Auburn coach Gene Chizik held his weekly press conference today in preparation for Saturday’s game with Arkansas. Here are some of the highlights…
Opening statement…“We’re very excited about another opportunity. I want to encourage all our fans who were so outstanding at our last ballgame here two weeks ago, I want to encourage all of them to continue where they left off in making this environment just an incredible environment for our young guys to play ball in, and just an incredible experience for anyone who came to the game. I want to encourage them to come back at 11 a.m. Saturday, because this is going to be a great game.
“I know that on the outside looking in, Arkansas hasn’t done exactly what they wanted to do and what their expectations were at the beginning of the season, but it’s still a very good football team that’s very dangerous. After spending the last couple of days really watching them, it’s very glaring that they have some very good football players on their team, and I think that’s why they were ranked where they were at the beginning of the year. They’re very dangerous. I think that there are some explosive plays and some turnovers that — if that doesn’t occur with their football team — I think it’s a much different team in terms of their results. So they’re dangerous.
“Any time you have a quarterback that’s extremely productive, extremely confident and has as much experience as their guy has, I think that it’s always challenging. Again, on paper, it doesn’t necessarily look like what it does on film because they have some very dangerous players on their football team. It’s going to be a great SEC West matchup. We need to go back out there Saturday and play passionate and intense and hopefully play better than we did the last time we were out at Jordan-Hare. That’s our goal, and we’ll continue to work on that today.”
On the importance of the bye week…“I think it was big. When you have time to mentally reflect on the previous month, I think that’s always big. There’s a fine line in there on what you’re going to do in that off week in terms of trying to stay sharp, yet at the same time trying to get some time off and be able to reassess and reevaluate things. I think we were in the right direction with that. It’s always valuable to get that time. Everybody asks, ‘Is that the right time?’ It was good for us. It could’ve been good for us three weeks from then, too. You always need that time to kind of back off a little bit and reflect, so that’s what we did.”
On the importance of the October schedule…“It’s very important. With our schedules in this league, as we all know, every month is an important month. There’s no question about it. We have this 11 a.m. game this week here at home, and then we have a couple of very tough road games that we have to go play, and every game is extremely valuable. One isn’t necessarily more important than the other right now. Our intent is to continue to improve and win one game at a time. That’s what we’re focused on. This month’s going to be a taxing month, but really and truly, what month isn’t?”
Does he feel the team is better now than at the beginning of the season…“I think so. I think we’ve played some very quality opponents that have proven over the last month that we’ve played some opponents that have all, in their own right and in their own different ways, had a lot of success — every one of them.
“It’ll be really interesting to see just how far we’ve moved since the last time we played. Practices have been very sharp and very precise and very energetic. I think we have a hungry football team that wants to win. I don’t think there’s any question with that. They’ve never taken a step back in terms of how they’ve worked, which doesn’t surprise me. We just have to go out there, and we have to get a win.”
Was it difficult playing LSU so closely and then not playing the next week…“I think you can go either way on that. When you play that well and you’re that disappointed in a loss, we felt like we left some things on the field that we could’ve converted on and won the football game. You’re always chomping at the bit to get out there again the next week and want to wait as short an amount of time as you can before you do that, but that’s just not the reality of it.
“We won’t live in the world of what-ifs. We had the week off, and our one goal in having the week off was to improve. I feel like we’ve done that. I feel like we’ll continue to do that this week, but we have to go out there and show it Saturday.”
On dealing with the pressure of the Arkansas game… “There is pressure in beating everybody that we play. We have the urgency and importance of winning every game that we play. In college football, as a player and a coach you’ve got to have a very short memory both winning and losing, and you’ve got to move on to the next thing.
“I think our guys understand that, and our guys that have been with us for a few years have experienced a lot of great things and we’ve experienced some disappointments. That’s the journey we are on. That’s the journey that we have taken. So there will be more great experiences, and there will be some disappointments along the way, too. That’s part of growing up, and that’s part of the journey we are on, but our expectation going into every game is to win. The pressure is no different in this game than in any of the previous four.”
What did the team focus on during the bye week…“I think over our whole football team, we’ve been able to go back and really assess things in a little bit more depth and detail than you would if you had an upcoming opponent.
“You can start on defense and work from the secondary all the way up to the defensive line and see things secondary-wise, playing the football in the air. We’ve got some pass interference penalties right now where we could have played the ball better in the air, squeezed routes more to put ourselves in better positions to knock the ball down, or getting disruptions in the passing game. At linebacker, misfits on long runs and blitz intensity and the defensive line executing stunts and twists and blitzes. You can go through the whole gamut defensively.
“Then offensively, starting with our offensive line, with the things we have been able to really improve on and things we haven’t been as good on. We certainly have room for improvement with pass sets and picking up blitzes and pressure on certain protections, running backs taking the right angle of departure or the running game to be able to do what we are trying to get accomplished in the running game, quarterbacks taking the right steps, depth of routes with the receivers, crispness of the breaks and the things we are trying to do with our receivers, and I can go on and on and on. It’s everywhere, but I think the assessment all over our football team was glaring that we’ve got a lot of improvement to be made at every position, not just one.”
On Arkansas Quarterback Tyler Wilson…“He’s an impressive young man. One of the things I thought about him two years ago when he came into the game — I just thought that when you look at a quarterback and you say, ‘What are the intangibles of a quarterback that you look for at that position in a young man?’ and that is the competitive nature of that guy, he’s got it.
“I like the way he carries himself, the way he talks and then ultimately how he plays on the field. He’s very competitive. He is one of those guys every week; you are going to get a battle from him, and it doesn’t matter what the circumstances are, it doesn’t matter what’s going on around him. I know that his teammates know he is ready to go fight another day, and that’s very obvious with him. He’s a very impressive young man.
“Everything that he was built up to be in the preseason, he still is. Again, I know things haven’t gone exactly the way they envisioned them going, but that hasn’t changed him in his quality as a quarterback.”
What has he seen from Arkansas on film…“I mentioned it earlier. I think they are leaving things on the field. I think that when you look at explosive plays both offensively and defensively, they are giving up more explosive plays than I’m sure they would like, and then, the turnovers. If there are less explosive plays and the turnovers aren’t what they are, I think you are looking at a completely different football team in terms of being in games and winning games. They are probably feeling a little bit like we are feeling right now; we left some of those things out on the field that we’ve got to improve on. Those are two things that are glaring to me.”