New Orleans, La.-–The Auburn Tigers opened practices in New Orleans for the Nokia Sugar Bowl on Wednesday and they did so inside the spacious Louisiana Superdome, the site of the Jan. 3 game.
Across town Virginia Tech was practicing at Tulane University outside on the practice fields used by the Green Wave. While it would appear that Auburn has a big advantage with more practice time indoors, Coach Tommy Tuberville said that he doesn’t feel it gives the Tigers too much of an edge going into the game.
“It doesn’t have anything to do with the venue,” Tuberville said. “It probably helps us a little bit with the fact that we don’t have to deal with weather if there is any. Today obviously was a beautiful day. I don’t think it’s any advantage. They’ll have an opportunity to come inside and work in the dome. The only thing it saves probably is the time getting back to the hotel and also the opportunity to have your possessions in one place and not having to take them to the dome to get ready for the game.”
Led by a strong group of seniors like Jason Campbell, Carnell Williams, Danny Lindsey and Bret Eddins, the Tigers had a very good opening practice after taking a full week off for Christmas. Tuberville said that it’s the same thing day in and day out with this team and he’s to be sorry to see them go following the Sugar Bowl.
“I’ve never been around a team like this in 28 or 29 years of coaching,” Tuberville said. “I have been on some good football teams and have been proud of all those teams I have been on, coached and been around. This team has been very easy to coach. It’s been a year where we just turned this team over to our seniors. Their leadership, their character, their qualities of how to handle certain situations, I’ve learned from them. I have learned a lot from this team. They’ve made me a better coach. It’s been easy to coach this group. They’ve been fun to be around.
“It’s going to be sad to see this group go,” he added. “All these seniors, I have noticed since I’ve been here they’re going to spend a lot of time with their teammates because they understand this is a special year. This doesn’t happen very often when you go undefeated in the regular season and play in a conference such as we do. We’ve played like we’re a good football team. It’s shown because of our seniors.”
A confident group of players, the Tigers have been sure of themselves since defeating defending national champion LSU 10-9 in the third game of the season. From that point forward this team has been on a mission and it has accomplished every goalwithin its reach. Tuberville said that watching the players never waiver in their trust of the coaching staff has made him a better coach this season.
“I learned a lot of patience,” Tuberville said. “Over the years coaches tend to get a little bit impatient when things don’t go well. If you get a little bit tense on the sidelines you might want to make more changes in the dressing room at halftime if things aren’t going well.
"This year we didn’t have a lot of problems going into halftime adjustments, but there were situations where we would go in at halftime and you could look around at the confidence on these guys’ faces and hear them talking about 'we can do this and we can do that.' This class had a lot of maturity, especially from our older players, and it drifted down to our younger players.”
Auburn will continue preparations for the Hokies with practices leading up to the Jan. 3 kickoff. The game is a big one for both teams, but could be huge for the Tigers after the Associated Press pulled out of the BCS because of problems with the polls. While it doesn’t appear that will change things this season, Tuberville said it really doesn’t matter in the long run as long as his team takes care of business and comes home with a victory.
“We think we’ve got the best team in the country,” Tuberville said. “We’ve played like it for most of the time this year, but then again that’s for other people to decide. It won’t be decided on the field, obviously. The only thing we can do is try to play the best we possibly can.
"Virginia Tech is going to have something to say about that. They are as good and could beat any of the two teams at a given time that are playing in the Orange Bowl. This will be a very tough game for us. We’re going to try to play as hard as we can and as consistent as we have, but we don’t have anything to prove. We just have to see if we can play well again and see what happens.”