Gus Malzahn previews Auburn-Arkansas, shares thoughts on job Chad Morris is doing with Razorbacks
Once again, Auburn is gearing up to face a pass-happy offense.
Arkansas is averaging 38.7 passing attempts per game, No. 3 in the SEC behind Texas A&M (40.8) and Vanderbilt (39). (Oregon and Florida average 34.5 and 34.0 attempts per game, which rank No. 34 and No. 53 nationally out of 130 FBS teams).
Tigers coach Gus Malzahn says his defense has done well against offenses that favor the air.
“I think they’ve done a very good job,” Malzahn said on Wednesday’s SEC media teleconference. “I think we’ve done a good job of affecting the quarterbacks and our defensive backs have done a very solid job as we have played some very talented quarterbacks, but also some very talented receivers.”
Despite facing a high number of pass attempts, the Auburn defense has snagged only one interception.
“We have been close. We’ve had some opportunities,” Malzahn said of the surprisingly low number. “We’ve got to seize the moment when we get our chances to get the ball. I think the second half of the season that number will grow dramatically.”
The Arkansas quarterback situation is a question mark heading into the game, but Malzahn sees two solid options for the Razorbacks.
“I think they’ve got two guys that can get the job done,” Malzahn said of Nick Starkel and Ben Hicks. “They’ve got the luxury of if a guy isn’t doing great they can bring the other guy in. The backups really went in and really gave them a spark. Our approach is we’re really expecting to see both of them and that’s happened a few times this year.”
Here’s what else Malzahn said on the teleconference ahead of the game:
- On Chad Morris’ struggles: He’s an excellent football coach. I think the glaring thing that stands out to me is his guys are playing extremely hard. That’s a tribute to him and his staff. There’s some other teams around the country that lose a game or two and don’t play hard. He’ll hang in there and get the thing turned around there’s no doubt about that. You see him getting closer. They could have won the last two games. Had opportunities and it’s just a matter of time before they get over that hump.
- On when Malzahn felt he was ready to coach college football: I think it’s getting used to everything outside of the football. That’s probably the No. 1 thing looking back. Then, when you have success doing something you normally get confirmation of it. That’s really when, for me, it clicked.
- On Auburn’s running game without Boobee Whitlow: We’re going to have the same approach we’ve had. We’re going to be a run, play-action team. We need to run the football effectively to be at our best, so we’re not going to change anything as far as our approach. We just need to have some guys step up, and I really think we’ll do that. We’ve had some guys who had excellent weeks of practice. I think it really helped us having an off week, you know, losing a key factor like that. That really helped us.
- On RB Harold Joiner: Harold is a big guy – a big, athletic guy. He’s done some good things for us this year. I think this off week has been really good for him also, and he got more reps also with the guys. I think that will help him moving forward.