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Of Pat Sullivan, Gus Malzahn and an Iron Bowl tuneup
Nov. 22, 2014

Pat Sullivan and Gus Malzahn share a word in Jordan-Hare Stadium

By Charles Goldberg

AUBURN, Ala. -- Gus Malzahn knew something was up when Samford seemed to know Auburn's first few plays.

Something up?

Quan Bray knew exactly was up. 

"I heard them calling the plays. I was just laughing," Bray said.

Auburn's close, feel-good relationship with Samford begins with head coach Pat Sullivan, who won his Heisman Trophy at Auburn in 1971; and more recently, with Samford assistant Kodi Burns, the former Auburn player and graduate assistant who knows Malzahn's playbook.

No hard feelings, though. Auburn won 31-7 in Jordan-Hare Stadium, a positive step toward next Saturday's game at Alabama.

"I feel good about where we're at going into the Iron Bowl. I know our guys will be ready," Malzahn said.

Malzahn said earlier in the week he wanted to use the game to get Auburn's edge back. "I think we did in some areas. I think we are in a good spot going into the Iron Bowl."

That will be a bigger stage than the Samford game. And the game plan may be different. Of Samford, Malzahn said, "they knew a couple of our plays early. We've got to do a better job dealing with that.

"We kind of got some rhythm in the second quarter, and we're a rhythm offense. After that point, we played pretty solid."
This game was hard fought -- Samford led 7-0 in the second quarter -- and it was played with good spirit.

Auburn held out several players so they could nurse injuries heading to next Saturday's game at Alabama. But as far as Samford goes, everybody seemed to know Auburn's plays.

"Kodi Burns, he knows all the plays. We switched a couple of things up, he still knew what was going on," Bray said.

Bray smiled thinking of that. Auburn improved to 8-3 heading for its Iron Bowl showdown at 6:45 p.m. on ESPN. For Malzahn, it was a chance to showcase his big senior class in a pregame ceremony, and to coach against an Auburn legend.

"It was real special for me to coach against Coach Sullivan. He's a class act," Malzahn said. "He had his team ready to play. We knew they'd play hard. That was real special to have him back and get a chance in our stadium."

Sullivan said he was happy with his team's effort. And the bonus was to be back in Auburn.

"It's always nice to come back to this place," he said. "But it's not about me. It's about these guys and about their opportunity to come and play in an environment like this. I was happy for them." 

The game probably lit up Twitter when Samford had the lead, but the Tigers won going away as Cameron Artis-Payne broke the 100-yard rushing mark for the eighth time this season and the defensive line began knocking down Samford quarterback Michael Eubank.

"We harassed the quarterback most of the night. We made him uncomfortable," Malzahn said. "The big factor was we put pressure on the quarterback."


Malzahn said he's "hoping" leading receiver Duke Williams will be able to play against Alabama. He's missed the last two games because of a knee injury.

"I am not ready to make that call yet, but we are hopeful," Malzahn said.

Auburn also held out receiver Ricardo Louis to nurse an unspecified injury.

"We definitely want to get him healthy," Malzahn said.

Charles Goldberg is a Senior Writer at Follow him on Twitter:



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