Auburn gets tuneup for brutal stretch run

Updated: October 31, 2003, 2:08 PM ET

AUBURN, Ala. -- Louisiana-Monroe and Auburn have some common traits. They've both had some heartache this season, and they were both battered in Baton Rouge.

Well, that about wraps up the similarities.

The Indians (1-7) are a pass-happy team limping through their 10th consecutive losing season, while the run-oriented Tigers (5-3) still nurse hopes of a Southeastern Conference title.

Saturday's meeting should be little more than a tuneup for Auburn's SEC stretch run after a 31-7 loss at No. 7 LSU, which opened with a 49-7 win over the Indians.

No. 20 Mississippi is next up for the Tigers followed by a trip to No. 4 Georgia and a visit from Alabama. Incidentally, Louisiana-Monroe also played Ole Miss this season, losing 59-14, and is 2-21-1 all-time against SEC teams.

"I think it's another opportunity for us to get better," Auburn quarterback Jason Campbell said. "We're still in the hunt for the SEC.

"We have to put the LSU game behind us and look forward to the games we have in front of us. It all starts this week."

Auburn, a 38-point favorite, has won 11 straight homecoming games and is 63-8-5 overall. The Tigers have won all four games in the series, with three blowout wins and a 28-24 scare in 1996.

Louisiana-Monroe defensive end Lamont Finley says his team shouldn't be automatically counted out.

"They're a good team in the SEC, but teams can be beaten," Finley said. "The ball's made different from a basketball for reasons, because it takes a different roll, so you never know."

Auburn coach Tommy Tubercle cited his team's need to improve on "glaring weaknesses," notably a mediocre passing attack. This could be the week to work some kinks out, with Louisiana-Monroe ranking 94th nationally in total defense and 106th in scoring defense.

The Tigers are unlikely to change their offensive style much, reserving plenty of carries for tailbacks Carnell Williams, Ronnie Brown and Brandon Jacobs and Tre Smith.

"I think going into any football game with a team like this, you've got to stop the run first and then react to the pass," Indians coach Charlie Weatherbie said. "They're a team that I know will come out and try to smash us."

The Indians will counter with a solid passing game led by quarterback Steven Jyles and receiver Mack Vincent, the team's all-time leader in receptions.

Jyles ranks third in the Sun Belt Conference in total offense, while running back Kevin Payne is second in rushing. Jyles passed for 193 yards in Auburn's 52-14 victory last season, rushing for another 53.

"They've struggled, but they have improved," Tuberville said. "They do a lot of things that have given us problems. They throw the ball a lot, they throw a lot of screens on offense.

"This team will throw it 40, maybe more than that, times."

That gives Auburn's defense a chance to work out a few things also, beefing up the pass rush and trying to add to its modest five interceptions.

"It's a good game for us to just work on our fundamentals and work on the things that are going to get us better for Georgia and Ole Miss and the Alabama game," defensive tackle Spencer Johnson said.

"We can't take this game lightly. We just have to go out and work on technique and the little things."

This story is from ESPN.com's automated news wire. Wire index