Tigers Focused On UGA And "Big Plays"

Comments from Coach Gus Malzahn and Auburn players are featured along with news and notes as the Tigers continue to prepare for Saturday's home game vs. the Georgia Bulldogs.

Auburn, Ala.--Gus Malzahn said making big plays offensively and preventing them from the Bulldogs' offense will be keys to success on Saturday in the 117th edition of the Auburn-Georgia football rivalry.

With Auburn defensive line coach Rodney Garner the former recruiting coordinator at Georgia, the Tigers have in-depth knowledge about what Malzahn said is a very talented opponent the Tigers are facing this week.

"We are going to have to tackle well," Auburn's head coach said after Wednesday night's practice. "That is a big key. They have got some exceptional guys that are good with the ball after they get it. It is not just one guy. They have numerous guys and we are going to tackle well.

"At the same time we are going to have to create big plays," Malzahn said. "They are a defense that not a lot of people have consistently drove the ball on. We are going to have to be able to do that, too."

The Auburn coach said he is impressed with Georgia's front seven defensively, one of the better run-stopping units in the SEC this year. "They are probably as good as we have seen," he said. "They are very long, they are fast. You don't see a whole lot of quarterbacks dropping back to pass and squirting out of there and finding positive things to happen. They are tough against the run, too."

Malzahn said he believes his players are doing a good job of getting ready for the Bulldogs and have continued to stay focused in practice. "It has really been consistent," he said. "That is what stands out to me. It is the same way it was three or four weeks ago as it was today. They are locked in.

"When another guy is in front of them and they are watching from the side, they are locked in and asking questions," he added. "That is always a positive sign."

The Tigers worked out for two hours on Wednesday evening in helmets, shoulder pads and sweat pants on a cool autumn evening after going through a workout in full pads on Tuesday. "I thought they had very good energy both days and I thought they were excited to practice, which is always a good thing," Malzahn said.

Saturday's game will be the first home sellout for the Tigers this season and fans have been scrambling trying to come up with tickets for the 117th edition of the SEC's oldest rivalry.

Auburn offensive tackle Greg Robinson said the Tigers are happy to be playing at Jordan-Hare Stadium after back-to-back road games.

"There is nothing like a home crowd," Robinson said. "We really won't have to worry about the pressure about it being loud anymore. Everything will be back on the quarterback because the past away games we were on Reese and that was hard.

"I know I jumped offsides one time at Arkansas when it got too loud," the sophomore said. "We just had a little talking on the line and I thought it was the snap. Having home field advantage, that's going to help us out a lot."

Greg Robinson is part of an Auburn offensive line that is having an impressive season.

One of the major points of interest about this year's Auburn-Georgia game is the quarterbacks. Georgia's Aaron Murray is the most prolific passer in SEC history and Auburn's first-year quarterback, Nick Marshall, began his college career playing defensive back for the Bulldogs in 2011 before transferring to junior college in 2012 and joining the Auburn team this past summer.

Robinson noted that Marshall, the SEC Offensive Player of the Week for his performance in a 55-23 win at Tennessee, will be in the spotlight this week because he is competing against his former teammates, but predicts the junior quarterback will continue to help the Tigers perform at a high level on offense.

"I think his mind is in the right place," Robinson said. "He has been a blessing to the team. He is a hard worker. I think if he just keeps his mind focused on the game we'll come out with the win."

Malzahn said he likes what he is seeing from Marshall and noted the quarterback has improved his footwork since early in the season, something that should make him a more consistent passer. "He has worked extremely hard on that, him and Coach (Rhett) Lashlee," Malzahn said. "You can see he is starting to get more comfortable each practice. That will be a good thing as we end this thing."

Auburn's head coach said that he believes Marshall will stay in character and be calm for Saturday's game against his old teammates. Marshall admitted after his first start of the season vs. Washington State his was nervous early in the game.

Asked about that, Malzahn said, "He is a real honest, up-front young man and I?think a lot of his nerves were just the first (game)...not knowing what to expect, not knowing his teammates very well. He didn't know his coaches--how we would react and all of that. I think he is a comfort zone."

One of Auburn's biggest challenges of the season will be trying to contain Murray, who is 2-1 as a starting quarterback vs. the Tigers and a player who performed very well in each of those games.

"He is one of the best to ever play in the league," Malzahn said of the Georgia senior. "He is one of those guys who seems like he has been there forever. We have our work cut out for us and our defense understands that."

Auburn junior cornerback Jonathon Mincy has high praise for Murray, noting that the quarterback challenges secondaries with his accuracy and excellent decision-making.

The Tigers go into the game ranked 10th in SEC total defense allowing 394.4 yards per game and are third in pass defense efficiency with a rating of 117.2, trailing Florida (98.2) and Alabama (110.2).

