AUBURN – Auburn’s ridden down from the mountaintop.
The Tigers pulled back onto the Plains as heroes from an instant-classic win over Oregon on Saturday in Arlington.
That’s where they danced over the big stage in AT&T Stadium, where orange and blue flags flew over Texas. Bo Nix hit Seth Williams for the game-winning touchdown pass, and Auburn fans are still celebrating.
The team, though, put foot down back home in Auburn and turned the page to the next challenge.
“They fought their guts out for Auburn,” Gus Malzahn said Sunday night, taking one last look back after all the dust settled. “They never gave up, they never flinched. It was a really big win for us in a lot of different ways.
Then, he looked ahead: “And then you get home and really get a chance to look at the film, and then you start to think from a coach’s standpoint, corrections — there were a lot of mistakes we made, a lot of things we’ve got to correct.
“That’s what we were working on today.”
Auburn went through a light practice for about an hour Sunday, and went into meetings and film study as coaches worked with players on adjustments. Malzahn said the team needed to limit penalties, and do a better job on punt-return coverage. Inside those positional meeting rooms, coaches surely hammered on players on countless more corrections, from reading keys to footwork.
“Most good teams improve more from Game 1 to Game 2 than they do any other time of year,” Malzahn said. “That’s our message, that’s our challenge to our players as far as this week goes.”
Auburn plays Tulane on Saturday in Jordan-Hare Stadium and then hosts Kent State, before the team’s SEC opener at Texas A&M on Sept. 21.
The good news for Auburn: The Tigers have plenty of film to work with after being pushed to their limit by a touted Oregon team.
“It’s real valuable,” linebacker K.J. Britt of opening the season against a foe like Oregon. “A game like that, you can really learn a lot about yourself — a lot of weaknesses, a lot of strengths — and then just learning trust, earning trust between your teammates, the coaches, and just learning how to fight.
“It’s really games like that that can set you apart,” he said. “Winning close games is really what sets championship teams apart, from Week 1 to Week 12.
“ Coach Malzahn put an emphasis: We’ve got to win close games. We knew we was going to be in a dogfight. We just know we had to win a close game.”
Auburn did that.
That Texas A&M game opens a stretch of seven straight conference games on the schedule, and a stretch of three straight with two on the road before a bye week.
“Being the first game of the season and having that game come down to the last drive, coming back from that deficit, I think it’s really good to have under our belt after the first game,” senior center Kaleb Kim. “I think it’ll give us some confidence going into the next few games, especially with that stretch of conference games.
“A lot of those very well could come down to the last drive, just like it did yesterday.”