Transcript: Malzahn looks toward Florida Atlantic game

Opening statement…"We have Florida Atlantic this week. They are a very athletic team that can run. They have eight starters back on defense and seven on offense. They are definitely concerning.

"On an injury update, Joshua Holsey will be out for the year. That is a tough blow for our defense. It was a freak injury on Thursday towards the end of practice. That is a tough blow. I also wanted to say Ryan White is a guy who stepped in as a cornerback who didn't get one rep at safety because of when the injury happened. He did an outstanding job in a tough situation against one of the best offenses in all of college football on Saturday. He will move into that role moving forward. He is an experienced guy and he did a great job."

Is this one of the best rushing teams of his career…"We are a run, play-action team. When we are running the ball effectively, it opens everything else up. I think the fact that our offensive line is doing a solid job, the fact that Jay Prosch, at the point of attack is as good as anyone in college football at blocking, then we have three running backs who are all different, helps us. Then the fact that our quarterback is a run threat, too. All of those factors combined have helped us."

Comparing his running backs this year to other running backs he has coached…"With Darren McFadden and Felix Jones, those are two of the better players to have ever played college football at the running back position. Our guys are talented. They are good at what they do. We are trying to put them in a position where they can be successful at what they do."

Is there a difference between his offense and other spread offenses…"I have said this before -- we don't consider ourselves a spread offense. The spread to me is an offense that throws to open up the run. We are a two-back run, play-action team that runs the football to open up the pass. We just happen to do it at a fast pace and that is why people categorize us sometimes as spread."

What have the past 72 hours been like…"It was a special thing when we got back to the airport and there was a crowd. Then we got back here and there was a huge crowd. That was a special deal. On Saturday, we enjoyed it. I told our players and coaches, they worked hard and to enjoy it. Once Sunday got here, it is behind us. We have to get back to doing what got us here and working hard, taking it one day, one practice and one game at a time. We didn't get much into that after Saturday night."

His reaction to being ranked 11th…. "We're happy that people think that highly of us, but we're on to next week, and that's our only focus."

His message to the team about how to deal with higher expectations…"Just being real honest with them that we're not changing anything that got us to where we're at, and keep doing exactly what we've been doing with the same attitude and the same approach. That's really about it."

His reaction after the Texas A&M game…"That was a big game for us. We're in this thing together: our coaches, our players, all of us. Like I said after the game, it was just a real special deal for me to see our guys win a game like that and to see them happy. We've got some things that we can build upon moving forward."

Did the win over Texas A&M provided him a sense of vindication…"No, that had nothing to do with it. None at all. It was just, 'How about that!' Like, we did it. We beat a really good team on the road, so nothing like that. It was more about happiness for our players and how far they've come and for them to find a way to win on the road like we did -- that was more or less what I meant."

Did he learn anything about his team during the Texas A&M game he didn't previously know…"Each game we have learned something about our team. We didn't handle ourselves very well against LSU. Everybody saw that. It was another challenge for our team to go back on the road against another Top 10 team. I just told our team: `We've got some questions to answer. Can we play better? Can we do it?' Of course, they answered that one."

On Johnny Manziel…"He's the real deal. I haven't seen very many guys like him. He's special. He's got that air about him. He's tough. He's one of the better players that I have ever seen."

Is he satisfied with using a receiver by committee approach…"Ideally, you want to have a guy that is kind of your go-to guy in certain situations. We're doing it by committee right now, and all of the guys that we've had have made plays for us. Sammie Coates is starting to get into a little bit more of a role like that, but we are still evolving in our passing game. I think we have a chance to get better, and that's one of the areas we do need to get better in."

On Marcus Davis' third-down catch on Auburn's final drive…"It wasn't easy. It was a real good catch. Marcus is a guy that -- we don't look at him as a freshman anymore. He grew up a lot against Mississippi State on that last drive. We've got a lot of confidence in him. He played quarterback in high school, so he kind of has that confidence to him. The moment is not too big for him, and that was a big play in the game."

Going over things with freshmen at practice…"I think early on you definitely have to. We should be kind of settling in on what we're doing. They should start having a better understanding offensively and defensively."

On Nick Marshall's improvement…"There are things that he is definitely getting more comfortable with. He was very calm during that game, and he was very confident. There are still some areas that he needs to improve on and he knows that. As a matter of fact, there are areas that we need to improve on as a whole. We've not arrived yet. We're still making mistakes we need to correct in all areas."

On Jeremy Johnson in the Texas A&M game…"Our plan was once we put him in there, let him play a little bit. That's just not the way the game unfolded. Nick was playing well. That had something to do with it too. Moving forward, Jeremy will be a part of what we're doing. He'll have a plan each week. He's a good quarterback in his own right; and he can bring some things to the table that can help us."

