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A spirit that is not afraid

Gus Malzahn preparing for new-look Razorbacks

<p>Arkansas linebacker Bumper Pool tackles a Mississippi State Player. Photo via: SEC Media Portal</p>

Arkansas linebacker Bumper Pool tackles a Mississippi State Player. Photo via: SEC Media Portal

Following Saturday’s loss to Georgia, Gus Malzahn and the rest of the Tigers returned to the Plains with little time to dwell on their misfortunes in Athens, Georgia. Auburn must now prepare to take on the highly motivated Arkansas Razorbacks. 

The Tigers enter this week of practice with some key players currently listed as unknown, including Seth Williams, K.J. Britt and Shaun Shivers. Malzahn remains optimistic about his team’s health and availability.

“We’re a little bit banged up,” Malzahn said. “But I think a lot of teams are right now. We’re back at home, we just need to get healed up. Our guys will be ready.”

The seventh-year head coach did not detail injuries sustained but mentioned that the team’s COVID-19 testing results from Sunday continue to be encouraging.

“We had another good test on Sunday’s return, and that will be key moving forward,” Malzahn said. “We get tested again today and tested Thursday, so hopefully, that will be a positive outlook. No new positives”

This weekend, Auburn’s task will be defeating first-year head coach Sam Pittman’s Razorbacks, who enter Saturday’s contest fresh off the program’s first SEC victory since 2017. Malzahn complimented Pittman and first-year defensive coordinator Barry Odom and all they have done early in the year. 

“What stands out to me is they’re playing extremely hard,” Malzahn said. “When you have a team that’s playing extremely hard, I believe that’s coaching. So hats off to those guys.”

Offensively, Arkansas is led by quarterback Feleipe Franks, who transferred in from Florida. The redshirt senior has started the year off with 39-of-64 completions for 412 passing yards and three touchdowns.

“It looks to me like he’s confident; you can tell his offensive guys are confident around him,” Malzahn said. “Like I said earlier, I was always impressed with him at Florida. He’s a veteran guy that understands the league and understands what it’s like to start in the league. It gives them some stability in that position.”

Despite a career record of 6-1 against Arkansas, Malzahn believes that the new-look Razorbacks will have a solid game plan against Auburn’s offense this weekend. 

The Razorbacks defense has four interceptions and two fumble recoveries through the first two weeks of the season. Two Arkansas players were named SEC Defensive Player of the Week for their efforts against Mississippi State last weekend. 

“You’re talking about two very good outings,” Malzahn said. “We played Georgia last week. I thought he did a very good job against them in the first week and then what he did last week -- like I said, I think he deserves two coach of the week awards. He’s always been one of the best. It doesn’t surprise me. I think they’ll have a good plan against us, so we’ll have to be executing at a high level.”

The Tigers will play host to Arkansas on Saturday, Oct. 10. The game starts at 3 p.m. CST and will be broadcasted on SEC Network.

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