A lot of people, including myself, doubted Gus Malzahn at the start of the season. The Auburn coach has proven us all wrong.
I’ve written a lot about Gus Malzahn in the past. I’ve wondered if he was the new Gene Chizik. I criticized his offseason comments about being too much like a CEO, and then went after him for giving up play-calling duties. I’ve questioned whether or not he would even be in Auburn as the head coach next season.
For all of that, I owe him a mea culpa, an apology, an admission that I was wrong.
The Tigers are playing their best football since the end of 2013, Malzahn’s first season on The Plains when Nick Marshall, Tre Mason and company were running through, over and around defenses. In Saturday’s 56-3 demolishing of Arkansas, Auburn ran for 543 yards, a school record for a SEC regular season game.
This was an offense that looked as bland as the latest Kevin James sitcom during the first couple of weeks of this season, a symptom that had seemingly bled over from the previous year. The offensive-minded Malzahn could not come up with answers, so it seemed that handing off play-calling duties to protégé Rhett Lashlee was a last-minute effort to salvage his job by shuttling responsibility elsewhere.
Instead, it has ended up being Malzahn’s best move since sending Chris Davis into the end zone in case Alabama’s kick came up short in the 2013 Iron Bowl.
The Tigers struggled against LSU, but came out with an 18-13 win in a crazy finish. Auburn hasn’t looked back since, winning four straight including two straight blowouts of fellow SEC West teams Mississippi State and Arkansas.
A game against Ole Miss in Oxford looms this Saturday, but with the running game clicking on all cylinders (No. 3 in the nation averaging 302.86 yards per game), Lashlee’s play calling confusing opponents, and the overlooked defense stifling opponents, the Rebels will have to play a great game in order to stop the Auburn Express.
It was a brave and bold move for Malzahn to relinquish total control of the offense considering that is what he is known for and is how he rose through the coaching ranks. It could have backfired, and his job would have been seriously in jeopardy.
For now, it shows that he puts the well-being of the team ahead of his ego, and that maybe all of those doubting him, including myself, should have had a little more faith in him before, and even more moving forward.