Bigger Playbook for QB As Tigers Head to LSU

Coach Gus Malzahn talks about a bigger playbook for his quarterback in this Auburn football report that features news and notes on Saturday's SEC matchup.

Auburn, Ala.--Auburn wrapped up preparations for its first football road trip under the direction of Coach Gus Malzahn with a 90-minute workout at the AU Football Complex on Thursday evening.

The Tigers rehearsed their game plan in shorts as they had perfect weather for the session, which is very different than what is being forecast for Saturday night's game at LSU with a high probability of rain predicted.

Both teams come into the contest 3-0 in what will be the SEC opener for LSU. Auburn won its first SEC game of the season with an exciting 24-20 comeback victory over Mississippi State last Saturday. Quarterback Nick Marshall drove the Tigers 88 yards on 12 plays for the winning touchdown on a pass to junior tight end C.J. Uzomah.

"He (Marshall) matured in the last two minutes," Uzomah said of Auburn's first-year starter at quarterback. Uzomah said his team will go into Baton Rouge with confidence even though Auburn is a major underdog to an opponent that is ranked sixth and seventh nationally in the major polls.

"We have full confidence in ourselves and our coaches," Uzomah said. "We are excited about what is going on and are looking one game at a time with a chance to go 4-0"

Malzahn said after Thursday's workout that he thought the Tigers have had a solid week on the practice, particularly Marshall, who the coach said got a boost of confidence after passing for 339 yards vs. Mississippi State and leading the late game touchdown drive for the victory.

"I really believe that will help him along with the way," Malzahn said. "This week I have seen a difference in him. I think he is confident. He is more calm. He had a good practice today--the very best Thursday practice he has had. We will need that going into a hostile environment."

Nick Marshall will be making his fourth Auburn start on Saturday night.

Malzahn noted the quarterback has done a solid job of getting comfortable running the base offense and that the Tigers are adding to his playbook. "He has gotten more comfortable each week with the tweaks off your base offense," the coach said. "That is a challenge all coaches have. So far we are very pleased with the way he has progressed. We were able to add more this week and each week will be the same."

One of the points of emphasis for the Tigers this week has been improving on third downs, both offensively and defensively.

Auburn's offense has been performing well on third downs in the first and fourth quarters, but struggled in the second and third periods. Auburn's best quarter for conversions is the first with a 64.3 success rate. In the fourth quarter the Tigers are at 50 percent. In the third the percentage drops to 20.0 and in the second quarter Auburn is at just 14.3 percent.

Malzahn said that is something he and offensive coordinator Rhett Lashlee have been working on this week.

Defensive coordinator Ellis Johnson noted the Tigers need to do a better job of getting off the field on third down plays. Auburn is ninth in the SEC in third down conversions and tied for eighth in third down conversion defense.

Opponents have converted 42.9 percent of their third downs vs. Johnson's defense. In the first quarter the conversion rate is 54.5 percent, it is 53.5 percent in the second quarter, 41.7 percent in the third and 8.3 percent in the fourth period.

Auburn's offense has had more success in short-yardage third downs from one to three yards than its opponents through three games. The Tigers have made 9-14 opportunities (64.3 percent) and allowed opponents to convert 6-11 (54.5 percent).

In other news and notes:

*Kickoff for Saturday's game is 6:45 p.m. CDT with television coverage on ESPN. Brad Nessler will do the play by play with Todd Blackledge the analyst and Holly Rowe the sideline reporter.

*Radio coverage on The Auburn Network featuring Rod Bramlett, Stan White, Quentin Riggins and Paul Ellen can be found on Sirius Channel 94 and XM 201.

*LSU has already played 14 freshmen, which is the third most of any major college team in the country behind Texas A&M's 17 and UCLA's 15.

Auburn has played eight true freshmen. Tackle Montravius Adams, "star: Mackenro Alexander, end Elijah Daniel, cornerback Johnathan Ford, end Carl Lawson and cornerback Kamryn Melton have seen action on defense. Receivers Marcus Davis, who leads the team in receptions with eight, and Tony Stevens are the only two true freshmen who have played on offense.

*Senior cornerback Ryan White is expected to get his second start of the season in place of fellow senior Chris Davis, who is still recovering from an ankle injury suffered in game two. Davis was Auburn's leading tackler in last year's LSU game with 16 stops. Junior wide receiver Quan Bray is expected to return punts for a second consecutive game due to the injury to Davis.

*Senior defensive end Dee Ford could make his first start of the season after missing the first two games with a knee injury. He made six tackles in the second half vs. Mississippi State.

Justin Garrett

*Junior Justin Garrett also made his 2013 debut last week and contributed at the weakside linebacker spot, helping the Tigers allow Mississippi State just one second half touchdown. Garrett can also play the "star" rover position.

*Senior defensive tackle Jefffrey Whitaker is not expected to be ready to play as he continues to recover from knee surgery. The same is true of sophomore defensive end Keymiya Harrell.

*Auburn will be trying to end a pair six-game streaks for LSU. The Bayou Bengals have won six straight SEC openers with Les Miles as head coach and have defeated Auburn six straight times in games played in Baton Rouge.

*Senior Steven Clark, who averaged 48 yards on four punts vs. Mississippi State, improved his season average to 43.5 and has yet to allow an opponent to return one of his punts this season. Dating back to last season Clark has 30 consecutive punts that have not been returned.

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