Jonathon Mincy has 37 tackles, the third highest total for the Tigers this season. He leads in deflected passes with 10.

Mincy said the Auburn secondary is improving as his 9-1 team prepares to take on the 6-3 Bulldogs. "I feel we are clicking and we are molding every play we are out there together and that is something that you need--having the chemistry with everybody being out there.

"We have fun with each other," the cornerback added. "That is something really key with this defense. It is just exciting. Everybody just goes out and competes and has fun."

Mincy pointed out his group's goal is to get better on a weekly basis and he certainly is going to be doing his best to make that happen against the Bulldogs, a team he favored while playing at Southwest DeKalb High in Decatur, Ga. However, even though Mincy got plenty of scholarship offers, the Bulldogs weren't interested in signing him so this game means a lot to him.

"I was blessed with the opportunity to come here and play," Mincy said. "I love being here and I am just ready to go out there and pound on them."

In other news and notes:

*The Tigers are currently on a pace to set a school single-season record for rushing yards per game. The mark to beat is 312.5 yards per game in 1985, Bo Jackson's Heisman Trophy year. Those '85 Tigers are the only Auburn team to average 300 rushing yards per game for a season, but this year's group is on that pace at 320.0.

No. 2 on the list is 298.1 rushing yards per contest for the 1979 team followed 293.4 for the 1983 SEC champions and 284.8 for the 2010 national champions.

*Georgia is normally strong in special teams play. While UGA's punter and kicker are having good seasons, the Bulldogs have not been a threat on their return teams. Georgia is averaging just 3.5 yards per punt return, which is 12th in the SEC. Auburn is first in the league at 12.0 yards per return and senior Chris Davis has one of the league's five punt returns for touchdowns this season.

Georgia is averaging an SEC worst 16.2 yards per kickoff return. Auburn is first at 26.7 and has two for touchdowns while the other 13 teams have combined for just two TDs on kickoff returns.

*Steven Clark, a semi-finalist for the Ray Guy Award as the top punter in college football, has allowed Auburn's opponents to return just four punts this season for a total of 16 yards. Only three other teams (Baylor, Ohio State and Utah State) have allowed opponents four or fewer punt returns.

*"Star" rover Robenson Therezie, who intercepted a pass last week, has developed into a key player for the Tigers this season, Malzahn said. "He has been very big," the coach noted. "He has great instincts and he is starting to settle down and he really knows his position. He made an outstanding play on the interception Saturday. He just knew what was happening and came out of his zone, spun to the ball and made a great play.

"He is starting to feel more comfortable," Malzahn added. "He has made a lot of impact plays for us this year." Therezie has four of Auburn's 11 interceptions.

*Asked about his team's recruiting after Wednesday night's practice, Malzahn said, "Recruiting is going great and it was going good even early in the season. I?think a lot of people see there is a lot of good things in the future and it is going very well."

Malzahn said he expects there will be a lot of prospects on campus to check out the Auburn-Georgia game on Saturday. "It will be a great atmosphere and there will be a lot of good ones."

*Auburn goes into the game tied for seventh in the SEC in turnover margin at plus one for the season. Georgia is 13th in the league at minus seven. A big difference between the two teams is that Auburn has intercepted 11 passes this year and Georgia has just four.

*Despite being just plus one in turnover margin, the Tigers enjoy a 66-24 advantage through 10 games in points scored off turnovers.

*The Tigers have played two games this season in which they were whistled for just one penalty. Last week at Tennessee only an offside call on Dee Ford caused the officials to flag the Tigers.

Robinson said that the Tigers focus in practice on keeping penalties to a minimum. They are ranked 15th nationally and first in the SEC in fewest penalties per game with an average of 4.4. "We do accountability after each game if we get penalties," the offensive tackle pointed out. Accountability can include extra running or other drills.

"Coach stresses to us a lot that if we get penalties the chances of us winning are real slim," Robinson added. "We just have to be disciplined and really locked in and try to our best not to get penalties and be smart."

*Malzahn said that freshman defensive lineman Elijah Daniel has been doing "a good job" whether at end or at tackle. "He is starting to play a little more inside, which is tough to do for young guys,"?the coach noted. "He has got a lot of toughness, a lot of quickness. He creates a lot of things positive in there for us when he is inside." Daniel picked his second sack of the season at Tennessee and has a team-high nine QB hurries.

*Kickoff for Saturday's game is set for 2:30 p.m. CST at Jordan-Hare Stadium. TV coverage is on CBS with Verne Lundquist doing the play by play, Gary Danielson will be the analyst and Tracy Wolfson is the sideline reporter.

*The game will be available on satellite radio on channel 91 on both Sirius and XM. There will be additional national coverage on the Touchdown Radio network.

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