How play action and zone read improve the offense…"Yeah, it helps. Any time your quarterback is a run threat, it presents a different challenge for defenses with their fits and their responsibilities. If you can have good play action off of that, it just makes it that much tougher."

On the mentality of the team during the fourth quarter…"I think it's just the way our guys practice and the way they approach it. That's kind of who we are, and we can hang our hat on that in conditioning, and we hang our hat on getting to the second half and wearing people down. It just so happens that's the way the game unfolded in the fourth quarter."

Is he proud to see victories coming from behind…"Yeah, very proud. We've learned something about our team each week. Every time our team has been challenged, they've found a way. It's not just been the offense; it's been the defense and special teams. It's been a true team effort."

What would he like to see this week…"Everything that goes within the technical execution overall.  As a coach, you're always trying to correct mistakes, but really we're focused on areas in all three phases that we've got to get better. We can get better. We're still making some silly mistakes. So that's really what we've focused on this week."

Will Jonathan Ford and Jonathan Jones play this week..."Both those guys are going to have to help us. Where we're at depth-wise on defense in some areas is pretty scary. We've lost some guys, and we are banged up. We need those guys, and we'll need other guys too. We need other guys that haven't played a lot to be ready."

On looking at the big picture..."The only thing we have talked about is this week and Florida Atlantic. We aren't talking about anything else or thinking about anything else. We're going to keep the same approach. That is what got us here so far. We have not looked ahead. We've not talked about anyone else. We're playing an opponent who is a solid opponent this week."

Keeping the focus one game at a time..."I think that's a challenge for any team in college football. You see it every week. You see teams that are on a high kind of losing their momentum. That's our challenge. We've got to keep moving forward. We've got to keep improving and not look ahead. It's a challenge. It's something we address. I'm very up front with our players."

On the defense's fourth-quarter performance…"They found ways to make plays. I think we have been fairly fresh in the fourth quarter. We've challenged our defense numerous times the first game, Ole Miss and the game Saturday against one of the best offenses in college football. They have found a way to get it done, but I think a lot of that has to do with them being fresh and being competitors. They are confident. They believe that can make a play, and I think that is very important for a team."

Can he build team depth against Florida Atlantic…"It would be nice any game, but we aren't approaching it that way. If we can get some guys to play any game, that is a good thing.  We aren't overlooking anyone. We aren't overlooking Florida Atlantic. We have had our own injuries. We have lost our own guys. We've played banged up. We're still playing banged up. Depth-wise we are going to need a lot of our guys to be ready."

On Avery Young…"Avery is a guy who banged his ankle up against Western Carolina. We were worried about him being ready. He wasn't quite 100 percent Saturday, but he played with a lot of guts. We ran behind him in the fourth quarter a lot. He did an excellent job." Does he have confidence playing an injured Young…"It says a lot. Up front, it was a tough physical game Saturday. We had some linemen banged up, but it didn't bother them. They fought through and showed a lot of guts."

Reaction to a comment on winning it all …"I think the mental aspect of college football is very important, and I am happy where we are at, but I will say it again -- we have not arrived. We are going to take it one game at a time; we need to keep improving. When you look across college football, the teams that do not keep improving throughout the year, it is relevant; there are a lot of ups and downs. That is our challenge. We have to keep rolling, take it one game at a time and stay focused."

On Ryan Smith and Jermaine Whitehead playing dime…"Coach has a plan moving forward, but Ryan White will be a part of more of the back end."

On Mackenro Alexander..."He is doing better; we expect him to be back." On Mackenro playing this week…"It is possible."

On Kamryn Melton…"It is still kind of day by day."

On offensive strategy each week…"You have a plan each game. You try to figure out how good their offense is and everything. Each week we definitely have a plan to it."

On his players' confidence that this team is possible of the biggest turnaround in college football…"You know, I just think it is a matter of our guys bonding together. During the spring we were extremely tough on them, and extremely challenging. We challenged our guys. They came together, you could tell, and in fall camp, the same thing. They are playing for each other, and I think that is important."

Does he sleep better or worse with a season like this…"You know it just depends. That is a trick question."

How Sammie Coates responded after a couple of first-half dropped passes…"Yeah, you know we dropped some, and in a game like that, that is tough. I just told him, `Hey, we are going to come back to you, and we need you to make a play' and he did. He made a couple of plays the second half that helped us win that game."

On Sammie's throw-down play…"We talked about being physical at every position and that was just part of it. He is a strong guy and we are starting to get there. We are not there yet, but we are starting to get more physical and play the type of football that Auburn expects."

On Tre Mason's fourth-down run…"That was a great run. He ran over two of their guys and Jay Prosch; I think he ran him over too. That was an impressive run."

INFORMATION SOURCE: Auburn Athletics Dept.