Oct. 26, 2013
Nosa Eguae (94), Cassanova McKinzy (8) and Kris Frost made a statement, and tackles, against Texas A&M (Todd Van Emst photo)
By Charles Goldberg
AUBURN, Ala. — They played on center stage against Johnny Manziel a week ago and won. Tonight, they are a decided favorite against a non-conference opponent in Jordan-Hare.
The Auburn Tigers' mission will to stay on an even keel in the 6:30 game against Florida Atlantic.
"It's not just coach-speak: Our work does not change from week to week," says defensive coordinator Ellis Johnson. "It doesn't matter if we're preparing for Johnny Manziel or we're preparing for Florida Atlantic. We still have the same work habits and the same preparation we have each week."
And so it is that Auburn, 6-1 overall and 3-1 in the SEC, is entertaining Florida Atlantic, 2-5 overall and 1-4 in the Sun Belt.
Florida Atlantic coach Carl Pelini says the Owls off week last week should help, that it's good that Florida Atlantic and Auburn lean on run-first offenses because it helps in preparation and that the Owls are more competitive than last year when Alabama and Georgia combined to outscore them 96-27.
"They're a very dangerous football team," Johnson said.
That still doesn't make this as glamorous, say, from a national perspective, as playing and beating Texas A&M on the road, where Auburn stayed one step ahead of Manziel's athleticism and stayed above his occasional showboating ways.
"That starts with the head coach," Johnson said. "We don't allow it on the practice field, we don't encourage it and it's not tolerated. He always talks to them about keeping their composure. Coach Malzahn, it's a reflection of him the way our players handle themselves. For the most part, it's class, it's physical, it's tough and they play the game the way football is meant to be played. It's never dirty and it's always played with class."
Instead, Auburn has mostly just gone about its business of running the football. The Tigers are tops in the SEC in rushing. But the Tigers have shown they can pass, and they have showed that they can slow down their hurry-up offense, at least for a little while, if the game demands it.
"The speed of the offense operation hinges on the game plan," Johnson said.
That's why the game against Florida Atlantic may have a different feel than the game against Texas A&M.
"There are times when you want to slow down and other times when you don't," Johnson said. "One of the strategies Coach Malzahn had coming in (to Texas A&M) is he felt like we really had to control the ball and control the opposing defense, and we would start running pace-run. At times he wanted to take time off the clock because that's one way you can beat Johnny Manziel. I thought it worked to perfection.
"For the most part, I think our offense has been in great form."
Charles Goldberg is a Senior Writer at AuburnTigers.com. Follow him on Twitter: