AP photo by Rob Carr|
Auburn quarterback Brandon Cox wasn't as sore Sunday morning after the Tigers played South Florida as he was the day after facing Kansas State.
COLLEGE FOOTBALL NOTEBOOK
AUBURN — Quarterback Brandon Cox didn't have trouble getting out of bed this week.
Following Auburn's season opener, Cox was black and blue. But after the loss to South Florida on Saturday, he had little physical injury, a sign that the offensive line is improving.
"Brandon's not even sore," offensive coordinator Borges said. "Last week, he couldn't get out of bed."
Cox, who was sacked five times against K-State, was sacked twice Saturday in the Tigers' 26-23 home loss to South Florida, and one of those was the fault of a running back's missed block.
For the second straight week, senior center Jason Bosley graded the best on the offensive line, the team's biggest concern heading into the season with the loss of four starters from 2006.
True freshman Lee Ziemba had the second-best game, according to line coach Hugh Nall, and left guard Tyronne Green followed.
"Those are the top three," Nall said. "(Mike) Berry and King (Dunlap) came in right after that."
Dunlap, the only returning starter, had begun his senior campaign poorly. For the second straight week, he finished last on the grading scale. Nall said he wants to see more from his left tackle, but that goes for all of the linemen.
"I am not happy by any means with any of those guys," he said. "It wasn't consistent enough. We've got to get a little more urgency in the things we're doing."
Auburn improved greatly on a running game that only amassed 62 yards in the opening game. The Tigers rushed for 125 yards against South Florida.
Most of those yards came from running back Mario Fannin (62) and Ben Tate (61), but it was clear that the offensive line opened bigger holes than it did in the opener. The Tigers ran the ball 35 times and threw 35 passes.
"For a period there, Al (Borges) was calling some run plays back-to-back and I thought we hit a little groove there, and had some surges getting off the ball, getting after people," Nall said. "That was good to see."
Nall only played the five starting linemen in the season opener. But against South Florida, he subbed in guard Antwoin Daniels. On Daniels' first play, the junior got hurt.
Each week during the season, Auburn's veteran players come together for a seniors-only meeting. Head coach Tommy Tuberville joins the meeting to answer questions about the previous game.
Cox said one of those questions asked to Tuberville during this week's meeting concerned the final drive of regulation when Auburn elected to send the game into overtime instead of attempting a third down.
"He said we went for it on first and second down, and third down it was third-and-11 with 20-something seconds left and all they were going to do is play deep coverage, and we didn't want to take a chance on a turnover," Cox said. "I thought that was a pretty good explanation."
After South Florida tied the score at 20, Auburn took over at the 36-yard line. Following an incomplete pass and a sack, the Tigers faced a long third down with less than 30 seconds left on the clock.
Instead of throwing down field, they let the clock run down and took the game into overtime, where they lost 26-23. But Cox said despite the loss that the Tigers' primary goal is still intact.
"It's only one game; it's a non-conference game. SEC starts this week. Our goal is to go to Atlanta," he said. "With the seniors, we've been through it before. We've experienced losses. We know we still have a chance."
According to Chris Slaughter and Tim Hawthorne, about five receivers saw some playing time with the first string during Sunday's practice.
Slaughter, a true freshman who played in his first game Saturday and had one catch, said he and Prechae Rodriguez rotated in with the No. 1 receivers Sunday. Rodriguez has been the first-string flanker the past two games, but he dropped two passes during Saturday's loss to South Florida, one for a touchdown.
"In this game of college football, you've got to catch them to win games," Tuberville said.
Hawthorne, who got in for two plays Saturday and didn't have a catch, said he was practicing Sunday as the first-string slot receiver, while former starting slot receiver Robert Dunn played one of the other outside wideout spots.
Starter Rod Smith practiced with the first string at his split end position.
Daily sports writer
TUSCALOOSA — When asked if he enjoyed preparing for an offense as diversified as Arkansas', Alabama coach Nick Saban smirked for a second, then called it more of a test.
"That's one of the things that when you're a competitor and you're competing, you always look at the next game as a new challenge," Saban said. "And because they're different in some of the things that they do and how they use some of their feature players, which are very talented guys, it is very challenging and that's part of the fun of it."
Not only will Alabama need to prepare for 2006 Heisman trophy runner-up Darren McFadden as a running back, but also a quarterback.
Last season, McFadden completed 7 of 9 passes for 69 yards and three touchdowns.
"Obviously, it would be better if he couldn't pass it, and you wouldn't have to worry about it," Saban said. "It really complements what they do. It makes it much more difficult. And they make big plays doing it."
Last week, Saban sent letters to several players from the Miami Dolphins wishing them luck for the upcoming season.
Some Miami players were not pleased with this gesture.
"It better have a return address because it's going right back to him unopened," Dolphins cornerback Will Allen told The Miami Herald.
On Monday, Saban defended his decision, saying he respects the Miami players and that he had no hidden reason for sending the notes.
"I have a tremendous amount of respect, gratitude, for the hard work that the guys that are still on the team there," Saban said. "I just wanted to wish them the best of luck in this season out of respect for them and also wish their families well."
Offensive tackle Andre Smith and tight end Travis McCall were named Alabama's offensive players of the week Monday as Alabama's blockers allowed only one sack to Vanderbilt on Saturday.
The Crimson Tide named ends Wallace Gilberry and Bobby Greenwood as the defensive players of the week, while kick returner Javier Arenas and cornerback Kareem Jackson were the special teams players of the week.
Saban had two injuries to report Monday. Running back Jimmy Johns has a bad ankle, but it doesn't appear serious. Running back Glen Coffee is nursing a sore shoulder suffered against Vanderbilt and will be in a black non-contact jersey to start the week, but he wasn't seriously hurt.
Daily Sports Writer
Arkansas coach Houston Nutt announced Monday that the Razorbacks most likely will be without receiver Marcus Monk and tight end Ben Cleveland against Alabama.
Cleveland hurt his neck on the first day of preseason practice, while Monk has had two surgeries on his knee since he was injured Aug. 9.
Daily Sports Writer
BIRMINGHAM — Florida quarterback Tim Tebow, Mississippi State linebacker Gabe O'Neal and South Carolina place-kicker/punter Ryan Succop were named Southeastern Conference players of the week Monday.
Tebow completed 18 of 25 passes for 236 yards and three touchdowns and also led Florida in rushing with 93 yards and two touchdowns in the Gators' 59-31 win over Troy. He is second in the nation in passing efficiency and leads the SEC in total offense this season.
O'Neal returned his first career interception 47 yards for a touchdown and recovered a fumble in Mississippi States 38-17 win at Tulane.
Succop won special teams honors after making all three field goal attempts and averaging 40.7 yards on seven punts in South Carolina's 16-12 win at Georgia.
Kentucky guard Jason Leger was the offensive linemen of the week. Defensive line honors went to LSU end Kirston Pittman. Alabama tailback Terry Grant was named the top freshman for the second straight week.
NASHVILLE — Vanderbilt enters Saturday's game against Mississippi uncertain about quarterback Chris Nickson, who injured his hamstring in a 24-10 loss to Alabama.
The hobbled Nickson had one of his worst games as a Commodore, completing five of 18 passes for 67 yards and an interception. He didn't practice during a light session on Sunday.
"It's going to be an evaluation period over the next couple of days just to find out how he's going to be," coach Bobby Johnson said Monday during his weekly news conference.
"It's too early to tell, but he's not out."
The Associated Press
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