A ‘challenge’ to keep momentum

AUBURN, Ala. -- When Gus Malzahn arrived in Auburn last December, he had to work to build the confidence back in a team that was coming off a 3-9 season.

Malzahn has the Tigers off to a 6-1 start this season/Todd Van Emst photo

Now, off to a 6-1 start and up to No. 11 in the AP poll, Malzahn has to address the potential of players becoming overconfident.

“I think that's a challenge of any team in college football,” Malzahn said. “You see it every week. Teams are on a high and they kinda lose their momentum. That's our challenge. We've got to keep moving forward. We've got to keep improving, not look ahead.

“That's a challenge and that's something we'll address. I'm very up front with our players.”

Malzahn’s message to the team this week was a simple one.

“Just being real honest with them that, 'Hey, we're not changing anything that got us to where we're at. Keep doing exactly what we've been doing with the same attitude, the same approach.’ That's really about it,” he said.

He’s also been very emphatic saying Auburn hasn’t arrived yet and still has plenty of room for improvement.

“Everything that goes within the technical execution overall and as a coach you're always trying to correct mistakes and so we're really focusing on areas in all three phases we need to correct and get better on, and we can get better,” he said. “We're still making some silly mistakes, so that's really what we've focused on this week.”

That doesn’t mean Malzahn didn’t enjoy celebrating with his team Saturday and isn’t pleased with what they’ve accomplished so far this season.

Gus Malzahn press conference 10-22-13

“I'm very proud,” he said. “We've learned something about our team each week. Every time our team has been challenged they found a way. It's not just been offense. It's been offense one week, defense the next week, special teams. It's been a true team effort.”

More from Malzahn’s press conference:

On celebrating after the win over Texas A&M...

“That was a big game for us. We're in this thing together, our coaches, our players, all of us. Like I said after the game it was just a real special deal for me to see our guys win a game like that and to see them happy. We've got some things we can build upon.”

On being ranked No. 11...

“We're happy that people think that highly of us. But we're onto next week. That's our only focus.”

On Florida Atlantic...

“Very athletic team that can run. Have eight starters back on defense, seven on offense. They're definitely concerning.”

On injured safety Joshua Holsey...

“Josh Holsey will be out for the year. That was a tough blow for our defense. Kind of a freak injury on Thursday toward the end of practice. that's a tough blow.”

On Ryan White stepping up at safety in the dime package...

Ryan White is a guy that stepped in. He's a cornerback. Didn't get one rep of safety all last week because of when that injury happened and just did an outstanding job in a tough situation against one of the better offenses in college football on Saturday. He'll kind of move into that role moving forward. He's an experienced guy and did a great job.”

On the success of the running game...

“We're a run, play-action team and when we're running the football effectively, it opens everything else up. I think the fact that our offensive line is doing a solid job. The fact that Jay Prosch at the point of attack is probably as good as anybody in college football blocking. Then we've got three running backs that are all a little bit different. Then the fact that our quarterback is a run threat, too. I think all those factors combined have helped us.”

On his offense being called a spread offense...

“We don't consider ourselves a spread offense. Spread to me is kind of throw to open up the run. We're a two-back, run play-action team that runs the football to open up the pass. We just happen to do it at a fast pace, and I think that's the reason people categorize us sometimes as spread.”

On the wide receiver position...

“Ideally you want to have a guy that's kind of your go-to guy in certain situations and we're doing it by committee right now and all the guys we've had have made plays for us. Sammie Coates is starting to get into more of a role like that but we're still evolving in our passing game and I think we've got a chance to get better. That's one of the areas we do need to get better on.”

On quarterback Nick Marshall...

“There are things he is definitely getting more comfortable with. He was very calm during that game, he was very confident, but there are still some areas he needs to improve on and he knows that. Matter of fact there are areas we need to improve on as a whole. We have not arrived yet. We're still making mistakes we have to correct in all areas.”

On quarterback Jeremy Johnson...

“Yeah, our plan was, once we put him in there, let him play a little bit. That's just not the way the game unfolded. Nick was playing well, too. That had something to do with it, too, but moving forward Jeremy will be a part of what we're doing. We'll have a plan each week. He's a good quarterback in his own right and he can bring some things to the table that can help us.”

On playing well in the fourth quarter...

“Well, I think it's just the way our guys practice and the way they approach it. That's kinda who we are and we hang our hat on that on conditioning and we hang our hat on getting to the second half and wearing people down. It just so happened that, that's the way the game unfolded in the fourth quarter.”

On cornerbacks Jonathan Jones and Johnathan Ford...

“Both of those guys are going to have to help us. Where we're at depth wise on defense, in some areas, is pretty scary. We've lost some guys, we're banged up, so we'll need those guys and we'll need the other guys, too. We'll need our other guys who haven't played a lot to be ready.”

On the play of the defense...

“They've found a way to make plays. I think we've been fairly fresh in the fourth quarter and we've challenged our defense numerous times. The first game, Ole Miss, the game Saturday against the best offense, probably, in college football. They found a way to get it done but I think a lot of that has to do with they're fresh, they're competitors, they're confident. They believe they can make a play and I think that's real important for teams.”

On the status of Patrick Miller this week...

“Not for sure yet.”

On freshman Mackenro Alexander...

“He’s doing better. We expect him to be back.”

On wide receiver Sammie Coates...

“I mean we dropped some. In a game like that, boy that’s tough. But just told him, ‘Hey, we’re going to come back to you. Going to come back to you, we need you to make a play.’ And he did; he made a couple of plays the second half to help us win that game.”

On Coates’ body slam of an Aggie defensive back...

“We talked about being physical at every position. That’s part of it. He’s a strong guy and we’re starting to get there. We’re not there yet, but we’re starting to get more physical and the type of football that Auburn expects.”

GUS MALZAHN VIDEO INTERVIEW

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