AUBURN, Ala. -- Will Auburn coach Gus Malzahn slow down his hurry-up, no-huddle offense to try to keep the Texas A&M offense and quarterback Johnny Manziel on the sidelines as much as possible?
That was the question asked Malzahn at least three times during Tiger Talk Thursday night. Malzahn's answer? Well, the coach has a plan but he won't be sharing too many details before Saturday's kickoff.
“Us playing fast and tempo is definitely critical, but at the same time, when you’re playing against a dynamic offense and a dynamic player, we’re just going to see how the game unfolds,” Malzahn said. “We do have a plan and we feel very good, strategically, about our plan, but you never know how the game unfolds. We’re very aware that they’re very strong on offense.”
Malzahn said a key to keeping Manziel and the Aggie offense on the sidelines is to get a lot of first downs on offense.
“We’ve got to do a better job of getting first downs, and that’s been an emphasis, probably for the last two weeks, of keeping those chains moving whether we’re going fast or not,” he said.
Malzahn also touched on the health of his players two days before the battle with No. 7 Texas A&M.
“I think we’re okay,” he said. “Anytime you go halfway through the season, you’re going to have some nicks and some bruises. It’s just at a point know we’re going to have to manage it and stay as healthy as we can because this is the big part of our schedule coming up.”
Malzahn said tight end C.J. Uzomah was close to 100 percent after sitting out last week’s game against Western Carolina. He also mentioned that true freshman cornerback Johnathan Ford gets a couple of periods with the offense each practice. Ford played at both cornerback and running back against WCU.
Here’s a selection of questions and Malzahn’s answers during Tiger Talk:
Bubba from phone: What’s the plan for Jeremy Johnson the rest of the year?
“We knew when when we took his redshirt away and played him last week, that we really felt like he was not only ready, but we felt like he could help our team win. Each week, me and Coach Lashlee will get together and we’ll have a plan for Jeremy. We really believe he can help us win.”
“As far as the quarerback situation, Nick Marshall is our starter, but at the same time, me and coach Lashlee will have a plan for Jeremy each week that will help us win. He’s very strong in some areas so each week we’ll do that.”
Paul from email: Is the defense pumped about playing against Johnny Manziel?
“We better be. We’re playing against one of the best offenses in college football with probably the best player and our guys understand that. The good thing is we’ve played a lot of different guys, so hopefully that will really help us because when you chase that guy around in the fourth quarter, he’s really worn down the defenses he’s played so far. That’s going to be a big factor in the second half. We play enough guys, we stay fresh and hopefully we’ll wear them down instead of them wearing us down.”
John from Birmingham: Texas A&M has a bad defense. Can we pound the ball on them?
“We’re a run, play-action team and we need to be successful running the football. We do understand that. At the same time, we also understand that they’re going to take some chances to stop us. We’ve got to strategically pick our times when we play-action or run the football and all that.
“I will say this about their defense, some of the stats are a little deceiving from the standpoint that they’re offense scores a lot of points and the games get extremely long and they get up. I believe the first game that had a lot of their player suspended and out and played quite a few guys. You can tell they’re a defense that’s getting better.
“But your exactly right, for us to be successful, we’re going to have to run the football. That’s who we are. We’re a run first team. Our offensive line is starting to come together, our running backs are running hard. That’ll be a big key.”
Jonathan from Vestavia: What’s the most exciting thing about play in a stadium for the first time?
“This will be our second road test of Top 10 teams. I gotta believe that our experience against LSU will help us in this game. We’re playing a very good team. I’ve never been there before but I heard the atmosphere is really good, similar to LSU. I believe we will handle ourselves better than we did, and we have to get off to a better start too.”
Chris from Prattville: Will our defense be ready to get Manziel when he runs?
“Our defense, that is a big challenge. We’ve got to be able to contain Manziel. He’s very good at what he does. Nobody has contained him yet so our defense has a big job. Our defensive staff has a great plan. They’re doing great job and we’ll see what happens.”
Ray from twitter: What are the pros and cons of trying to spy Manziel?
“When we had Cam here, there were a lot of people that tried to spy him. Not a whole lot of people were successful. The great ones just have a knack, when you get them in a 1-on-1 situation, they’re tough. You’ve seen the teams that have tried to do that and it’s been tough on them. I think everybody has tried just about everything. Nobody has stopped the guy. He’s really done a great job. I think you have to control him and find a way to put pressure on him. You can’t let him sit back there all day. When he does that, he’s tough to handle.”
Steve from Pensacola: What type of schemes and coverages does Texas A&M run on defense?
“They do more defensively than probably anybody we’ve seen so far. They blitz a lot and play a lot of different coverages. That’s going to be a big thing on the first few possessions, settling on on their plan and what they’re going to do. Then you just try to do your best to take what they give you.”
Matt from email: Ole Miss look tired in the fourth quarter against Texas A&M. Will our defense be strong in 4th?
“There’s no doubt Ole Miss’ defense was tired in the fourth quarter. They lost some guys and they were already a little bit beat up. Texas A&M has done that to just about everybody they’ve played. Our plan is to play a lot of people. That’s kind of been a strength of ours on defense, that we’ve been fresh in the second half. We’ve played our best ball in the fourth quarter and that’s going to be a challenge on Saturday.”
Tim from Mobile: How has Marshall improved in the passing game?
“He is improving. He’s working hard on it. Open guys, we’ve got to hit them. I really feel like that he’ll get better with that. He’s extremely hard on himself. He sticks around after practice on specific things he needs to improve and Coach Lashlee does a good job with him ... I think has the season moves forward you’ll see him be more accurate.”
“We’ll see what happens with Brandon and Pat. They didn’t play last week and it’s kind of week-to-week.”
Barry from Spanish Fort: Secret to Auburn getting to where they are now and keys to victory?
“I think a big factor has been that our players have really come together and played for each other. There’s no ‘I’ in anything we’re doing. They’re playing hard for Auburn and really trying to get our edge back.
“I think keys to the game this week, we’ve got to get first downs on offense and we’ve got to try to keep them off the field as much as possible. Our defense has to be fresh in the second half.”
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