Auburn, Ala.--When Gus Malzahn was hired at Auburn one of the first things to come out of his mouth was “It’s A New Day.” Saturday night that was definitely the case as the Tigers were physical on both sides of the ball in a 38-9 whipping of Arkansas State at Jordan-Hare Stadium.
The offense was where many thought the Tigers would take the biggest jump under Malzahn, but in week two it was the defense that ruled the day under the leadership of coordinator Ellis Johnson. Facing an offense that produced four 100-yard rushers a week ago and scored 63 points, Auburn held Arkansas State to 150 yards on the ground with 59 of that coming in the fourth quarter with the game well in hand.
Getting 13 tackles for losses from 12 different players, it was a true team effort on defense as cornerback Chris Davis led the way with 10 stops for the Tigers.
The front seven was also very involved as Cassanova McKinzy made eight tackles as did defensive end LaDarius Owens. Linebacker Jake Holland was next with six stops as the front got pressure and contained the running game.
“We had an edge not to let them in the end zone going into the game,” McKinzy said. “It has nothing to do with the play calling. It was the heart of all the guys on the field. I feel like we just had an edge. We were just playing like a brand new team.”
In the middle Gabe Wright and Angelo Blackson both made their presence felt with five total tackles and three and a half tackles for losses. Blackson said that the group has taken some big strides forward this season.
“We’re just a lot better,” Blackson said. “We are a more technique-sounded unit. We come off the ball faster, but we still have some things to work on. We’re on the rise though.”
The challenge picks up for Auburn next weekend as the Tigers take on Mississippi State to open SEC play. Improvement will once again be the key, said Malzahn, but so far his team has answered the bell in that department. If Auburn can say that again next week then it could be another happy Saturday on the Plains.
“We have high expectations for that group and I thought they did some good things,” Malzahn said. “Like I said in all areas we need to execute better. That’s one of the areas we’ll continue to focus on and we’re a work in progress.
"We are happy to be 2-0 and I think this team has potential," the coach added. "Like I’ve been saying before each practice and game, we’ve got a real chance to do that.”
Premium Subscription Signup