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A spirit that is not afraid

Malzahn, Tigers prepare for new-look Rebels

<p>Ole Miss receiver Kenny Yeboah finished the game with four catches for 81 yards and a touchdown against Florida Saturday. Photo via SEC Media Portal.&nbsp;</p>

Ole Miss receiver Kenny Yeboah finished the game with four catches for 81 yards and a touchdown against Florida Saturday. Photo via SEC Media Portal. 

Following a 30-22 loss at the hands of the South Carolina Gamecocks on Saturday, Gus Malzahn and the rest of the Auburn Tigers find themselves 2-2. 

This weekend, the Tigers are faced with the challenge of an Ole Miss team that is seemingly rejuvenated by new head coach Lane Kiffin.

On Tuesday, Malzahn acknowledged the challenge that awaits for his squad this weekend in Oxford.

“When you look at them, they’re a better team than their record,” Malzahn said. “They could’ve won a couple of those games and had opportunities.“

The eighth-year head coach was likely alluding to the Rebel’s contested losses against both Arkansas (33-21) and Alabama (63-48).

Despite the explosive nature of the Ole Miss offense — which averages 36.5 points and 540.3 yards per contest — what sticks out the most to Malzahn is the Rebels’ balance with possession of the football.

“Obviously, what really stands out to me is that they’re very balanced,” Malzahn said.

Kiffin’s offense is averaging 204.8 yards on the ground and 335.5 through the air per game, making them the seventh-best offensive unit in college football.

Although the primary focus for the week is preparing to defend for the potent offense of Ole Miss, Malzahn mentioned that there were several takeaways from last Saturday’s loss to the Gamecocks.

Specifically, his desire to build upon a promising performance from his offensive line.

“Our offensive line really took that next step with running the football,” Malzahn said. “We just need to keep building upon those things.”

The premise of building upon positives and improving in areas of weakness has long been a philosophy of Malzahn’s; Saturday’s contest appears to be no exception.

“Our focus is to get better, find a way to get a victory and come back and get momentum,” Malzahn said. “That’s what’s on our mind.”

Progression will likely be key as the season continues for the Tigers; however, this weekend’s game seems to mean more to their head coach than just an opportunity to get better. After what Malzahn admitted to be a disappointing loss, the emphasis appears to be on finding a way to regain momentum.

“Obviously, when you lose a game, you have to bounce back,” Malzahn said. “So yeah, it’s a very important game.”

Auburn enters Saturday’s showdown as a 3.5-point favorite with the opportunity to win its fifth-straight contest against the Rebels. It will all go down inside Vaught-Hemingway Stadium at 11 a.m. CST. The game will air on SEC Network.

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