Inside Slant

The Sports Xchange

September 04, 2018 at 9:05 pm.

Tigers looking for better rushing game

Auburn may have gotten a huge win in beating then-No. 6 Washington in its season opener, but the Tigers (1-0) still have some things to work on as they prepare for Saturday’s home opener against Alabama State (1-0).

The Tigers were penalized 12 times — four on offense, six on defense, and two on special teams — for 111 yards in the 21-16 win over the Huskies, and coach Gus Malzahn wasn’t all that happy with the rushing attack that produced only 147 yards.

Running back Kam Martin accounted for 80 of that, and redshirt freshman Jatarvious Whitlow added 28 on eight carries, 10 coming on a third-down dash up the middle for what proved to be the decisive touchdown.

“What really stood out to me is we’ve got to run the football better,” Malzahn said in recapping the win. “I give Washington credit — great run defense — but we need to improve in that area. We gave up a few deep passes, they made some outstanding plays with that.

“Really the main thing with me is the penalties. The penalties we had are completely unacceptable. We take great pride in not beating ourselves, and so we are going to focus on that and that will be corrected moving forward.”

The win over a Top 10 opponent and a team seen as a College Football Playoff contender, moved the Tigers up two spots in the poll to No. 7.

They will be heavy favorites over the FCS Hornets, who rallied to beat Tuskegee 26-20 in overtime last week, but Malzahn is taking a page out of the coaching handbook in his approach to the game against the SWAC foe.

“We don’t take anything for granted,” he said. “The good teams that have a chance to win a championship don’t. This week is about us getting better.

“Last week is behind us and we have to figure out a way to get better. There’s all kinds of areas that we should improve on and need to improve on, and that’s the way we are approaching this game.”

Malzahn praised Washington as a team that was “good as advertised.”

“That team is going to be tough to beat,” he said. “They’ve got a complete team. And that’s why I was proud of our group that we found a way to win.

“We knew it would be close at the end. We didn’t win any close games last year, but we did this year and we can take that moving forward the next time we’re in that situation.”