Back to Work: Full Attention On Iron Bowl

The Auburn football team hit the practice field on Sunday evening with its full focus on Saturday's game vs. Alabama.

Auburn, Ala.--The Auburn football team returned to the practice field on Sunday evening for a light workout as the Tigers continued installation of their game plan for Saturday's home game vs. No. 1 ranked Alabama.

Coach Gus Malzahn said his Tigers benefitted from the off-week after returning to campus on Sunday after the players had two days off.

"We had a solid week of practice last week," Malzahn said. "We are really focused on ourselves and trying to improve in some areas that we needed to. We transitioned late in the week on our opponent and tonight we felt like we had a solid practice also."

With no classes this week with the university on a Thanksgiving break the Tigers can devote their full attention to this Saturday's game. If Auburn wins they will move on to the SEC Championship Game in Atlanta.

As the Tigers typically do on Sunday nights the workout was a light one in shorts without pads. "We are trying to stay in a routine," Malzahn said. "We had extra work last week. We tried to make it as normal a Sunday as possible."

That will be a challenge for Malzahn's team with it being the biggest game of the season for his team matching the No. 4 ranked Tigers vs. their unbeaten archrival. The game will be nationally televised on CBS and ESPN will do its weekly Gameday show from the Auburn campus.

Asked about trying to eliminate distractions the head coach said, "We ask our guys to do exactly what they've been doing and just take it one practice at a time, one game at a time. They have done that."

"We have been very up front and very honest with them," Malzahn said. "That (avoiding distraction) will be a big key this week."

In addition to having a chance to win the SEC title the Tigers are still in the hunt for a berth in the BCS championship game.

"I'm really not letting my mind go there," Malzahn said of the implications of another victory for the Tigers. "We have been so focused on trying to improve and just worried about the next week and just worried about the next opponent.

"Like I told the guys a few weeks back, we'll worry about all that patting ourself on the back stuff after the season and be able to look back and appreciate some things. When you're in the middle of it, you've got to stay grounded, you've got to stay focused and you've got to take care of the next job that's been ahead of you."

Asked how he is able to stay focused on the immediate task at hand, the coach said, "Really, it's not that tough for me. Really, I don't think it'll be that tough for our team. Any time you're in a routine, doing what you've done and somewhat successful at it, it's pretty easy to stay in that routine."

Gus Malzahn

Malzahn said having and extra week to prepare for the Tide is a good thing for the Tigers. "There is no doubt," he said. "Especially with the emotional game that we had vs. Georgia and how everything turned out. It was a physical game. It was an emotional game. It gave our guys a chance to regroup.

"Also, too, we needed to clean up some things. It can't be forgotten that we had a 20-point lead in the fourth quarter and it came down to the end. There's a lot of work that we had to do and it couldn't have come at a better time."

Unlike their regular routine the Tigers will not be off on Monday. They will use that time to practice and have position meetings as well as go over video of an Alabama team that brings an 11-0 record into the game.

"They are extremely talented," Malzahn said. ‘They are good at what they do and they don't make a whole lot of mistakes."

Alabama's defense is ranked No. 1 in the SEC. Asked if it is the best defense the Tigers have seen this year, Malzahn said, "I would say the most talented. Yeah, probably the best defense."

Junior running back Corey Grant, who signed with the Tide but transferred to Auburn, has become a key part of the SEC's top-ranked running attack. Asked about Sunday evening's workout, Grant said, "It was a normal practice, but I could tell a lot of guys were excited. We're looking forward to this week and this game."

Grant noted the fact this is a break week for the university "is a big deal" for the Tigers. "It's going to help out a lot with film and extra practice and being able to focus in more," he said.

The former Opelika High star said there is no doubt this is a big game. He is someone who has been involved in preparations for the Iron Bowl in both Tuscaloosa and Auburn.

"It's very important to them," he said of the Tide, "It's a very tough game for them. They look at it as their No. 1 game of the year. It's going to be treated by them like they're playing for the national championship."

In other news and notes:

*Malzahn is on a hot streak as a head coach with an overall record of 19-4 that includes seven straight victories and wins in 17 of his last 18 games.

*The Tigers are on track to have one of the top offensive seasons in school history in a variety of categories. The ability to put together long scoring drives is a huge difference from 2012 to 2013.

Last season the offense produced 13 drives that covered 75 or more yards. This season the number has jumped to 23. With one more the Tigers will match the total the unbeaten 2004 squad produced. The unbeaten 2010 team produced 29 drives of that length in 14 games.

*Saturday's 2:30 p.m. CST game will be televised on CBS with Verne Lundquist doing the play-by-play and Gary Danielson will be color analyst.


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