Auburn, Ala.--When Auburn takes field Saturday against the LSU Tigers in Death Valley, Coach Gus Malzahn’s offense will be trying to find the magic that has been missing the first two games of the 2015 football season. Struggling to establish a consistent ground game along with the very obvious problems for quarterback Jeremy Johnson, Auburn is looking to turn things around this weekend and Malzahn said some of the problems belong to him.
“From my standpoint, I've got to do a better job of putting him in good situations,” Malzahn said of Johnson. “ It all works together. He's an extremely talented quarterback. Hei s going to play well. He has had a couple of growing pains, but that's part of it.
“The good thing is we're 2-0 going through some growing pains," the coach said. "We have got a good plan for him moving forward and he will play better.”
Senior wide receiver Melvin Ray echoed the coach's comments about Johnson. On the receiving end of a touchdown pass from his junior quarterback with 39 seconds left to tie the game against Jacksonville State, Ray said the finish to Saturday’s game was important for the team, but it wasn’t something that changed how the team feels about their quarterback.
“Jeremy has always had a lot of confidence,” Ray said. “I just try to keep giving him encouraging words. He’s a great athlete. We have all the confidence in the world in him. He will be fine. His mind is already set this week. He’s already in a very positive mindset right now. He’s ready to go.”
As for the mindset of the entire team, Ray notes that is not in question in his mind. Even though the Tigers have struggled to win their first two games, he said this team hasn’t changed its expectations as it prepares to face a ranked LSU team.
“At the end of the day we know what we have with each other and know what we’re capable of,” Ray said. “We know we haven’t played up to our standard, but we’re still 2-0 and we haven’t played as good as we want to play so we know we can only go up from here. That’s what we plan on doing.”
If Auburn wants that to happen it will take a more complete performance from offense and defense on Saturday in Baton Rouge while the special teams will need to continue to be solid. While all are important it’s the offense that will get much of the credit or much of the blame when the dust settles in Red Stick on Saturday night.
Two years ago things clicked for Auburn at LSU in the second half, but not before it was too little and too late for Malzahn’s team. Needing that to happen this weekend in a big way, Malzahn said the key is to get big chunk yardage plays and then see what happens.
“Well, we're still kind of learning about our guys,” Malzahn said. “We're a run, play-action team. We need to run the football. I think the big thing from our standpoint is the explosive plays.
“When we're playing good football we have those explosive plays. We've had very few explosive plays the first two games. From a coaching standpoint that's something we're focusing on.”
Kickoff for Saturday's SEC opener for the Tigers is 2:30 p.m. CDT and the game will be televised on CBS.