AUBURN, Ala. — Like several Auburn players, Lee Ziemba found out about the team’s Halloween costume party Sunday via text message at the last second.
So the senior came up with an impromptu costume, grabbing a staff from the weight room and a towel from the equipment room.
The bearded, long-haired lineman went as Moses.
“Little things like that make a difference in keeping the guys excited about coming up here, not having the same thing every day,” Ziemba said.
Heading into its 10th straight week of action, with a bye not on the schedule until Nov. 20, the Tigers needed a break from the grind of the football season.
“I think these coaches do an excellent job of knowing when and when not to play,” said quarterback Cam Newton, who dressed up as The Rock from the movie “The Tooth Fairy,” a dainty costume that became an Internet favorite after pictures became available.
“I think that was a chance for us as a whole team to just relax and take in what we had accomplished.”
Auburn has tried to keep the team loose, despite mounting expectations.
Sunday’s Halloween fun gave the Tigers (9-0, 6-0 SEC) a chance to rest up physically, having just finished four straight physical SEC contests.
But it also provided a much-needed mental refresher, with talk of an SEC championship and the burden of being near the top of the Bowl Championship Series rankings weighing on their minds.
“College football is really hard,” head coach Gene Chizik said. “There’s just a lot of pressure there and pressure that a lot of times people don’t take into consideration. ...
“What we try to do here is just what we try to do in our own families at home. When we see a window of opportunity to have fun and to make things fun for our kids, we do that.
“It’s no different than having a Thanksgiving dinner or a Christmas dinner together.”
The coaches and their wives and children were part of the costume contest. It plays in with Chizik and his staff’s selling point since coming to Auburn nearly two years ago.
“Coach Trooper (Taylor) and coach Chizik always preach about family, family, family,” offensive linemen John Sullen said. “When we just get around each other, it’s just so much fun. We just laugh.”
The costume contest isn’t the only time the Tigers have tried to lighten things up. The team went bowling and to the water park on several occasions before the season.
When the team is sequestered in a hotel in Montgomery the night before home games, players are sometimes given the option of going to a movie.
Defensive tackle Zach Clayton chose to see “The Town” recently over “The Social Network” and “Resident Evil: Afterlife.”
“Friday nights are a deal where we really try to find a place of refuge,” Chizik said. “You’re trying to find a place where you can be with your team and just relax and have some fun.
“We put in a lot of hard work during the week, and we try to do things that really are just about our 70 guys that we bring with us and the coaches and that’s it.”
With the stakes getting higher with every passing week, every little bit helps.
“The pressure isn’t felt by us as much,” Ziemba said. “We’re just having fun playing ball and trying to be the best we can.”