Auburn QB Cameron Newton threw for 245 yards and three touchdowns Saturday during the Tigers’ home rout.
AUBURN, Ala. (AP) - The Auburn Tigers are right where they were
this time last year: 5-0, moving up the rankings and feeling pretty
good about themselves.
Last time, they flopped. Coach Gene Chizik said the jury is
still out on this year.
The eighth-ranked Tigers visit Kentucky Saturday night trying to
sustain the good mood and fast start that has led to their highest
ranking in four years.
"I don't know what the difference is yet," Chizik said
Tuesday. "I'll know when we play Games 6, 7 and 8. I hope that
we're a more consistent team. I hope that we continue to improve
maybe moreso than we did at this time last year. But we're on a
stretch now where this month of October we're going to find out
exactly how far we have come in a year."
They apparently got ahead of themselves in Chizik's debut
season. Auburn (5-0, 2-0 Southeastern Conference) won its first
five games, entered the poll for a one-week cameo at No. 17 and
promptly lost three in a row. That included a 21-14 loss to the
Wildcats when mistakes - notably two straight false start penalties
that helped kill a promising late drive - and a poor finish cost
the Tigers dearly. Those proved to be recurring themes down the
Chizik didn't wait until this week to show his team clips from
that game when Kentucky scored two fourth quarter touchdowns, he
did that months ago.
"At the beginning of the year, he made a video of just body
language and mistakes that we had made that led to us not being
great last year," left tackle Lee Ziemba said. "Quite a big
number of those plays came from this game last year. We need to
If they haven't by now, they better do it soon.
The Tigers host SEC West rivals No. 11 Arkansas and No. 12 LSU
the following two weeks in a stretch that will determine if they're
serious division contenders. Those teams handed Auburn its two most
lopsided losses of 2009 during that midseason swoon.
The Tigers insist that lessons were learned from that
"We know what can happen after being 5-0 if you let your guard
down," Ziemba said. "Last year, we got to 5-0 and just fell off
the face of the map. This year, we're going to try to prevent that
from happening by first acknowledging that we're not there yet and
that we need to keep working."
Added center Ryan Pugh: "I think it's one of those things where
last year we didn't know how to be 5-0. It's kind of like it
shocked us. Now, it's about building each week and keeping a steady
climb to becoming a championship football team."
Auburn does have a few reasons to believe this promising start
can hold up better after struggling to a 3-5 finish. There's a
dual-threat quarterback in Cam Newton, more depth on defense and
the ability to close out three tight games in the fourth quarter
Newton's presence brings a big change to what the Tigers are
doing offensively, Kentucky coach Joker Phillips said.
"Well, they were playing really good at this time last year,
also, when we went down there and beat them," Phillips said.
"They're still playing well on offense. They are not throwing the
ball the way they were last year.
"Actually they're more of a quarterback run game this year than
they were last year. He's added that dimension to them."
Defensively, the emergence of SEC sack leader Nick Fairley and
other young linemen has bolstered the front group. The Tigers have
allowed 10 points in the fourth quarter so far and rank 12th
nationally in run defense.
But they've also struggled against the pass, which could be a
significant issue the next two weeks. The Tigers, who rank 89th
nationally against the pass, face the SEC's top passing offenses in
Kentucky and No. 11 Arkansas.
Defensive end Nosa Eguae understands there are plenty of
"I'm sure we haven't won everybody over," he said.