Gus Malzahns Previews Arkansas (Quotes/Video)

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Auburn Coach Gus Malzahn press conference
Previewing the Arkansas game

Opening statement… “Starting out, I just want to let everybody know that Kyle Davis has been dismissed from our team for breaking team rules. We wish him nothing but the best moving forward.

“Just looking back on the LSU game, obviously that was an extremely tough loss. Blowing a 20-point lead was tough to take, and I just want to say this, I’ve got good coaches, I’ve got good players, and any time that happens, that’s on the head coach and that’s on me. That can’t happen again. It’s not going to happen again, but I take full responsibility. The challenge now is putting it behind us and I will tell you that our players and our coaches have put that loss behind us and they are looking forward to Arkansas.

“Arkansas is a tough place to play. Last time we were there, I think we went four overtimes and lost at the very end. They are a team right now with their backs against the wall and we know we will get their best, and that’s what we’re thinking. We are a little beat up as a team right now. We’ve got some injuries. We’ve got some guys that are playing that aren’t quite 100 percent. That’s normal this time of year, especially not having an off-week, so our guys are looking forward to this game and then, obviously, an off week next week and be able to heal up.”

On Kyle Davis’ dismissal… “I’m not going to compare [him to D’haquille Williams]. Every situation is different and I’m not going to agree with that comparison of the former wide receiver. Any time as a head coach a player has to be dismissed, that hurts. Every situation is different. We have a lot of great kids on this team and any time that happens it’s another opportunity for someone else. That’s just how I look at it.”

On the 17 consecutive runs on first down plays against LSU… “When you look back, we wish we’d have done things a little bit different there. About four or five were RPOs that were a chance to run or pass, but obviously they ended up being running plays. Each game unfolds differently, but like I said, that’s the head coach’s responsibility. We have to do better next time.”

Was he doing the playcalling… “No, I’ve been doing the same thing the whole time. Chip [Lindsey] is calling the plays. Chip is a heck of an offensive coordinator and has done a great job for us. Like I said, I’m not in any part of that, but I’m taking responsibility for everything that happened. We’ll do better next time.”

On Jarrett Stidham’s flexibility to check out of plays… “Jarrett probably has more flexibility than any other quarterback I’ve had since I’ve been in college. From the standpoint of changing protections, RPOs, and decision making, he has more freedom than any quarterback we’ve had.”

Only scoring nine total points in the second half of the last five losses… “We aren’t executing. We’ve got to correct that. That’s my responsibility. We have to do better in second halves, especially when we have leads. We have to get better, and we have a plan to do that.”

Is that happening because of playcalling… “It’s everything. Any time you don’t score points, I think it’s everything.”

It seems like Malzahn is calling the plays… “As a head coach we are going to have a philosophy. We are a run, play action and throw the ball vertically team. We hired Chip Lindsey to be more balanced, and we are more balanced, so you need to throw that in there, too. Chip is doing a good job. Like I said, the second half we just didn’t score points. That is really the tough part right there. But we will rebound and Chip is going to do a super job.”

On what they will focus on to move on from the loss… “We get leads in the second half and we can’t let that happen again. I can’t let that happen again. We have got to do better and I have got to do better in those types of scenarios. The reality is that we have a good team. We have got to put that loss behind us and we have to improve. We are going to do that. There is no doubt in my mind that we will. As bad as we feel, we need to go to Arkansas and get a victory. We need to heal up for a week, and then we will be ready to make the stretch run. That is our approach and that is what I believe.”

On Tre’ Williams and Tray Matthews not being healthy…That was a tough blow to not have Tre’ Williams at all. When Tray Matthews goes down in the first quarter, that’s pretty tough, when a couple of your leaders go down. That is other opportunities for other guys. We talked about depth at the beginning of the year and a lot of those guys are getting to play. We will practice today and I’ll know more. I think Tre’ Williams is going to be able to practice. I’m not sure about Tray Matthews. We are a little banged up, but a lot of people are at this time without having an off week yet.”

On the offensive line… “Casey Dunn will be out this week. He will not play. Mike Horton, we will see where he is at today at practice.”

Does Stidham need to keep the ball more to make offense better… “I don’t think there are a whole lot of reads that he misread. Most of those were the pass off of the zone read more than it was him keeping it. There were a few reads that he had, but he didn’t misread anything as far as that goes.”

Offensive line lineup if Horton and Dunn can’t go… “The way we ended the game is the way we would start.”

On Marquell Harrell’s performance… “I thought he did a good job going in there in that environment. He does have some experience, but I thought he did a good job. I think Prince Tega Wanogho did a solid job, too.”

