Jason Caldwell

Auburn football coach Gus Malzahn said his team needs to do a better job making stops on third downs.

As Auburn prepares for a battle of nationally-ranked teams, Coach Gus Malzahn sees an area that needs major improvement for his football team.

Will Muschamp (above) is in charge of Auburn's defense.

Auburn, Ala.--As Auburn heads into its first SEC game of the season, Coach Gus Malzahn said a focus for his football team is to do a better job of getting the ball back to the offense in a more timely manner.

The Tigers only had 10 offensive possessions in regulation in their 27-20 game two victory over Jacksonville State last Saturday. The Gamecocks converted 8-17 third down situations and that helped the visitors hold a 35:25 to 24:35 advantage in time of possession.

“The big focus for us is third downs,” Malzahn said on Tuesday. “If we had gotten off the field a little bit better on third downs early in the game Saturday, and late in the game the Saturday before, we would feel a lot better.

Through two games new defensive coordinator Will Muschamp’s group has allowed opponents to convert 48.5 percent of their third downs, making 16-33 tries.“Will is still learning his personnel,” Malzahn said. “They are still learning the defense. You look out there, you count four and five true freshmen out there at one time.”

Auburn will look to improve defensively as well as offense, too, for Saturday’s 2:30 p.m. game at Tiger Stadium in Baton Rouge, a venue where Auburn has not won since 1999. LSU leads the series 27-20-1 after Auburn’s 41-7 victory in 2014. In games played in Baton Rouge the Bayou Bengals holding a 16-5-1 advantage.

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