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Coach Gus Malzahn: Start of 2016 season is ‘most disappointing’ stretch of Auburn tenure

Auburn coach Gus Malzahn on the sidelines as his team faces Texas A&M Saturday, Sept. 17, 2016 at Jordan-Hare Stadium.
Auburn coach Gus Malzahn on the sidelines as his team faces Texas A&M Saturday, Sept. 17, 2016 at Jordan-Hare Stadium. mniziolek@ledger-enquirer.com

Auburn coach Gus Malzahn opens his weekly Tuesday press conference with a standard opening comment.

There was nothing standard about his opening statement this week.

“I've been at Auburn for seven years now, experienced some very good times, a few rough times,” Malzahn said. “The last two losses have probably hurt me worse than any of the others. I fully understand our fan base is disappointed, and they should be. The bottom line is we've got to coach our players better, and that starts with me.”

A humbled Malzahn spent 20-plus minutes issuing a mea culpa of sorts for Auburn’s recent struggles.

Auburn has a 2-10 record in the SEC — including the second longest home losing streak (seven games) to power five teams in the country — going back to the end of the 2014 season. Malzahn doesn’t need to check Twitter or Facebook to sense the fanbase’s growing frustration.

“I definitely feel their pain first of all,” Malzahn said. “I know the Auburn family. I know their expectations. I don’t read social media. I just know they expect us to play good football. I hurt too.”

The offense has been at the center of Auburn’s struggles with a 94th ranked passing offense (194 yards per game), 85th ranked scoring offense (26.7) and the most tackles for a loss allowed (14) in the entire country.

Auburn’s offensive coaching staff struggled to make in-game adjustments against Texas A&M, but a larger issue has been the Tigers’ uneven play calling — an issue Malzahn took responsibility for.

“Hadn’t been very good, has to be better,” Malzahn said. “It’s got to be better. It will be better.”

Malzahn won’t allow any of Auburn’s recent shortcomings to be a distraction or source of friction for the team going forward.

While Auburn defenders pledged their support for the struggling offense following the 29-16 loss to Texas A&M, Malzahn expects a united front when the team hosts LSU this weekend.

“My job is to make sure that our players are all on the same page,” Malzahn said. “We've got an extremely close group. We have great leadership, which helps with that. There'll be no friction within this team. The big thing is our players are playing their guts out.”

Malzahn’s press conference wasn’t all doom and gloom. The coach remains bullish on his team’s chances this season given the close nature of the Tigers’ two losses this season.

Auburn was a Hail Mary away from stunning No. 2 Clemson and had four opportunities in the third quarter Saturday to take the lead against Texas A&M.

“We're close,” Malzahn said. “When you really look at everything, we've played two very good teams, had opportunities. We've got to take that next step. We're going to get this thing turned around. There's no doubt in my mind, and we're going to get this thing going.”

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