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Auburn coach Gus Malzahn ducks questions on offensive staff changes

Michael Niziolek

mniziolek@ledger-enquirer.com

Auburn quarterback Jeremy Johnson runs the ball Saturday, Nov. 28, 2015 against Alabama at Jordan-Hare Stadium in the Iron Bowl.
Auburn quarterback Jeremy Johnson runs the ball Saturday, Nov. 28, 2015 against Alabama at Jordan-Hare Stadium in the Iron Bowl.

Auburn coach Gus Malzahn didn’t like the question about staff changes the first time. He was less happy with it the second time it was asked.

“I am not talking about any staff changes,” Malzahn said. “I am talking about the fact that we are disappointed. We are disappointed that we didn’t find a way to win at the end and that’s what we are thinking about right now.”

The Tigers’ 29-13 loss to Alabama in the Iron Bowl Saturday night was the fourth time this season they failed to score more than 20 points and third time they didn’t crack 300 total yards.

It was the latest in a string of disappointing offensive performances that saw Auburn drop its fifth straight game at Jordan-Hare Stadium.

“Offensively we need to get better,” Malzahn said. “I know that and we will.”

When asked to assess the reason for the disappointing season, Malzahn remained guarded.

“It was a number of things,” Malzahn said.

Malzahn said he had a “lot of different things” on his mind when it came to the 6-6 finish, but declined to share them.

He struck a similarly dismissive tone following a 55-44 loss to Alabama in last season’s Iron Bowl then fired defensive coordinator Ellis Johnson less than 24 hours later.

Auburn’s well-documented offensive struggles started with Jeremy Johnson throwing seven interceptions in the season’s first three games. The Tigers rotated quarterbacks the rest of the year while the team’s wide receivers failed to establish themselves.

Peyton Barber is in line to break 1,000 yards rushing in Auburn’s bowl game, but questions over playing time for the rest of the running backs has been a constant issue with a seemingly healthy Jovon Robinson and Roc Thomas missing in action for long stretches.

Robinson had 12 carries for 53 yards in the first half Saturday, but only touched the ball two more times.

“We’ve been inconsistent all year that’s the main thing,” Auburn wide receiver Ricardo Louis said. “Every part of the offense we haven’t been consistent.”

Louis teammate Jason Smith maintained a more positive tone. Smith, who made a spectacular 77-yard touchdown grab for the Tigers’ lone score Saturday, defended the coaching staff.

“Our coaches are the greatest coaches in college football, I think,” Smith said. “Coach Malzahn has a good system and he says to us ‘believe in us and we’ll believe in you.’ We just did what we could and we played against a good team. They just came in and played a good game.”

Michael Niziolek covers Auburn football for the Columbus Ledger-Enquirer. Email him at mniziolek@ledger-enquirer.com or follow him on Twitter, Facebook or Google+

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