Auburn notebook: After beating Alabama, Malzahn goes to work on Missouri
by Ryan Black
Dec 01, 2013 | 1649 views |  0 comments | 26 26 recommendations | email to a friend | print
Auburn coach Gus Malzahn with quarterback Nick Marshall. (Photo by Bill Wilson/The Anniston Star)
Auburn coach Gus Malzahn with quarterback Nick Marshall. (Photo by Bill Wilson/The Anniston Star)
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AUBURN — Gus Malzahn celebrated Auburn’s epic victory over Alabama for a few hours Saturday night.

Then it was back to work, as he immediately buried himself in Missouri game tape.

“Any time you're playing for a championship, there's no time to relax,” he said during a Sunday teleconference promoting the SEC Championship Game. “We felt like we needed to get a head start on them. They're a very good football team.”

With Malzahn’s gaze squarely on Missouri, his next challenge is getting his team to do the same. He acknowledged it will be difficult following its emotional win against the rival Crimson Tide, though.

“It was a great night, a great win for us, our program,” he said. “We have to put it behind us now and move forward.”

Fans factor into the equation as well, Malzahn noted, as they will be in the players’ ears — or praising them on Twitter — all week, still wanting to relish its Iron Bowl victory. Staying stoic as ever, Malzahn said it’s simply another thing the Tigers will have to forget about.

“And I really believe our team will do that,” he said.

While the mental aspect is one issue Auburn will deal with, he didn’t want to downplay the toll Saturday’s game took on his team, either.

“It was a very physical game last night,” he said. “It was probably the most physical game we've had all year. So definitely we need to heal up in a hurry.”

In that vein, Malzahn said the coaching staff will have to strike a delicate balance in its lead-up to Saturday's game.

“We're going to need to heal up as far as that goes this week (and) at the same time, try to stay crisp,” he said.

When asked directly whether he expected any players to miss the SEC Championship game, however, Malzahn responded in his typically evasive manner.

“We're hoping not,” he said.

Touchdown return

During his postgame news conference Saturday night, Malzahn said he hadn't had a chance to talk to the contest's hero: Senior corner Chris Davis, who returned a field goal 100 yards for a touchdown as time expired.

So what was the first thing Malzahn said to Davis when he finally saw him?

"I just told him, 'Good job, great play,'" Malzahn said. "'Let's get ready for next week.'"

Missouri coach Gary Pinkel was at a loss to describe the play, before finally calling it "unusual."

"Obviously it was remarkable execution," he said. "You have linemen as athletic as other players, coverage teams. It presents a real mismatch. It was great, great execution on their part. They deserve a lot of credit for it."

Pinkel said his team has such a play in its own arsenal, calling it "Chicago" to honor the Chicago Bears, who the Tigers took it from.

"When someone has a 55-yard field goal, right before they get ready to kick, we back one of our safeties up and put them in that exact same spot," he said. "We work on that. (A touchdown) has never happened to us, but we work on that. When we started working on that, we were much more cautious about that."

Ryan Black covers Auburn University sports for the Columbus (Ga.) Ledger-Enquirer and The Anniston Star. Email him at rblack@ledger-enquirer.com. On Twitter @wareagleextra.
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