Nov. 12, 2013
Auburn's Tre Mason was on the for 117 yards against Tennessee (Todd Van Emst photo)
By Charles Goldberg
AUBURN, Ala. -- Run. Pass. Auburn coach Gus Malzahn doesn't care. He wants first downs anywhere he can get them because that's the key to his lickety-split fast-paced offense.
"When we're playing fast, that's when we're at our best. Obviously, you've got to get a first down before you can do that. We'll continue to try that to be an advantage," Malzahn said during his weekly press conference Tuesday.
Auburn collected 25 first downs in last Saturday's 55-23 win over Tennessee, a remarkable achievement considering the Tigers scored so fast on three drives that they needed only one first down before scoring.
They'll be looking for more pace and more points against Georgia in Saturday's 2:30 p.m. game in Jordan-Hare Stadium.
Auburn was a run-heavy team in consecutive wins over Arkansas and Tennessee, throwing it just 16 times while running it 99 times. Did it work? A combined score of 90-40 suggests it did. Auburn leads the SEC in rushing by a huge margin. The Tigers are second in the league in total offense.
Does the extreme run/pass ratio bother Malzahn? Nope.
"The main thing is whether you run it every time or whether you throw it every time, if you're playing good football and you're successful and you're winning, that's really the bottom line," Malzahn said. "It goes back to building around your strengths. Whatever your strengths are, that's what you play to.
"If you're able to be successful, you keep doing it. Football is not a complicated game. A lot of people make it complicated, but you do what you're good at. Right now, we're good at running the football. With that being said, we're going to have to be able to throw it at times. We know that. We'll keep working and I think we can do it."
Auburn has smashed through the low threshold of last year's offense and ranks seventh nationally in yards per play at 7.08 yards per snap. Auburn has scored 30 or more points in six straight games for the first time since 2004.
Georgia figures to be a more formidable opponent than Arkansas or Tennessee.
"Obviously, we have a big challenge for us this weekend, playing one of the top teams in the country at the first of the year before they had injuries. They're getting healthier," Malzahn said. "They've got 16 returning starters off a team that almost won an SEC championship last year.
"They've got one of the better quarterbacks to ever play in the SEC. It'll be a huge challenge for our guys and we do realize we're going to have to keep improving and get ready to play."
Georgia quarterback Aaron Murray is now the all-time SEC leader in touchdown passes, passing yards and total offense.
"He's extremely talented. He's got great experience. He's been in big games, handles pressure well. It's all of the above. And he's mobile enough to hurt you with his feet, too," Malzahn said.
Malzahn said he expects former Georgia defensive back and current Auburn quarterback Nick Marshall to be OK playing his former team.
"There's no doubt in my mind he'll be ready to play. Like I said earlier, he doesn't get too high or too low. He's an even-keel guy. He's motivated, and I know he'll be ready," Malzahn said.
On Marshall's return to the SEC at Auburn.
"I started recruiting him at Arkansas State. We did our homework on Nick when we were there and got a chance to get here," Malzahn said. "Of course, Rodney Garner was there with him. We had all the information we needed and we're very proud of Nick as a person and as a player.
On Auburn's turnaround season:
"I think it's all about our players coming together, putting the past behind them and becoming close and I think developing relationships with each other and developing relationships with coaches. I think that is the start of it."
Video: Gus Malzahn talks Auburn, Georgia and more:
Charles Goldberg is a Senior Writer at AuburnTigers.com. Follow him on Twitter: Follow @AUGoldMine