Gus Malzahn cited an axiom of football coaches, that a team improves more between Game 1 and Game 2 than any other time of the season.
“That’s our challenge to our players,” said the coach, whose Auburn squad got off the mat behind true freshman quarterback Bo Nix to earn a come-from-behind 27-21 victory over then-No. 11 Oregon.
The Tigers trailed 14-6 at halftime and 21-6 in the second half.
“They never gave up. They never flinched,” Malzahn said. “There’s a lot of mistakes we made and a lot of things we’ve got to correct.”
Auburn (1-0 and up from No. 16 to 10 in the Associated Press poll) will try to correct those mistakes and build on a top-20 win at 6:30 p.m. Saturday as Tulane visits for the Tigers’ home opener on ESPN2.
Alabama got off to a slow start in its first game against Duke before winning 42-3. Nick Saban said he was pleased that his squad was not shaken by not firing on all cylinders to begin the game.
“I think everybody kept their poise. Everybody kept competing,” he said during his weekly press conference. “It’s like you get punched and stunned in the first round of a fight and you don’t go down. You just keep boxing and the next thing you know you win the fight.”
The Crimson Tide (No. 2 in the AP poll) welcomes New Mexico State to Bryant-Denny Stadium at 3 p.m. Saturday for its home opener on the SEC Network. Saban said the Aggies will bring a wide-open offense to Tuscaloosa that will try to try to expose Alabama’s weaknesses.
At Birmingham’s Legion Field, UAB notched a 24-19 win against FCS Alabama State, but Blazer players weren’t ready to accept congratulations. Coach Bill Clark recounted congratulating Garrett Marino for being named Conference USA Defensive Player of the Week.
“He says to me, ‘Coach, I didn’t even play that well,’” Clark said of his defensive lineman who had a career-high nine tackles — all of which were solo tackles – and one tackle for loss. “That is the mindset you would like everyone to have. I can coach better, they can play better. They have high expectations. We want high expectations.
“I could sit here and tell you how many guys we lost last year, or that in two years we are going to be good because everyone has experience, but that isn’t who I am and that isn’t who we are,” the coach said. “It is a win, but for them to feel like they have a lot of things to do, they know it, they are saying it and that is where we want to live.”
View this post on Instagram
In other college action:
Tuskegee at Alabama State: For the second time in as many weeks, Alabama State is playing a season opener, just not its own. The Hornets launched the 2019 season last Thursday at Legion Field, falling to UAB in a game that could have gone their way. They had their chances, forcing a pair of turnovers and getting inside the 3-yard line in the fourth quarter. At 5 p.m. Saturday, ASU will be in the friendly confines as the Golden Tigers begin their season in the Labor Day Classic.
Arkansas-Pine Bluff at Alabama A&M: The Bulldogs outlasted Morehouse 35-30 Sunday in Canton, Ohio, in the Black College Football Hall of Fame Classic. On Saturday, A&M hosts in the Louis Crews Classic at 6 p.m.
Chattanooga at Jacksonville State: The Gamecocks are 0-1 coming off their 35-14 loss to Southeastern Louisiana on Labor Day. “I probably did not do a great job of expressing how good of a football team they had,” coach John Grass said after the holiday game. JSU, which dropped to 17 and 18 in the FCS polls, hosts the Mocs at 6 p.m. Saturday.
North Alabama at Montana: The Lions are 1-0 following their 26-17 win over Western Illinois. Next up for coach Chris Willis’ squad is an 8 p.m. Central meeting with the Griz, who topped South Dakota 31-17.
Limestone at West Alabama: The No. 24/25 team in Division II kicks off its season with its second-ever meeting with the Saints. UWA beat Limestone 16-13 in Gaffney, S.C., last season.
Miles at Fort Valley State: The Golden Bears turn the page from their 2018 Southern Intercollegiate Athletic Conference championship with all eyes on a successful 2019. That begins with a 5 p.m. Central game against the Wildcats.
Guilford at Huntingdon: The Hawks finally took flight in 2018, finishing 4-5 after starting the season 0-4. They’ll try to immediately take off this season at 1 p.m. Saturday.
Birmingham-Southern at LaGrange: The Panthers notched their first winning season (6-5) in six seasons in 2018. “This is the year, year three,” said Head Coach Tony Joe White. “We’re hoping that we get a corner turned. The guys expect to go into every game and compete. It’s exciting.” BSC visits the LaGrange Panthers at 5 p.m. Central.
Jackson State at South Alabama: Following a respectable 35-21 loss to Nebraska, the Jaguars host the Tigers for Parents Weekend at 6 p.m. Saturday.
Class 7A: Hoover is No. 1 in the latest Alabama Sports Writers Association poll; Thompson is No. 4. Their meeting, which can be seen on the NFHS Network, will be the first on the new Thompson High campus.
Class 6A: No. 2 and two-time defending state champion Pinson Valley could see its win streak end with a visit from Shades Valley, which received votes in the ASWA ranking.
Class 5A: No. 1 Jasper hosts Dora in a Walker County rivalry whose luster may be coming back.
Class 4A: Childersburg, which received votes in the ASWA poll, travels to Talladega. These two Talladega County cities are rivals in football and stockcar racing.
Class 3A: No. 3 Gordo heads to Winfield in a game that usually settles Region 4.
Class 2A: It’ll take only 15 minutes for Winston County to travel to Addison for this Region 5 tussle.
Class 1A: Berry welcomes Hubbertville in Region 6.
AISA: No. 8 Edgewood hosts Lee-Scott, which was second among teams also receiving votes.