Sep 2, 2013
Offensive coordinator Rhett Lashlee says Auburn will face a major challenge against Arkansas State (Todd Van Emst photo)
AUBURN, Ala. – Gus Malzahn, Rhett Lashlee and J.B. Grimes helped create a monster, and now they have to deal with it.
A year ago, Malzahn was the head coach at Arkansas State, Lashlee was the offensive coordinator, and Grimes the offensive line coach. They weren’t thinking about going anywhere. Just more than three months later, they had moved to Auburn. Along the way, they helped the Red Wolves win their last eight games and a Sun Belt Conference championship.
Saturday, the Red Wolves will visit Jordan-Hare Stadium, no doubt on a mission to spoil the day for the coaches who left town.
Auburn opened the Malzahn era last Saturday night with a 31-24 victory over Washington State. In Jonesboro, Ark., Arkansas State overwhelmed FCS foe Arkansas-Pine Bluff 62-11 for its ninth consecutive victory. That’s the second longest winning streak in the FBS.
“They have a lot of good players,” Malzahn said. “They are a very good team. They have a lot of confidence. We’re going to have to play better than we did tonight to beat them. We’ll be ready, and it will be a good one.”
Dozens of players will see Malzahn, Lashlee and Grimes for the first time since last December. Two coaches – co-offensive coordinator Elijah Drinkwitz and defensive coordinator John Thompson – were on Malzahn’s Arkansas State staff. Drinkwitz was a graduate assistant at Auburn in 2010 and 2011 when Malzahn was offensive coordinator. He has a national championship ring.
Competing against friends, Lashlee said, is no fun. But at gametime, friendships and relationships are put aside.
“You don’t like playing players and guys you are close to,” Lashlee said. “At the same time, when the game kicks off, trust me, you want to kick their tails and they want to kick yours.”
Lashlee said the Red Wolves will come to town ready to give maximum effort.
“There are some really good kids on that team,” Lashlee said. “Those guys are going to fight, and they are guys that know how to win. We’re going to have our hands full.”
In Saturday’s victory over defending Southwestern Athletic Conference champion Arkansas-Pine Bluff, the debut for head coach Bryan Harsin, the Red Wolves dominated from start to finish.
Arkansas State rushed for 509 yards and became just the seventh school in FBS history to have four 100-yard rushers in the same game.
Tennessee transfer David Oku, once a priority Auburn recruit, had 124 yards on 16 carries. Sirgregory Thornton had 112 yards on nine carries. Michael Gordon had 102 yards on four carries. Fredi Knighten had 101 yards on just three carries.
“Today was all about us going out there and doing our jobs,” Harsin said Saturday, "really just taking everything we’ve done through spring ball, summer, and fall camp into tonight’s game. I’m really proud of our coaches and the effort they put in preparing the players.”
Arkansas State’s defense held Arkansas-Pine Bluff to 12 yards rushing and 161 yards passing.
Phillip Marshall is a Senior Writer for AuburnTigers.com. Follow Marshall on Twitter: