By Jeff Shearer
AUBURN, Ala. - Fresh off Auburn's first back-to-back 30-point SEC victories in 30 years, Gus Malzhan intends to keep his foot on the gas.
"Our message has been, 'Get better each week,' and I think we had a very solid game overall last week," said Malzahn of Auburn's 49-10 win over Mississippi State. "Our challenge has been to continue to get better. Few teams are around the country are able to improve each week with execution and getting better at who they are and what they do. That is really the formula."
Auburn, the only FBS team that has allowed 14 or fewer points in every game this season, ranks No. 6 in scoring defense, at 11 points a game, and No. 9 in total defense, allowing 259.2 yards per game.
"It is a team defense," Malzahn said. "We talked about how are we going to replace Carl or Mon? Well, the message has been as a collective group. It's been someone new every game. Obviously, when it's been pass situations, Jeff Holland has really come on and is playing at a high level. It is really just the unit.
"It is the second year with Coach Steele and our guys really understand his expectations and schemes. He is allowing our guys to play fast and that is important."
Complementing that defense is a big-play offense that produced seven plays of 30 yards or more against MSU, including four Jarrett Stidham passes that accounted for 205 yards.
"That is something [offensive coordinator] Chip [Lindsey] has really emphasized," Malzahn said. "He wants more explosive plays. We have been able to do that the last two weeks and it has changed everything.
"He will continue to build upon those things. I think you see our wide receivers starting to grow up and have more confidence. They are getting more opportunities and the last two weeks they have seized the moment. We just need to continue to build upon it."
Stidham leads the SEC, completing 72 percent of his passes, which ranks No. 8 nationally.
"We knew he was a very talented quarterback when we recruited him," Malzahn said. "The last three weeks you're really starting to see him get more comfortable and get more of a command of the offense," Malzahn said. "He's been very efficient, and we've got to continue that. When we protect him, I think he's got good decision-making; he just needs more experience."
Auburn, No. 12 in the AP poll, hosts Ole Miss Saturday at 11 a.m. on SEC Network.
"You can turn on the film and you can see they're a talented team," Malzahn said. "They're very scary on offense with their receivers and their quarterback throwing the ball down the field. Defensively, they run to the football."
The Rebels are smarting after a 66-3 road defeat last Saturday in the late show. Irrelevant, says Auburn's coach.
"The teams that are there at the end, they find a way to get up each week," Malzahn said. "You can't buy into what last week was, not in this league, and we're expecting their best, and that's our approach."
Jeff Shearer is a Senior Writer at AuburnTigers.com. Follow him on Twitter: Follow @jeff_shearer