Auburn v Oregon

The Auburn football team huddles pregame before the team's game against Oregon last Saturday at AT&T Stadium in Texas. (Todd Van Emst/AU Athletics)

AUBURN – Auburn coach Gus Malzahn has a list.

Even in the postgame glow after last week’s thriller , he knew there were problems.

As he rolled through the film of the win after he landed back in Auburn, he probably found some more.

Auburn has had plenty to work on this week before kickoff comes around again.

Saturday night, the team has its chance to see just how far it has come in those areas.

Auburn’s head coach pinpointed the penalties his team committed, its kick coverage on special teams, and his receivers’ blocking in the run game, among what’s surely a long list of things Auburn needs to improve after seeing some problems exposed in the 27-21 comeback win over Oregon last Saturday.

Auburn plays its home opener against Tulane on Saturday at 6:30 p.m. in Jordan-Hare Stadium.

“We’ve got to put that in our rear view mirror,” Malzahn said in his press conference Tuesday, looking back on that emotional win over Oregon. “Our challenge now is to make the biggest improvement this season from Game 1 to Game 2.”

Coaches often say that — saying there’s a great opportunity out there for teams to improve between their first game and their second game.

But there’s good reason they say it.

After an offseason of unknowns, the team has experienced live action and put it on tape, and against the mettle of another team, strengths and weaknesses come into focus.

Auburn gave away two turnovers against Oregon. The Tigers were penalized seven times for 60 yards. Oregon averaged 44 yards on three punt returns, with an 81-yarder returned from the Oregon 10-yard line all the way to the Auburn 9-yard line.

“Real proud of the way that our guys fought. We showed a lot of guts. It’s one of the biggest comebacks we’ve had in a long time and all that. But we’ve just really got to correct our mistakes,” Malzahn said. “There were a lot of mistakes in all three phases.

“We’ve got to correct those things, and really that’s our message.”

Those mistakes are part of the reason why Auburn trailed for all but about two minutes of that game last Saturday.

For his part, Malzahn said changes would come on punt-return coverage, whether it be by personnel changes or from a focus in practice pushing the unit to improvement.

Those two turnovers were both interceptions thrown by Bo Nix.

Malzahn said he’s been tasked this weekend with the same challenge as everyone else: Improve.

“It’s just like the rest of them, everybody’s got to improve,” Malzahn said. “That’s really our message — whether it’s a players, a quarterback or a coach — we’ve all got to improve from Week 1 to Week 2, and really the good teams do that. He at least has a game under his belt now.

“There’s a lot of things that he knows that he can be better than he was the first game, so we all expect improvement.”

Saturday night, the Tigers have their chance to show it.

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