Gus Malzahn Previews Tulane

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Auburn Coach Gus Malzahn press conference comments

Tuesday, September 3, 2019, previewing the Tulane game

Opening statement…
”Before I get started, the first thing I would like to do is really complement our band Saturday night. I forgot to say how important they were as far as atmosphere and everything that goes with that. They were a big advantage for us and we really appreciate them along with our fans. It’s our first home game — our players are very excited about that, our coaches are too. We’re playing a very good Tulane team. You look at them from top to bottom and they’re a veteran team — special teams, offense, defense. They’ve won six out of their last seven games and you can tell they’re extremely well-coached. It’s really one of the better teams non-Power 5 that we’ve played since I’ve been the head coach. I’m very impressed with them and we know we’re going to get their best. From our standpoint, we had a big emotional win on Saturday. We’ve got to put that in our rearview mirror. Our challenge now is to make the biggest improvement of the season from game one to game two. I’m real proud of the way that our guys fought. It took a lot of guts. It was one of the biggest comebacks that we’ve had in a long time, but we just have to correct the mistakes. There were a lot of mistakes in all three phases; we’ve got to correct those things and really, that’s our message, the penalties and everything that goes with that. We’re looking forward to being at home. We’re very excited about our crowd and everything that goes with it.”

How hard is it to re-focus those kind of emotions…
“That’s going to be our challenge. That will be our challenge as a team. Everybody saw that was a big emotional win and everything that goes with that. You’ve got to put that in your rearview mirror. Everyone is patting you on the back and everything – you’ve got to put that in your rearview mirror. You’ve got to realize we are playing a very quality opponent. Our players turn on the film — they can tell these guys play their guts out, they play hard and they are talented.”

Punt coverage issues against Oregon…
“We’ve got to cover better; that’s really the bottom line. They did a good job of holding us up and we did a poor job of covering. That’s definitely one of our biggest things that we are addressing this week. It could be personnel; it could be some personnel changes. But we were pretty solid on that last year and give Oregon credit, but at the same time, our expectations are to do a lot better job, especially with the veteran punter that we have.”

Did Arryn Siposs have to adjust his punts because of the large scoreboard…
“No, no that didn’t affect us at all.”

Kickoff coverage issues…
“That’s really two of our biggest focuses on our team — to correct those two. That will be a very important factor for this week. We will do a better job this week with that in both of those areas.”

What kind of improvement would you like to see Bo Nix make this week…
“It’s just like the rest of them; everybody’s got to improve and that’s really our message, whether it’s a player or a quarterback, a coach, we’ve all got to improve from week one to week two and the good teams do that. You know, he at least has a game under his belt now and there’s a lot of things that he knows he can be better at than he was the first game, so we all expect to improve.”

Play of Tyrone Truesdell…
“He played really well, there’s no doubt, and it was good. He’s got some experience and now he’s taking his game to the next level. He’s got to continue to do that and he made some big plays for us. Of course, like we said the other day on that 4th down and a half a yard play, he really got some good penetration and helped the linebacker run through the alley.”

Update on Coynis Miller and Daquan Newkirk…
“Both of them were limited during fall camp and the plan was to just play them a selected number of plays and that’s what we did. We expect both of those guys to improve each week that we play.”

Using the tight end more – is that now part of your identity…
“It’s kind of what we talked about in the off-season, just a little longer edges. A lot of times when you play the odd front teams with a little wider edges, it allows your offensive linemen to go more vertical and not as sideways, so that was part of the plan. We went into that game thinking we would get even-front and odd-front and we get there and it’s mostly odd-front and they were doing a lot of moving and everything that goes with that. So that was part of the plan — just to get a wider edge and create a few more seams, especially on the cut back and, of course, we hit the bounce late in the game, too, so that helped. We want the flexibility to do whatever we’ve got to do with what the defense has given us, so you know we will have that in our package for the rest of the season.”

