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'This is a new year' - Gus Malzahn previews No. 10 Auburn's trip to LSU
Gus Malzahn's Tigers have outscored opponents 62-13 in the first quarter this season. Photo: Wade Rackley/Auburn Athletics

Oct. 10, 2017

By Jeff Shearer

AUBURN, Ala. - When it comes to first-quarter efficiency, the Tigers' 2017 starts have been #AuburnFast.

Outscoring opponents 62-13 in the opening quarter in six games, and 42-6 in three SEC wins, a fast start would be most welcome Saturday at 2:30 p.m. when No. 10 Auburn plays at LSU, seeking its first Baton Rouge win since 1999.

"We've gotten behind early, consistently," Auburn coach Gus Malzahn said of recent trips to the bayou. "We've got to overcome that and that'll definitely be part of the message. This is a new year. Even though some of our players were there two years ago, this is a different dynamic. This is a new staff. They have a new team. They have a new head coach. Everything is different.

"We do need to understand that it has been a long time since we have beaten them there. I think we all need to know that, but this is a new year and that is the way we are looking at it. It is a big challenge to go there and win."

After winning three straight SEC games by at least 20 points for the first time in 30 years, Auburn will face an LSU defense that ranks No. 4 in the SEC, allowing 18.8 points per game.

Auburn quarterback Jarrett Stidham, the SEC's leader with a 71.2 completion percentage, has distributed 17 pass plays of 20 more yards among seven receivers.

"Our tempo has gotten better," Malzahn said. "Knowing who we are and running the football effectively, which I think is where it all starts -- also having the ability when your quarterback is highly efficient and protecting the football and making good decisions.

"I think the fact that we are spreading it around to a lot of different receivers is really good. We still have a lot of areas to improve on."

Developing Auburn's strengths against opponents determined to negate them requires precise execution, Malzahn said.

"The challenge is very few teams around the country continue to improve," he said. "That is extremely hard to do. It takes a lot to get up each week and play at a high level. Very few teams can do it. That is our challenge. It is not easy. If we do it then we will end up having a pretty good year."

Reflecting on the midpoint of his fifth season as Auburn's head coach, Malzahn praised his team's players and their character, along with his coaching staff.

"They are good people, good examples for our players," he said. "As far as all of the stuff that it takes to be a consistent, top program, we have the makings for that. The challenge is we've got to continue to show that on the field. We've gotten that the last three weeks.

"But you've got to be real with yourself as a coach that the second half of the year, the meat of our schedule is coming up. We have a chance and that's the message, but overall I feel very good about where we are at, and we've got to finish strong in the second half."

Jeff Shearer is a Senior Writer at Follow him on Twitter:



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