Auburn, Ala.--This Saturday’s Homecoming game couldn’t come at a better time for the reeling Auburn Tigers. Losers of four consecutive games and currently 4-5 overall, Coach Tommy Tuberville’s club is struggling at the moment and junior Jake Ricks says it has been a tough stretch of games for the team.
“Everybody is really hurting right now,” Ricks says. “There are a lot of guys who haven’t lost four games in a row, including myself. I’ve never lost four in a row. Me and the rest of my teammates are hurting right now. We want to get back on that winning streak like we’re capable of doing.”
Normally during the season a game against UT-Martin would bring out the talk over overlooking an opponent or trying to rest some of the starters for the final push during the regular season. Ricks says this season that hasn’t even entered into their minds.
“We don’t look at it any different,” he says. “We look at them like we were playing Georgia or LSU. We still get in and watch film. The coaches talk to us and we practice hard. We don’t take a different approach.”
That’s probably a good thing considering the way the Tigers have played in recent weeks, particularly defensively. With players beaten and bruised and others watching from the sidelines while recovering from injuries, Auburn has withered in recent weeks to the tune of 90 points and 1,497 yards of total offense in the last four games.
Compare that with the first five games of the season and it’s dramatic. Leading up to the game against Vanderbilt, Auburn had given up a total of 53 points in give games and 1,130 yards of offense. Since then it has been downhill for the defense, something Ricks says they’re not happy about.
“We’re kind of upset about it,” Ricks says. “Me and coach (Don) Dunn have talked about it. We’ve got to cut it down. That’s why most of the teams are having their success right now, they are running the ball on us. That’s not like us.”
Many of the defensive problems have come against the run. Auburn has allowed 1,259 rushing yards in nine games. Of that total 798 yards has come in the last four weeks. Ricks says because of that the defensive line has focused on getting off blocks, working against double teams and one other important area to try to fix things.
“We’re just working on tackling really,” he says. “We’re missing a lot of tackles the last couple of games. We’ve paid for it because of that. We’re working on tackling a lot.”
This weekend with Marks banged up and questionable with ankle problems along with Tez Doolittle (groin) and Mike Blanc (hand), Ricks will likely be called on for a great deal more playing time than he’s had this season. He says for him that means it’s time to step up.
“It means a lot to me,” Ricks says. “I was backing up Sen’Derrick and I don’t have a problem with that. He’s a great player. I just have to respect that. I’m waiting my turn right now. I feel like my turn is coming up now. I just have to prove to these coaches that I can play.”
Needing two wins to become bowl eligible, Auburn hopes to get one in Saturday’s Homecoming game. While it wouldn’t be a big win by any stretch of the imagination, Ricks contends what it could mean for the team would be big from a confidence standpoint.
“It would mean a lot because we’ve got to start somewhere,” Ricks says. “We think this is a great chance to start and then we’ve got the two great rivalry games coming up after that. It would be a good start for us.”
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