The focus of Auburn coach Gus Malzahn’s game plan for Thursday night’s game against Kentucky was music to Ricardo Louis’ ears.
Malzahn detailed how he wanted the Tigers’ offense to come out of the gate pushing the tempo, and taking shots down field.
“When he said in the meeting we are going to be aggressive today, my eyes lit up. I was like oh yeah,” Louis said.
It’s exactly what Auburn did when it won the coin toss, and elected to receive the opening kick.
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Louis was at the center of the effort in the 30-27 win as first-year starter Sean White’s primary target.
By the time the teams went into the locker room at halftime, the senior was only 17 yards shy of his single game career-high of 131 yards. He finished with a new personal best of 154 receiving yards on seven catches.
The 6-foot-2, 215-pounder had three explosive plays in the opening 10 minutes including a season-high 41-yard grab that set up Auburn’s second touchdown.
“We knew he had it in him,” Malzahn said. “He’s a real deep threat.”
Louis came into the game already the Tigers’ top receiver with 193 yards and a touchdown on 19 catches. His best game was a career-best 10 catch effort earlier this season against Jacksonville State.
The Florida native spent the bye week listening to questions on how he would handle an increased focus from opposing defenses without the presence of former teammate Duke Williams.
Would double-teams in coverage slow him down? Louis’ performance provided an emphatic answer to the question.
“I just want to keep going, keep on going,” Louis said. “I don’t want to be selfish, and be like get me the ball cause we have a lot of amazing athletes on the field as well, but whatever it takes to get that first down, and keep the ball rolling – let’s do it.”
Louis final catch of the night was a 34-yard reception late in the game that put Auburn in the red zone for what turned out to be the game-winning touchdown. He worked on the play with White during the week, and it was one he was eager to see called.
“We have been planning on calling that, had it called previously in the game, but they didn’t have the right defense,” Louis said. “We knew if we called it again it would be there. We had a five-yard penalty, but we still kept it on. I knew I was going to get it cause the way the safeties were playing.”
Louis was quick to praise White for the way the first-year started stepped up after being named starter prior to kickoff. He said the redshirt freshman’s poise improved significantly during the break.
“He took time to really work on his craft,” Louis said. “He really controlled himself in the pocket. I can see him growing, and we are going to need that going forward.”