AUBURN, Ala. -- It started last December shortly after Gus Malzahn hired Ryan Russell as his strength and conditioning coach, and it’s been there for the start of every fourth quarter this fall.
Dismukes and Alex Kozan hold up Mason after a TD/Todd Van Emst photo
It’s become a rallying point for Auburn’s players. It’s a Fist for Four.
“That's our motto. All off-season, Fist for Four,” junior center Reese Dismukes said. “In the fourth quarter, we hold the fist up. That's what we do during training when we get to that point. That's our thing, First for Four: Fast, Intense, Strong, Tough.”
It’s certainly shown up on the field as the Tigers have outscored opponents 64-30 in the fourth quarter this season. Auburn has converted 47.1 percent of its third downs in the fourth while holding opponents to 20.0 percent.
“It's just one of those things he started in the beginning of offseason workouts and we bought in and we followed it. It's just paid off in the fourth quarter. We feel like we're the fresher team,” junior running back Tre Mason said.
Auburn’s players have continued to lift weight and train during the season, just not quite as intense as offseason workouts.
“We’ve been lifting heavy all year and getting stronger in-season,” Dismukes said. “I think that really has kind of stood us apart. We haven’t really taken much off in the weight room. Obviously we’re not doing as much or as many reps or anything, but I think we’re doing a real good job of maintaining our strength. That has really helped.
“Coach Malzahn has done a great job of cutting back here lately as far as on our legs and things like that so that we’re not fatigued. I think it has really shown in the fourth quarter lately.”
It’s not just improvements in strength and conditioning that have helped the Tigers excel in the fourth. It’s a hard-nosed, and mentally tough mindset that was instilled during a long offseason.
“The new coaching staff came in and gave us the mindset that we're going to be fast, intense, strong and tough,” Dismukes said. “We were going to get back to Auburn football. I think we've done a pretty good job of that.”
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