Running back Mike Dyer was “beat up” and “banged up” Sunday, nothing serious, just Auburn head coach Gene Chizik’s parlance for anybody who took a physical toll the previous day.
After 41 carries, that’s inevitable, but it wasn’t too much.
“He probably could have carried it 50,” Chizik said. “That’s how I feel about it.”
Dyer’s 41 carries went for 141 yards.
“He’s a very determined runner and he’s going to lay it on the line for the team and that’s what he showed this whole season and especially yesterday,” quarterback Barrett Trotter said.
Dyer only had a 3.4-yard average, but that’s not the point.
“Three- and four- and five-yard gains right now running the same plays over and over again is not a bad thing,” Chizik said. “It ended up being the difference in the game being able to keep the defense off the field and breaking a play here or there in the run game.”
Dyer left the game briefly with an ankle injury in third quarter but returned quickly, running another 16 times in the final quarter and a half.
Expect him to have similar workloads in the future.
“We’re going to give it to him based on what we feel like is working and what the defense gives us,” Chizik said. “He has to carry the ball whether it’s 41 or 50 or 25. He’s going to carry the ball a good bit.”
Plenty of notes to go through tonight. Let’s get to it:
- Auburn didn’t practice tonight, although players went to team and position meetings.
- Let’s run through the injuries: Chizik said Emory Blake is “day-by-day” with a right leg injury he suffered in the third quarter (he was seen in a protective boot Sunday). The junior, who leads the team with 19 catches for 333 yards and four touchdowns, returned to the game but was hobbled. He was not in on the Tigers’ game-winning drive. If Blake can’t go against Arkansas, Chizik said DeAngelo Benton, Quan Bray or Jaylon Denson could fill Blake’s spot. “Somebody’s going to have to step up,” he said.
- Chizik said wide receiver Trovon Reed (shoulder) will not play again this week. Chizik wouldn’t rule him out for the season, but he didn’t make Reed’s situation sound encouraging. “In terms of what week we’re expecting him back, I can’t give you that indication, either,” Chizik said.
- Starting cornerback Chris Davis’ ankle injury was severe enough that the sophomore didn’t travel to South Carolina, missing his second straight game. He’ll be evaluated throughout the week again. “I don’t know if Chris will be ready this week or not,” Chizik said. “That one’s going to be more toward the end of the week as well.”
- Freshman Kiehl Frazier has been brought along slowly, handling his role as the Wildcat quarterback well. He ran nine times for 48 yards Saturday. It prompts the question: is he ready to run the entire offense? “In its entirety? No,” Chizik said. “In our opinion, we’re going to give him the things to do that we feel like he can succeed at. We won’t give him any more than that. We won’t expand it beyond anything we think it’s going to give him anything less than a chance to be successful. We’re not going to do it.”
- Chizik noticed a more confident Frazier running his plays Saturday. Here’s what he said to the freshman before the game: “I made it very clear, that when you get int he game, you just need to be you. If we ask you to throw the ball, that’s why you threw for 10,000 yards in high school. Throw the ball and be Kiehl Frazier. If we ask you to the run the ball, be confident, get as many yards as you can get and protect the football. Don’t be tight. Just relax and go out there and play.”
- Frazier brings a different element to Auburn’s offense. “It’s good to see him out there,” tight end Philip Lutzenkirchen said. “Good change-of-pace type player. When he comes in he can thrown the ball, he can run the ball, he can present the speed sweep with Onterio (McCalebb). So he’s kind of a miniature Cam back there and just I think he’ll get more touches as the season goes.”
- Is there any concern on Chizik’s part that Frazier’s emergence would upset the order at quarterback or affect Trotter at all. “No,” he said.
- Trotter’s stats were ugly Saturday (12-for-23, 112 yards, 1 TD, 2 INT), but he made a couple nice throws on Auburn’s game-winning touchdown drive. “Coming in, anybody you ask, or any stats, are going to say we lose that game,” Trotter said. “But once we get on the field, it’s a whole different story and we’re going to fight until the end and make sure we come out with a win.”
