Hogs get Malzahn's attention

By: Bob Holt
Published: Wednesday, September 19, 2018
Auburn head coach Gus Malzahn watches his team warm up before an NCAA college football game against Alabama State, Saturday, Sept. 8, 2018, in Auburn, Ala. (AP Photo/Vasha Hunt)
Auburn head coach Gus Malzahn watches his team warm up before an NCAA college football game against Alabama State, Saturday, Sept. 8, 2018, in Auburn, Ala. (AP Photo/Vasha Hunt)

FAYETTEVILLE -- Auburn has put together one three-game winning streak against the University of Arkansas since the Razorbacks joined the SEC in 1992.

The No. 9 Tigers (2-1, 0-1) are heavily favored to do it again when Arkansas (1-2) plays at Jordan-Hare Stadium on Saturday at 6:30 p.m. in its SEC opener.

Auburn has beaten Arkansas 56-3 and 52-20 the past two seasons, and the Tigers are expected to put another pounding on the Razorbacks, who are 30-point underdogs.

The Tigers' only three-game winning streak against Arkansas is from 2003-2005 when they won 10-3, 38-20 and 34-17.

Those games all seem close by comparison to what Auburn has unleashed on Arkansas in the past two matchups.

The Razorbacks are going into SEC play off a 44-17 loss at home to North Texas, but Tigers Coach Gus Malzahn cautioned his team can't take Arkansas lightly or be caught looking ahead to the rest of the conference schedule.

"We've got Arkansas," Malzahn said Tuesday at his weekly news conference. "Their backs are against the wall. They're a team with a new staff and they're going to improve each week, there's no doubt. We're going to get their best.

"We've got to worry about them. That's all we're worried about. Then after that we'll worry about the next one."

LSU won 22-21 at Auburn on Saturday on Cole Tracy's 42-yard field on the game's final play to cap a rally from a 21-10 deficit.

"You learn from it, you see what we need to improve on, and you see what we need to do better," Malzahn said. "You put that in your back pocket and you move on to the next game.

"We have a lot of guys that have experience doing just that. There's no doubt in my mind that we'll rebound."

Malzahn is in his sixth season as Auburn's coach and twice previously -- in 2013 and 2017 -- the Tigers lost to LSU and came back to win the SEC West.

"It's a bump in the road," Malzahn said. "We still have a good team and we've got good coaches. We've just got to put it all together and improve each week. I really feel like we will."

Junior quarterback Jarrett Stidham, in his second season as the starter, completed 16 of 28 passes for 198 yards against LSU, but he also threw 2 interceptions.

"He'd like to have a couple of those plays back, but Jarrett, we have a lot of confidence in him," Malzahn said. "He'll rebound. He's going to play extremely well."

Stidham has completed 48 of 75 passes (64.0 percent) for 584 yards and 3 touchdowns.

"He's one of the best quarterbacks in all of college football," Malzahn said. "He's our guy, and he'll continue to work hard in practice to improve and get better."

Junior Kam Martin is listed as Auburn's starting tailback, but redshirt freshman JaTarvious "Boobee" Whitlow is the team's leading rusher.

Whitlow has 44 carries for 254 yards, including 22 for 104 against LSU. Martin has 31 carries for 124 yards, including 22 for 83 against Washington. Freshman Shaun Shivers has 21 carries for 149 yards.

Malzahn said all three running backs are competing for playing time, but Whitlow earned more carries against LSU.

"You go into a game and if somebody gets hot, we stay with him," Malzahn said. "Boobee was breaking tackles. He's still learning, too. You even saw Boobee starting to slow down a little bit, which we've been trying to get him to do and read [the blocking]."

Malzahn said he expects the rushing offense to improve as the backs and an inexperienced offensive line play more games together.

"We're still in the early stages of our run game," he said. "I'm confident we're going to get better just with the more experience that group has."

Senior Ryan Davis (13 catches for 109 yards) is Auburn's leading receiver. The position has been bolstered by the return of senior Will Hastings (Pulaski Academy) and junior Eli Stove from knee injuries.

Senior middle linebacker Deshaun Davis leads the Tigers with 19 tackles, including 4½ for losses totaling 12 yards. Senior tackle Dontavius Russell has 3½ tackles for loss, and junior strong safety Daniel Thomas has two interceptions.

Auburn was called for two pass interference penalties on LSU's game-winning drive, and on the season the Tigers have been penalized 25 times for 252 yards.

"Right now we're an undisciplined team as far as penalties are concerned, and that disappoints me," Malzahn said. "But here's the deal -- that starts with me and ends with me.

"We've always taken great pride in being a disciplined team in that area. So we've got to coach them better, and we're going to do that. We're aware of it and we're addressing it.

"We've got a good plan for that, and there's no doubt in my mind we'll get back to playing good, disciplined, Auburn football. Like we know we can, like we have in the past."

Malzahn said the Tigers won't be overconfident against Arkansas.

"I think we've got a veteran enough team to understand in our conference, it doesn't matter what happened in the past," Malzahn said. "You're going to get the group's best. I think coming off a tough loss also helps with that kind of deal.

"We're expecting their best, we need to play well, and our players understand that and our coaches understand that. So I'm not concerned at all in that area."

Saturday’s game

ARKANSAS AT NO. 9 AUBURN

WHEN 6:30 p.m.

WHERE Jordan-Hare Stadium, Auburn, Ala.

RECORDS Arkansas 1-2, 0-0 SEC; Auburn 2-1, 0-1 SEC

LINE Auburn by 30

TV SEC Network

Sports on 09/19/2018

NO. 9 AUBURN (2-1, 0-1 SEC) 2018 SCHEDULE

Sept. 1 vs Washington (Atlanta), W 21-16

Sept. 8 Alabama State, W 63-9

Sept. 15 LSU L 22-21

Saturday Arkansas, 6:30 p.m. (SEC Network)

Sept. 29 Southern Miss

Oct. 6 at Mississippi State

Oct. 13 Tennessee

Oct. 20 at Ole Miss

Nov. 3 Texas A&M

Nov. 10 at Georgia

Nov. 17 Liberty

Nov. 24 at Alabama

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