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Auburn football notes: Offensive line heeds message from coach Gene Chizik to be more physical

AUBURN, Ala. — Auburn’s offensive line heard coach Gene Chizik’s challenge to be more physical last week loud and clear.

The front five had their best effort to date against South Carolina, clearing the way for Auburn to run for 334 yards against what was statistically the best rushing defense in the SEC.

“He knew we were capable of playing tenfold better,” center Ryan Pugh said. “When you’re challenged like that to be a man, are you going to stand up? That’s what we did.”

Chizik expressed dissatisfaction with the way his veteran offensive line played the first few weeks, thinking the group that had 125 combined starts could play more physical.

“It started with getting our feelings hurt a little bit, but that had to happen,” left tackle Lee Ziemba said. “We decided that coach Chizik wouldn’t get up there in front of the team and lie and say something that wasn’t true. So we just had to look in the mirror.”

Quarterback Cam Newton ran for 176 yards, but he wasn’t alone. Freshman Mike Dyer got 23 carries for 100 yards, the first Auburn running back to top the century mark this year.

South Carolina, which entered the game first in the SEC in rushing defense, allowing only 59.7 yards per game, dropped to eighth in the league after getting gouged, watching its average rise to 128.2 yards.

“We had to bring a new mindset to practice and I guess just get a kick in the butt and be reminded what our job is and how we’re supposed to do it,” Ziemba said.

With Louisiana-Monroe on the schedule this Saturday, there’s a new challenge.

“You could say there’s more pressure on us not to be a one-hit wonder,” Ziemba said.

Strong support

Newton, whose name has started popping up on preliminary Heisman lists after being named SEC Offensive Player of the Week for the second time Monday, is not worried about any hype.

Offensive coordinator Gus Malzahn’s wife, Kristi Malzahn, won’t let him.

Newton has had good relat“What doesn’t she do?” Newton said. “She’s always texting me on a consistent basis. I like it. She’s one of the most honest people on this earth.

“She’s always telling me what she thinks I should do, always giving me her opinion. I’m always around a lot of guys and I don’t get a female’s opinion about a lot of stuff. She’s been a big help for me.”

After his interview Tuesday, Newton predicted he’d hear from her soon.

“She’s probably going to look at this and text me tonight,” he said, “or whenever y’all post this stuff.”

Nobody beats him

Emory Blake got in the box score, but he wanted to make sure fellow wide receiver Jay Wisner got some recognition for the 12-yard screen pass that went for a touchdown in the fourth quarter Saturday.

Blake lined up in the slot and caught a bubble screen from Newton. He made three South Carolina defenders miss, but Wisner provided a key block to spring him, pushing his defender 6 yards off the line of scrimmage.

“He just kept pushing,” Blake said. “I felt him in front of me and I kind of started driving my feet behind him, and it was enough to get me in the end zone.”

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