The News Courier in Athens, Alabama

November 2, 2012

Auburn, New Mexico State desperately seeking win


Associated Press

— AUBURN, Ala. (AP) — The Auburn Tigers used to treat games like this as nearly automatic wins.

Now, they're looking at Saturday's visit from struggling New Mexico State (1-7) as more in the must-win category.

The Tigers (1-7) are hoping another quarterback change and an opponent afflicted with some of the same issues will give them something to cheer about in a lost season that has fans clamoring for coach Gene Chizik's firing.

Chizik's just clamoring for his players to win a game.

"They know where we're at in terms of urgency to win, and they want to win," the embattled coach said. "We're certainly not in a position to overlook any of our opponents. I think our team understands the urgency of the game."

Auburn has lost five games in a row and gave up a school-record 671 yards in last week's 63-21 humbling by No. 16 Texas A&M. Seemingly unwinnable games against No. 7 Georgia and No. 1 Alabama still await. The Tigers are 22-1/2-point favorites in this one.

If last week felt like rock-bottom for the season, losing to a one-win Western Athletic Conference team would feel even worse.

New Mexico State has dropped its last seven games since an opening win over Sacramento State but played No. 22 Louisiana Tech close in last week's 28-14 loss.

"I think that's an attention-getter. too, because the score's 7-0 at halftime and you're looking at a ranked team that has really played well," Chizik said. "They've improved, even though their record right now doesn't necessarily show that."

Freshman quarterback Jonathan Wallace will make his first start for Auburn. He had been used in the Wildcat role before getting pressed into action against Texas A&M, but Clint Moseley has a gimpy ankle and Kiehl Frazier has shoulder problems.

Plus, Football Bowl Subdivision's least productive offense needed a lift.

Tight end C.J. Uzomah expects Wallace to respond the "same way he responded when he came into the game late."

"Even though it was against maybe second- and third-string guys, he's a competitor, he's a fighter," Uzomah said. "Even though he's going to be starting and he knows that he's going to be starting, we're going to rally around him. I feel like he's confident in himself and we're confident in him no matter what. We have our faith in him and we're planning on doing well."

Wallace brings more running ability to the job than either Moseley or Frazier. He'll face a defense that ranks 102nd in yards allowed, giving up 461 a game.

The Tigers certainly sound like they're expecting Wallace's start to be more than a one-week cameo, even if Moseley and Frazier get healthy.

"I feel confident in Jonathan and what he'll be able to bring to the table," top receiver Emory Blake said. "He won't act any different toward New Mexico State than he will toward Georgia or Alabama.""

These two teams are tied for 111th nationally in turnover margin, handcuffing both offenses. They can certainly empathize with each other's situations.

"Auburn's a good football team," New Mexico State coach DeWayne Walker said. "This is a Southeastern Conference team. We're not in any position to look at their record and to think otherwise."

The Aggies are 0-14 against current SEC teams, coming the closest against South Carolina in 2002 (34-24). Auburn won the previous two meetings 50-14 in 1993 and 55-20 in 2007.

The Aggies would get a big boost from beating an SEC team whatever the records.

"Winning a game like this might not necessarily make our season, but it would make it a lot better," New Mexico State tight end Trevor Walls said. "We were coming into this expecting to win eight games and that was our goal was to be a bowl team. Since that's out of the picture now, we're kind of playing the spoiler.

"Any win we can get, especially against an SEC team, that would definitely push us in the right direction."