Malzahn Likes Preparations For UGA Game

The Auburn football team tuned up the game plan for the Georgia game on Thursday. This report features news, notes and quotes from the Tigers.

Auburn, Ala.--Auburn is in big-game buzz mode with thousands of fans already in town on Thursday as the football Tigers finished on-the-field preparations for the 117th edition of the SEC's oldest football rivalry with the Georgia Bulldogs coming to Jordan-Hare Stadium on Saturday.

Tickets for the game are difficult to find and Auburn officials note they have been bombarded with requests for seats. Athletic Director Jay Jacobs announced that television broadcast of the game will be available on the video boards at Auburn Arena on Saturday for fans who want to be on campus but can't get into the stadium.

As RV vehicles and fans poured into town Coach Gus Malzahn's team practiced for 60 minutes in shorts fine-tuning the game plan as the 9-1 Tigers look to stay alive in the race to win the SEC West title. Auburn, which is ranked seventh in this week's BCS poll and ninth in the AP and coaches polls, is 5-1 in league games. Georgia, which is 6-3 overall, is 4-2 in the SEC play.

"This week we have had another good practice," Malzahn said of preparations for the Bulldogs. "That is a tribute to our players. They are a lot of fun to coach. They want to get better. They have bought into everything we have asked them to do."

Junior defensive tackle Gabe Wright noted he is excited about the opportunity to make Auburn's fans happy as the Tigers get to play UGA for a second consecutive year at Jordan-Hare Stadium after suffering an embarrassing 38-0 loss to the Bulldogs last year.

The Tigers come into the contest riding a six-game winning streak that started with a 30-22 home win over Ole Miss. The last two victories came on the road vs. Arkansas (35-17) and Tennessee (55-23).

"I couldn't think of a better way to finish out our regular season than getting the final two at home," Wright said. "We have been blessed to have Georgia again back this year. We have one of the top crowds in the country. There is no doubt the fans will come out and be supportive. They have been supportive up until now. I just can't wait."

Gabe Wright has started the last six games for the Tigers and a total of seven this season.

Wright noted that one of the keys on Saturday will be containing Georgia's star tailback, Todd Gurley, and shoring up a rush defense that gave up 222 yards on 47 carries to Arkansas and 226 yards on 43 carries vs. Tennessee.

"It is something that we have been working on, focusing on," Wright said. "It is something that the players have taken more initiative on.

"Georgia's a great running team, has a great running back, so it's something that we definitely need to fix and control more," Wright added.

Wright, a Georgian from Columbus, has been a part of two Auburn teams that lost to the Bulldogs in a series Georgia has tied at 54-54-8 by winning seven of the last 10 matchups, including the previous two.

"It's the Deep South's oldest rivalry," Wright pointed out. "From a personal standpoint I have yet to beat Georgia. There are a lot of guys that are yet to beat Georgia, except for that senior class."

Auburn's defense has been much more effective in the second half of games this year than in the first two periods. Asked why that has happened, Wright said, "It is definitely on the players. We're as amped as anybody from the hotel meeting to driving to the stadium to coming out. I'm not sure if it's mental.

"More than anything, I probably say it is going to be focus. Maybe we've got to lower that amp. Maybe we've got to lower getting so hyped and really focus on our keys at first.

"We always know the first drive or the first couple drives are going to be already pre-programmed by the offensive coordinator," he added. "I'm not going to say we have a bend-but-don't-break mentality, but Coach (defensive coordinator Ellis Johnson) is talking about some of the series and teams go 12 series throughout the game and only have a field goal, one touchdown, five punts. That is actually a good defense. Of course, you want to work on the total yards per game though."

In other news and notes:

*The weather forecast for Saturday calls for a warming trend with temperatures in the 70s for the 2:30 p.m. CST kickoff at Jordan-Hare Stadium with a 20 percent chance of rain.

*First downs have been the most productive plays for the Auburn offense. The Tigers are averaging 7.29 yards per play on them compared to 6.0 on second downs, 7.7 on third downs and 2.1 yards on fourth down plays. The Tigers' overall average of 7.08 yards per play ranks seventh nationally.

*Former Tiger linebacker Ashton Richardson, who has been named a finalist for the Rhodes Scholarship for an opportunity to study at the Oxford University in England, will be honored on Saturday in a pre-game ceremony. Richardson will receive the Cliff Hare Award, which is presented annually to the Auburn student-athlete "who, in addition to athletic and scholarship achievement, exhibits in great degree the qualities of leadership, integrity and courage."

Ashton Richardson

*Junior tight end C.J. Uzomah is one of five Auburn starters frome the state of Georgia along with quarterback Nick Marshall, wide receiver Quan Bray, defensive tackle Gabe Wright and cornerback Jonathon Mincy.

Uzomah said this week's game is especially important to him and the other Georgians on the AU roster. "Growing up, all I hear is Georgia so I'm definitely amped up about this game for sure," said the tight end, who caught a touchdown pass last week at Tennessee.

*Auburn is plus one in turnover margin through 10 games while the Bulldogs are minus seven through nine contests . Dating back to 1991 in games in which one team had fewer turnovers that squad won 15 times, lost two and there was one tie.

*Tre Mason is one of 10 semi-finalists for the 2013 Doak Walker Award, which is presented annually to college football's top running back. The junior has 1,038 rushing yards this year and 16 rushing touchdowns plus another on a kickoff return. He leads the SEC in scoring at 10.2 points per game and has scored a touchdown in seven consecutive games.

Tre Mason

The junior has 2,201 career rushing yards, which is 13th place in Auburn history. It is also the seventh highest total for a Tiger junior. The most rushing yards by an Auburn player at the end of his junior season is 2,811 by Stephen Davis with Carnell Williams No. 2 at 2,866 and Bo Jackson next at 2,517.

The only other SEC player on the list is Mike Davis of South Carolina. The other semi-finalists include Ameer Abdullah of Nebraska, Antonio Andrews of Western Kentucky, Ka'Deem Carey of Arizona, Tyler Gaffney of Stanford, Melvin Gordon of Wisconsin, Bishop Sankey of Washington, Lache Seastrunk of Baylor and Andre Williams of Boston College.

TV coverage for the UGA at Auburn game 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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