By Charles Goldberg
AUBURN, Ala. — Three straight wins won't spoil the Auburn football team, says coach Gus Malzahn. He says his seniors and leaders know there's still plenty of work to do.
"The good thing about this team is our leadership is very strong," he said at his weekly press conference Tuesday. "The leadership will definitely keep everybody grounded. They're on a mission. They really helped us through the tough times. It really starts with our leaders. They've got a good pulse for our team. Our younger guys really listen to them. They found a way to practice and be ready to practice every practice. There hasn't been any kind of practice where I'd say, 'Aw, we just survived through practice.' And that's tribute to our leaders. As far as things are going better now, this is a well-grounded team and there won't be any issues as far as patting ourselves on the back."
Auburn, which opened the season against two Top 10 teams in the first three weeks, has bounced back from a 1-2 start with wins over LSU, Louisiana-Monroe and Mississippi State. Next up is No. 17 Arkansas at 5 p.m. Saturday in Jordan-Hare Stadium.
Malzahn said the Tigers have improved since the season-opening loss to No. 3 Clemson.
"I would say quite a bit, but that was the first game and there are probably other teams in the country that can say the same thing," Malzahn said. "Just for us, I think it's fair to say we’re quite a bit better."
Malzahn says Auburn has found its way on offense, as in scoring 12 touchdowns in the last two games might suggest. That's a turnaround since Auburn was dogged by negative plays early in the year.
"It's kind of like when you just focus on something," Malzahn said. "We were having too many negative plays and there are a lot of variables that combine into having negative plays. That's really a tribute to the offensive staff.
"They looked at it and looked at the areas that we needed to improve and not do some things and maybe do some other things. It’s not just one thing, it's just more of an approach and a point of emphasis. We’re proud of our players for making that change too and being able to execute certain things."
Auburn's Gus Malzahn salutes Quentin Groves, gives scouting report on Arkansas. Video. pic.twitter.com/rZaXVjJOsY
— Auburn Gold Mine (@AUGoldMine) October 18, 2016
• Malzahn began his press conference saluting former Auburn defensive star Quentin Groves, who died at age 32.
"Obviously, very sad news regarding Quentin Groves over the weekend. Our thoughts and prayers go out to him and his family," Malzahn said. "He was one of the better pass rushers to ever come through Auburn."
• Malzahn said he's hopeful that running back Kerryon Johnson will play Saturday after spending last week's open date nursing an ankle injury.
"I think after today we'll have a better idea of his status. I think the positive thing is he did practice Sunday."
Charles Goldberg is a Senior Writer at AuburnTigers.com. Follow him on Twitter: Follow @AUGoldMine