Auburn focuses on SEC -- not national -- title
Updated: September 13, 2003, 9:07 PM ETBy Pat Forde | Special to ESPN.com
Welcome to Auburn Football Jeopardy. The category: Offensive calamities. The answer: 1967. The question: When was the last time the Tigers scored as little as three total points in consecutive games? Yeah, it's that bad for a program that began the season in everyone's top five. Ask former offensive coordinator/current Louisville head coach Bobby Petrino about the Auburn implosion and he just grimaces and tries to avoid the question. When pressed he says, "Yeah, I'm surprised about it. You never know why things like that happen, but they'll be all right. They've got good coaches and good players." It's pretty much too late to be all right by preseason-expectation standards, but Petrino is saying what he needs to say for a fan base that misses his play-calling and game planning acumen. A few Auburn fans have been e-mailing the Louisville football office requesting Petrino's return to The Plains as soon as possible.
No, the Tigers offense is not breaking big plays. Auburn's longest run: 17 yards. Auburn's longest pass: 30 yards. Both are the shortest of any SEC team, and the Tigers are last in the league in passing efficiency. But the defense is not setting up any scores with turnovers. Through two games Auburn has just one forced fumble and no interceptions -- and clearly, this is an offense that could use a couple of short fields to get itself jump-started. "We just have not played well on either side of the ball," coach Tommy Tuberville said. "Not just on offense."
The Tigers open SEC play against league punching bag Vanderbilt this week, but Tuberville is hoping his team assumes the underdog stance. "We've been so good the last few years playing the role of underdog," he said. "Obviously, we did not handle this (the big-dog role) very well. ... We still have an opportunity to get back to Atlanta (for the SEC title game). We just better wake up. ... This still is the best team I've had, potentially, in the last nine years (as a head coach)."