War Eagle Extra

Auburn football: Offense, defense fight to a draw in second spring scrimmage

AUBURN, Ala. — After Auburn's 90-play scrimmage last Saturday, the verdict was unanimous: the defense clearly "won" the day. But in the Tigers' second spring scrimmage Saturday, it was a different story. No, the offense didn't have the upper hand this time.

Instead, each unit had its share of highlights.

"I think the defense had a bigger interception, almost returned it for a touchdown," Auburn coach Gus Malzahn said in a post-practice interview Saturday. "The offense scored a couple of times. I think it was a little bit of both."

Linebacker Cassanova McKinzy agreed.

"I don't want to say we were a 'one-hit wonder' last week, but it was kind of even this week," the rising senior said. "Offense was more physical and they brought more to the scrimmage today. We made a lot of mistakes and we were very inconsistent, but for the most part, we were pretty even."

Another difference from last week? The scrimmage's abbreviated length. The Tigers chopped 30 plays off Saturday, going only 60 plays in the scrimmage. Before the scrimmage began, the team focused on "live" extra points and field goals, which it hadn't worked on this spring prior to Saturday.

The Tigers got plenty of other work in, too.

"We had a third-down period with our ones and twos. In a scripted scenario, we had a two-minute situation with our ones and our two with officials," Malzahn said. "We ended up having about a 60-play scrimmage when we put the ball down and let the guys play. In the middle of it we had two live kickoffs and kickoff returns."

The offense scored five times, as all three players competing to become the starting running back — Jovon Robinson, Roc Thomas and Peyton Barber — made their way into the end zone. The other two touchdowns came through the air, with Tony Stevens and Gray King catching one each. (Tyler Queen, the Tigers' early enrollee at quarterback, threw the touchdown to King.)

Though McKinzy was frustrated with the score, he credited King for taking advantage of an opening.

"King had a big cutback run," McKinzy said. "Coaches always tell us, 'A lot of explosive plays and runs come from cutbacks.' We didn't leverage the ball right, and Gray, he just made a good play."

After a solid showing by both units, Malzahn walked away from Saturday pleased.

"Overall, I liked our attitude, our intensity and our energy. I felt like the guys wanted to be coached," he said. "We've just got to work on being more consistent. We're letting everybody play like we did last scrimmage. Obviously, our expectations are high with the guys returning. We're finding out a lot of information from a coaches' standpoint from these scrimmages."