'It's been a lot of fun...' but work remains for Auburn

Dec. 5, 2013

GusMalzahn
Auburn's Gus Malzahn isn't kidding around: Tigers getting ready for Missouri (John David Mercer/USA Today)

By Charles Goldberg
AuburnTigers.com

AUBURN, Ala. — Most of the known sports world is still talking about Auburn's last-second win over Alabama. But behind the closed doors of practice, the Tigers long ago switched to preparing to play Missouri in the SEC Championship Game on Saturday. 

Gus Malzahn has made it so. 

"The big key is putting last week behind us," he said on Auburn's Tiger Talk radio show Thursday night. "We're facing a Top 5 team. When we've turned the film on, it got our guys' attention. 

"We're playing for the SEC Championship. If you can't get fired up for that, there's something wrong with you. Our guys have had a solid week of practice. They've been locked in." 

Auburn and Missouri are both 11-1 overall. Both 7-1 in the SEC. There are bowl implications, for sure, and maybe, just maybe, a shot at the BCS national title. No matter, it's been a turnaround season for Auburn. 

"It's been a lot of fun so far, but we've got to finish it," Malzahn said.

Auburn leads the SEC in rushing. Missouri is a distant second. Auburn doesn't rely too much on the pass -- though Nick Marshall threw two touchdown passes in the 34-28 win over Alabama -- but Missouri's pass-rushing defensive line is a concern for Malzahn. 

Malzahn called SEC sack-leader Michael Sam "unbelievable." 

"And they've got three or four other guys who can really put pressure on the quarterback. It's our biggest challenge yet as far as pass rush inside. They've got numerous guys. Our biggest challenge is staying out of those for-sure passing situations. 

"I don't think we've seen with this many guys. They can put four guys on the field who can flat get after it."

Malzahn said a "straight drop-back" quarterback would have trouble with such pressure. Marshall usually operates out of a play-action offensive set. 

Away from the Xs and Os, Malzahn was asked if he had gotten his lucky visor back following the crazy scene after the Iron Bowl.

"No, somebody took that hat. But everybody was excited. That's part of it," Malzahn said.

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