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Auburn looks to build momentum in Outback Bowl
Dec. 29, 2014

Auburn's Rhett Lashlee says Wisconsin will be a challenge in the Outback Bowl

By Charles Goldberg

TAMPA, Fla.  There's one thing left to do, says Rhett Lashlee, and that's the finish the season right.

That would mean beating Wisconsin in the Outback Bowl on Thursday to end a season that had the Tigers ranked as high as third nationally before slipping in the latter stages of the year. The players are bowl savvy, having played in the BCS title game last season, and know the routine.

"They've responded well, they're happy to be here," Lashlee said. "They're having a good time, it's a great bowl, a great opportunity to be here in Tampa. The bottom line is we want to finish this year right. The seniors that have done so much, won over 20 games in the last two years to get us to this point. 

"We want send those guys out the right way, build momentum for the future, and we're playing a really good team that gives us a chance to finish on a strong note. So we’re really motivated. It’s a different motivation, but we’re motivated nonetheless."

Wisconsin, too, wants to send a positive message. It won its division in the Big Ten, but lost to Ohio State 59-0 in the conference title game. Then the head coach left. Then the former coach, and current AD Barry Alvarez, took over the team for the bowl game.

Lashlee says the Big Ten title game was not indicative of Wisconsin's play.

"That's the crazy thing  sometimes those game are kind of like a buzz saw: Everything goes right for one team and everything goes wrong for another," Lashlee said. "I've been on both sides of those things. 

"It’s not like they trounced up and down the field on them. It was a little bit of an anomaly. They made plays in one-on-one situations. They had some long, explosive runs. It kind of got away from them early and snowballed and made it look a lot worse than it should have. This is a team that played LSU to start the season and really had them beat after three quarters and let it slip away late. They're very capable of beating anybody."

The immediate problem for Lashlee and head coach Gus Malzahn is putting together sustained drives.

"They give up under 60 plays a game, I think, so it's hard to stay on the field and I think that's why they won 10 games," Lashlee said. "That last game, I think, was more of the exception to the rule. It was almost kind of an outlier and everything could go wrong went wrong."


• Lashlee said the coaches have been looking at Ole Miss transfer Austin Golson at center in anticipation of the departure Rimington Trophy winner Reese Dismukes.

"We feel like we've got some good guys, some good options in there. We wanted to exhaust our options during this bowl practice, so we're not going to have to wait to spring ball (to say), 'OK, we think this guy can do it' or not. Now, we have information that in the second half of January and February, as we're getting ready for spring ball, we can kind of set our depth chart and hopefully have the guys in the right spot (from) Day 1 so we can take advantage of those 15 practices."

• Starting QB Nick Marshall will get a chance to shine in his final Auburn game, leaving Jeremy Johnson, a contender for the starting job next year, in the same role he's been in for most the season.

"He may play. He always has a chance to play, but Nick's our starter, it's our last game, and we want to do everything we can to win it," Lashlee said. "So that will unfold how it unfolds, there's not a specific plan one way or another."

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



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