Early this season after back-to-back terrible offensive performances in losses against USC and Georgia Tech, the seniors called a players only team meeting to regroup and let their teammates know their goals were still intact. Senior defensive tackle Demarco McNeil says that this week the seniors have had a similar task heading into the home stretch of the 2003 season.
“We’re just leading by example, just trying to let them know it’s a long season,” McNeil says. “You can’t go too high or too low. We’re 4-1 in the SEC and we’ve been telling the story about what happened in 2000 when we had to win our last four games to get to the SEC Championship. We were able to do that. We’re sitting in better position now than we did in 2000. We’re just talking to them and letting them know it’s not the end of the season.”
Even after a few days to think about and watch the LSU game on video, McNeil says it didn’t make it any easier to understand or explain. Entering the game on a defensive roll, Auburn was steamrolled early by a LSU offense that had been inconsistent for much of the season. McNeil says it was a case of trying to do too much instead of everyone doing his job.
“I think we were trying to press the issue because once they got up 7-0 that was the first time we’ve been down since the Georgia Tech game,” McNeil notes. “We’ve been ahead every game. We haven’t been behind and we were trying to do too much. By doing that we pressed it a little bit and tried to do too much. They had a few cutback lanes and took advantage of it.
“It was pretty painful,” McNeil adds. “I thought I would get over it after I saw the tape, but we, up front, just played so poorly. It’s safe to say that we all played our worst games at the same time. None of us could pick up the other one’s slack because we were all playing so poorly. I guess it was just one of those nights. You just have to move on.”
Demarco McNeil and T.J. Jackson go through drills during a recent Auburn practice.
Moving on means getting ready for what should be an outmanned opponent in Louisiana-Monroe this weekend for homecoming. Despite the fact that Auburn should win this game going away, the Tigers have so much work to do that overlooking anyone at this juncture isn’t an option. McNeil says that’s definitely the case with he and his fellow teammates up front.
“It’s easy for a defensive lineman to get ready for a ball game,” McNeil says. “You have somebody about 290 or 300 pounds ready to hit you. I’m not just going to let someone hit me so I’m going to go out there and do my best. I’m sure it’s harder for a skill position because they’re not going through much physical contact. I’m just not going to let someone hit me and whip me. It’s not too tough to get ready for a ball game like this.”
Getting ready for the 1:30 p.m. Saturday kickoff shouldn’t be difficult, but it’s the week of practice leading up to the game that sometimes is the forgotten part. Working on fundamentals and techniques every day while also learning the game plan for Saturday’s game, McNeil says this is one of the most important weeks of the season for improving how well you play on Saturdays.
“You have to focus on the little things,” McNeil notes. “That’s what got us here. There’s no need to leave them behind now. You just have to continue doing the little things, having a great practice, having enthusiasm and be ready for the ball game on Saturday. I think we’ll be able to do that.”