AUBURN, Ala. — Gus Malzahn says the key to turning around Auburn football’s struggling offense can be boiled down to one word.
In his weekly Tiger Talk radio show appearance Thursday night, Malzahn repeatedly stressed the importance of “execution” as Auburn faces FCS program Mercer on Saturday.
“Being able to have a real clean game and to really take that next step as an offense — running the football, throwing the football, executing — that’s really been the message all week,” Malzahn said Thursday.
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Auburn put up just 117 yards of offense — with only 15 coming after halftime — in a 14-6 loss at No. 3 Clemson last Saturday. The Tigers, who brought in highly touted transfer quarterback Jarrett Stidham this offseason, have completed just 56 percent of their passes this season for an average of 131.5 yards through two games.
Auburn has also given up the most sacks and the third-most tackles for loss in the FBS. In the midst of that slow start, Auburn offensive coordinator Chip Lindsey will move to the box Saturday after two games on the sidelines, swapping places with offensive line coach Herb Hand.
“The negative plays, we’ve got to focus on that,” Malzahn said. “We can’t have the negative plays and getting behind the chains and everything that goes with that.”
Auburn is expected to record a lopsided win Saturday against Mercer, an FCS program which is in its fifth season of football after a 70-plus-year hiatus. So Malzahn has focused more on how the Tigers will look Saturday than what the scoreboard will say at the final whistle.
“It’s just a matter of us,” Malzahn said. “Execution-wise, we’ve got to get better, specifically on our offense. That’s been our message.”
Malzahn again acknowledged growing frustrations from the Auburn fan base after yet another poor offensive output against a top-tier opponent. Three of Malzahn’s four worst offensive performances have come in Auburn’s last six games, dating back to last season.
“We didn’t get it done on offense,” Malzahn said. “That was frustrating. Our fans are frustrated. Our players and our coaches, we’ve got to solve that. It starts with me.”
While an expected blowout win over Mercer won’t ease too many concerns on the Plains, Malzahn said Auburn needs a clean performance Saturday in order to “get some momentum” before the start of SEC play.
Auburn opens the SEC schedule at Missouri, which has struggled mightily defensively through the first two weeks of the season, next Saturday night.
In Malzahn’s eyes, the Tigers still have plenty of time to turn it around and compete for championships in 2017.
“We’re going to get better each week … We’re going to improve this week on offense,” Malzahn said. “All of our goals are intact. I think that’s probably the most important thing.”