Using Spencer Nigh…
“He gives us a lot of flexibility. You saw him with his hand down, and you saw him at H-back. He’s a physical guy at the point of attack, and like we said the other night, he made a big catch in the game. I mean that was a huge play in the game, and he tight-turned and got a couple extra yards. So, he had a solid game.”

Are you happy with the tempo of the offense…
“There were times in the game that we did slow it down intentionally, we wanted to make sure we had everything right, but at times our tempo was really good. Especially after we got some momentum with some bigger plays, specifically the one that was uncovered with Eli Stove, our quarterback was heads up enough to see that and just throw it out there. That was just an inside zone, so at times our tempo was good, and I think too we’ll get better as the season goes on with everything from a young quarterback to a couple new guys.”

About Tulane QB Justin McMillan…
“Kevin (Steele) was there when he was there. He’s an unbelievably talented guy with a really strong arm. Like you said, they have won their last six out of seven games; they’re a team on the rise. When you turn on the film Sunday after you get back from putting the other one to bed, it gets your attention in a hurry. They’re a very quality opponent.”

What the made the running game more effective in the second half…
“Probably just being more committed to running the ball and having a wider edge like we talked about, just trying to go downhill at them a little bit. They had the wide edges, and after Bo kept that one early on, they weren’t going to let him do that anymore, so they kind of widened everything out, so that gave us some opportunities to go inside. So it was really more of us being committed to doing it and trying to wear them down, and taking some pressure off our quarterback, too. I wanted him to be settled down a little bit more and I think that helped all the above.”

Trying to identify a second running back option behind JaTarvious Whitlow…
“That’s a focus of ours, there’s no doubt. I just felt like the other night that we just really needed to go with our veteran guy with the way the game was going. But that will definitely have to be a focus so we don’t wear him down. And we’ve got other guys that we feel very good about. Kam Martin obviously, and those young guys, too, are all coming on. And I know (Coach) Cadillac (Williams) is ready to have some other options. Really by the time we get to SEC play, I want all that defined about who we’re going with in order. And the good thing is we’ve got two non-conference games now and we can kind of test some things out and get that ready by the time we get to SEC play.”

Status of D.J. Williams after returning from shoulder surgery…
“That did hurt him, there’s no doubt. But he is a quality player in his own right and we’ve got confidence in him also.”

Status of Will Hastings…
“We feel that Will’s got a good chance of playing. As a matter of fact, he may get a chance to practice some today and we’ll see how that goes. But there’s a good chance he’ll play.”

Status of T.D. Moultry…
“Same thing. There’s a good chance he’ll play, too. We’ll see how that goes in practice. Right now, I’m just telling you there’s a good chance. But we’ll see how everything plays out.”

On Eli Stove playing a big role against Oregon…
“That was really exciting watching him step up. We try to be smart with him because he got a little banged up in fall camp. Our mindset was to get him in the game, and he wasn’t in 100% game shape, but he will get better each week. I think if he was 100%, he would have house-called that one speed sweep. He’s real excited and when we get flashbacks to where he can be at full potential, that will be a really good arsenal of guys that can really run and will help open up our offense.”

Is it more exciting as a head coach to have a last-second win or total control throughout the game…
“You like both of those options, to be honest. The good thing when you don’t play your best and you make a lot of mistakes and you still win,; it gives you a better chance as a coach to correct those things. Our guys see the film and know we didn’t execute like we should have in a lot of things. Give Oregon credit — they are a quality team, but I like it when we get out and execute at a high level. Though when you win a game like that, a lot of times it is how you win and with a freshman quarterback and a team that is down big in the third quarter and finds a way to come back and win, you can take from that the rest of the season in every scenario — every time you’re down, every time you face adversity — and that may be the biggest plus of anything moving forward. Team dynamics of trusting each other, trusting coaches, coaches trusting players and vice versa.”

On the blocking of the wide receivers…
“We have got to get better. We have to be more physical and we have got to get better. That is one of our messages — that we just have to get better.”