On Casey Dunn fighting through injury… “Casey is a tough guy. He was begging to get back in. We got him back in the game, and he showed a lot of guts and a lot of courage, but just couldn’t finish the thing. He is a winner. He is a real tough guy.”

Does Kamryn Pettway still fit the offense… “I think probably the biggest issue is that he has not been able to be healthy. It is what it is on that. So I don’t say anything about not fitting into the offense. He is getting closer. I think the other day he was closer to 100 percent. Hopefully after this week he will be 100 percent. A lot of factors go into it, like how big the hole is and everything that goes with it when talking about his carries on Saturday.”

Spreading the ball around to different receivers… “I think up to this point, up to last week, we have done a really good job, probably as good as anybody spreading the ball around. Chip is really good at that and he will continue to do that.”

On the negative reaction from the fans… “We have great fans. Our fans are very passionate. Our fans want to win championships and they should. Anytime you blow a 20-point lead on the road they should be frustrated, and I am frustrated also. We can’t let that happen again and we are not going to let that happen again. And the reality after you get done with that, you have to put it behind you. That is in the rear-view mirror. So we are moving forward. We still have a good team. I think that is evident. When we go to Arkansas we need to win, and when we have an off-week we need to heal up and we will be set to finish this thing. So that is our approach. That is our players’ approach. That is what we are going to do.”

On his reaction to Heath Evans’ criticism… “I can’t remember if I have spoken to Heath since I have been the head coach. He is a TV guy, and TV guys all have opinions. As a coach, I control what I can control. We have a good team and we are going to finish this thing strong. People are frustrated and people have a voice. They can voice their opinion, but that is just an opinion.”

Will he will look to stay aggressive more after last week… “Yeah, and I will go back to this: That starts with me as a head coach, regardless. We have to be aggressive. We can’t lose a 20-point lead. It doesn’t matter if it is running the ball on first down. It doesn’t matter if we give up a punt return, which is uncharacteristic for us. Giving up a 20-point lead is unacceptable.”

Was it a conscious decision to go more conservative in the second half vs. LSU… “No, if I remember, in the first half I think we were running the ball pretty well, and we were up, our defense was playing well. I know we gave up the drive right before the halftime. But the reality is: how many points can they really score on your defense? I know that is one thought as a coach. Obviously, it didn’t work out that way.”

Concern about missed tackles… “No, we had a couple of injuries to a couple of spots right there, especially in the first quarter. And you’ve got to give them credit for making a couple of those plays. Our defense is still a very good defense. Like I said, we’re shorthanded a few guys, but our defense has played very well all year, and they’ll continue to do that.”

On Sal Cannella starting for Kyle Davis… “He was the backup there, and I thought Sal did some good things, too. Coach (Kodi) Burns and Coach (Chip) Lindsey will have a plan moving forward as far as the receivers are concerned.”

On the team putting the loss behind it… “That is our biggest challenge here, and I truly believe our players, our leadership and our coaches won’t let that happen. You could tell when we got back Sunday they were still hurting, but yesterday — our guys put it behind them, and they’ll be ready to play. Like I said, I really believe in this team and I believe that we will bounce back, and not only will we bounce back, that we’ll have a chance to finish this thing like we wanted to when we first started the season.”

Any concern about his job security… “No, the only thing I’m worried about is beating Arkansas and coming back and getting healed up for a week and try to finish this thing with the goals we started with.”

On Arkansas… ”Defensively, they play extremely hard. They play an odd-front defense. Paul Rhoades is their defensive coordinator that was here. Everybody knows that he is an excellent defensive coach. Offensively, they’re throwing it a little bit more than they have. That new quarterback that they have is a big guy, and I think he did some good things. But any time you’re going there, we’re going to get their best. It’s a tough place to play.”

Does playing in his home state of Arkansas still mean something to him… ”That’s where I grew up. It’s always a little bit different going there than it is other places. A lot of my best friends in the world are from around that area and my family is still there, so it’s always a little different when you go back home.”

On the Auburn-Arkansas series… ”I get along great with Bret (Bielema), and have a lot of respect for him as a coach and a person. I know early on there were some uncomfortable things, but I really don’t feel that way anymore. They’re ultra-competitive and wanting to beat us, and we’re ultra-competitive and we’re wanting to beat them.

On the motivation of the players for the Arkansas game… “They’re going to be motivated because it’s an SEC game. Every year is different, and this year is different, but for us, it’s a big game. I’ll just tell you right now — it’s a big game. That’s the way we’re approaching it, and it is.”  

Now that you’ve read all of that, you can watch it here: