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Coaches address turnovers, Auburn at press conference

Published: Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Updated: Wednesday, October 24, 2012 01:10

After a close come-from-ahead loss Saturday to No. 6 LSU, the Texas A&M football team realigned its focus to a downtrodden 1-6 Auburn team — a squad coaches and players warn is more talented than they appear.

The Auburn Tigers — with head coach Gene Chizik at the helm — have underperformed considering the caliber of the players on their roster, accumulated through several years of highly-rated recruiting classes. Despite being two years removed from a national title appearance, Auburn possesses the second-worst offense in the country, garnering less than 300 yards of total per game. The defense, No. 75 nationally, hasn’t impressed either after allowing more than 400 yards of offense per game.

Despite these statistics, A&M head coach Kevin Sumlin said Auburn won’t be the walk in the park that fans and media expect.

“They’re two years off a national championship, had three straight Top 10 recruiting classes,” Sumlin said. “They’re a storied program in college football. They have tradition and pride. They’re playing at home and we’re going to get their best shot.”

Meanwhile, the Aggies are rolling even after falling short of victory against LSU. Turnovers would bite A&M down the stretch, a recent issue that cost the Aggies a nearly momentous win Saturday at Kyle Field. The defense too, despite solid play, has struggled to create turnovers.

A&M defensive coordinator Mark Snyder said forcing takeaways remains a priority for his players and staff.

“We have got to create turnovers. That’s what LSU does, they play great defense and don’t turn the ball over,” Snyder said. “But if they don’t turn it over, you have to take it away. We talked about defensive takeaways. You have to take the football away in this league.”

Even without the turnovers, the defense gave A&M opportunities to score against LSU throughout the game. The offense, ranked among the Top 10 teams nationally in total yards and scoring offense, couldn’t always capitalize on those opportunities. The Aggies would commit five turnovers en route to LSU’s 24-19 victory.

To their credit, redshirt freshman quarterback Johnny Manziel and the Aggie offense hadn’t seen a defense of LSU’s caliber until Saturday. A&M offensive coordinator Kliff Kingsbury said it was another learning experience for the young signal caller.

“It’s all part of growing with [Manziel],” Kingsbury said. “Two interceptions weren’t his fault. One of them was a great play on the ball. You’re going to get that with a team like that. I never tell him to stop trying to get the ball downfield. [The deep interception] was a miscommunication and that happens.”

The game Saturday will present a new challenge for A&M as the Aggies hit the road once again. Auburn’s home field, Jordan-Hare Stadium, is well renowned as one of the toughest venues in the SEC. How the team handles the environment is yet to be seen.

Sumlin said visiting new venues presents its own kind of excitement.

“We’re going to a place that no one on this team has been,” Sumlin said. “Jordan-Hare is a great place to play. Guys should be excited to experience some new places instead of some of the places they’ve seen. Guys are excited to go to these places because we just haven’t been there.”

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