Gus Malzahn Press Conference Review: November 22
Head Coach Gus Malzahn (Photo: Auburn Athletics)
Other than Christmas, Iron Bowl Saturday in the state of Alabama is always an exciting time. Auburn football has plenty to look forward to this Saturday, including having the opportunity to knock off an undefeated Alabama team and having many injured players returning from injury. Head Coach Gus Malzahn addressed the media on Tuesday, to answer questions about injuries, as well as talk about the Iron Bowl. Malzahn opened his weekly press conference by saying that the win last weekend over Alabama A&M allowed his team to gain momentum heading into Saturday’s game with Alabama. Moving onto to this week’s opponent, Malzahn says that Alabama’s offense begins with quarterback Jalen Hurts. The freshman has completed 182 passes for 2,168 yards and 19 touchdowns to only 7 interceptions. Malzahn says that Hurts is a quarterback, who can make plays the way that a running back would. “What stands out to me is that when things break down, he makes good decisions and he protects the football. He can throw the football vertically downfield very well and he has really had good command of his offense.” When you think of Alabama, you always think of their defense. The Crimson Tide defense is first in the SEC in three categories: scoring defense (11.4 ppg), total defense (252.6 ypg), and rushing defense (68.9 yards ppg). What makes them such a threat, according to Malzahn? “Defensively, this may be the best pass-rushing unit since I’ve been playing Alabama. They really do a good job, especially when they know it’s a pass situation, of harassing the quarterbacks. It’s been very impressive to see the amount of touchdowns that their defense has created, mostly off of their pass rush.” Injury Report: Auburn, especially on offense, has been riddled with injuries over the last few weeks,including impact players Sean White and Kamryn Pettway. Malzahn announced that Pettway, as well as key run blocker Chandler Cox, will be available for the Iron Bowl. Pettway has not played in two weeks and could give Auburn an offensive spark on Saturday. Other players such as Darrell Williams, Josh Holsey, Tre Williams, and Kerryon Johnson will also be available for Saturday’s game. The only two questions will be at quarterback, and with running back Stanton Truitt. Malzahn says that Sean White threw a few passes during Monday’s practice, but is not ready to make the decision on who will take snaps on Saturday. On Stanton Truitt: “I am not ready to say for sure that he will be back, but he was out there yesterday and he will be out there again today. We’ll probably know more about him later in the week.” Affecting Hurts: As previously mentioned, Alabama quarterback Jalen Hurts is a freshman. Malzahn says that showcasing a solid pass rush will be key in containing Hurts. “We’ve got one of the better defenses in college football this year, and that will definitely help trying to contain the guy. We’ve got to keep him off balance; we’ve got to get after him. Our defensive front has done an excellent job all year, and that will be one of the keys for us defensively, just containing him.” Running the Football: Malzahn says that Alabama’s front seven is one of the nation’s best, and is impressed with the way that they rush the pass. They are also solid at stopping the run, and Malzahn says that his offense’s ability to run the football will be key. We’re a run-play action team and for us to be successful, we’re going to have to run the football and be able to run the football effectively. That’s always the challenge when we play them. The years we do well, we run the ball effectively.” The game day atmosphere at Bryant-Denny Stadium: Malzahn says that this rivalry is unique, in the way that players from the state of Alabama are very aware of how intense this rivalry is, and that it takes out-of-state players a little while to get accustomed. He was also asked about Bryant-Denny Stadium, and what makes it such a tough place to play. “They’re always one of the most talented, if not the most talented, team in the country, and I think this year is really close to the same. In 2010, we won. 2014, that’s still a tough one right there, we had a chance to (win), and we just didn’t get it done. But we’re looking forward to going there, we’re looking forward to going there with this year’s team and looking forward to playing.” Auburn faces Alabama in the 81st edition of the Iron Bowl on Saturday. Kickoff is scheduled for 2:30 P.M.