Quoting Coach Gus Malzahn: Miss. State Week

Comments from Gus Malzahn are featured as his Tigers prepare to play Mississippi State in a matchup of the No. 2 and No. 3 ranked teams in college football.

Auburn, Ala.--Comments from Auburn’s head football coach, Gus Malzahn, are featured at his Tuesday press conference previewing Saturday’s game at Mississippi State.

“We have a big game this week with Mississippi State. The last three times that I have personally coached against them it went down to the last play. Last season was no different; it went down to the very end.

“They have a dynamic offense. Their quarterback is one of the better quarterbacks in football. He is like a running back. His accuracy has been extremely impressive this year especially on play-action.

“Their offensive line is an experienced group. Their wide receivers are big and long and they have made some one-on-one plays. Their defense is one of the better defenses that we play--they have nine starters back. They are a veteran group and they tackle well. They are very physical so we have our work cut out for us in that area.

“Obviously the atmosphere will be a very good atmosphere. We are hoping that our experience this year going to Kansas State will help the group. Last year we were fortunate to play really good games. We have a lot of experience back dealing with the noise and everything else that goes with playing a road game.”

On the progression of Dak Prescott and Nick Marshall: “For Nick personally he was still learning the offense when we played them last year. It was a little bit ugly on the offensive side and their defense had a little bit to do with that. Nick is light years ahead of where he was last year. And if you look at their quarterback, he’s very impressive when you break him down.”

On last year’s game vs. Mississippi State: “We were still trying to figure out who we were. We were trying to figure out our quarterback’s strengths. They were very good on defense and they had a lot to do with it. We had to find a way to win. Looking back to last year, that was a really big game for us and the season because we hadn’t won an SEC game at home in a really long time. For us to win that game the way we did at the very end really gave us momentum.”

On Mississippi State’s defensive line: “Last year I felt like it was one of the better defensive groups that we played the entire season.”

On Auburn’s game-winning drive last year to defeat the Bulldogs: “That play was huge. We didn’t play very well. It was ugly. The game was on the line at that point and that’s when we first saw that Nick is very special when the game is on the line. He has answered the bell every time the game has been close. He has that special knack. That was really the first time we saw it.”

On getting ready for a big game: “The best thing for us from a player and coach’s standpoint is we have been in some big games that have been very important. It is not going to be a shock to our system. At this point in our season, in the West they are all big so we are just going to go about it one game at a time just like we have done the last year and a half. We are playing a very good team on the road.”

Your opinion on Mississippi State’s defense: “They are very good in their front seven. They’re big guys, they are explosive guys, they all can tackle. On the back end they have experience. They are just good at what they do.”

On Mississippi State’s defense vs. Texas A&M: “They mixed some things up. They disguised some of their coverages and they got pressure on (quarterback Kenny Hill). They did a good job of disguising some things and they got after him.”

On the play of Sammie Coates vs. LSU: “It was really big for us not only to get Sammie on track, but early in the game. To hit a deep shot down the field just kind of opened everything else up, and now that Sammie is getting healthier it’s a really good thing for us moving forward.”

On the play of running back Cameron Artis-Payne: “He is starting to establish himself as a guy we can get the ball to a lot. He was fresh in the second half, and we already knew even from last year that as the game goes on he actually gets stronger.”

Talk about the level of confidence the Tigers have defensively: “Our defense has played outstanding, and we’ve played some pretty good offenses. It’s the second year in the system. Our front is a very physical front. They have done a great job against the run and our back end has done a great job even though we’ve got a lot of inexperienced guys. We have got two freshmen running around back there. I’ve been very pleased with the way those guys have played.”

On how teams with fast-paced offenses are also having success on defense: “Like I’ve said before, that’s where the game is going--spreading people out, playing fast--but if you can effectively run the football, you’re going to go against your defense in the spring and they’ve got to stop the run so I think that’s what’s happening.”

On throwing the football on early downs vs. LSU: “Especially early in the game, we hadn’t been getting off to good starts and we just tried to do some things to help our momentum, to get some first downs. Now that Sammie is getting healthier, that’s a definite plus.”

Your confidence in Nick Marshall: “We’re very confident in Nick to run our entire offense. He can run the ball, throw the ball, run the zone read and all that.”

On Offensive Coordinator Rhett Lashlee’s role this year: “I thought he was one of the best in the business last year. I’ve felt that way for a long time. He’s very good at what he does and I feel the same way this year.”

On simulating the noise Mississippi State’s cowbells in practice: “You pump in crowd noise and everything that goes with that. You do the best you can.”

On Mississippi State defensive lineman Preston Smith: “He’s a big athletic guy. He’s intercepted a pass and knocked down balls. He’s sacked quarterbacks and he’s good against the run. He’s a very active big athlete.”

On Dak Prescott’s progress in the passing game since playing at Auburn last year: “I believe that was the first game where he actually played the entire game. I thought he threw the ball decently last year. They hurt us on some big throws. They hit four verticals and he made a very good throw. This year it seems that he is a lot more confident, knows where everybody is and is in total control. He is very impressive to watch and break down.”

On the similarities between Prescott and Marshall: “I think they are a little bit different but there are some similarities. (Prescott) is a big guy and he’s like a running back. He’s very impressive when he runs between the tackles. He has running back instincts. Both of them are dual threat guys and I believe both of them are two of the better quarterbacks in the entire country.”

On the status of suspended senior safety Jermaine Whitehead: “He will not be out there Saturday. Nothing’s changed.”

What is your take on offensive guard Devonte Danzey after opening the game vs. LSU? “We are very proud of Danzey. That was his first start right there and he played well for his first start. He had been coming around really well. We talked about playing him in some previous games even more than he did. It was really good to see him to be out there and get some confidence and to perform well against a quality opponent.”

On Patrick Miller’s recovery from an ankle sprain: “He’s back in practice. He’s day-to-day. We’ll see how the week goes with that.”

On your team’s history of playing well in big games: “It’s a tribute to our players because it’s really hard to do from a player’s standpoint to have guys rise to the occasion. We know we are going to get their best shot and we know that it’s a huge game for them. At the same time, it’s a huge game for us. We have goals and this is another big game. The fact that we’ve been in some big games definitely helps from a coach’s standpoint. It’s exactly what I want to get out of our players. They are going to play extremely hard and that gives you confidence as a coach.”

On how the receivers are performing: “I think they’ve progressed well. We’re playing a few more guys than we have in the past because we’re a little bit deeper. Everybody’s starting to settle into specific roles, which helps.”

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