Auburn, Ala.—While many of the experts predicted rough times for the 2011 Auburn Tigers, don’t tell that to the players. Despite returning the fewest starters of any team in the country, the team came into the season with the goal of picking up where the BCS National Championship team left off.
That hasn’t been the case as early on the defense struggled to slow anyone down while the offense carried the load. In recent weeks however that trend has been reversed as a ball control offense has helped Coach Ted Roof’s group get more rest during the games and in turn get off the field on third down more often.
It has also led to increased production in the running game as well. In the last two games at South Carolina and at Arkansas, Auburn has run the ball 119 times for a whopping 537 yards. Despite those gaudy totals the offense has struggled to make it pay off on the scoreboard. In 17 drives into the opponent’s territory the last two weeks the Tigers have just four touchdowns and one field goal to show for it.
Some of the reason for that could be the lack of rhythm in an offense that thrives on going up-tempo. Sophomore running back Michael Dyer said that has the offense determined to get back to work and prove they can get the job done no matter what it takes.
“People are just eager to get back on the field and produce something better than they did last Saturday, we all are,” Dyer said. “We’re just ready to go back and put Auburn in the limelight of being good and working hard and being able to win games.
“We just need to catch the ball and get first downs and control the clock and be able to keep drives going without penalties taking away the drives that we do get started,” he added. “That’s what happened last week. We would get drives started and they were coming back because of penalties. If we eliminate some of those and control the clock and run the ball and get some good throws and play hard.”
Anytime an offense is struggling the first person to get the blame is going to be the quarterback and that has definitely been the case with Auburn junior Barrett Trotter. There’s no denying that he didn’t have a good game in the loss to the Razorbacks, but dropped passes and penalties killed several potential drives and put the Tigers behind the chains all night long.
On Tuesday Chizik and Coach Gus Malzahn both backed Trotter as Auburn’s starter and said they’re going to play the player that gives the Tigers the best chance to win games. Dyer said while fans and critics may continue to talk about Trotter the players are going to back their guy.
“He does a great job no matter what the situation is,” Dyer said. “He always remains calm and keeps his head up. He’s doing a great job. We couldn’t ask him to do any better. Everybody makes mistakes including myself and the running backs, not being able to protect like we should be. It’s always somebody not doing their job.
“The quarterback is the position that is looked at to lead the team and do this or do certain things. Sometimes it doesn’t work out like he wants it to, so he gets all the blame. He’s a great quarterback and we appreciate everything he does for Auburn.”
Now with another tough battle coming up this week against the Gators Dyer said they're going to need Trotter to play well and the team believes he will because that's what teams do.
“We love on him even on his bad days," Dyer said of Trotter. "We’re still there no matter what people think. If you don’t play on this team and don’t wear the jersey and go out there and sweat with us then your opinion matters to a certain extent, but it doesn’t affect us. He’s a great guy. No matter what he does on or off the field we’re still going to love him and be around him and still going to treat him as Barrett Trotter.”
Preparing to face a talented Florida defense with a very good front seven Dyer said the Tigers are hoping to put everything together offensively this week for the first time this season. To make that happen he said will mean everyone pulling together and eliminating the costly mistakes that have killed the offense in recent weeks.
“There are mental mistakes that we shouldn’t be making,” Dyer said. “It’s just little things that we really need to focus on. That’s what really happened last Saturday. There were things we shouldn’t have done and things people know the reads, but just messed up. That’s fixable.
“We’re very close to being a good team or a great team,” he added. “We just have a few things that we need to work on, a few missing pieces that we need to be able to put in place. After that we’ll be okay.”
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