows, though, things could’ve been much, much worse than winning 28-14.
“We’re a little bit discouraged,” Spurrier said. “We’re not quite like Michigan, now. We still won the game.”
Of course, Spurrier was talking about the Wolverines’ 34-32 loss to Appalachian State, which is part of the group of schools formerly known as Division I-AA.
Spurrier grew up in Johnson City, Tenn., about an hour’s drive from the Appalachian State campus in Boone, N.C.
He sent Mountaineers coach Jerry Moore a note of congratulations on the upset. “That was the thrill of a lifetime for App State players, coaches and everyone that goes to school there,” Spurrier said.
Tennessee coach Phillip Fulmer knows there’s no place like home.
His No. 24 Volunteers (0-1) are looking forward to returning to the sea of orange shirts and sounds of “Rocky Top” at Neyland Stadium in their home opener Saturday against Southern Miss (1-0).
Tennessee opened the season with a 45-31 loss at the hostile home field of No. 10 California, which was looking to avenge its 2006 loss to the Vols.
From wire reports
Copyright 2005 THE DECATUR DAILY. All rights reserved.
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AP contributed to this report.
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