Tigers Wrap Up On The Field Prep for Pigs

Tommy Thigpen

After a week off from action, the Auburn football Tigers are preparing to play the Arkansas Razorbacks.

Auburn, Ala.--Gene Chizik's Auburn Tigers will be looking to reverse the trend in their series vs. the Arkansas Razorbacks as the pair of struggling SEC West teams look for their second victory of the season.

Auburn leads the series 11-9-1, but Arkansas comes into Saturday morning's game as the winner of four of the last six matchups vs. the Tigers, including a 38-14 victory last season in Fayetteville. The Tigers won the last meeting at Jordan-Hare Stadium two years ago in a wild 65-43 shootout.

This year's contest matches an Auburn offense that has struggled to move the football against an Arkansas defense that has struggled to consistently stop opponents. The Razorbacks are giving up 510.2 yards per game, which is last in the SEC by almost 75 yards. Auburn's offense is averaging just 297.8 yards this season, which is also last in the league. Missouri is 13th with 348.4 per outing.

After a poor start vs. Clemson and Mississippi State the Tigers have shown signs of improving defensively. Brian VanGorder's defenders are allowing 419.2 yards and 23.5 points per game. Arkansas is scoring 23.2 points per contest while averaging 417.0 yards per game with 310.4 per game coming through the air.

"They have got a quarterback that doesn't have a conscience," Auburn linebacker Tommy Thigpen said of Arkansas star Tyler Wilson, who leads the country in yards per reception with 17.15 and leads the SEC in yards per game at 338.0.

Quarterback Tyler Wilson throws the ball for the Razorbacks.

"If he throws an interception it doesn't bother him at all," Thigpen said. "He has got, in my opinion, one of the best if not the best receiver in the number 11 kid (Cobi Hamilton). It's a dynamite combination between him and the quarterback. When he's in trouble on third down that's who he is going to. He's got some (other) guys. The tight end is doing a good job for them. The running back (Knile Davis) is as good as any we will face. Their skill is typical SEC."

Hamilton set an SEC record for receiving yards two weeks ago with 303 vs. Rutgers. He has 31 receptions for 591 yards and four touchdowns for the 1-4 Razorbacks. As a team 1-3 Auburn has just 48 catches for 579 yards and three touchdowns.

In game four vs. LSU the Auburn defense spent much of the contest using three linebackers, something the Tigers had not done much of the previous weeks because they faced spread offenses. This week the Tigers are expected to rely more on nickel (five defensive backs) and dime (six defensive backs) packages.

"Brian comes up with different things each week, different schemes where they can't just pinpoint a guy and try to pick on a guy," Thigpen said of Auburn's defensive coordinator. "You can't just say, ‘I'm going after the mike linebacker if they're in a cover two shell'. We're always mixing the coverages up and keeping them off balance with either a zone coverage or man coverages or all-out blitzes.

"Playing in space is always a linebacker's, at least most of them, nightmare because we don't work on it that much. It's not a natural thing for linebackers to be playing in space. These guys do as good a job as anybody of isolating people with number 11 (Hamilton) and 17 (Brandon Mitchell), and the quarterback being as accurate as he is. We have a challenge before us."

Cobi Hamilton is one of college football's top receivers.

Auburn's head coach agrees with the linebacker coach about this week's game. In two of the three losses his Tigers had a great chance to pull out a victory in the fourth quarter, but came up short. Getting that problem solved is a major priority.

"We have got to execute on both sides of the ball if we are going to win in the fourth quarter," Chizik said. "I think it is obvious that is something we have not been able to do. I think our guys understand the urgency of finishing in the fourth quarter."

The Auburn coach said his team's inability to close out games successfully this year is in contrast to how the Tigers performed the previous three seasons.

Following Thursday evening's practice in shorts, in which the Tigers polished the game plan, Chizik said the Tigers used the two weeks since the LSU game "to get Auburn better."

"I think we got that accomplished," Chizik said. "We did some things that I?think are going to help us."

Turnovers: Auburn heads into the game last in the league in turnover margin at minus 2.60 per contest. Arkansas is next to last at minus 2.0. Thigpen said that helping improve that number is a point of emphasis for the Auburn defense, which has come up with just one lost fumble and one interception through four games.

"We need to get more turnovers," Thigpen stated. "VanGorder has been saying it. We have got to get turnovers, we have got to end up in the plus ratio so we are doing a lot more strip drills, a lot more interception drills, trying to get ourselves in position to make plays."

Game Time: Kickoff is set for shortly after 11 a.m. CDT at Jordan-Hare Stadium. Chizik, whose Auburn record is 6-2 in games that kick off in the morning, is asking Tiger fans to show up and make a difference.

Looking Good: The weather forecast for Saturday's game is promising. The game time temperature is expected to be in the high 70s with just a 10 percent chance of rain.

Arkansas at Auburn Coverage: ESPN2 will telecast the contest with Beth Mowins doing play-by-play with Joey Gallaway handling the analysis and Tom Luginbill the sideline reporter for ESPN2. The Auburn Network's radio coverage featuring Rod Bramblett, Stan White, Quentin Riggins, Paul Ellen and Andy Burcham can be heard on Sirius channel 138 and XM channel 200.

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