- Lutzenkirchen had to sweat out an instant replay of his game-winning touchdown. Eventually, the refs ruled that he got over the line before fumbling. “Yeah I don’t think I would be showing my face around here if it went the other way,” he said.
- Lutzenkirchen’s touchdown came on the same tight end throwback play that won the Iron Bowl last year. Which one was better? “Iron Bowl was a little bit bigger than that one was,” he said. “It was just one of those plays that we have drawn up in the situation and just whenever coach calls it we try to execute it, now we’re 2-for-2 on it.”
- Chizik had high praise for punter Steven Clark, who pinned South Carolina at or inside its own 12-yard line on five different occasions Saturday. “I’ve watched him the last two weeks in practice get better and better every day,” Chizik said. “He’s a classic example of a guy carrying over what he’s getting and improving it in practice, carrying over into the game.”
- Clark’s average (42.2 yards) went down in the South Carolina, but only because he had so many punts near midfield, where the primary goal is to keep it out of the end zone and give his coverage team a chance to down it. He hasn’t practiced those kind of punts too much, mostly because kicker Cody Parkey has such a strong leg. But the wind situation Saturday necessitated it. “It’s been coming together,” Clark said. “It’s kind of one of those ‘Ah ha!’ moments, where things start falling together.”
- Why was the defense so much more effective against South Carolina? Kool-Aid. Not literal, Kool-Aid. “We just say we’re on some Kool-Aid, we’re hyped up, we have an edge about us,” cornerback T’Sharvan Bell said. “And it just showed Saturday.”
- There was only so much the group could hear about their shortcomings. “All week you hear about how bad we are, how South Carolina is going to do this and how they’re going to do that,” Bell said. “Guys just took it to heart.” Defensive end LaDarius Owens tries to block out the hate. “I mean, you ignore it and don’t feed into it and believe it because you know what you’re capable of and working toward, but at the same time you work hard to prove them wrong and shut them up,” he said.
- Speaking of Owens, he’s coming along. The redshirt freshman, who is now Corey Lemonier‘s backup after Dee Ford‘s season-ending back surgery, got his first sack Saturday, finishing with 2 tackles and 1.5 TFLs. “I can’t even explain that feeling,” he said. “It was just a blessing, coming from where I’ve been and just all the stuff I’ve been through being a redshirt, coming into this season, I never quit. So it just felt like I reached one of my goals.”
- When did defensive coordinator Ted Roof start thinking about Arkansas. “On the bus ride leaving the stadium in Columbia,” he said. “I saw where the kid had thrown for 510 yards. That certainly got our attention.”
- That “kid” is Tyler Wilson, who leads the SEC with 1,517 passing yards. He also has 10 touchdown passes, which is third. It’s a far cry from the run-based offense South Carolina had with Marcus Lattimore. “It’s certainly a different challenge,” Roof said. “But, at the same time, the challenge is to get off the field and not allow points. The goals are still the same. “
- Arkansas is going to throw it a lot to a group of receivers Bell said “will (all) be playing at the next level.” Auburn’s defenders look forward to it. “This is the kind of game defenses dream about,” Owens said.
- As for the defensive backs, Bell thinks it’s a showcase game, to find out what they’re made of. “It’s going to be everything that we want,” Bell said. “This is what you come to Auburn for as a DB — to guard the best. I think they have the best group of receivers in this league. It’s definitely going to be a challenge for us as a secondary. But we ain’t backing away from no challenge.”
- The defensive line getting pressure will be a huge key against Arkansas. Give Wilson all day to throw, and he will dissect a defense. Auburn’s front showed some life against South Carolina, getting three sacks and five quarterback hurries. “They don’t get a lot of credit for the things that they do, the interceptions and what-not,” Bell said. “They don’t get a lot of credit for it, man. I think they played lights out.”
- That four-defensive end package where Nosa Eguae and Craig Sanders move inside and Corey Lemonier and Owens are the ends is Auburn’s “cheetah” package. It’s basically for must-pass situations where the group can pin its ears back and rush the quarterback. It worked. Lemonier had three hurries on the last drive alone (one was negated by Sanders’ roughing the passer penalty).