Fresh off an emotional, last-second comeback win over Oregon in the season-opener, the Tigers will try to stave off the dreaded letdown in their home-opener against Tulane in week two.
Auburn needs to put that big win in the rearview mirror, said Auburn coach Gus Malzahn, pointing out the dangers of underestimating the Green Wave, who will come into Jordan-Hare Stadium and play like they have nothing to lose.
"That's going to be our challenge. That's going to be our challenge as a team," he said. "Everybody saw that was a big emotional win and everything that goes with that. You’ve got to put that in your rearview mirror. Everyone is patting you on the back and everything – you’ve got to put that in your rearview mirror. You’ve got to realize we are playing a very quality opponent. Our players turn on the film — they can tell these guys play their guts out, they play hard and they are talented."
Moving on from one game to focus on the next is "just normal," said receiver Eli Stove, who had a major impact on the game and showed no lingering issues from an ACL injury that limited last season and during fall camp.
"Really, coach (Kodi) Burns told us that game is over with now, just switch to Tulane, and that's what we've been doing," he said. "They trained us after every game to focus on the next game."
Stove rushed one time for 36 yards and made three catches for 18 yards, including a heads-up touchdown reception from Bo Nix late in the third quarter that pulled the Tigers within eight and started a string of 21 unanswered points to end the game.
After Stove's run for 36 yards, he found himself uncovered for a moment out wide, which Nix noticed before taking a quick snap and finding him for the score.
"It was a good play he made, smart quarterback decision. He saw I wasn’t covered, so he made a really good decision," said Stove. "I was still waiting on the play and he just looked at me. He snapped and he just threw it. It was crazy.
"It kinda surprised me at the moment, but then again he’s a smart quarterback, so I know it’s just something he does."
Defensive tackle Derrick Brown said the Tigers are behind "QB1 ... all the way."
"No matter what type of struggles he goes through, we try to stay in his head like, don’t worry about it," said Brown. "We got you from the defensive side. He pushes himself hard. Not really much you need to say to him. He just kind of gets in his own little zone, in his own world, and he does what he’s supposed to."
Brown also had praise for Seth Williams, who sealed off the defensive back covering him while going up for the game-winning 16-yard touchdown pass from Nix to seal the game.
"I mean, man, you put him in the spotlight, he’s going to do it," he said. "We joke around and call him a superstar, but at the end of the day, he’s made two big game-winning catches for us since he’s been here. It’s kind of funny to mess with him, but his capabilities are out of this world as for what he can do when the ball goes up in the air."
The defense also got a boost during the game from linebacker Owen Pappoe, who picked up five tackles and broke up a pass starting his first collegiate game.
"He was excited, and I mean, he was flying around out there," said Brown. "Got to watch a little bit of the tape on it. I just think he’s a great player."
Brown and defensive line also got a boost from the return of injured Tigers Coynis Miller and Dequan Newkirk, both of whom were limited during fall camp, and provided much-needed depth at defensive tackle despite not showing up on the stat sheet.
"Being able to have experience and depth, that’s what you got to count on throughout the season," he said. "Man, that’s really it. Those guys are very good players, so we need them to be in the game so that when people need to take blows, the level of competition doesn’t go down at all."
The most pleasant surprise along the defensive line was the play of Tyrone Truesdell, who stepped into the defensive tackle spot when Nick Coe rotated out or to another position. Truesdell finished with six tackles, a half-sack and one tackle for a loss.
"He played really well, there’s no doubt, and it was good. He’s got some experience and now he’s taking his game to the next level. He’s got to continue to do that and he made some big plays for us," said Malzahn. "Of course, like we said the other day on that 4th down and a half a yard play, he really got some good penetration and helped the linebacker run through the alley."
Perhaps the phase of the game that needs the most help is special teams, though — specifically, kick return coverage.
The Tigers' coverage team gave up three punt returns to Jevon Holland for a combined 131 yards, including an 81-yarder on a punt by Arryn Siposs that would have pinned the Ducks deep in their own territory. Siposs averaged 45 yards per punt, but only 23.2 net yards.
"We’ve got to cover better; that’s really the bottom line," said Malzahn. "They did a good job of holding us up and we did a poor job of covering. That’s definitely one of our biggest things that we are addressing this week. It could be personnel; it could be some personnel changes. But we were pretty solid on that last year and give Oregon credit, but at the same time, our expectations are to do a lot better job, especially with the veteran punter that we have."
Auburn and Tulane will kick off at 6:30 p.m. Saturday in Jordan-Hare Stadium. The game will be televised on ESPN2.