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Upon Further Review: I Rather Like New Gus

By on October 1st, 2019 in Football 10 Comments »

Julie Bennett-USA TODAY Sports

It’s no secret that Auburn head coach Gus Malzahn doesn’t give great interviews. Whether it’s in-game interviews, post-game shows, mid-week conference calls, or even those fund raiser events that take him across the state, Gus doesn’t give anything away. Simply put, he plays his cards close to his vest, which is boring and offers no legitimate insight into the game. Gus has patented answers to almost any question, and those answers usually involve “the future is bright” or “he’s a guy that’s done some good things.” Gus has been the lovable coach that refuses to cuss, offering a lot of “awe shucks” when things don’t go his way. 

It’s true that despite wearing a visor he’s never thrown it like Steve Spurrier. He’s never said, “they ran through our $#% like ^*@# through a tin horn,” but he has said, “we whipped the dog crap out of them.” The most emotion that Gus Malzahn has ever shown is a striking resemblance between Beaker from the Muppets and the look your dad gave you when you watched a third strike in the championship game.

For years, one of the mantras that a lot of Auburn fans had, through the good and the bad, was “at least we aren’t Bama.” Of course, they are referencing the coach across the state, who may be the best ever to coach the game. He’s been called a lot of names over the years by Auburn fans, but despite what fans think of him and how he does it, coach Nick Saban wins and wins and wins. When he is winning, he never stops coaching for a minute and is famous for his fiery temper. It doesn’t seem to matter if it’s an assistant coach, a kicker, a second- or third-string lineman or his star quarterback, if you don’t do what you are supposed to do, he’s going to find you and likely cuss you out. 

For the first half decade of the Malzahn era, Gus has been anything but Saban. In many ways, he has been the antithesis of Saban, which is fitting since Alabama is the arch-rival and nemesis of Auburn University. Along the way, Gus is the only current head coach to beat Saban and the Tide twice. There are many opinions on Auburn’s success against the Tide as well as against other top teams across the country. Some point to a special player here or there. Some just think it’s “the odd year.” Others believe it’s about his play calling and whether Gus is motivated. All of these parties are at odds with accepting the bad years because of the good years. One faction believes that Auburn deserves better, the other may think this is simply where Auburn belongs. 

In the in between is a lot of mediocrity. 

Across the state, it’s called “the process.” It’s the full range of identifying recruiting needs, recruiting players, developing them, and holding them accountable through their college career. Auburn has essentially matched Alabama step for step in most of this, but one thing that’s been really missing is the last two, crucial parts of the process. The number-one question that has followed Gus Malzahn is can he develop players? The last point about holding them accountable is something that has been done only partially. Malzahn has done a terrific job of keeping kids out of trouble off the field, but coaching accountability hasn’t shown up on the field as it does in Tuscaloosa. 

The season is still young, but Auburn is 5–0, has a Top-10 matchup in Gainesville this weekend that will, by all accounts, propel it into the elite if it wins. Malzahn has a chance to do something he’s never done at Auburn: go 6–0 to start the year. While a lot of people are thinking that this could be a trap game for the Tigers, or thinking that having the most impressive team in the country is too good to be true, allow me to say that this year feels and looks different.

It feels and looks different because the man pacing the sideline doesn’t look anything like the good ole boy who has been at the helm for Auburn all these years. Gus Malzahn may be coaching for his job this year, or not, but it surely seems as if he believes he is, and it’s brought out an urgency that we’ve not seen before. It comes in the form of challenging both referees and players, something that he’s seldom done. By that, we aren’t referring to light-hearted pleas to the refs or pats on the butt and a “you’ll do better next time” to players. No, this is past the numbers and dressing down the refs or following a player all the way to the bench to let him know what he thinks of the bonehead play he just made. 

Wouldn’t you know it, his players are starting to look like a team from that dynasty over there. One of the most impressive things Malzhan has done this year is getting a good lead and letting his defense chew up minute after minute of clock. The one time the Texas A&M game looked like it might get close, the team executed a long, terrific drive to score a touchdown and put the defense right back on the field.

He’s relying on his defense as he develops his offense. In the past, he would have thrown his quarterbacks (all of them) to the wolves and mixed in as many trick plays as he could. This year, he has slowly but surely built the offense into what looks to be as complete a unit as Auburn has seen since 2004. Just a week ago, people were wondering if Bo Nix would throw for more than 100 yards in a game. Malzahn unleashed him Saturday against a good SEC foe, and the numbers speak for themselves. 

Auburn doesn’t have a Nick Saban. They don’t want a Nick Saban. But they needed something else from their head coach and by all accounts this new Malzahn is closer to what Auburn folks have wanted than ever before. I rather like the new Gus. 

10 Comments

  1. AUglenn says:

    Good article but I disagree about Gus’ emotion…spot on in interviews but (except when he gave up full control of offense) he was very animated on sideline. Coach Boom was going up and down sideline swinging his hand up and down toward turf as if to hurry his offense and even had assistant charged with restraining him from going on field when he got angry at refs.

