Auburn’s coach said he takes everything “one game at a time” and that his sole focus is seeing that his team improves each time it takes the field, be it a practice or a game. To his credit, Malzahn readily acknowledges this redundancy, saying he understands he “sounds like a broken record.”
Monotonous as it is, no one can argue with the results, as the Tigers are 10-1 overall and No. 4 in the BCS standings. A win over top-ranked Alabama on Saturday will give Auburn the SEC Western Division title and a spot in the SEC Championship Game on Dec. 7.
While Malzahn has received a large portion of the acclaim for the team’s success, he preferred to praise his players instead.
“Hats off to our players,” the coach said during his weekly press conference on Tuesday. “I’ve said it before — it doesn’t make any difference who we are playing, they’ve found a way to get better whether it’s a I-AA (FCS) opponent or whether it’s a top 10 opponent. They’ve had the same mindset, and they’ve been prepared each week, and we are going to need to do that again this Saturday.”
Gene Chizik was dismissed as Auburn’s coach the day after last season’s Iron Bowl, which saw his team lose to top-ranked Alabama 49-0. Nearly a year later, Chizik has said nothing about his firing, staying out of the public’s eye, aside from appearing on SiriusXM Radio as a college football analyst.
Tuesday, he finally spoke of his termination as the Tigers’ coach, sitting down for an interview with USA Today.
So what led to last season’s 3-9 implosion?
Chizik said it was a combination of things, including roster attrition following the 2010 national championship run and the fact the Tigers were breaking in a pair of new coordinators.
And it didn’t help that it had problems at the quarterback position all season, either.
“What we probably didn't anticipate was, we didn't anticipate the struggles at quarterback,” Chizik told USA Today reporter Dan Wolken. “And we struggled mightily at quarterback, to the point where the last four or five games we started a true freshman. And you now in this league, that's just hard.”
What hasn’t been difficult, Chizik said, was witnessing the team rebound to such a remarkable extent.
“I couldn't be happier to sit there and watch them win these games, particularly these close ones, however they pull it out, and we all know how that's gone this year,” he said. “It's an absolute joy for me to watch them celebrate and be happy and win. I think without question, that's what I get the biggest joy out of.”
Auburn has envisioned a larger role for Jeremy Johnson each week since the Florida Atlantic contest. But with the way recent games have unfolded, the true freshman quarterback has been stuck on the sideline aside from a few limited snaps.
That may change this weekend, though.
“Coach Lashlee has a very good plan for him for this game,” Malzahn said. “At the same time, if something were to happen to Nick, we feel like he could run our entire offense.”