AUBURN, Ala. — There’s no much else to say about that Arkansas beatdown, so it’s time to move on to Ole Miss.
Auburn returns to the state of Mississippi the week in hopes of finding the same result as the last trip. The Tigers (5-2, 2-1 SEC) travel Saturday to take on the Rebels (3-4, 1-3) in a game that could continue Auburn’s trajectory up the national rankings.
Gus Malzahn has offered a more calm demeanor since relinquishing offensive play-calling duties to Rhett Lashlee a few weeks ago. Here’s what Malzahn had to say Tuesday regarding the Ole Miss matchup.
- “It was a big win for us last Saturday. We played a complete game … I feel like we got better,” Malzahn said.
- Malzahn calls Hugh Freeze “one of the better head coaches” in the SEC. Points to Ole Miss’ 31-point victory over Auburn as proof the Rebels are dangerous.
- Chad Kelly gets Gus Malzahn’s praise for his ability to throw the deep ball and get out of the pocket to make plays.
- “Overall, we’re going to have to play well. Our players, they know how talented they are … A road game against a very talented team, we’ve got to play well.”
- Kerryon Johnson’s status: “We’ll know more … at this point, I’d expect him to play. After today’s practice, I’ll be able to confirm,” Malzahn said.
- “Kind of like I said after the game, one of the big questions was our running back depth. It was a really good thing moving forward that the guys we had stepped up,” Malzahn said.
- Too many good running backs? “That’s a good problem to have … coach Lashlee can be a little more creative at times,” Malzahn said.
- Chandler Cox is “just playing with a physicality like he’s never played with … lately, he’s been getting the ball a little more.”
- Jeremiah Dinson status: “It doesn’t look like he’s going to (come back). Give him a few more months, get to spring.”
- Malzahn on Carlton Davis: “Well, he’s a very technician at the line of scrimmage … coach McGriff has done a great job coaching him, and he’s got the ability to really lock down a guy.”
- Malzahn has been “very impressed” by Austin Golson’s move to center.
- “Whoever our quarterback is, we try to design around their strength … There aren’t many Nick Marshalls running around out there.”
- “I think our defense has done a good job all year, regardless … They’re getting more and more confidence.”
- Malzahn on receiver blocking: “That’s one thing that stood out to me the other night. We blocked better on the perimeter … that was something that stood out to me.”
- Malzahn on Pettway: “Once he gets past that first level, he’s hard to tackle.”
- “You can’t just be talented. You have to be mentally tough. You have to be mentally disciplined,” Malzahn said.
- Malzahn on youth: “We’re still green now. We’re playing some guys that still need more experience. We haven’t arrived … We haven’t arrived.”
- “You can’t pat yourself on the back … not in this league.”
- Malzahn emphasizes that Tray Matthews is healthy for the first time this year, which has made a big difference on his play and effort level.
- Kickoff return is the “one area we feel like we really need to work on,” Malzahn said. “That’s an area I expect us to improve in.”
- Malzahn on red zone: “If you can actually slow down and focus on one area, you have a chance to improve on it. That was just one of the areas we weren’t getting it done. It says a lot about our players to be able to focus and execute … The bottom line about being a good red zone offense is you’ve got to run the football.”
- “It’s a great environment. It’s very loud. That game went down to the very end,” Malzahn said, referencing the 2014 contest in Oxford.
- On offensive line: “The way I look at it, we’ve got six starters.”