Leonard Fournette (above) is the key player for LSU's offense.
Auburn, Ala.--When the Auburn Tigers take the field on Saturday at LSU, Coach Gus Malzahn’s football team will head into the contest as a underdog for the first time this season.
Kickoff is set for shortly after 2:30 p.m. CDT at Tiger Stadium in Baton Rouge where the visiting Tigers will look to play their best game so far this season after close calls vs. Louisville and Jacksonville State in weeks one and two bumped Auburn out of the Top 10 in both of the major polls.
Auburn’s defensive coordinator Will Muschamp who also spent time coaching on the LSU side of this SEC West series, should have a good idea of what to expect on Saturday in Baton Rouge.
“(Tiger Stadium) will be a great environment,” Muschamp said. “It’s the rivalry of Auburn and LSU. Since the ’90s it has been as good of a rivalry as there is in college football. Certainly, one game does not make or break your season. Our players do understand the importance of the game.”
The 2007 contest between LSU and Auburn stands out to Muschamp in particular due to the wacky finish. LSU’s Demetrius Byrd caught a pass against Auburn’s Jerraud Powers, a current NFL?cornerback, with one second left to deny Auburn a road victory in Death Valley.
“I thought they were going to run the clock out,” explained Muschamp, who was in charge of the Auburn defense that night when Tommy Tuberville was head coach. “They took a shot in the end zone and it was a well-thrown ball by Matt Flynn. Jerraud Powers had great coverage.
“I called a run pressure, thinking they were going to center the ball, trying to give them a bad snap. They dropped back and threw the ball. I think if we had tipped it the clock may have run out there.”
Will Muschamp returned to Auburn this season to coordinate Malzahn's defense.
One of the major keys to winning in Baton Rouge will be containing LSU’s star sophomore running back Leonard Fournette, who rushed for 159 yards and three touchdowns on 28 carries in the 21-19 season-opening win at Mississippi State.
“He is a great player,” noted Muschamp. “He’s a guy that you love to compete against. He’s a big back. He’s got really good vision. This guy has got some vision for the cutbacks. A fantastic young man, first of all, and a really talented, talented young man. We certainly know we’ve got our work cut out for us this weekend.”
The biggest issue for Auburn on defense the past two weeks has been containing a mobile quarterback with Louisville’s Lamar Jackson and JSU’s Eli Jenkins’s running threat and escapability troubling Muschamp’s group. The next two games will see more mobile quarterbacks with Brandon Harris at LSU and Dak Prescott for Mississippi State on Auburn’s schedule this month.
“Every (quarterback) we’re facing on our schedule is a guy that can move around a little bit,” Muschamp said. “I think in the first ball game we faced some things drastically different from what Louisville has ever done. (Saturday) we felt like we had some things we liked and we just didn’t execute very well. We’ll look at these things and continue to improve our football team.”
According to Muschamp, the preparation for teams like LSU that run two-back offensive schemes started early. “It’s something we work on in camp,” he said. “We get some two-back looks because we understand that in our league you’ve got to be able to play two-back teams. Those are things that we work on a lot. We started it (Sunday evening) with our players. I feel comfortable about our preparation.”