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AU opening up the offence

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There’s a simple answer to Auburn’s turnaround on offense.

Turnovers.

In consecutive losses to South Florida and Mississippi State, AU committed 10 total turnovers. In three straight wins since, the Tigers have turned it over just three times.

But if you dig a little deeper you’ll find several other factors.

Todd Van Emst
Cox has completed 71 percent of his passes the last three games.

Quarterback Brandon Cox has certainly stepped up his play as has both of AU’s young tailbacks. The return of junior tailback Brad Lester and adding a couple of more true freshmen to the offensive line has brought more toughness and energy to the group.

There’s also been a more creative approach to the gameplan and playcalling.

Auburn opened the Vanderbilt game with Ben Tate at tailback and fellow running back Mario Fannin in the slot. On the first play, AU faked an end around to Fannin and Tate carried the ball for 12 yards.

When Lester made his debut three plays later, Cox made a quick pitch to Lester who took it eight yards around the right end.

Why did it take nearly half the season before Auburn opened up its playbook? Offensive coordinator Al Borges says the answer is simple.

“When you’re not executing, you’re not afforded the luxury of being real creative sometimes,” said Borges. “You’d better get back to fundamentals of blocking, making good exchanges in your run game, good traps.”

According to head coach Tommy Tuberville, the inexperience at offensive line and running back limited what AU was able to accomplish in practice, and therefore games.

“We’ve had some of that in practice — it just didn’t look very good,” said Tuberville. “You can’t run that stuff unless you feel good about it in a game. All those new starters on the offensive line, they can only absorb so much, and the two running backs.”

But as the youngsters gained experience, Auburn has been able to add more and more to the gameplan. Borges said it’s a similar situation to what AU went through in 2004. The Tigers were pretty basic for the first few games before a 31-point first-half explosion at Tennessee.

“In ’04, the first three games of the season we were very vanilla,” said Borges. “As the team gained more confidence, we were able to do more stuff. And that’s the way I feel right now. As we gain more confidence, we’ll do more things.

“You go out there and you want to run all these fancy schemes and you can’t block guys, it’s not going to work.”

Cox, who’s made the most dramatic turnaround of anyone on offense, certainly feels more comfortable with his teammates.

“We’ve found the guys that can get the job done, and we came together as a team,” said Cox. “We started off with a lot of young guys and some question marks. It took a little while. We had to iron out some wrinkles and get on the same page.

“Now that we are on the same page, we are able to do a lot more offensively and open up the playbook.”

With the Tigers preparing for Arkansas, the first of two straight road games that will go a long way in determining their chances of winning the SEC West, Tuberville says it will be a key for the offense to continue to be creative, control the ball and score points.

AU has averaged 36.7 points per game the last three weeks.

“Our offense is going to be a big key for us as we go on the road,” said Tuberville. “We are going to have to continue to make bigger strides for us to have an opportunity to score enough points to win. We can’t continue to depend on our defense for that.”

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