AUBURN, Ala. — Gus Malzahn says he knows Auburn football fans are frustrated with him and his offense, especially after recording another historic low Saturday night against Clemson.
After a 14-6 loss to the defending national champion in which Auburn recorded only 117 yards, Malzahn has had three of the four worst offensive performances of his college career inside the Tigers’ last six games. The other two came late in the 2016 season against Georgia (164 yards) and Alabama (182 yards).
“From a fan standpoint, the frustration that they have that I fully understand is the way that we finished the season last year… and then Saturday night looked the same,” Malzahn said. “So, I get that from that standpoint. … But that’s their frustration, and I understand that, so it’s natural to say that.
“I get that and I own that, but we are going to improve.”
Malzahn opened his Tuesday news conference by stating the offense “didn’t get it done” against Clemson, which recorded 11 sacks of new Auburn starting quarterback Jarrett Stidham.
The fifth-year coach cited several new pieces on the Auburn offense, including new coordinator Chip Lindsey, as some of the reasons for the historically poor offensive performance.
“We have a new coordinator, we have a new quarterback, a couple new guys up front, and I think the coordinator is learning his offense,” Malzahn said “His players are getting used to him, and I think that’s really the facts of the matter right now.”
The Tigers will change things up on the offensive side of the ball in Week 3 against FCS team Mercer by swapping Lindsey to the press box and offensive line coach Herb Hand to the sidelines.
Malzahn said the switch will help Auburn’s offense move forward after the loss at Clemson. Just as he did in his postgame comments last Saturday night, Malzahn repeatedly said he believed the Tigers will get better in that area after a poor start to 2017.
“I will say this, we are going to improve,” Malzahn said. “We’re going to be a good offense. That is for sure.”
Through Auburn’s struggles on offense, its defense has carried the team through the first two weeks of the season. The Tigers currently rank fifth nationally in yards allowed per game and have only given up two touchdowns.
That defense combined with kicker Daniel Carlson — who had Auburn’s only six points of the Clemson game — gives Malzahn additional confidence moving forward.
“You got to look at it really from the big-picture standpoint that [Clemson is] one of the best teams in college football, if not the best,” Malzahn said. “We have a very good defense, we have a good kicking game. We’re going to improve on offense and our goals are all still intact. We’re a good football team.”
Auburn won’t face another team currently ranked in the Top 25 until four weeks from now, when it travels to LSU in Baton Rouge. The Tigers come home to face Mercer on Saturday, followed by an SEC opener at Missouri and back-to-back home games against Mississippi State and Ole Miss.
Malzahn said he expects his team to work through the frustrations over the next several weeks and rally around the veterans on his roster.
“It’s very frustrating for me, it’s very frustrating for our coaches, but we have a team that has great leadership,” Malzahn said. “We have a staff that is very close, and we’re going to put it in our rearview mirror, and we’re going to move forward. Our mind’s on Mercer, and we’re going to play well.
“We need to improve each week and we have the makings of a good football team. And that’s what we’re going to do.”