Auburn, Ala.--When the Auburn Tigers walked off the field following a 19-13 loss to Clemson in the season opener there were more questions than answers for Gus Malzahn’s team. Fast forward seven weeks and three consecutive wins later and the Tigers are a confident team heading into Saturday’s 5 p.m. kickoff against Arkansas
As to the question if they’re a better team, Malzahn said there’s no doubt.
“I would say quite a bit, but that was the first game and there are probably other teams in the country that can say the same thing,” he said. “Just for us, I think it’s fair to say we’re quite a bit better.”
One of the biggest areas of improvement for the Tigers has been on offense where they have cut back the negative plays dramatically since a week three loss to Texas A&M. The worst team in the country in terms of giving up negative plays at that point, Auburn has been much better at staying ahead of the chains and the results have shown up on the field.
“It’s kind of like when you just focus on something,” Malzahn said. “We were having too many negative plays and there are a lot of variables that combine into having negative plays. That’s really a tribute to the offensive staff.
“They looked at it and looked at the areas that we needed to improve and not do some things and maybe do some other things. It’s not just one thing, it’s just more of an approach and a point of emphasis. We’re proud of our players for making that change too and being able to execute certain things.”
It’s not a surprise that the improvement overall and on offense specifically has come considering the amount of youth on that side of the ball for the Tigers. This year Auburn’s underclassmen have combined for 2,537 of the 2,875 yards of total offense (88.2 percent). That inexperience meant struggles early on, but as they’ve gotten more comfortable Malzahn said they’ve continued to improve and that’s the key for his team the rest of the way.
:We’ve got more new starters and more freshman probably than I can remember,” he said. “That’s good from the standpoint of the future and I think that’s good from the standpoint of having a chance to improve each game too.
“I know there are challenges with inexperience and young guys, but the thing about it is we’re halfway through the season. We’ve got guys that have half a season of experience. You’ve got to take the next step and that’s what we’ve been challenging our young guys to do.”
Auburn will face Arkansas in a 5 p.m. kickoff on Saturday at Jordan-Hare Stadium. The game can be seen on ESPN.