FAU comes on perfect week for Tigers
by Charles Bennett
Sep 21, 2011 | 5554 views |  0 comments | 12 12 recommendations | email to a friend | print
AUBURN — For Auburn, it’s the perfect week for an exhibition game, and Florida Atlantic fits the profile.

And while Auburn coach Gene Chizik would never shortchange an opponent, he makes it clear there will be more concentration on fixing the Tigers’ assorted ills this week than on game-planning for the Owls.

“Well, I’ve been assessing every part of our football team,” Chizik said Tuesday. “Throughout the first three weeks, offense, defense and special teams, and this is a good week to go back and looks at us and study us.

“This is about Auburn this week. I’ve been extremely involved in all three phases.”

In truth, it’s the third in a series of exhibition-type games for Florida Atlantic as well, just from a different perspective.

The Owls (0-2) opened the season by losing at Florida 41-3, followed by a 44-0 loss at Michigan State.

Florida Atlantic will likely collect a third-consecutive loss on Saturday as well as a third consecutive fat check.

FAU will collect $975,000 for playing Auburn.

The Owls won’t start picking on someone their own size until they play at Louisiana Lafayette on Oct. 1 in their Sun Belt Conference opener.

“We charted these waters and have taken our lumps,” said Florida Atlantic coach Howard Schnellenberger. “But that’s part of the process as we get ready for the conference games.

“They know we go into this game with a very small chance of winning but they go in knowing these teams can give us a lesson in playing top of the line football.

“We don’t tell them that this is a game where if they play as hard as they can, they’ll have an equal opportunity to win.”

For Auburn, (2-1) the most glaring deficiencies that need to be addressed lie on defense, where the Tigers rank at or near the bottom of the nation in almost all major statistical categories.

“Obviously we would love to be playing better on defense right now,” Chizik said. “Again, we’re going to continue to work in that direction. It’s not about frustration, it’s not about any of that. ... We’re spending every waking moment right now assessing defense from top to bottom and figuring out a way to play better.”

Chizik said poor tackling is at the root of most of the Tigers’ problems.

“We are looking forward to another opportunity to play, and we’re going to start back today to become a better football team,” he said. ‘I’ve had a lot of opportunities here in the last two days to really evaluate and assess some of our deficiencies.”

Auburn’s poor tackling was very much in evidence in last week’s 38-24 loss at Clemson.

The Tigers piled up 624 yards in total offense on 92 plays with 32 first downs while going 14 of 18 on third-down conversions.

Auburn cornerback T’Sharvan Bell says watching the game film from that performance has been a bit unsettling.

“It makes you sick,” he said. “To even watch it, to know that’s what you put on film and that’s what the outside world or anybody who cuts on our films sees, it’s a sickening feeling. We’re going to do everything we can on Saturday, like coach Chizik said, we have another chance Saturday to paint another picture and this time we’re going to try to paint the right picture.”

That starts in practice, where the Tigers will worry more about themselves than the Owls.

“It’s not really about Florida Atlantic, really and truly,” Chizik said. “This is a game where we’ve got to improve some things in practice, and go out on game day and execute the things that we feel like we need to improve on. So, it really wouldn’t matter who we’re playing.”

Charles Bennett covers Auburn University sports for The Star.
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