  2. Acid Reign Acid Reign says:

    …..One thing of note that supports this is that Auburn got a sideline warning against MSU, and then actually got penalized yardage on that a while later. Gus just wasn’t having it!

  3. zotus zotus says:

    RE: “Auburn doesn’t have a Nick Saban. They don’t want a Nick Saban. But they needed something else from their head coach and by all accounts this new Malzahn is closer to what Auburn folks have wanted than ever before.”

    What Auburn folks you channeling here, Zach, Jay ‘Gator’ Jacobs? Steven ‘Cyclone’ Leath? Jimmy ‘Big Orange’ Sexton?
    ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
    RE: Your confession that, “I rather like the new Gus.”

    But, compared to what, Zach? I assume you mean compared to the so-called “old Gus.”
    ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
    P.S. FWIW, most of us have been following Gus Malzahn’s coaching career since the Right Reverend Houston Nutt plucked ol’ Gus (and his star QB) out of high school back in 2006 and brought the ill-fated pair to Fayetteville, for a cup of coffee.

    And, yes, most of us have heard all about the so-called “ups and downs” and the so-called “twists and turns” of Gus Malzahn (the football coach) — just as if folks were talking about the bloody Highway to Hana!!!

    But, unlike the trip to Hana, all the talk about “ups and downs” and “twists and turns” of Gus Malzahn (the football coach) is nothing but an illusion. A pure and simple distortion of reality.

    P.P.S. It ain’t that complicated, folks. With Gus, like with most everyone else on the planet: What you have seen, over the long-haul, is what you’re likely to get down the road.

    Here’s what Auburn has seen out of Gus Malzahn as head football coach since he was hired as Auburn HC in 2013:

    Record against all teams: 53 wins, 27 losses
    Record against LSU UGA & UAT: 6 wins, 13 losses

    That’s right folks, just like the highway to Hana, what you see with ol’ Gus is what you get. WDE!

  4. uglyjoe says:

    I have to take the unusual position for me of non-sunshine pumper. It is no secret that I am not a Gus fan, and while interesting, his change in demeanor is not that big of deal to me. However, here is where we stand on the season……A good win over what seems to be a good Oregon team, but it was the first game of the year, and we did get beat for three of four quarters. Two gimme wins with less than stellar first half performances, an eight point win over what is fast becoming a mediocre Texas A&M team (they almost bought it against Arkansas), and a blow out against a now two loss very mediocre MSU team. Even with a win this weekend, I’m not sure that Florida was a top ten team…….

    I originally predicted a 7-5 or 8-4 season. At this point I’ll revise to 8-4 or 9-3. I may be harsh, but I’m just not convinced we’re as good as advertised (yet).

  5. Orangeblood says:

    Balance…., is what I’m seeing more out of this Auburn team. Both defensively and offensively. With higher levels of production.

    Nix is an excellent game manager.

    Please update the records.
    Dabo Swinney has beat Alabama Head coach Nick Saban twice.
    In NCG’s.

    Hugh Freeze beat him two years in a row also. And Freeze is “currently” coaching Liberty

    Mark Right and Urban have two wins against him. Although retired.

    Of course Malzahn is the only SEC active coach with two.

    Of course I could be wrong.

  6. easyedwin easyedwin says:

    zotus, if this were baseball I would call BALK!
    Simply put; one cannot pretend to go to the plate.
    One cannot pretend to coach Auburn football.
    There is no room for boredom. What we are seeing is what we are getting.

    • zotus zotus says:

      Dear easyedwin,

      Pretty good imagery you throw out there, I must say.

      BTW, I’ve posted here before that every time I see ol’ Gus on the Auburn sidelines going through his awkwardly self-conscious shenanigans for the sake of the TV cameras — that he knows are pointed at him — that great Dire Straits tune “Money for Nothin” immediately pops into my head.

      After reading your comment, the next time I see ol’ Gus showing us one of his over-rehearsed “method acting” routines, the strong beat of Eric Clapton’s classic “Pretending” will no doubt be hard to hold down in the back of my mind.

      WDE!

  7. WDE7385 WDE7385 says:

    I’m happy to say I have not seen Capt. Queeg this year.

  8. Tiger4Life says:

    Gus is the head coach.
    Gus is calling the plays.
    Gus is in charge of the offense. (Recruiting, Development, Performance)
    Lets go the stats.
    PPG Nationally-
    #1- L S U- 54.6 (Ed Orgeron can not make as much money as Gus)
    #2- Oklahoma- 53.4 (They have beaten some SEC heavyweights in bowl games)
    #3- Alabama- 51.8 (Saban is a defensive guy, right?)
    #4- Ohio State- 49.3 (SEC/UGA transfer QB- 1st Year Head Coach)
    #12- Georgia- 42.8 (Saban Jr. is ALSO a defensive coach)
    #38- Auburn- 33.8

    38th ain’t bad… unless you go 8-5

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