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November 12, 2012

Chizik remains confident that he can revive Auburn

AUBURN, Ala. — Auburn coach Gene Chizik said he feels confident he can turn the football program around.

The Tigers have slipped from a national title team two years ago to a miserable season. They're a longshot to pick up a win in the Southeastern Conference after Saturday night's 38-0 shellacking by No. 5 Georgia.

Auburn (2-8, 0-7 SEC) has been outscored 101-21 in its last two SEC games with a trip to No. 4 Alabama looming in two weeks after a game against FCS Alabama A&M.

What has gone wrong with the Tigers, who were 14-0 two years ago during Cam Newton's Heisman Trophy run?

"That's a little bit of a trap question for me, because anything that I'm going to say is going to sound like an excuse and I don't make excuses,'' Chizik said Sunday. "So we have a lot of things that responsibility-wise we have to claim as coaches. We've got times when we could have played better on the field when we were in position to make plays. It's a team game. You win with it and you lose with it, and we've won with it.

"I still think it really prompts you to really go back and start all over and re-evaluate. That's what we would in terms of starting over again with everything that we've done, every decision we've made and move forward.''

Asked if that means he's confident he can turn the program around, Chizik responded: "That's very accurate.''

But Chizik wouldn't talk about whether he'll even get that chance. He declined to directly answer questions about his job security.

The Bulldogs scored touchdowns on their first four possessions, then coach Mark Richt reined in the offense. They attempted only four passes in the second half.

Freshman quarterback Jonathan Wallace and receiver Emory Blake were two bright spots. Wallace completed 15 of 22 passes for 181 yards with an interception on an overthrow, and 104 of those yards came on hookups with Blake.

Auburn has had a number of injury problems, losing tight end Philip Lutzenkirchen and right tackle Avery Young for the season.

University President Jay Gogue has issued a statement saying he would evaluate the football program after the season.

Chizik, who would be owed a $7.5 million buyout as of Dec. 1 if he gets fired, is talking about next season, not next month.

"I think you got to look under the hood of the car and you've got to figure out where the problems are under the hood and that's going to become a very extensive evaluation starting with a lot of different areas,'' he said. "I think that from there you can make very informed decisions on where you need to go with the next season and starting in January.''

First-year defensive coordinator Brian VanGorder raised questions after the Georgia game about the makeup of the defense he inherited.

"Our defense is not built with size, strength and power right now,'' VanGorder said. "I think that becomes obvious against teams like Georgia.''

Chizik didn't disagree with that assessment. The offense has been even worse, but the Tigers are ranked 90th nationally in total defense.

"I don't really know how I interpret that,'' Chizik said of VanGorder's comments.

"We can always be bigger. We can always be stronger. But ... I think we've got guys at certain positions that we can certainly, and need to, upgrade. There's no question.''

"I think that there's obviously some positions that we feel like we need to upgrade in terms of productivity.''

 

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